• Advertise with us
Project by Alin Dobra posted 12-16-2007 06:21 PM 3984 views 4 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My wife and mother in law were pushing me for some time to build a bookshelf in my son’s room. I previously build a bunk bed made from solid cherry (project and the request was to make a cherry bookshelf at least as nice as the bed (to get rid of the ugly stuff in the room and to organize my son’s books and collection).

The requirements I come up with for this project were:

1. It has to be at least as nice as the bunk bed The last thing you want to hear from your wife (and worse from your mother in law) is that the new thing is nice but the old one was nicer (i.e. you either did not focus properly or you started to go down already).

2. It had to fit nicely with the bunk bed The bunk bed design is from Wood magazine (slightly modified). They do not have a bookshelf in that collection (I would not have liked it anyway) so I had to design the bookshelf myself. To ensure unity, I repeated some of the motifs on the bunk bed (the large ark with the inverted)

3. Use non-perfect lumber A friend of mine sold me about 200bf of oak and threw in quite some cherry. Most of this cherry was figured but had numerous worm holes. I really liked the cherry and wanted to use it for this project (wood with defects gives more character to the piece in my opinion). This, of course, introduces extra challenges since matching the pieces is even more difficult. The good news though was that all the boards were from the same tree.

4. Do some interesting spacing of shelves I’ve done some other bookshelves in the past and I selected the spacing to fit standard book sizes to maximize the number of books that can be fit (my wife has a lot of books). For this project I wanted an interesting spacing that fits books of all sizes but has a nice feel to it. Ideally I would have used the golden ratio (1.618) but that would have resulted in just 3-4 shelves with wild spacing. What I did instead in order to fit 8 shelves is to use the 4-th square of the golden ratio: (1.618)^(1/4)=1.128. This produces a very natural progression of the shelf heights.

5. Make a bookshelf that does not look like a box. I wanted to have as much air in the design and to use the wood minimally. Since cherry is strong, there is no concern that the sides are not strong enough unless they are solid. I also liked the idea of having a non-solid back and, if possible, resembling the bunk bed (i.e. have some panels and similar spacing).

6. Do as much matching as possible. I really like to match the wood pieces carefully since then I can clear coat the project and really highlight the wood. Any poor match makes the piece look “thrown together”. To this end, I used the same board for the top and bottom arches (I’ve done this for the bunk bed), I have book-matched the sides of all panels (spit the boards in two and edge glue them), and I used wood from the same tree.

What you see in the pictures is the solution I found to this design requirements. What I like the most is the figure on the back panels and the shelf spacing. Since the bookshelf is attached to the wall (the only screw in the construction) and the shelves are fixed, there is no danger for my 5 year old. The net result of this effort (a desk is coming as well in the next few months) is that his room looks by far the best among all the rooms in the house. He has now a place for all those woodturnings that the collected.

In terms of construction techniques, everything is based on mortise and tenon. The curves have been made using mdf templates, cutting within 1/16 at the bandsaw and then routing with a guide following the pattern. The finish is an oil based followed by sprayed shellac (gives it a nice luster).


-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

18 comments so far

View bryano's profile


546 posts in 4983 days

#1 posted 12-16-2007 06:52 PM

Sharp looking book shelf Alin. I really like your design.

-- bryano

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14189 posts in 5032 days

#2 posted 12-16-2007 06:59 PM

Looks really nice Alin. Make sure you fasten it to the wall. Kids get wild sometimes, climb around and such. It could fall over on them.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Alin Dobra's profile

Alin Dobra

351 posts in 4937 days

#3 posted 12-16-2007 07:01 PM

Thanks Dan,

That was my primary concern as well. I used a screw to attach it to the wall and I asked my kid to test it (i.e. climb).

Thanks for the advice.

-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 4924 days

#4 posted 12-16-2007 08:07 PM

Looks like heirloom furniture to me.

View Grumpy's profile


26811 posts in 4900 days

#5 posted 12-16-2007 09:00 PM

With all those conditions imposed by your wife you had a bit of a challenge on your hands. Well done Alin, great design, good storage space.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View Gary's profile


1476 posts in 5374 days

#6 posted 12-16-2007 09:22 PM

I can tell the photos don’t do it justice; can’t really make out the grain.
But from a design perspective, that’s one of the nicest bookshelves I’ve seen in quite some time.
Thanks for posting and describing your process.

-- Gary, Florida

View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 4924 days

#7 posted 12-16-2007 10:46 PM

Great design. That’s a very attractive piece.

-- Happy woodworking!

View blackcherry's profile


3345 posts in 4872 days

#8 posted 12-17-2007 04:05 AM

Well done Alin, out of the box kind of design…very impressive…will have to look at this more indept in the future. Thanks for posting blkcherry.

View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5268 days

#9 posted 12-17-2007 05:48 AM

Very well-done, Alin. Your work is always eye-catching and imaginative.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Alin Dobra's profile

Alin Dobra

351 posts in 4937 days

#10 posted 12-17-2007 06:04 AM

Thanks everybody for the comments.

Okalbert: it took me about 1 week worth of work (about 2-3 hours each evening and two weekend days). I’m reasonably fast now and my father helped a little. Probably 25-30 hours total.


-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5210 days

#11 posted 12-17-2007 01:48 PM

and again.. I really love seeing the list of requirements.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View TreeBones's profile


1828 posts in 5073 days

#12 posted 12-18-2007 07:32 PM

Very nice, especially the book matching, that always catches my eye.

-- Ron, Twain Harte, Ca. Portable on site Sawmill Service

View mot's profile


4928 posts in 5086 days

#13 posted 12-18-2007 08:11 PM

That’s an interesting design, Alin. Are you satisfied that you met your objectives? It does look quite nice.

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View Alin Dobra's profile

Alin Dobra

351 posts in 4937 days

#14 posted 12-18-2007 10:31 PM


I’m actually very happy about this project. It actually looks better in real life compared to the pictures. One of these days I’ll buy a DSLR camera and start taking better pictures. The problem with the camera I have is that is hard to manually adjust it (in this situation I needed manual adjustment).


-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

View Jon's profile


22 posts in 4768 days

#15 posted 03-25-2008 03:07 AM

Nice use of materials, the spacious, open appearance is very alluring for a bookshelf… almost a shame to cover it up with books…it almost demands a more open display of items like figurine’s or plate’s or such…even old cookie jars…definately have to agree with Rikkor, appears good enough to be heirloom material.

-- Sometimes my wife wishes that she was a block of wood... ;-)

showing 1 through 15 of 18 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics