Walnut Barrister Bookcase

  • Advertise with us
Project by Bertha posted 03-06-2019 03:27 AM 1968 views 1 time favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I like barrister bookcases but I’ve got some biiiig books, so I decided to make a large bank of 2; and will add a smaller upper bank later. I literally bought a local walnut tree and had it milled down in the holler. When I heard banjos, I had to get the hell out of there.

I wanted some early highlights so I picked out some 1” planks and planed them to 7/8. I’ll handplane them down to 3/4. The planing, ripping, and crosscutting should be the last power tools.

Ripped to desired width.

The wood sat for a year at 1” and reached 9.5%; and it still cupped. I just battened it down while I flattened it, figuring the dovetails will straighten everything out.

Fulls all the way around.

Back rebate with 78.

Shelf dado with 71 1/2

My frogs for final finish low, standard, and 55; then card scraper. I like to keep plane marks and I won’t use a scraper plane here.

Seeing what danish oil natural does to end grain. Dark. I like it.

So flood

While drying, ebony flank on sliding dovetail. No reason.

Took a break to mill and AR lower. And to make an owl box.

Gotta put together a back but I don’t want to waste the walnut. I don’t want to use a lot of long boards either (this thing is big), so I took some cherry offcuts and made a shiplapped panel. I added a little bead with the 66 and chamfered it a touch.

This is going to be hidden by books, but I still want to darken it. I used transfast dark walnut in dEtOh. Not great, but not totally obnoxious. I won’t fool with the back surface.

I’m not wild about the typical barrister bases, but I figured why mess with an established thing. It also forced me to tune up some moulding planes.

The molding breaks apart for some reason. May be a hidden drawer. May not be.

Frame up the doors. I had no doubt that I’d screw something up here and I wasn’t let down. I’ll mention all my screwups at the end.

OK, time for the $hitshow. The mechanism. The Rockler hardware kit looks like Nancy Pelosi, so I knew I could do better. Restoration sites had some sets that weren’t quite right. Ebay had the original geared mechanisms but I didn’t want to get into $. First, I made a little dummy setup until I could figure out how it was going to work. Basically there’s a little bracket that receives a small pivot post. It pivots on this post until a flat edge of the bracket registers against a guide. It then slides back along the glide (I just used angle aluminum). Pulling forward recaptures the pivot and allows the door to swing down. Major screwup here to come.

Upscaled it.

Works. I’m sure there’s a way to measure it out but making dummies worked better for me.

OK, there’s a nightmare of a contraption meant to maintain parallel positioning when sliding the drawer, similar to a scissor guide on a leg vise. I got them in and they work well, but they’re too much of a hassle for me. I plan to take them out. They’re only anchored at one point; the other points slide within eyelets. Have at it if you like, but I find it unnecessary.

Barristers typically have bracket strips between the galleries so that you might join cases. I bought some but I never really understood how they worked. They’d hide the dovetails, too, so I discarded them. I forgot to mention I fortified all the stuff under the base. Dovetailed stretchers and 3×3 ash posts with leather bottoms.

Anyhow, doors on.

Moved in. It’s got books in it now and I initially sized it based upon my largest book. Problem is, I only have a couple books that big. it’s too big. It’s also too late lol.

Now for the screwups, just the major ones. I mismeasured the door openings, shocker. I didn’t allow for the clearance required at the pivot point. I chamfered the top of the door to tighten up the joint but there’s still a decent gap. And yes, I had already glued up the frame. I use hide glue, so I tried to steam the joint, hit it with a heat gun, nothing. I had enough room to cut off the tenon, so that’s what I did. Simply remade the stile.

I also dropped the frame minus the lower rail lol. The wood failed, not the joint. I had to glue that up.

The first 2 panes of glass I just flat out broke. I just squirted silicone on the fractures so I could keep going. I bought the new glass before I had shortened the door stiles, yep. I was able to recut those myself. I’m sure there were plenty others I’m forgetting.

Thanks for looking.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

20 comments so far

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

26189 posts in 4183 days

#1 posted 03-06-2019 03:38 AM

Nice bookcase!!


-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View degoose's profile


7281 posts in 4432 days

#2 posted 03-06-2019 03:39 AM

Very nice indeed

-- Don't drink and use power tools @

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17314 posts in 3696 days

#3 posted 03-06-2019 04:53 AM

Did you say sliding dovetails, then not say how they were done?
Owl box… Must research. And what is that pic immediately below the words owl box?
Very nice tails, Al! Hi Steak!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View Andre's profile


4509 posts in 2884 days

#4 posted 03-06-2019 07:08 AM

Ahhhh Walnut(Drool) Purity darn nice!

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View Don W's profile

Don W

20049 posts in 3645 days

#5 posted 03-06-2019 10:24 AM

Looking good

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

7427 posts in 1660 days

#6 posted 03-06-2019 11:49 AM

Looked good in the end. Way to persist.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View recycle1943's profile


5376 posts in 2700 days

#7 posted 03-06-2019 01:04 PM

I recognise the walnut and the craftsmanship but most of those tools are foreign to me. Great job and beautiful book case

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View Bertha's profile


13615 posts in 3771 days

#8 posted 03-06-2019 01:05 PM

Thanks, guys. Smit, does a 2-1/2 inch deep dovetail count as a sliding dovetail? If so, I cut a short dovetail with a handsaw. If not, I mischaracterized it. I’m known to do that ;-)

Interior of owl box

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Porchfish's profile


862 posts in 3610 days

#9 posted 03-06-2019 01:51 PM

Great work yields great end product ! Nicest barrister’s bookshelves I have seen in a long long time ! Great work !

-- The pig caught under the fence is always the one doing all the squealing !

View fllatlander's profile


5 posts in 4306 days

#10 posted 03-06-2019 02:31 PM

Love all the handwork. Great dovetails!

View pottz's profile


16779 posts in 2062 days

#11 posted 03-06-2019 03:00 PM

love it just beautiful,walnut is one of my favorites and you made excellent use of it on this bookcase.also nice combination of machine and hand tool work,something i want to start doing more of myself.thanks for taking the tme to post all the pics,you can never show us to much.great craftsmanship.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View WoodSpanker's profile


576 posts in 4470 days

#12 posted 03-07-2019 03:13 AM

Absolutely beautiful work! Gorgeous! But I’m also just as intrigued by what books are going in it. Something of a bibliophile.

-- Turning perfectly good wood into sawdust and kindling since 1990.

View Bertha's profile


13615 posts in 3771 days

#13 posted 03-07-2019 12:42 PM

Thanks, Spank. My Wife collects antique books, as does a colleague. My colleagues got some Russian ones bound in human skin. Poor taste, sure, but damn! I haven’t filled the bookcase but it’s almost all furniture books. A couple gun books and some bird stuff (I like birds). I made it way too big but I guess it’s better than too small. I designed it off my largest book and it turns out it’s much larger than all the rest lol. The lower shelf is mostly Shaker books. I think I’ve seen everything on record at this point. Aside from Ancient Civilization books, the only books I want now are used. And they’re quite pricey.

Now that Amazon is banning books, I’ve banned them. I’ll take any suggestions about a new retailer. Thanks! Al

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View madts's profile


1956 posts in 3417 days

#14 posted 03-07-2019 02:12 PM

Nice dog.


-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

View WayneC's profile


14359 posts in 5175 days

#15 posted 03-07-2019 02:15 PM

Beautiful work. Good to see your working. :)

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

showing 1 through 15 of 20 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