Walnut barrister bookcase upper level

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Project by Bertha posted 12-08-2019 12:34 AM 1169 views 1 time favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Finished building the top section to my barrister bookcase (see other project entry), bringing it up over 7 feet. Probably could have done without the top shelf but I’ll put books there that I never pull down.

I haven’t finished the top cornice but I was ready to get it out of the shop.

Not much different this time around. Started with walnut from the local mill. Bunches and bunches of it and power planed it to around 3/4 inch, set for dimensioning quality. Sandpaper never touched this project. And I couldn’t if I wanted to b/c I loaned my sanders to a buddy.

I handplaned every surface. There was some tricky grain I had to go high angle on.

Scraped with a new thin clifton scraper that I found and really like.

I cut the shelf dadoes with a combination of dado and router.

Lay em out

Chop em

Close em

Flush em

My shop’s really small and this carcase is pretty damn big (and heavy)

Cheated a bit on the drawer divider. I hand cut the joint, then glued it in situ to the shelf sitting in the dado. Same story on the rear of the case. Glued only in the front. I’ve done stepped dividers and even full-length and it would be really unmanageable at this size.

Started joining all the frame pieces and grooved for glass. I found one of those tiny record ploughs and it’s a joy to use. If you can find one for less than $100, buy it. You can make irons for it. I’m using a traditional glazing on the glass and it ended up not looking very good at all lol. But it looks old, which is what I was going for.

I hand-rebated the back for shiplap. Obviously, I could have skipped this but I enjoy rebates and I wanted a lot of those curlies to put in clear balls for xmas ornaments.

Jumping ahead a bit. I made an iron for a preston beader and cut a small round bead at the fat edge.

On to the mechanism. I made about half of it this time, but I should have made all of it. I just used aluminum channel and some small bearings. There’s a proprietary (online but I can’t remember the shop) bracket that receives the bearing, rotates around it, and slides atop the channel. It would be easy to make but I still had some purchased ones lying around.

Started mounting the doors and thinking about finish. I use only hot hide glue and I discovered a little trick for door reveals. If you shim the door with veneer while the glue is still soft, you can let it dry in situ, then plane off any irregularities. The case was well-measured but no one is perfect except adam schiff

Thank goodness I keep a journal b/c I couldn’t remember whether I used natural danish oil or walnut tinted. Too bad I made no mention of it in my journal. I compared a swatch to the existing cabinet and it was natural. Hot flood coat, knock down, thin coat x2 under build, then clear wax.

The oil on the bottom shelf is a spill lol.

Moved it in and stacked it up. Was it fun? No. I made some connecting brackets and a tether to the wall. I also bolted the top to the bottom with a beefy threaded bolt receiver. I didn’t take any pictures, though.

It looks really thin in this picture but it’s just because it’s so tall.

So what would I have done differently. I would have left the interior of the case relatively raw. That’s a lot of planing for something that isn’t really seen. I would have manufactured those swivel brackets. I definitely would not use glazing again. I mean, it’s period and all but not really worth the effort. I get my glass cut at a local ACE and I never know what I’m actually going to get. I’d spring for thicker glass. I don’t think I have a 3/4 inch dado plane with nickers on both sides. I’d find one of those. I think that’s about it. Thanks for looking.

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

16 comments so far

View swirt's profile


6181 posts in 4048 days

#1 posted 12-08-2019 02:39 AM

Wow! One of these is on my bucket list for sure. You did a great job and I really enjoyed all the great process shots and explanations. Well done.

-- Galootish log blog,

View AnthonyReed's profile


10171 posts in 3516 days

#2 posted 12-08-2019 03:01 AM

That’s some sexy joinery Al.

Steak is looking intrigued.

-- ~Tony

View Andre's profile


4503 posts in 2882 days

#3 posted 12-08-2019 05:49 AM

Very Nice! but I guess just another heirloom piece for you:)
  • I don’t think I have a 3/4 inch dado plane with nickers on both sides.* Wouldn’t a #45 work?

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View Brit's profile


8323 posts in 3918 days

#4 posted 12-08-2019 09:28 AM

Looks great Al. What do you plan to put behind the glass?

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View splintergroup's profile


5097 posts in 2298 days

#5 posted 12-08-2019 03:20 PM

I love the detail your project process shows. Great job on going with meat powered tools and surfacing that nice wood!

View ralbuck's profile


6743 posts in 3342 days

#6 posted 12-08-2019 06:32 PM

A fantastic piece of furniture.

A fine toy tractor collection will really look good in nthat cabinet.
Especially a mulit-colored one!

-- Wood rescue is good for the environment and me! just rjR

View CL810's profile


4120 posts in 4064 days

#7 posted 12-08-2019 08:29 PM

Fine craftsmanship Al! I really like the dovetail divider work.

-- "The only limits to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." - FDR

View woodcox's profile


2386 posts in 3088 days

#8 posted 12-08-2019 09:40 PM

Excellent work, Al. Any idea how many board feet went into it them total?

-- "My god has more wood than your god" ... G. Carlin.

View theoldfart's profile


12581 posts in 3527 days

#9 posted 12-09-2019 12:02 AM

Another fine job Al. Do you dream about dovetails at night? :-)

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View livewire516's profile


111 posts in 936 days

#10 posted 12-09-2019 12:38 AM

Very nice work. I plan to make a barrister bookcase myself someday.

View BurlyBob's profile


8833 posts in 3341 days

#11 posted 12-09-2019 02:26 AM

That is truly some amazing joinery. The end result is wonderful.

View Bertha's profile


13615 posts in 3769 days

#12 posted 12-09-2019 02:03 PM

Thanks guys. I’m on the lathe now making trinkets and I miss all that square geometry. Everything I do on the lathe seems to come out round lol.

Everyone should make one. Most woodworkers houses can get dusty and it’s nice to have one less thing to clean. If I had it to do again (or later), I’d put a divider section with a pull out writing surface (a place to rest a book). The barrister is nice b/c you don’t have to swing cabinet doors out of the way.

Re the 3/4”, I found a 39 that I haven’t cleaned yet but like most, it’s missing the depth stop. At some point, I should cast a bunch of them and hand them out. Hell, they’re hardly structural and if you’re a ‘user’, an aluminum one would even work. Purists not invited.

Brit, books for now. Mostly books on ancient civilizations and astronomy. A few vintage woodworking books might make it in there. The trains are a great idea, however. I never got into them (thank God), but I’ve got a colleague who salivates over them. I buy them when I see them but the best I’ve got so far is a “nice”.

Woodcox, it’s hard to say b/c my mill guy accepts “money, booze, and meth” as payment. I kind of get what I get, so there’s tons of waste. You know, too thick to plane and too thin to resaw. I’d guess I started with around 200 board feet and was able to resaw 1/4 of that max.

It’s too tall for Steak to inspect, so he just barked at it. Just remembered some advice. Tack the back in once it’s where it’s supposed to be. There was nothing to grab hold of when moving it up top. If you’re going to attach the top to the bottom with traditional screws, have them started before you move it. Both were a drag.

Thanks for all the comments!

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

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17312 posts in 3694 days

#13 posted 12-09-2019 03:56 PM

Very nice Al, and good to see you’re still ‘shopping’. Love the dovetails too.

RE: “I wanted a lot of those curlies to put in clear balls for xmas ornaments.” I’d love to see a pic of one of those!

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

View mafe's profile


13175 posts in 4165 days

#14 posted 12-12-2019 10:55 PM

Wauuuuuu I love them and enjoyed every moment of reading.
A pleasure to be a tour in your workshop shop again, my eyes were jumping all over and felt right at home.
You did a wonderful job on these and I like the idea of half routed half hand cut doves, that gives a handmade finish, even cutting down time.
The small Record ploughs are one of my favorites, they are so amazingly fast and a joy to use.
Thanks for the tour.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View chrisstef's profile


18132 posts in 4082 days

#15 posted 01-10-2020 01:40 AM


-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

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