Jefferson/Underhill Book Boxes

  • Advertise with us
Project by ChuckV posted 04-12-2011 06:41 PM 9154 views 13 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is a set of Thomas Jefferson style book boxes based on a chapter of Roy Underhill’s “The Woodwright’s Apprentice”. This winter, I made three book boxes for our house. It was a good winter project – lots of hand tool work to keep me warm(er). My cousin saw the boxes and really wanted some for her house.

The photos are of the boxes that I made for my cousin. They are made of ash and the backs are birch plywood. The boxes are all 11” deep and 14” high. The lengths are 36”, 33” and 30”. Making six of these provided some much-needed dovetail practice. The joints are simple through dovetails, except for the mitered corners on the front.

One of the most helpful things that I learned is that my main trouble cutting with the saw is the “roll”, the angle around the axis parallel to the blade. I am right handed, and I found that I need to rotate my wrist more clockwise than I think I should. This realization was a breakthrough that helped me to fit the joints better with less fussing.

In one of Krenov’s books, I read something like, “Thou shalt not use any finish other than wax on ash”. Who am I to do otherwise?

Here is the story of Thomas Jefferson’s book boxes at the Monticello web site.

I have visited the Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts a few times. The last visit was several years ago, before I began woodworking. I remember that there were book boxes in the house. The story there was that in those days books were very valuable and house fires were common. The book boxes would allow the books to be more easily carried or thrown out of a burning house than large bookcases would.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

4 comments so far

View PurpLev's profile


8553 posts in 4207 days

#1 posted 04-12-2011 06:53 PM

those look fantastic Chuck. very elegant joinery and material thickness/proportions.

I think the ‘roll’ on cutting with a handsaw is what most of us struggled at some point until you learn to recognize the sweet spot and the proper angle the saw should be held.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View jdh122's profile


1104 posts in 3376 days

#2 posted 04-12-2011 07:23 PM

These look beautiful. The miter on the edge is elegant.
Since I just acquired about 25 bf of white ash to build a dresser, I’ll try to remember Krenov’s commandment. Plus I’ll try to think about rotating my wrist clockwise to get straighter cuts with those dovetails.

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View Gnagen's profile


27 posts in 3352 days

#3 posted 04-12-2011 09:20 PM

What was Krenov’s commandment?


View ChuckV's profile


3245 posts in 4086 days

#4 posted 04-12-2011 09:32 PM

Krenov said something about any finish other than wax taking away from the beauty of ash.

-- “Big man, pig man, ha ha, charade you are.” ― R. Waters

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