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Joinery suggestions for a coffin-shaped bookcase

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Forum topic by AwlThat posted 10-20-2019 02:58 PM 640 views 0 times favorited 19 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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AwlThat

49 posts in 622 days


10-20-2019 02:58 PM

My daughter wants me to build her a coffin-shaped bookcase. Simple enough, right?

What I’ve been struggling with was how to join the panels that will make up the sides.

I would prefer not to use nails or screws. Since those side joints will be end-grain to end-grain, glue will just get sucked up. Dowels seem like they’ve be tricky to get lined up but even then, there’s still the glue on end-grain issue.

Is the only practical way, to give those joints any kind of strength, to use cleats on the inside of the bookcase?

I did a search for “coffin” and I found some bookcases/shelf units that people have built, but nobody shared how they joined the sides. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.


19 replies so far

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wildwoodbybrianjohns

429 posts in 83 days


#1 posted 10-20-2019 03:10 PM

Im sure youll get lots of good advice from others who know more than I; but I would just say that coffins they bury Pope´s in have straight sides, tapering outward toward the head, very probably at 16º, which are dovetailed to the top and bottom.

-- Wildwood by Brian Johns: It is wiser to find out, than to suppose (S. Clemens)

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AwlThat

49 posts in 622 days


#2 posted 10-20-2019 03:27 PM

I, as well as my daughter, are visualizing the classic “old west”, 6-sided shape where it angles out from the top and bottom and back again. It’s that angled side joint that I am most concerned with. Since the piece’s natural position will be standing, and not laying on the ground, lol, my thought is that that side joint needs some strength or it could fail under the piece’s own weight.

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RRBOU

230 posts in 2827 days


#3 posted 10-20-2019 03:32 PM

Biscuit joints might be an option for the joint.

-- If guns cause crime all of mine are defective Randy

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AwlThat

49 posts in 622 days


#4 posted 10-20-2019 03:59 PM


Biscuit joints might be an option for the joint.

- RRBOU

Same basic concept as dowels. Unfortunately, I don’t own a biscuit joiner.

View bilyo's profile

bilyo

868 posts in 1638 days


#5 posted 10-20-2019 05:15 PM

I can think of 2-3 different ways to do this depending on how exposed the joint will be. If you will have a face frame on the “coffin” it might cover an internal batten and this might be the simplest way. The batten could be wide and thin and tapered to fit the angle and, therefore, it would be rather inconspicuous.

Another way, if the corner doesn’t have to be a sharp bend, would be to laminate the sides. 2-3 sheets of 1/4” ply would allow a sharp enough bend.

A third way would be to use finger joints (box joints) to join the two faces with strength. That would provide an interesting look both inside and out.

View corelz125's profile

corelz125

878 posts in 1511 days


#6 posted 10-20-2019 05:46 PM

You can get a slot cutter for your router for biscuits. A lot cheaper than buying the tool.

View Phil32's profile

Phil32

687 posts in 439 days


#7 posted 10-20-2019 06:05 PM

A third way would be to use finger joints (box joints) to join the two faces with strength. That would provide an interesting look both inside and out.

- bilyo

I would agree with this idea, but that assumes something the OP hasn’t told us – what thickness of wood for the “casket?” As a casket, the load is flat. As a bookcase, the primary load in endwise. What thickness of back panel?

-- Phil Allin - There are mountain climbers and people who talk about climbing mountains. The climbers have "selfies" at the summit!

View AlaskaGuy's profile

AlaskaGuy

5414 posts in 2844 days


#8 posted 10-20-2019 07:36 PM

Splines, biscuits, dominos

What wood, what finish?

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

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AlaskaGuy

5414 posts in 2844 days


#9 posted 10-20-2019 07:43 PM

Lots of videos here. I sure some of them will cover different joinery methods.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=how+to+build+an+old+west+coffin+book+case

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

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bilyo

868 posts in 1638 days


#10 posted 10-20-2019 07:49 PM


A third way would be to use finger joints (box joints) to join the two faces with strength. That would provide an interesting look both inside and out.

- bilyo

I would agree with this idea, but that assumes something the OP hasn t told us – what thickness of wood for the “casket?” As a casket, the load is flat. As a bookcase, the primary load in endwise. What thickness of back panel?

- Phil32


Agreed. We are lacking lots of information. Just trying to provide some ideas or concepts that might work depending on the details.

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Phil32

687 posts in 439 days


#11 posted 10-20-2019 08:19 PM

How are you going to attach the bookshelves, now that it’s assembled?

-- Phil Allin - There are mountain climbers and people who talk about climbing mountains. The climbers have "selfies" at the summit!

View Mr_Pink's profile

Mr_Pink

176 posts in 907 days


#12 posted 10-20-2019 08:37 PM

There’s an episode of the Woodwright’s Shop, season 35, in which he makes an old-fashioned coffin. The episode is appropriately titled “Plain Pine Box”.

https://www.pbs.org/video/woodwrights-shop-plain-pine-box/

View AwlThat's profile

AwlThat

49 posts in 622 days


#13 posted 10-20-2019 10:54 PM

Sorry for the lack of detail. I hadn’t thought of that as being of much importance.

Size-wise, I’m looking at using 1×12. Type of wood-wise, depends on money. I’d like to use oak but it’s almost $7 a board ft, at Home Depot (I know, go to a lumber yard). Rough estimate is that just to make the frame would come in around $125. Another option is pine. Much cheaper.

I hadn’t thought using box joints. That would really make for a stable joint. A little on the complex side to try and fashion, but I would love to try.

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SMP

1419 posts in 441 days


#14 posted 10-20-2019 11:27 PM

Splines if you want a different color to add interest. Sliding dovetail if you want a challenge. Personally i would probably use the triangle-profiled batten someone else mentioned. That in conjunction with the back mechanically fastened and then a front trim piece to cover it would provide support. I’d also design it so the shelves themselves would add to the structural rigidity.

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AwlThat

49 posts in 622 days


#15 posted 10-21-2019 10:58 AM

For the back, my plan was to add a rabbet around the edge to accommodate a piece of 1/4” plywood, glued and nailed.

The plan is to have some trim all around the front. It will act as a sort of valance to hide a strip of LED lights.

I wasn’t sure of what a batten joint was but I Googled it and it seems it is the same thing as the “cleat” idea that I mentioned in my original post. I thought about the shelf being integrated into it as a way of hiding the purpose of it.

As for the shelves, I was thinking of just letting them rest inside without being fastened. At least the ones below the side joint. Just angle the ends and let their length determine their height level. I guess if I wanted the shelves to add to the structural rigidity, I could add a dado for them to slide into, but then they would be permanent after the front trim goes on. My idea was to allow for them to be removed when the unit was moved. Not much of a weight consolation, but it would be something.

I really appreciate the suggestions. Thank you.

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