How to attach shelf supports on a Mission library table

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Forum topic by spratman posted 03-30-2020 11:17 PM 523 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 665 days

03-30-2020 11:17 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I would like to reproduce a Mission style library desk like this one:

Most of the construction looks straight forward but I am unsure how the shelves would have been attached to the vertical slats? My first thought was nails but I was curious to see if there are any other suggestions. The slats are relatively thin so it would be difficult to add a plug for a screw or to have the depth for a dowel.

5 replies so far

View bilyo's profile


1460 posts in 2440 days

#1 posted 03-31-2020 01:30 AM

I’m not an expert on Mission furniture. However, I do have a book about making it: “Popular Mechanics Company, Mission Furniture, How to Make It (Parts I, II, and III, Complete” published by Dover Publications, Inc, 1980. Maybe you can find it on line or in a library.

There are a number of pieces in the book that use slats similarly to the piece you are interested in. Typically, they use round head brass screws Although, in some cases they suggest options of either, screws, brads, or dowels.

IMO, I think that something like this would work well but, I’m not sure that it would be proper for the style, if that is important.

View Spotcheck's profile


38 posts in 3864 days

#2 posted 03-31-2020 10:20 PM

My money says dowels through the slats. that will be strong enough to support the shelf, with 4 pegs per shelf end.

I wish the photo was clearer at the shelf corner where it intersects the leg. The shelf will want to expand to the leg, so I expect some type of dado in the leg to receive the shelf.

Done a lot of mission \ arts & crafts stuff. Doweled \ pegged is nearly always the answer

View spratman's profile


2 posts in 665 days

#3 posted 04-01-2020 01:27 AM

Thanks for the suggestions.

I was able to find the Mission furniture publication online at All three parts are available and there is a library table in Part 1. From the instructions in Part 1 “The slats can be fastened on with nails, then the heads covered with fancy nails which can be secured for this purpose.”. The instructions also describe the use of a dado where the shelf meets the leg.

It is unfortunate that the photo I found does not have more resolution. It does look like there is some sort of fastener visible if you zoom in but it is too grainy to draw any conclusions.

View bilyo's profile


1460 posts in 2440 days

#4 posted 04-01-2020 01:52 PM

Yes. They can be fastened with nails. The question is: is that the best way? Remember, the nails will be driven into end grain andmost all of the forces on the joint will be shear. Neither of these factors are properly solved with nails. Over time, the wood end grain may split and the nails bend or loosen. I think that over time, screws or dowels will be a better solution.

View LesB's profile


3245 posts in 4781 days

#5 posted 04-01-2020 05:44 PM

I would use screws and in variance to any prescribed “authentic” Mission furniture methods I would use the Kreg Pocket hole method from the bottom of the shelves. You can plug the holes if you want to hide them completely.

Biscuit inserts could be used too.

-- Les B, Oregon

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