So much has happened since I started casually remodeling my office. Casual is the key word there. Not only have I not given it much priority but I’ve also had a few good things happen with life and with the business in the meantime. And with that said, making this bookcase was one step closer towards calling the office remodel complete. If you’re interested in a set of plans for this bookcase click here.
Everything I’ve made for the office so far has been very basic from a design standpoint. I simply do not want to put a lot of time and effort into making fine furniture for this space because I know I have to share it with four of our dogs. This bookcase design is simple as well. It’s a tall bookcase with a fixed shelf dividing the upper and lower areas. In the upper and lower areas are two adjustable shelves. The main joinery method for the bookcase is pocket hole screws and the main material is plywood, specifically 3/4″ PureBond birch plywood. It’s made here in the USA and sold at the Home Depot.
Step one is to break down the sheet of plywood. To start I’m making a full width crosscut with a track saw to remove a small section of material. This kind of cut is possible on a table saw but it’s not easy and can sometimes not be safe due to the size of the sheet and the small amount being removed.
Followed by a nearly full length rip cut. Making a cut like this on a table saw isn’t as sketchy as the last one but with it still being nearly a full sheet it’s another situation where bringing the tool to the material is easier than bringing the material to the tool.
And now the more easily managed pieces can be brought to the table saw. I made a set of plans for this project before I started so the rest of the plywood cuts went by pretty quick.
There are a total of seven horizontal plywood pieces for the bookcase. The three on the right are for the fixed top, bottom, and middle panels and sized a little wider than the four on the left in this image. Those are for the adjustable shelves. They will eventually have solid wood banding installed on them.
Here you can see the importance of having as many horizontal surfaces as possible at the same height. In order to make 8′ long cuts I need to remove the fence on my jointer/planer. Not a big deal :)
Before assembly of the case I got started on the face frame material. All of these pieces will be cut from s4s poplar. Every time I buy s4s (surfaced on 4 sides) lumber a little piece of me cries. The whole point of having machines for milling rough sawn lumber is to save money in the long run. But in this case it was a matter of access to woods and the best source for this build was overpriced s4s poplar. Breaking down these boards starts with crosscutting to final length at my miter saw station.
Followed by ripping the pieces to their final width at the table saw.
While the design of this bookcase is very basic there are a few standard design elements in play. The lower face frame rail was sized to allow for the addition of baseboard moulding in the event that I wanted to add it in the future. At this time I do not. The lower rail is also the widest which will give it more of a stronger foundation appearance. The top rail is the next widest to allow for the addition of crown moulding in the event that I wanted to add it in the future as well. And again, at this time I do not want to add it. And finally the center rail is sized the same as the outer stiles just to tie the sides together.
Pocket hole screws are industry standard for cabinet face frames. Because the ugly appearance of the pocket holes is on the inside nobody will ever see them. And while pocket hole joints aren’t the strongest joint out there they are plenty strong enough for face frame construction. Never use pocket hole joints in situations where wood movement is necessary, like attaching a breadboard end to a table top. For more information about this pocket hole machine I have click here.
Clamping the outside stiles to the workbench makes quick work of assembly. The most annoying part is actually getting out of the way for the camera. Like this shot; I don’t think I would be standing behind the part to screw it together if the camera wasn’t recording :)
The good aspect of recording the build is that I can easily get a helping hand ;)
The back panel will be attached to the case via a rabbet in the side panels. In this case I made the rabbet about 2/3 the thickness of the sides and a little deeper than the thickness of the back panel. I have exact measurements in the plan but in this case I just eyeballed it.
This is the most important step of the build. I call it “screwing up the width of the fixed shelves and therefore needing to remove more material from the side panels to accommodate.” …..it happens.
Assembly of the fixed shelves is just as easy as the face frame. The lower shelf and middle shelf will have the pocket holes facing the ground and the upper shelf will have the pocket holes facing the ceiling. This means a 90 degree chunk of wood can be clamped to the sides to act as a stop block for each shelf. Then the shelf clamped to that chunk of wood. Once everything is secured with clamps the pocket hole screws can be driven home to lock the shelf in place. No fuss and no slipping with this method.
To attach the face frame to the case I laid the case on it’s back on my workbench. Coincidentally, I found out that the back panel needs to be the exact width of my workbench because it fit perfectly inside the back panel rabbets.
A little glue and a few brad nails will secure the face frame to the case. I used a couple of clamps to hold the face frame exactly where I wanted it before shooting the nails.
All of the nail holes get filled with wood putty.
For the four adjustable shelves to be adjustable I need to cut shelf pin holes. And to do that I’m using the JIG IT® Shelving Jig from Rockler. I bought this template back in 2008 when I first got into woodworking and have put a lot of miles on it. Rockler is a partner of mine and sent me another one to use. There is no need for me to open another one though so I’ll pass it along to someone else for free. Just leave a comment on this article and I’ll use a random number generator to select a winning comment 24 hours after this article goes live. EDIT: THANKS FOR THE LOVE ON THIS ONE. ANTHONY SCOLARO WAS THE RANDOMLY SELECTED WINNER.
The jig is simple to use. Line the jig edges up with reference edges in the project, the back and bottom in this case, and start drilling the holes as needed with the included drill bit.
Once you max out the travel of the jig simply use a shelf pin through the template and into a previously drilled hole and continue drilling as needed. Repeat this for as many holes as you’d like. Super easy and precise.
The back panel will eventually get attached with short screws. All I wanted to do here was make sure it was cut to the appropriate size before I started finish prep.
And finish prep consists of using a router to flush trim the face frame with the case sides…
Sanding all surfaces up to 180 grit..
And applying the finish. Just like everything else I’ve built for the office, this bookcase will be white with a few pieces of bubinga trim. On my cabinets and dog bed table I used Sherwin Williams white lacquer. The results are nice but man was it a huge pain in the butt to spray a solvent finish. The lacquer smells up my house for days, even when spraying outside because I store the project in my garage. And I can’t spray in my garage because the solvent smell is even worse in there. So for this project I tried out General Finishes water based white polyurethane primer and white polyurethane satin finish. Long term durability is something I can’t speak for right now but as far as the finished product goes, they both look and feel the same. The main difference is that I was able to spray the water based poly inside my shop and not worry about any of the crazy fumes. I wore a respirator (as you should always do) to protect my lungs from the dusty bounce-back and overspray.
Next up is the bubinga trim for the adjustable shelves. Earlier in the year I found a bunch of Bubinga being sold at $5.50 a board foot so I bought a bunch of it. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve been incorporating it here and there with my projects. For the solid wood banding on the adjustable shelves I started milling a chunk of 8/4 rift sawn material starting at the miter saw.
Followed by jointing two adjacent faces at the jointer..
And then getting the opposite faces flat and parallel with the planer..
Four pieces are ripped out of the board at the bandsaw. I should have had my fence rotated 90 degrees to allow for shorter cuts to be made with the blade guard dropped to the surface of the wood.
The bandsawn faces were cleaned up with a few passes at my drum sander.
And finally a rabbet is established with two passes at the table saw. There’s two things to notice with this picture. First is that the waste side of the cut is not being trapped between the blade and the fence. It’s on the opposite side of the blade so that it will sit freely once cut and not shoot back like a rocket. The second thing to notice is that my first cut was too deep. I’d love to say that this was on purpose to allow a little room for glue squeeze out but in fact it was because the insert plate on my table saw was set too low. I’m not sure what happened or how it got adjusted but because it was lower the beginning and end of my cuts here were too deep. I’ve since adjusted it but I’m still scratching my head as to how it was lowered.
Before gluing the bubinga onto the shelves I wanted to round over the corners. Whiteside Machine Company is also a partner of mine and for this task I’m using a Whiteside 2005C 1/8” radius round over bit.
To prevent any ugly nail holes from showing on the solid wood banding I only used glue and clamps to attach them to the shelves.
Finally the back panel can be installed. I used a bunch of short screws to attach it. No glue is necessary for this piece.
By this time the solid wood banding can be trimmed down to the appropriate length on the shelves and to do that I used my crosscut/miter sled. I removed the insert plate here for better dust collection. The eight cuts that needed to be made were all pretty small and the offcuts were small enough to let them pass through the dust collection system.
A final sanding is needed on the bubinga. You can see how the small radius round over combined with the board being rift sawn allows the grain lines to blend all the way around the board. It results in a very even grain appearance regardless of what angle you are looking from.
To seal the bubinga I went with General Finishes High Performance satin water based polyurethane. And because it dries clear I went ahead and added another layer to the entire shelf. I figured that these shelves will see the most abuse on the project so one more layer of polyurethane will be nice long-term.
Add the shelf pins and this one is done! (kinda) I LOVE how much the bubinga stands out with the white polyurethane.
Here’s the “kinda” part I just mentioned. I forgot to record the process but in order for the bookcase to sit flush against the wall I cut out the profile of my office baseboard in the back bottom corners of the bookcase. I did this by making a template out of 1/4” plywood first and then transferring that shape to the bookcase with a flush trim router bit. I just went into the shop and got it done and forgot to record the process. Oops!
And here it is in use. Holding all of my shirts and hats that I sell here on this website. I finally have a place for them that is in the office instead of in a box in a room on the opposite side of the house.
Thanks again to Rockler for supporting this video. Stay tuned in the next month or so for the final before and after video of the office remodel. If you’re interested in a set of plans for this bookcase click here.