Under Construction- Ranch to Colonial Conversion.

Part 5: The Bookcase Manufactory


As JT said when we started on the first bookcase- "Everything in this project was to get us up to here." Building the bookcases was the last step to a finished library. JT borrowed from a couple of different woodworking books to come up with the design. We used dado blades to cut the slots for the shelves, and glued and screwed them together. One-quarter inch luan plywood formed the backs, and took stain beautifully. The shelf height is sized for standard hardcovers so we can shelve hardcovers and paperbacks together and maintain a pleasing uniformity in shelf height. This was bookcase#2, but the first one to actually be filled with books.

The lowest shelf is 10 inches (25 cm) off the floor, and cut out in back to fit over the baseboard heaters. We tacked a sheet of insulation under the bottom shelf to minimize the baking of the books. Eventually we'll put decorative grillwork on the front to cover the bottom of the bookcase without preventing the flow of heat.

bookcase assembly

By the third bookcase, we had a system worked out. JT cut and sanded the pieces. We both stained, polyurethaned and assembled. The critical step was to square the first few shelves carefully before drilling pilot holes for the screws.

bookcase assembly

More bookcases in progress. Leaning stained pieces against the wall to dry allowed us to stain both sides at the same time as well as saving space and reducing unsightly drips.

bookcase assembly

More of the ever-useful hardwood flooring boxes protected the new floors from damage while the heavy plastic sheeting last seen as dustcovers downstairs was recycled into dropclothes to keep stain and polyurethane from going anywhere they shouldn't.

corner bookcase unit

The first corner unit was a challenge to assemble. The corner shelves were butt-jointed and glued, and then cut to pentagonal shape. My father cleverly suggested using a 2x4 for the back corner support- cutting two 45 degree angles into it, so it would fit back into the corner. It worked beautifully except for one small caveat. The walls were not at 45 degrees! We said a lot of short bad words. Then JT cut an extra trim piece to fill the inevitable gap.

detail of corner bookcase unit

Here's a closer shot of the corner support.

The second corner unit took even longer to assemble, but when complete, it fit the corner quite well. At the moment, we're still one bookcase short of a full library, but the missing bookcase is going to be an oddly-configured L-shape stuck in between a pillar and the wall. So we're taking our time with the design for that.

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