Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cherry Bookcase Project (Part 4)

Alright, first off, if you're just joining me now, you can check out parts 1, 2, and 3 here:

Yesterday I left you guys with a bit of a teaser, and I'm not sure that too many of you have seen it yet, but too bad, since I'm doing the follow-up now. :P

On the last post, I had finished sanding the bottom case (the main bookcase part of the overall cabinet), installed the mouldings, and the bottom was basically done except for the shelves and back.

Since then, I went through what wood I had left, worked out some dimensions, and decided I should have just enough wood to build an upper glazed case (that's glazed as in glass doors, not frosted doughnuts) and I started building it.

I needed quite a bit of long pieces for all the mouldings, and horizontal stretchers, so I decided to use-up this cherry board that I picked up YEARS ago at a yard sale. It was a slightly warped and flawed board (crack down the centre), and not very wide. I had originally thought that I'd use it for a clock case, but antique clocks are RARELY ever made from cherry, so this project was as good a project as any to use it up.

Because of the extremely limited stock of cherry, the upper case isn't going to be all that useful for books. The interior case will only be about 7 5/8" wide on the exterior, leaving me with a shelf/interior of 6 1/2" (because of the back and the front frame taking up the other inch). Some books would definitely fit on 6 1/2" deep shelves, like novels, but I don't have that many of those. Most of my library consists of larger reference books. Instead, I'll likely use the upper case to display small clocks or collectibles.

The following photo shows the basic box for the upper case along with 6 scrap pieces of 1/4" cherry veneered panels. I could make a 6 panel back for the upper case, but I'm not sure whether or not it would look too busy.

Here you can see how I made the top of the case with a jigsaw puzzle of different boards. Why? Because I wanted the extra height. Parts of it are solid wood, and others are particle board (with cherry veneer). All are leftovers. I was also planning to do a matching string detail as the bottom case, so the harsh line between the different parts won't show.

Next, doors. With a constantly dwindling stock of old/new wood, each piece had to be measured and carefully picked. A few of the door frame pieces have screw holes (on the back or edges) that will mostly be hidden. They're held together with a simple butt-joint and dowels.

I always like to do a fair amount of research (since I'm so picky and I want to get the "most bang for my buck", or rather: effort in this case, since most of the stock was free). I wanted traditional looking glazed doors, but preferably without the multi-piece glass and complicated joinery. I've always loved Gothic pieces, and I don't own ANYTHING AT ALL with Gothic carvings or aesthetics, so since the base was pretty plain, I could do Gothic tracery in the upper doors without having it look "wrong" or mismatched. I went through 3-4 books (Antiques, Early American Furniture, Furniture of Old Quebec, etc) and copied several nice designs, and I also have a stock of nearly 150 internet photos of antique bookcases, so I had many options. In the end, I went with this pattern:

The top mouldings mainly came out of that yard sale board I mentioned earlier.

All 8 demi-arcs were taken out of the two upper panels from the previous side panel, and as a side note, the two bottom panels got turned into the sides for the upper case.

To make the segments, I used my drawing to make a pattern, and traced out the pieces. All the "grid" portions of the doors are 3/8" thick.

I won't even pretend that these doors were "easy" to make. They were assembled in a fairly simple manner, but they were still a total time-consuming pain in the ass to do.

All the grid pieces were cut to be 1/2 the door thickness (3/8 in this case, for a 3/4" thick door) and longer on the ends so that they extended 1/4" into the door frame (on the inside), to match-up with my 1/4" rabbet to hold the glass. It's hard to explain, but in photos that will be in "Part 5" you'll see this better.

All the joints for the grids are half lap joints. The notches are cut on the 1/4" ends, and matching notches are cut into the door frame edges. In the following photo, all 4 arcs have been notched and fitted on the upper points. "H" (the second arc) is also half-lapped over the top of "G" instead of being notched into the door frame. "G" continues into the frame, but "H" does not. Again, you can see this better later.

The pine horizontal bar is just a temporary one for measurements. With the 4 arcs in their places, I then traced a vertical line on each one. The interior door width is exactly 16" (which worked out beautifully). Divided into 4=4" You can see the 4" reference lines at the top.

4 arcs cut and sanded smooth along that edge.

Next, the 4 arc "pairs" were glued together along their long flat edges (using clothes pins and masking tape). Once glued, they were lightly sanded, and trimmed to length.

The centre bars were done next (and were done AFTER in case there was a bit of deviation in the arches L-R (in case they were slightly off centre from my 4" marks).

Note: nothing is glued yet. Those office clips worked out awesomely.

Next, the last pieces were the two bottom bars. These were cut to fit tightly, and push the arches up into their corners as much as possible (you want a snug fit, not one that's so tight it will deform/force things).

Again, half-lap joints were used. since I have 3 pieces coming together at the middle crosses, the middle joint was done with a diagonal cut (one on the top arch pieces, and one on the bottom bars).

I *COULD* have divided the 3/8" pieces all into 1/8 sections, and had all 3 pieces slot together, but it would have been a lot more work, and this was just as strong.

Yesterday's teaser photo:

At this point, the door grids were done and ready to glue, but I only glued them today. Also note that I haven't yet installed the upper bead detail, or sanded the putty on the crown. The doors and grids will also be routed to match the bottom doors. I'm also pondering adding a crest with 3 finials in a Hepplewhite-inspired style.

Knobs for the upper and lower doors will be hand-turned cherry ones, as will the finials (if I make some).


  1. This project is way over my head, but I just wanted to say that it's great to see such craftsmanship.

    1. ...yeah it's fairly "advanced" woodworking, but I thought I would share it anyways, since it's a large piece of furniture that will be used in the house (and I'm not really doing anything else at the moment).

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  3. Just getting caught up today, and am loving seeing this project unfold. Those door grids are just unreal. Keep up the great work!

  4. BTW, I'm overdue in expressing my amazement regarding your skills with the tracery. I would have taken the easy way out and made leaded glass... :-) But I'm not a cabinet maker, either.

    1. I could do leaded glass (I just barely started doing some stained glass - I need to buy a good soldering iron though), but it wouldn't have the same look.

      Also, sad update: I recently broke one of these doors (it fell). It's repairable, but still a pain since it was all done. I need to order the hinges for the top doors, make the knobs, and figure out what to do for the back, so I can get this project done.

  5. You have created my dream bookcase. I love Gothic tracery.