I Rise to the Challenge ... sort of

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Blog entry by Hibernicvs posted 04-11-2008 03:48 PM 1434 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Okay, here’s my best shot. I tried to use “sketch up,” but I figured that, combined with tax time (I’m a CPA) the frustration was too much. I hand-drew my idea from a sketch I made during singing practice a few weeks ago, while listening to the Basses and Baritones (or, if you want an inside joke, the Third and Fourth Tenors) screw up their parts while the director tore out what little hair he has left. Of course, I did this while watching some weird Sherlock Holmes thingie on PBS (Norm wasn’t on), which accounts for the fact that, while I got the front and the side to scale, I inadvertently used a different engineering rule with a gauge of 60 instead of 40 when I drew the shelves and the drawer. Well . . . the IDEA is the important thing. There’s some vague Greene & Greene influence in there, along with the basic arts and crafts concepts, although I’ve tried to update them to fit materials currently available (and affordable).

I designed this keeping in mind possibly minimal access to power tools and what is generally available at the BORG and B-Cubed stores (private pejoratives for the big orange and blue box stores . . . resistance is futile). If you are not so limited, you can probably really go to town on this; it should be much easier and faster.

Lumberjocks Bookcase Challenge 01

Lumberjocks Bookcase Challenge 02

Now for the interesting parts. If my imagination is working properly, the necessary tools should be (keeping in mind that these are only suggestions; if you have such outré technology as router tables and chop saws, you will, of course, make appropriate adjustments – my shop is my eighth-floor balcony, so I am somewhat limited):

Power Tools (based on what I have; you may have something better):

Circular saw with plywood and regular blades
Saber saw
Router with three-quarter and one-quarter inch bits
Finishing sander

Hand Tools (ditto):

One-quarter inch, three-eighths inch, three-quarter inch, and one-and-a-half-inch SHARP chisels
Japanese-style pull saw, fine “crosscut” teeth, or a dovetail saw (of course, if you have a dovetail jig, you can skip this)
Coping saw
Adjustable miter saw (I just can’t get those boxes to work accurately; getting the adjustable saw has really paid off, although it takes up too much space)
Screwdriver (probably Phillips head; depends on what you have or can get for screws; I find using the screwhead attachment on my power drill just doesn’t do it for me, I keep stripping heads, threads, and everything else to pieces.)
Hand drill and bits for screw lead holes
Jack knife
“J roller” (this is used for laminating. After going to all the hardware stores in the DC area and being reassured over and over again they didn’t have them, I found one in Lancaster, PA, while visiting my aunt. Then I found a whole raft of them in every store I had asked down here; they just didn’t know what the heck they were. They had them in their kitchen remodeling departments, not in with the tools or even with the contact cement)
Something to bend, like a piece of cheap beading or old band saw blade to get a good, regular curve, should be at least six feet long
Heavy twine or string
Four or six 96-inch 2×4s (if you need them to rest a sheet of plywood on for cutting)
Lots of pipe clamps, bar clamps, and c-clamps
Dust mask
Plastic gloves

Jigs (if you need them; I don’t have space for tables):

Circular saw, router


Contact cement
Polyurethane glue
Wood glue
White glue
(Sticky wicket, what?)
Three-quarter inch No. 6 wood screws (I haven’t figured out how many yet)
Half-inch No. 4 wood screws (ditto)
Two “arts and crafts” drawer pulls
Ebony stain (I’ve had good results with Minwax)
Red Oak stain (ditto)
Rags for applying stain (one operation as opposed to using a brush and wiping it off)
Pre-stain conditioner
Wood filler
Disposable foam brushes
Polyurethane varnish (I prefer satin or whatever they call their non-gloss)
Sandpaper, coarse and fine (both for the finishing sander and for sanding blocks)
Cotton swabs (very handy for touching up stained areas)

I think that’s everything I envision using. Watch me be wrong.

The WOOD (finally!) I think I worked this out pretty close:

One 4×8 half-inch (or close) plywood. One side MUST be good, the other will be covered with a plywood laminate of:

One 4×8 quarter-inch hardwood plywood, may be lauan (Philippine mahogany), but anything that takes stain well should be fine.

Both the half-inch and the quarter-inch plywood can be slightly short of the full half- and quarter-inches. I developed my technique (which somebody else probably figured out ages ago) to take into account the fact that most of what I could find was not exact, or even in the neighborhood.

Three-eighth-inch SQUARE hardwood dowels, probably no more than 36 inches, if that.

Three-quarter-inch SQUARE hardwood dowel (for drawer runner, so you can substitute your preferred system, with adjustments)

Two 96-inch finished 1×6s, wood of your choice. I’ve had some really good luck with radiate pine from New Zealand, which is sold as “select pine” in the BORG and B-Cube. Poplar should probably do well also. Since the plan calls for staining, I don’t want to “waste” white or red oak or some more expensive wood.

One 96-inch finished 1×4, same wood as above.

One 48-inch finished 1×3, same wood as above.

Four (this is a guestimate) 96-inch 1×2s, same wood as above. I use a lot of these, so I sometimes get a little vague about how much to get as I try to keep them in stock.

Again, I think that’s everything. The first of the two weird techniques I’ve worked out to accommodate what’s available, my skill level, and equipment and space restrictions involves “painting” the good side of the half-inch plywood with heavily-diluted wood filler, sanding with the finishing sander between coats, then staining BEFORE assembly, but after shaping. The second is to cut out half-inch plywood for (say) a shelf, making it three-quarter inch smaller on both sides and the front. I then laminate quarter-inch hardwood plywood of the same size onto this. When set and cured, I router a three-quarter-inch wide, three-eighth-inch deep “lip” around the sides and front, then stain the hardwood (I’ve already stained the half-inch plywood, being careful to keep the good side on the underside of the shelf) ebony or some dark color. I then router a three-quarter-inch wide, three-eighths-inch deep rabbet in some finished 1×2 stock, miter it to fit the lipped shelf leaving a three-quarter-inch overhang, sand it, stain it (usually red oak), then glue ‘n screw the rim pieces to the shelf, covering the screw holes with “ebony” plugs made from three-eighths-inch square dowels. Attaching a top with this technique is similar, except you stain the underside of the half-inch plywood, then screw it to the top of whatever you’re making, then laminate the quarter-inch plywood, stain it, router it, and attach the rim.

Laminating only sounds scary. It’s actually pretty easy. Just do it outside whenever possible.

It sounds tedious, I suppose, but so far the results seem to have been worth it. I haven’t used it on a bookcase shelf yet, or for the carcass, but I’ve had some good results with tables.

-- Hibernicvs

4 comments so far

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3818 days

#1 posted 04-11-2008 07:12 PM


This is possibly the most detailed project I have ever had the pleasure to witness. Your design looks good to me and you seem to have accounted for every detail of the construction. I just can’t imagine that you haven’t worked out the number of screws going into the project. (Sorry I just couldn’t resist that) :)

Great job of design and planning. It looks like a winner to me.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View DocK16's profile


1184 posts in 4083 days

#2 posted 04-11-2008 07:47 PM

Nice design, I don’t feel so bad I thought I was the only one having difficulty learning Sketch-Up

-- Common sense is so rare anymore when you do see it, it looks like pure genius.

View Hibernicvs's profile


65 posts in 3864 days

#3 posted 04-11-2008 08:56 PM

Thanks for the kind comments. It beats what I usually hear this time of year, and I don’t even work for the IRS. I just help people prepare their filings, and sometimes even get paid. (“Look, Lady, I didn’t write the tax code, nor do I get any of the money, so …”)

Re. screws: I just buy a box of 100, then when I strip the where-you-stick-the-screwdriver-head-in place (less often the threads … I know ONE technical term), I don’t have to worry about having bought only enough to make the project. Besides, there’s always something around here that needs screwing up. Hm. That didn’t come out right.

Sketch-Up. Oy. I keep getting these pitying looks from my associates here in the office, one of whom is married to a graphic artist (prize-winning, to rub it in—some of his work can be seen at, and the statement, “All you have to do is …” Right. I suppose if I could just sit down and watch somebody do it for a little bit I’d be fine, but the tutorials Google provided just kind of confused me.

I got a little of my own back a few months ago. The artist asked to borrow a saw (he’s reliable enough to replace it if he ruins it), and I asked, “What kind?” and got a completely blank look. So I listed all the kinds I have, which didn’t help him much, then suggested that he describe what he wanted to do. It took him ten minutes to describe the task, which boiled down to, “Cut a 4×4 into two pieces.” Gotcha. Use this, clean it, and put it back in the sleeve. (I offered to cut it for him at the very beginning, which would have been less work than trying to figure out what he wanted.)

-- Hibernicvs

View Karson's profile


35120 posts in 4397 days

#4 posted 04-19-2008 05:59 AM

Hibernicvs Well tax time is over time for the construction. A very detailed plan, Good luck.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

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