Built-In Bookcases and Mantel Surround #2: Getting Things Underway... Bookcase Mock-Ups

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Blog entry by Jonathan posted 05-18-2010 07:35 PM 1675 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Project Overview. Part 2 of Built-In Bookcases and Mantel Surround series Part 3: MDF prices are soaring! (Or maybe it's the riftsawn white oak veneer on top of that MDF?) »

Day-1 Mock-Ups:

Down in the basement.

A pile of wood at my side.

leather gloves…check
eye protection…check

Take a deep breath. OK, that feels better… (besides, the air is still clean!)

Turn on tablesaw. Done.

Crosscut 4-pieces of plywood to 44” long for the sides of the bookcases, and the other 4-pieces to 37-3/4” long for the shelves.
Ripcut plywood to 10.5” wide.

Get out Kreg Jig and drill 3-holes/side, for a total of 6-holes/shelf.

This isn’t so bad. Maybe I can do this project!


Day-2 Mock-Ups:

Goal today: assemble one carcass for the mock-up, including shelf-pin holes and backing material fixed in-place

I began by squaring-up the top of carcass frame with the sides and attached the top of the frame with pockethole screws, then slid in the bottom fixed shelf 4”, and attached it the same way.

I now needed to route out a rabbet to accept the 5mm back of the bookcase. This is when I realized I should’ve cut the top crosspiece of the carcass and the bottom fixed shelf a touch narrower to allow for the backing to slide in, but it was too late. Oh well, live and learn. Besides, now I get extra chiseling practice out of the deal!

I had my rabbeting bit all ready to go in my Bosch 1617EVS. Turned it on and went to town. I freehanded the rabbet, but looking back on it now, I should’ve clamped on an additional board flush with the side I was rabbeting, as it would’ve given the router a wider surface to slide on, rather than me trying to keep it sitting on a 3/4-inch wide track, all while guiding it along, never having done this before. I used the 5/16” bearing and went just deep enough to accept the 5mm backing, making it flush with the back of the carcass frame. I then got the chisel out and cleaned-up the areas the bit couldn’t reach, due to the attached cross pieces.

Next it was time to get the backing on. I took measurements of everything and crosscut and ripped the backing material to size. It fit into the rabbet with about a mm to spare on either side. I used 3d, 1-1/4” finish nails to attach it into the frame sides and top, plus the fixed shelf near the bottom.

I carried it upstairs and set it next to the fireplace, satisfied with the work. It couldn’t go into the recess yet because I had to remove the trim around the floor. There was 4-1/4” trim, plus quarter roundover that needed to be removed. I’d get to that in the morning.


Day-3 Mock-Ups

Got the prybars, mortar chisel and flushcut saw out and removed the trim in the righthand recess. Wow, the trim turned out to be pine. How do I know? Because it smelled like I just cut a Christmas tree down once I began cutting into it. I thought that was pretty amazing for how old the wood was, yet it was still so fragrant. And the trim was nailed into the wall with rectangular nails that were tapered wider at the top! I tried to remove them with the pliers, but they wouldn’t budge. So I tried the chisel, but that just made more of a mess than anything, so I had to pound them over, flush with the rest of the wall.

Now for the test.

I picked up the mocked-up carcass and began sliding it into the slot.
Scrape, scrape.
OK, try a different angle.
Scrape, scrape.
Oh heck!
Still not working, no problem, just drop it in from the top since the walls are wider at the top than at the floor.
Scrape, scrape.
Well crap!
The walls are plaster, and the plaster wasn’t all put on at the same thickness, so even though I measured in I-don’t-know-how-many-different spots, it was a touch too narrow in one area.

That solved that. It was close. I think if I’d have used a rubber mallet, I probably could’ve coaxed it into place, but then I would’ve had a heck of a time getting it back out.

So, I learned something valuable from this. Don’t measure twice, measure waaaaaayyyyyy more than that and in lots of places too!

But seriously, I’m glad I built-this mock-up because it allowed for this mistake and I don’t feel so bad about it.

When building the actual bookcases, I’ll simply make them 1/2” narrower to accomodate the out-of-square walls and they should slide right in with no scraping.

I didn’t bother building a mock-up of the faceframe or doors, as we don’t have the final height dimensions figured out yet. Rest assured, I will build a mock-up faceframe that I’ll simply set against the real bookcase to see how we like it, or if we need to change anything about it. I bought a bit of 4/4 poplar for this task. I don’t want to be wasting 4/4 riftsawn white oak if I can help it since it costs about 2.5-times as much as the poplar. I’ll probably attach the poplar faceframe onto the mock-up bookcase when it’s all said and done, as well as building door mock-ups out of the poplar. Basically, we’ll have another bookcase that just won’t be built-in.

(When I get a chance later today or tomorrow, I’ll post some pictures of the carcass mock-up, plus the trim removal, etc.)

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

3 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3577 days

#1 posted 05-19-2010 06:28 AM

sounds like good planning look forward to photos

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Jonathan's profile


2608 posts in 3050 days

#2 posted 05-19-2010 04:42 PM

Finally able to get a few pictures of the mock-up for the carcass and the trim removal.

After uploading to Photobucket, this right half of the image was cut off here. The mantel will rest on the two stacked bricks protruding from the chimney area. Not sure if it’ll go directly on top, or if I’ll notch the mantel shelf out a touch to slide down over the bricks?

There are sample finish swatches on top of the carcass. We are currently looking at the General Finishes Water Base Wood Stain in Black Cherry (a bit too dark and too red) and the Antique Cherry (which seems a touch light). I’m considering the idea of blending the two for a custom color, or adding in some Transtint dye to the Antique Cherry to give it a touch more depth. Everything will get several coats of the Charles Neil Blotch Control as the base.:
bookcase carcass mock-up

Details shot showing the pocket holes and the shelf sleeve/pin hole location:
bookcase carcass mock-up detail

This shot shows where the tile under the fireplace and wood floor meet. I am still trying to decide if the mantel surround will stop at this juncture and continue straight up the wall to the mantel shelf, or if it will overlap the tile.
trim removal next to fireplace

You can’t see the entire picture, but all the way to the right, you can see one of the rectangular nails holding the trim into the wall:
another trim removal picture

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

View Jonathan's profile


2608 posts in 3050 days

#3 posted 05-19-2010 10:51 PM

Here is a picture of the two finishes we are currently considering.
The Antique Cherry is at the top of the picture, while the Black Cherry is at the bottom of the picture.

finish colors

-- Jonathan, Denver, CO "Constructive criticism is welcome and valued as it gives me new perspectives and helps me to advance as a woodworker."

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