Built-In Bookcases and Mantel Surround #5: Joinery Woes, With a Potential Solution.

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Blog entry by Jonathan posted 06-16-2010 08:49 PM 2736 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: Possibly adding a drawer, or discreet compartment? Part 5 of Built-In Bookcases and Mantel Surround series no next part

Once I really began designing the bookcases in my head, along with learning more about joinery methods and the necessity of allowing for seasonal wood movement, I had to sit down and try to refigure everything out.

It wasn’t as simple as making a square frame out of plywood and then throwing a couple of 1-inch thick pieces of riftsawn white oak hardwood on top. I suppose you could do it, but then it would just have to be fixed or redone at some point.

This first picture is a drawing I made probably a month ago now, trying to figure out exactly how I was going to join everything correctly, without making a mess of anything, and keeping a nice clean appearance as the final goal, in addition to properly constructing and attaching various pieces onto the carcass:

bookcase drawing 1

I’m glad a few other things have taken priority away from the bookcases lately. I say that because it has allowed for more time to think things through and figure it out before I make the mistake and then have to go back and correct it. Not that a mistake or two won’t be made, but hopefully I’m avoiding more than I’ll be making.

Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m thinking the proper way to assemble the bookcases is a fairly straightforward process.

The basic steps, in order of completion (at least, in my mind) are:
1. build a square or rectangular carcass out of plywood (either attach the 1/4” plywood back now, or wait until later)
2. attach the hardwood top with tabletop clips
3. attach the faceframe
4. attach the doors

The flaw comes in the fact that you can’t attach all 4-sides of the carcass before you attach the hardwood top with table clips. This seems easy enough to work around. Originally I thought I’d screw the top of the carcass in from inside the box using pocket holes. But you see, I wasn’t thinking “outside the box,” so to speak when I came up with that solution. The less unsightly methods of fitting this top piece into place so that you don’t see the joinery is either to:
A) clamp it in place and then screw through the sides of the bookcase into it, or
B) simply cut a dado into the side of the plywood and then slide it into position, maybe using glue to hold it together, or
C) Combine B and A for the strongest possible solution. Combining the two options ensures that the top of the carcass will be in the proper location before it is screwed into place. The sides of the carcass will not be visible, so in this case, the screws are a viable option that you won’t see once the faceframe is attached, which will also conveniently cover not only the dado, but the sideview of the plywood as well.

Here is an updated sketch, showing the location of the dado for the top of the carcass to slide into, then the screws can go through the side of the carcass, into the top of the case. I’m also not sure that the block of wood is necessary for the table clips to attach too? Can’t I just cut a thin dado with the TS blade for the clips to sit in, directly into the plywood at the top?:

bookcases drawing 2

Now I’m sure many or maybe most of you reading these are saying to yourself, “Well duh, of course that’s how you do it!” or maybe, “But wait, that’s not the right way… you need to do it this way….”

Am I going about this in the right way?

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

2 comments so far

View Ger21's profile


1074 posts in 3130 days

#1 posted 06-17-2010 12:18 AM

Make a full plywood top for your cabinet boxes. Route slots in the top, and screw the hardwood down through the slots. Use panhead screws with large washers, and orient the slots to allow the propwer movement.

Personally, I’d use a veneered, or plywood top with a hardwood edge on it. Alleviates all the issues of a hardwood top.

-- Gerry,

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3576 days

#2 posted 06-17-2010 12:46 AM

Like Gerry said ply will bypass the wood movement issue . But even solid wood won’t have that big a problem given the width of wood your using.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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