My Version of Thomas Jefferson's Revolving Bookstand

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Project by Don posted 12-19-2014 11:08 PM 2775 views 10 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A close friend of mine is working on his Doctorate which, as you would imagine, requires a lot of research. At times his desk looks like an explosion in a library.

He came across a “YouTube” item on the Net about the historic Thomas Jefferson Bookstand which holds up to five books and revolves on a “Lazy Susan”. He asked me to make him one. He turns 60 Christmas eve, so I plan to give it to him then.

I’ve not been very active in my shop recently due to health reasons. But I agreed to see what I could do. While it looks rather simple, it is a fairly complex project. I modified it somewhat particularly when it comes to the ten mortise and tenon joints; rather, I used my DowelMax jig using butt joints strengthened with dowels. The wood is stained pine, again chosen for simplicity and ready availability.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

9 comments so far

View Derek Oliver's profile

Derek Oliver

155 posts in 1571 days

#1 posted 12-19-2014 11:29 PM

That is really cool. Though for the younger generation it’s going to have to hold five ipads.

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 1712 days

#2 posted 12-20-2014 04:58 AM

Very cool! Thanks for the reference. Did you make up your own plans?

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 3596 days

#3 posted 12-20-2014 05:23 AM

I found this helpful YouTube clip and this detailed PDF with fairly good instructions. However, there are a couple of errors in this and a lack of specific dimensional details. So if you decide to build this, use caution.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View flatrock's profile


102 posts in 726 days

#4 posted 12-20-2014 11:03 AM

Good job Don. Very unique. Hope you get feeling better and wish your friend well on the doctorate.

View Mark A. DeCou's profile

Mark A. DeCou

2008 posts in 3825 days

#5 posted 12-20-2014 12:54 PM

Beautiful work Don. I saw this last night before I went to bed, and then I got up this morning with the idea of determining if indeed I remembered it right that this was a Jefferson design, or a Franklin design as you first posted. But, you had fixed it this morning. Several years ago a home schooling resource/book selling company contacted me about building the Jeffersonian book stand for them to sell in their catalog. I looked at it pretty closely, and determined that it was a difficult and time consuming little project to do. Back then, there weren’t any plans available, and nobody else was selling examples of it. I gave them a quote, and we both decided it was too expensive to sell to the home school families. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to give it a try, but never have done it. Congrats on a great project.


-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan -

View Chad256's profile


131 posts in 1306 days

#6 posted 12-20-2014 03:28 PM

Awesome execution Don! That is great. Beautiful and I’m sure he will love it!

-- -- Chad -- T&C Woodworks

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6819 posts in 3399 days

#7 posted 12-20-2014 05:33 PM

Nice job!


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Don's profile


2603 posts in 3596 days

#8 posted 12-20-2014 08:36 PM

... I looked at it pretty closely, and determined that it was a difficult and time consuming little project to do.


- Mark A. DeCou

Thanks, Mark.

Yes, this is a very deceptive project. At first glance it looks very simple, but in fact, it is surprisingly complex and difficult. I have always been challenged by anything with hinges. There are 15 in this project. One only needs to mount one hinge slightly askew and it puts everything out of whack.

Then there is the issue of using brass screws. With this many hinges, there are 40 screws. What do you think the chances are of having at least one or more screws snap as you tighten the screw into a pre-drilled hole? Well pretty high is my experience. Two for me when making this. When that happens, I find I have no choice but to re-make the part which houses the stub of the broken screw. My estimate is 30 hours all up on this project.

One of the little tricks I learned some time ago from my box making experience (and remembered after two broken screws making the stand) is to lubricate the screw with soft wax. The screw easily glides in with almost no resistance.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!"

View Elyasaf Shweka's profile

Elyasaf Shweka

79 posts in 945 days

#9 posted 12-22-2014 02:49 PM

Very intresting project.
first, there is a full chapter avaliable online devoted to this project by ‘Woodwright Shop’ show:

the basic book holder is very very popular in Israel. Religious male ultra-ortodox jews, which learn all day in a “yeshiva”, use this that book holder all the time.

this is the basic design, but usually its made from pine, without any finish. there are also versions for stand alone book holders. i guess that a good try out would be to try to make 5 of this simple ones and attach them to one frame.

-- Only by the 4th time I realized how it was suppose to be done in the first place.

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