My first attempt at furniture quality casework

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Project by Caleone posted 04-02-2015 02:27 PM 2802 views 5 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I just completed these bookcases, not only my first furniture-quality casework (outdoor and shop cabinets don’t count, right?) but also the first time I have tried to do “production” work, making three identical bookcases simultaneously.

The cases are 3/4” maple veneer plywood, All the trim is solid maple, the shelves and supports are solid (12”) maple set in dadoes cut into each side, and the backs are 1/4” maple veneered ply. I purchased PureBond Project Panels for the case and backs from HD, which I will never do again, as the shipping costs were outrageous and the quality of the product extremely poor: whisper-thin veneers, crushed edges and corners, no wood plys in the core. The cost of the panels plus delivery well exceeded the cost of A1 plywood special ordered from the ‘true’ lumber yard 12 miles away, and cost-comparable to furniture grade maple ply from the specialty lumber supplier 28 miles away, so next time around I will burn the time and gas to go buy the better product. Shame on me.

I purchased the slabs from a local sawyer who told me the Bigleaf Maple (acer macrophyllum) was salvaged from a riverbed. I rough trimmed the slabs, straightline ripped to width, and in the case of the clearer slab, moved a part of my offcut down from an oddly shaped and heavily voided part of the board and edge joined it to get the width and overhang I wanted. Then I filled all the voids and cracks with epoxy and/or stabilized with walnut butterfly keys. Surfaced, natural edges polished, and trimmed to final length with 20 degree bevel cuts.

The case and shelves are finished with one application of Danish Oil and two applications of oil-based polyurethane, wet sanded at 320 in between. The slab tops are finished with one application of Danish Oil, two with oil-based gloss polyurethane, and then three applications of satin polyurethane. I wet sanded each application at 320, then buffed the top with a 6000 grit microfiber pad. I am pretty happy with the overall results save for the unknown longterm performance of the ply material. I hope you all like it—remember, this is the first time I have made anything like this, and my first venture into the deep waters of Lumberjocks. Caleone

-- Caleone, Sammamish, WA

20 comments so far

View Buche's profile


69 posts in 2368 days

#1 posted 04-02-2015 03:23 PM

Very nicely done. I am such a sucker for life edge pieces ;-)

Thanks for sharing.

View Grant Davis's profile

Grant Davis

760 posts in 3328 days

#2 posted 04-02-2015 03:24 PM

+1 on the sucker for live edge pieces. I really like your pieces.

-- Grant...."GO BUCKEYES"

View canadianchips's profile


2310 posts in 2417 days

#3 posted 04-02-2015 03:42 PM

Also like the live edge tops.

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View Caleone's profile


28 posts in 949 days

#4 posted 04-02-2015 04:05 PM

Buche, Grant, canadianchips:
Thank you very much! I have a friend coming over tonight to help bring them into the house, I will put up some more photos of the bookcases where they are going to live. I think they will show better than cramped into my shop. Cheers!

-- Caleone, Sammamish, WA

View AZWoody's profile


680 posts in 643 days

#5 posted 04-02-2015 05:09 PM

I have a ton of live edge slabs (probably literally) and I love the way you used them for the top.

I’m always looking for ideas on ways to use them. Nice job.

View helluvawreck's profile


22669 posts in 2286 days

#6 posted 04-02-2015 06:20 PM

It looks like they turned out nicely.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

View Redoak90's profile


7 posts in 584 days

#7 posted 04-02-2015 06:56 PM

Impressive. Most impressive. I think the finish looks great. I have always struggled with finishes and I might have to try your technique because they look great.

View firefighterontheside's profile (online now)


13068 posts in 1276 days

#8 posted 04-02-2015 07:00 PM

Very nice looking cases. I too like the combination of the live edge with the cut edge.

-- Bill M. "People change, walnut doesn't" by Gene.

View Caleone's profile


28 posts in 949 days

#9 posted 04-02-2015 07:08 PM

AZWoody, Thank you. I always tell myself I am going to go a more traditional route, and then I got to the point of putting the top on and thought they might be undistinctive. I am jealous that you have tons of slabs! Helluvawreck, thank you for your kind words. Redoak90, my first woodworking mentor said, “I hate finishing. Wipe on polyurethane is my finish of choice.” He went to the North Bennett School and has been making fine furnishings and teaching woodworking for several decades. I know there are other ways and certainly fancier ways to finish wood, but I took what he said to heart as I enjoy dreaming, designing, planning, and making my projects, but I don’t love finishing quite so much. I made my daughter a jewelry box last Christmas and really liked the ‘hand’ the Danish oil gave the wood, and the gloss poly under the satin was a tip in one of the magazines I subscribe to. It seems to add some life and depth to the finish. Plus, these products are readily available where I live and don’t cause me to drive an hour and a half to a specialty store.

-- Caleone, Sammamish, WA

View LoganN's profile


323 posts in 1320 days

#10 posted 04-03-2015 01:26 AM

Love these! They look great! I’m a big fan of Spalted maples and Danish oils. I always do that with mine along with the wipe on poly, but I’ve never done the 2 together. I’m definitely going to give that a try. Great work!

View Caleone's profile


28 posts in 949 days

#11 posted 04-03-2015 02:29 AM

Very nice looking cases. I too like the combination of the live edge with the cut edge.

- firefighterontheside

Thank you very much—one edge of these boards was clearly the ‘front,’ and one needed to go. Plus, they will be placed against a wall, so I thought to make them flat across the back to register better. My buddies are on on their way over right now, so I will know soon enough if they work in their space.

-- Caleone, Sammamish, WA

View Caleone's profile


28 posts in 949 days

#12 posted 04-03-2015 02:32 AM

Logan, thank you. The sawyer thought the spalt was from lying partially submerged for some time, but I am pretty sure it is why—or at least related to why—the tree fell over in the first place. I have taken a look at your work, your “3.5 hour bookcase” makes me feel very humble. I could just as easily call these “3.5 week bookcases.”

-- Caleone, Sammamish, WA

View Caleone's profile


28 posts in 949 days

#13 posted 04-03-2015 04:39 AM

-- Caleone, Sammamish, WA

View Caleone's profile


28 posts in 949 days

#14 posted 04-03-2015 04:42 AM

The bookcases are now in their spot…no spring rain here in the Pacific NW, no bears wandering around the property. Easy enough. They fit perfectly where I had intended, and sit nicely about 1/16” below the lowest portion of the window frame. I am very pleased. Thank you all for looking and for your kind comments!

-- Caleone, Sammamish, WA

View Ropelie's profile


30 posts in 591 days

#15 posted 04-03-2015 02:45 PM

Thank you so much for posting this! This is basically exactly what I have had in my head for my first real project. It is nice seeing it completed and looking great before I hop in. I also love your finish idea, I will certainly give that an attempt also.

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