When I first heard of this contest I simply thought, hmmm, bookcases, another contest, another bookcase. And that was basically the end of it, I didn’t rush out to my drafting table and start scribbling, nor did I give it much thought. Another book shelf I thought, why try to re-invent the wheel right.?
Ahhh, but as it goes, that very night I lie in bed awake, staring up at the ceiling with only one thing on my mind….a book case?
So, the following morning while I’m getting a fire going in the ‘ol wood stove, breathing over a hot cup of coffee watching my breath dance into the chilly morning air it hits me again, the bookcase….I continue with my mornings routine and strangely enough later on into the day I’m changing my one year olds diaper and wham…again with the bookcase smack dab into the centre of my skull. Well, that was it, I knew at that point I was going to have to put some thought into this thing or it would be haunting me and tearing away at my sub-conscious mind for all eternity. ( not to sound too dramatic ) the fact is I don’t usually enter contests; hell, I don’t even buy lotto tickets for that matter. However, last night I sat down after the kids were in bed and sharpened my pencil. The book case….ahhh the book case; here is what I came up with.
I wanted something that was not just another box or carcass; something that would be easy to assemble, easy to dis-mantel if need be, something sturdy as well as adaptable to lots of books with different heights and widths.
What I came up with is a kind of adaptation of the old step-ladder shelf design you sometimes see in those fancy furniture stores. It will consist of two side ‘rails’ that have numerous slots cut into them at say 6” intervals. The top back of each rail would be angled to mate with a cleat mounted on the wall where the unit stands. The kind of ‘French Cleat System” where you cut a bevel on the wall mounted cleat and the same angle only reversed on the joining pieces. These side rails could be made at any reasonable height, from say 3’ for a children’s room to 12’ for a Studio/Urban Loft space. 4/4 material would be the thinnest I’d use for structural integrity on the side rails.
The shelves themselves would also have a slot or ‘rabbet’ cut into them that would actually mate with the slots in the rails making this thing totally collapsible. Again to add more flexibility to the unit as a whole the shelves could be built any where from 12” in width up to 32”. I think anything wider than that could potentially be affected by wracking forces on the unit. One great advantage of this design is its endless flexibility to suit any number of applications. The height, width and number of storage options are extremely flexible. If you need ten shelves, the slots are there for them; if you only want a few then that’s o.k. too. Another feature of the shelves would be a slot or channel cut across the back of each one, again improving the choices you’d have for the piece. In this case it could be somewhere to hang magazines spines over or news papers on. Sort of like a Library newspaper rack…Speaking of Libraries, another nice feature of this design if you decide to build a taller version, is the outside section of each shelf can act like a step or wrung on a ladder enabling someone to actually climb up the front to reach the items at the top. Think of the old sliding Library ladders they’d hang over those immense book cases.
At the base I’ve incorporated a couple of drawers into the bottom shelf. This would add some weight at the footprint making it more stable if the shelves above were only used for lighter items or decorations. This could be built the same as all of the other shelves with the side slots to mate with the rails but simply incorporates a carcass with drawers for out-of-sight items. In fact, all of the shleves could use this same style and become a kind of ladder-chest of drawers! If the shelves with drawers were spaced far enough apart you could have the added benefit of a shelf with drawers and actually use the top of the drawer carcass for the next row of books, essentially doubling your storage options.
I think visually for my eye the open look of shelf is what I will build; maybe one or two with the drawers.
Another element for perhaps a commercial application would be to add more slots in the depth of the shelves providing more hangers for news-papers, magazines etc…making it flexible for schools and public places. While we’re on the Public uses for this design, an interesting feature is instead of mounting it to a wall via. the French Cleat system described above for home application, it can be mated with a second set of rails to free stand in the centre of a space, perfect for adding extra storage area in class room applications or even at home in larger areas. Kind of an easle design when mated together with another. I wouldn’t think it would be wise to make the rails too high if used free standing, say somewhere in the 3 to 5 foot range.
A versitile design like this made out of perhaps a hard Maple could easily be dressed up with front beads or mouldings added to the shelves and the rails could be shaped to suit the decor of any room. The shelf with drawers could incorporate a second wood species to add some contrast and make the piece as a whole seem more classic fruniture like. An admittedly minimalistic approach in Bookcase design it’s what fell out of the tickle trunk up here inside of my head. If you decide to build one let me know how it goes, as well I’d be happy to offer some advice along the way! Cheers.
www.workingwood.ca©March 28, 2008.
-- tom fidgen, www.theUnpluggedWoodshop.com