Need Advice On Assembling A Bookcase

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Forum topic by Targa posted 01-18-2014 06:52 PM 1208 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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118 posts in 1918 days

01-18-2014 06:52 PM

I need some advice on my first woodworking project.

I’m building a basic bookcase from Woodsmith plans (called a Classic Bookcase) where the case and shelves are constructed from 3/4” red oak plywood and the face frame and front and rear edges of the shelves are solid red oak.

The instructions say after cutting all the dados and tongues and drilling the shelve pin holes in the pieces of the case to assemble and glue the case ( sides, top and bottom) first.

Next to cut and glue in the 1/4” plywood back in the 1/4” dados I cut in the back of the sides to square the case.

Then to assemble and glue using biscuits the solid face frame as one assembly to the case. Btw, the bookcase is 73” tall.

My instincts, because this is all totally new for me, tell me I’d have more control over the fit of the finished bookcase if I attached the face frame stiles to each side of the case first so I could insure the stiles were slightly proud so I can trim them flush to the case sides with my router. I would then dry fit the case sides with the top and bottom pieces of the case so I can accurately measure, cut and fit the top and bottom face frame rails. Then, I would glue the pieces together followed by fitting and gluing in the plywood back.

Does my approach make sense? Will it work?

I would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.

Thank you

-- Dom

11 replies so far

View JustJoe's profile


1554 posts in 2216 days

#1 posted 01-18-2014 06:58 PM

Go with the original instructions. It will be easier to glue up the sides/top/bottom without the face frame. You will be able to square it correctly without those four extra thin pieces sitting on the front edge.
Once the shelf is put together along with the back, then you make the face frame separately. If you’re unsure of your ability to get it perfectly square or to the exact measurements needed then you can still make it half a skosh oversized. You can then just lay the shelf on its back, put the face frame on with biscuits, and use the router with a flush-trim bit to clean up the outside edge if you have to.

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View wseand's profile


2796 posts in 3220 days

#2 posted 01-18-2014 07:39 PM

What Joe said. Face frame is last..

View rg33's profile


83 posts in 2180 days

#3 posted 01-18-2014 07:52 PM

agree with both above, face frame last. My $.02, make the face frame 1/32 or more oversized in case your case is not perfectly square, then sand or trim of the excess. Also when gluing up the case it helps to have some shop made squares that you can clamp to the corners to help in keeping things square. You’ll have to work fast after applying the glue so do a dry run first and have your clamps set up to where only minimal adjustment is necessary

View Targa's profile


118 posts in 1918 days

#4 posted 01-18-2014 09:35 PM

Ok, thanks for the quick response. I’ll follow your advice and just be careful.

-- Dom

View JJohnston's profile


1622 posts in 3469 days

#5 posted 01-18-2014 09:53 PM

This reminds me of a question I’ve had for a while: how do you line up your face frame joinery if you purposely make the face frame oversized? You can’t use the outside edge of the face frame, and the outside face of the carcase, as your reference faces, because they aren’t flush (yet). You could if you clamped the face frame on and did the trimming first, but you wouldn’t do it that way, would you?

-- "A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power." - Abraham Lincoln

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

29976 posts in 2516 days

#6 posted 01-18-2014 09:57 PM

Face frame first. Otherwise you will have problems with the seams showing in the front.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Targa's profile


118 posts in 1918 days

#7 posted 01-18-2014 10:12 PM

As a point of reference, the stiles are 2” wide, the top rail is 2 1/2” wide and the bottom rail is 6 1/2” wide. The only place the rails or stiles line up on the inside of the bookcase is at the top of the bottom rail where it lines up with the top edge of the bottom piece of the case.

-- Dom

View hobby1's profile


344 posts in 2476 days

#8 posted 01-18-2014 10:19 PM

one way to approach it, is to build the case first, making sure it is assembled square.

Then, take the measurements of the finished carcass, and build the face frame with a small overhang on the edges, when applying the faceframe, use a guage block or combo square, to guage the distance from the inside of the frame to the inside of the carcass side, and try to get it the same on both sides, the main thing is to make sure the guaging is consistent on the same side, for any kind of door installation, as long as the guaging is close to being the same all the way around, then you can be sure when you trim it, it will be pretty much concentric to the front of the case.

View Texcaster's profile


1287 posts in 1852 days

#9 posted 01-18-2014 10:20 PM

If the face frame is bigger than the box, tape a packer to the biscuit joiner face to offset the joint on the box. Hand plane the overhang, the router bearing will most likely mark the veneer.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 3028 days

#10 posted 01-19-2014 12:11 AM

Face frame first and here’s why: It is much easier to square the face frame up when you’re clamping it than it is to square up a plywood case. Period.

Make the face frame, square it and clamp it and then cut the ply pieces to suit. I make my carcase 1/8” shy of the width of the ff.

When the ff is cured and sanded, dry assemble the case, clamp, and lay the ff on it. If all is well, proceed; if it isn’t, fix the ply parts.

No biscuits are needed to attach the ff to the case (though you may choose to use them on the bottom rail only).

Now, with no back on the case you can run the glue, attach the bottom rail flush with the bottom shelf (puttied staples will never be seen here) and clamp it.

If you need to walk the wayward ply sides up the stiles with clamps, you can. Clamp it all the way ‘round. Apply the back after the glue is cured.

With plywood face veneer so thin these days, I relieve the outside edge of the ply where it meets the face frame. This gives you a little fudge factor in finishing the frame to the ply (and it looks pretty good too).

It is my general belief—and we have had a few interesting threads on this theory—that magazine plans have a perverse failure feature factor built into them. Frustrated amateurs are more likely to buy gizmos that will (allegedly) guarantee this or that in the home shop.

Say it with me: “No biscuits on the face frames.” Waste of time.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Targa's profile


118 posts in 1918 days

#11 posted 01-23-2014 02:39 PM

Is there any reason I cannot or should not attach the 1/4” thick back to the case using small wood screws rather than gluing it in place?

The case is 3/4” thick oak plywood and there’s a 1/4” wide by 1/4” deep rabbit routed in the sides for the back. I would use #4×3/4” or 1” long wood screws.

Thank you

-- Dom

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