Need advice, bookcase I want to build, no tools though....

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Forum topic by hypnos posted 12-26-2008 12:32 AM 4281 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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28 posts in 3678 days

12-26-2008 12:32 AM

Topic tags/keywords: bookshelves tools new advice

Bookcase reference

Here is a link to what I want to build, but I’m new to woodworking (besides 8th grade shop class) and I need advice on what I tools I should buy to get started (I’m thinking table saw but what else?), and maybe some advice on what wood to buy for this project. I can go to the store and copy some dimensions and make my own plans easily enough I think. The only thing I might change is making the shelf ends angled and possibly different lengths.

Thanks for the advice and Merry Christmas?

-- David P., Kansas City

13 replies so far

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 4000 days

#1 posted 12-26-2008 02:15 AM

When my wife and I were first married I bult a cherry cabinet with two drawers, and a 4’ long three shelf bookcase (both my designs) on our dining room table in a one BR apt. All I had were a few hand tools. I didn’t feel the least bit deprived. Both of these items are still in daily use.

In looking at the picture of the bookcase that you wish to build, I can easily see myself making it with hand tools. You can do it too – just get started.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Woodchuck1957's profile


944 posts in 4002 days

#2 posted 12-26-2008 02:51 AM

I can’t tell you what tools you need, that would be cheating. Part of being a good woodworker is learning to know from experience what tools work best for a particular prodject. Your prodject is a pretty simple one and shouldn’t be hard to figure out.

View Chiefk's profile


163 posts in 4010 days

#3 posted 12-26-2008 04:50 PM

Hypnos, not knowing your budget or work space, or if this is a one time project, I believe you can build the book case with a small table saw to rip and crosscut you wood to size. I would also recommend a router to profile the edges of the shelves and the stiles. As for the type of wood, that really is a personal preference, but if I was building this project I would probably use white or red oak.

Woodchuck, Cheating, really? If that was the case every time someone asks a question on this forum the answer could be considered cheating. This should be a forumn that a new woodworker can use to ask a question, without being accused of cheating. I always felt that was one of the best features of this site. pkennedy

-- P Kennedy Crossville, TN

View douginaz's profile


220 posts in 4241 days

#4 posted 12-26-2008 05:23 PM

Hypnos, I will let the others tell you what tools you need to build your bookcase. A little more information from you would help us to help you. Do you have a “handyman” set of tools? Any power or hand saws, drills, etc? How are you fixed for space? Do you have a work bench or are you working from saw horses?

If you are considering getting serious about wood working, what ever tools you buy – buy the best you can afford. This site and others have many sad stories of buying cheap – ruining something because of a cheap tool then having to buy the better quality of tool anyway. Buy the best – Cry once. Good luck in your project, don’t be intimidated, we can help all the way trough.

Welcome to the LumberJocks Family.
Doug in AZ.

-- If you need craft books - please visit our small business at

View Woodchuck1957's profile


944 posts in 4002 days

#5 posted 12-26-2008 05:25 PM

Well Chief the guy doesn’t really say what he can afford to spend, I could give him a bare minimal tool list or the more expensive easier to work with list. But I will say one thing that I’m suprised that no one has mentioned, a drill and doweling jig, or a drill press, or a mortising machine, and lots of bar or pipe clamps will be needed also.

View hypnos's profile


28 posts in 3678 days

#6 posted 12-26-2008 05:38 PM

Thanks for all the advice so far, budget is a consideration right this moment, but I would like to get good tools for future use in other projects. I’ll probably start with the most important tools to be able to get it done, and I’m open to using some hand tools at first. If I can make this look decent, my wife might give the nod to me getting a real shop together. All I have is a workbench that is plywood on table saws, a hand drill, basic home and car repair type tools.

I’d like to ask more about what Woodchuck1957 is talking about, how I should go about mortising the shelf supports. What are my options that are affordable and not too hard to learn? My dad does have a drill press, if that would help with this I could probably borrow it for now.

-- David P., Kansas City

View Woodchuck1957's profile


944 posts in 4002 days

#7 posted 12-26-2008 05:45 PM

If you have access to a drill press buy some 5/16” dowels and a 5/16” brad point drill bit, skip the mortising and dowel it together, 2 dowels to every joint. When laying it out, set the 6 verticles on the bench with the dowel side up, wrap masking tape around them, take your tape measure, mark out your distances for your horizontals, then with a combination square mark out the dowel locations across all the boards. A homemade fence on the drill press table works good for centering the holes equally on each board when drilling, or you can use a doweling jig. The whole problem with me trying to describe this all to you is I probably missed something, or you won’t understand all of it, it would be alot easier for both of us if I was there to show you. Perhaps a hands on woodworking class would be of bennefit to you, you would also learn safety in the shop. Or start buying some books.

View GFYS's profile


711 posts in 3709 days

#8 posted 12-26-2008 05:51 PM

You could just hire me to do it. :)

View 8iowa's profile


1591 posts in 4000 days

#9 posted 12-27-2008 04:20 PM

Years ago I started with a small hand saw, an inexpensive set of hardware store chisels, a hand crank drill, a coping saw, and a few C clamps. Since I didn’t have a vice, I clamped my work to the dining room table. I cut my rabbets by hand with a 1/4” chisel. Pilot holes were hand drilled and I used a chisel to first curl up a small portion of the wood which later was glued down to cover the screw – an old trick. Sometime through the years the saw was discarded, but I still have the rest of these tools and they are still used occasionally.

My original complement of hand tools can probably be purchased today for less than $100. Find a place to work and get started with your project.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4035 posts in 4302 days

#10 posted 12-27-2008 08:31 PM

Just a side thought…any community colleges with a woodworking curricula, or a woodcraft with a shop nearby? It might be a way to get some mentoring you can see right up close, and get access to some higher end, more precise tooling until you decide what to invest in. That said, I made my first serious piece (trellis) with a rudimentary Table saw, a corded drill and hundreds of handcut dowels. Good luck and have a wonderful journey.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View pinkiewerewolf's profile


42 posts in 3964 days

#11 posted 12-29-2008 08:40 AM

You’ve gotten some great advice so far.
I started with minimal hand tools and built items like a crib with arched sides.
First, congratulations on deciding to make the piece of furniture, there is no telling how far this type of decision will take you in woodworking.
A table saw or band saw is always a great choice if you can swing the purchase and space requirements.
A good hand saw is something you will use for the rest of your life.
Decisions… Western/European cut on push style, or Japanese style cut on pull. Coping saw.
Several good hand planes.
A good drill. (Drill bits {forstener and brad point} and a dowelling jig are good investments)
A good work surface. (work bench, I’m still using saw horses and a couple pieces of MDF or plywood)
Alignment/measuring tools. (even if you get a table saw you’ll use these constantly)
Have fun and enjoy the process, there are many choices.

-- John, Nor-Cal,

View urningit's profile


11 posts in 3681 days

#12 posted 12-31-2008 03:27 PM

maybe start on something alittle easier. Then work your way up to the shelving unit you desire once
you have better tools.

-- urningit

View Kate's profile


400 posts in 4113 days

#13 posted 12-31-2008 05:32 PM

I think Douglas and urningit have good ideas. Try and take a course, lots of adult ed programs include woodworking.

Make sure you are into it before spending big $$ on power tools. (It’s generally not worth it to get cheap ones. They are almost always harder to use & less precise. That said, I survived for years with an awful table saw and a cheap router. Didn’t know what woodworking was until I replaced them.)

Also, know your tools befoe using them. The idea of anyone using a table saw without any experience gives me chills. I teach woodworking and while everyone has heard about kickback, I find that almost none of my new (and sometimes not so new) students know what it actually is and how to prevent it.

Have fun, but be careful.

Oh, and by the way, has anyone mentioned that this woodworking stuff is highly addictive.

-- Kate,

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