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Complicated Book Case Top

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Forum topic by SUNYJim posted 11-26-2014 02:59 PM 975 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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SUNYJim

3 posts in 806 days


11-26-2014 02:59 PM

Hello All,

I’m designing a low bookcase about 55” long. The top will be entirely—or maybe almost entirely—covered with 1/4” bookmatched walnut boards and, framing the walnut, 1/4” flame birch. I am in doubt as to what material and strategy to use to make the bulk of the top (about 13” wide).

I want this bookcase to be gorgeous and top quality. If the top material will be covered and edge-covered with hardwoods, what you might use for the top? How might you attach it to the 1/4” boards (which I think will be inlaid). Just glue? Any joints? Finally, how would you attach such an odd top to the rest of the case?

Thanks for any thoughts. And Happy Thanksgiving!

Jim


20 replies so far

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Rick M

7923 posts in 1845 days


#1 posted 11-26-2014 06:21 PM

You need to research veneering and basic case construction. At this point we would have to write a book chapter to help you out. You have questions you don’t even know to ask yet.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

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Yonak

979 posts in 986 days


#2 posted 11-26-2014 06:42 PM

Jim, as long as the walnut grain is going longwise, I wouldn’t be concerned about wood movement across the 13” dimension. I’d use plywood for the substrate, gluing the walnut to the plywood, then cutting to size, attaching the trim and, if you plan to use a skirt with the top, attach from inside using blocks or brackets, as they will be hidden. Otherwise, you could attach with biscuits or dowel pins.

If it turns out that movement is a concern, you could use any type of inexpensive hardwood.

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bobro

308 posts in 776 days


#3 posted 11-26-2014 06:53 PM

Gluing nice-looking wood to a plywood carcass might seem like an easy way to make nice looking furniture. And it is indeed easy to make something like that- but it is very far from easy to make it gorgeous and top quality.

It is easier to make beautiful solid wood furniture, because it can be very imperfect and still be superb, both in durability and in looks. Whereas the standard for veneered plywood is that of machining and lack of flaws.

Just a word of advice, and just an opinion of course.

-- Lao Ma: You are so full of anger and hatred. Xena: Everybody's gotta be full of something.

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bondogaposis

4034 posts in 1816 days


#4 posted 11-26-2014 07:49 PM

I can’t envision what you trying to accomplish from your description.

-- Bondo Gaposis

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AlaskaGuy

2406 posts in 1774 days


#5 posted 11-26-2014 09:01 PM

You want to make a solid walnut top 13’’ by 55’’ of edge glued walnut boards and band around the edge with 1/4” thick solid birch stock.

Is that what you saying??

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

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SUNYJim

3 posts in 806 days


#6 posted 11-26-2014 09:25 PM


Jim, as long as the walnut grain is going longwise, I wouldn t be concerned about wood movement across the 13” dimension. I d use plywood for the substrate, gluing the walnut to the plywood, then cutting to size, attaching the trim and, if you plan to use a skirt with the top, attach from inside using blocks or brackets, as they will be hidden. Otherwise, you could attach with biscuits or dowel pins. If it turns out that movement is a concern, you could use any type of inexpensive hardwood.

- Yonak

Thanks for your thoughts, Yonak. I’ve been thinking about plywood. It would not show except inside the case, and I could put it on with the good face down so even the ‘ceiling’ of the bookcase looks nice. One concern I have is the cost of good cherry or birch plywood. Thanks again, and enjoy the weekend.

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SUNYJim

3 posts in 806 days


#7 posted 11-26-2014 09:39 PM

You want to make a solid walnut top 13’’ by 55’’ of edge glued walnut boards and band around the edge with 1/4” thick solid birch stock.
Is that what you saying??
—Alaskan’s for Global warming!

It’s like this. A couple years ago I came across a long narrow board of gorgeous cathedral-grain black walnut. I didn’t know what I’d do with it, but I had to have it. It was 4/4. Then I had an idea for a bookcase with part of that walnut board bookmatched as the center of the top. After sawing, the walnut is now 1/4”. I would finish out the top surface in flame birch, which when cut is also 1/4” thick. So I Know that the visible parts of the top will have to be inlaid into something more substantial.

The sides and shelves will be curly cherry, with the sides being 6/4 lumber. I’ve had to acquire wood slowly, a bargain at a time, and I still have a ways to go. So while Rick M. may be right to imply I’m in over my head and shouldn’t be tagging along with the big kids, I am going to build this, it will be excellent, and I will learn a lot as I go. So for now I am asking one question:

Whatever the substrate of the top—plywood or solid—will it work for me to glue in the big 1/4” pieces of walnut and birch lengthwise?

Thanks again. Jim

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Hammerthumb

2533 posts in 1440 days


#8 posted 11-26-2014 10:11 PM

My personal opinion is you should veneer both sides of the substrate, no matter what it is. 1/4” veneer glued to one side might cause it to cup. I would use Baltic birch plywood or MDF for the substrate. I would also use hide glue for the veneer.

Good luck!

-- Paul, Las Vegas

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bobro

308 posts in 776 days


#9 posted 11-26-2014 10:20 PM

Do you mean glue in, or glue on?

If your walnut is sawn to 1/4, it’s going to be thinner when planed and sanded. So you could glue it to a nice thick plywood with a walnut face on the other side and you’ll be fine, even though the plywood is probably going to be faced with something like 1/34th veneer. 13 inches is narrow and your walnut is thin, so you’re not going to have cupping problems if your plywood is thick. But then you have the problem of the edges, and once you start gluing a bunch of thin stuff all over, you’ll find that what I said earlier is true: it’s easy to do and even easier to make look like crap because there is no tolerance or play.

If you really mean glue in, not on, you could inlay the walnut and sycamore as decorative elements directly into the top of a cherry board to match the rest of the case. Then you just build the bookcase as from a few solid cherry boards, which gives you many options as far as construction.

edit: Hammerthumb posted as I was typing. I agree with him about that being the right way, and that’s what I’d personally do now that I’m older if using plywood, but with less than 1/4” laminated on, good and thick plywood, and narrow surface, you’ll get away with it. Recently I saw a piece I made about 30 years ago with about 3/16ths thick olive burl (which moves strongly and a lot) on high-grade 3/4 ply, with just the 1/34 veneer underneath, about 12” wide, and it was perfectly fine.

I would go for inlaying into solid cherry in your case, though. Trying to get gorgeous and high-end on your first laminating and edgebanding adventure isn’t something I’d bet on.

-- Lao Ma: You are so full of anger and hatred. Xena: Everybody's gotta be full of something.

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AlaskaGuy

2406 posts in 1774 days


#10 posted 11-27-2014 12:37 AM

Do some research on veneer, 1/4 inch is to thick. That thick can cause you movement problems. There’s a ton of information on the Internet if you take the time to read some and educate your self.

Commercial veneer maker cut veneer thin of more reason that saving wood and money.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

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JAAune

1646 posts in 1782 days


#11 posted 11-27-2014 01:54 AM

It’s hard to give specific advice based upon a written description but I recommend using a solid wood substrate. Orient the grain of the walnut and the underlying support in the same direction. That will allow it to act like a thick piece of solid wood despite being composed of two different species. No special joinery will be required for this. Just glue.

AlaskaGuy mentioned that 1/4” is too thick for veneer. This is correct so it needs to be treated like solid wood and not veneer. Gluing it to plywood runs the risk of cupping the entire top or causing the walnut to open up at the seams near the surface while remaining tightly glued to the plywood below.

The only remaining issue is the birch banding going around the perimeter. It’s possible that cross-grain edge banding can be applied to the end grain of the top but that’s taking a risk which is not a good thing on a high-end piece.

-- See my work at http://remmertstudios.com and http://altaredesign.com

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a1Jim

115202 posts in 3042 days


#12 posted 11-27-2014 02:28 AM

Sorry Jim
I don’t have a clue what your trying to do,a photo of something similar would help.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

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Rick M

7923 posts in 1845 days


#13 posted 11-27-2014 03:36 AM

My understanding he wants to build a bookcase with a walnut & birch veneer top, then he wants to know how to attach the top the case.

Sunyjim, I didn’t mean to be dismissive earlier but your question is tough to answer in a forum post and suggests missing background knowledge you should have to tackle something like this. But in a very small nutshell—in veneering, whatever you do to one side you should do to the other. So if you veneer walnut to one side, you should veneer walnut to the other side. Basically you create a sandwich with walnut on the outside and a wood core on the inside (or plywood, or mdf). How you attach it to the case is going to depend on how you build the case.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

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REO

889 posts in 1539 days


#14 posted 11-27-2014 02:59 PM

your original post had more than a few scratching their heads I am sure. I know rick and others weren’t trying to be negative. some of your terminology is a little misleading. “inlay” is not a term used for a veneered surface whether it is several pieces or one. think a tooth filing or brick patio or intarsia or marquetry. unles you pan a light load of stuff, there are midspan supports or a back on the shelves you will likely bow. Granular materials like mdf, particle board and OSB will definitely sag over time. This can be helped by laminating both sides but not eliminate it entirely and it will not help if you use several pieces in your lamination unless you can glue the edges together well enough to form a continuous piece. Birch plywood, baltic birch, or marine plywood generally refers to a structural plywood free of voids in the layers which makes it very stable, stiff and flat. I have not heard of “Cherry” plywood with the same characteristics. I have heard of faced plywood in all varieties but the cores still contain voids. The type of glue used for laminating can cause cupping or eliminate it. Water based adhesives applied wet can lead to cupping because the water in the glue goes into the surface of the material and causes it to expand. Polyurethane glues however draw the moisture from the surface and eliminate the problem. Many of the high end veneered surfaces you see every day have been bonded with polyurethane adhesives. contact adhesives are another possibility but in laying on several pieces it can be very easy to get one of the pieces out of place. In short your plan sounds good and can produce a beautiful piece! checking on the process is a smart thing to do to avoid mistakes.

To those who think that solid wood is the only way to make nice things pfft! pfft!

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bobro

308 posts in 776 days


#15 posted 11-27-2014 07:26 PM

No one said that solid wood is the only way to make nice things.

Let’s see what advice our poster here is getting: for your first woodworking project, that you want to be “gorgeous and top quality”, you’re going to be veneering 1/4” thick woods to both sides of a composite board, then edgebanding this, then attaching it to a solid cherry shelf unit.

Of course it’s possible to make a gorgeous and top quality piece this way. But as a first project, for someone who likely doesn’t have the tools, this is not good advice, it’s a recipe for disappointment.

The way even someone new to woodworking can make something their grandkids will cherish is to keep it as simple and solid as possible. Something forgiving of mistakes, not something that magnifies a 1/32” deviation to a yawning chasm. And unless you’re a tool salesman, something that takes as few and as common tools as possible.

Of course the original poster may want to dive right into high end veneering, and that’s their prerogative

Either way, shouldn’t we start with, how are you dimensioning your boards in the first place?

-- Lao Ma: You are so full of anger and hatred. Xena: Everybody's gotta be full of something.

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