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Meet Justin and Jackson
We recruited Justin and his son to help us with this story.
Justin is a full-time firefighter and a woodworker on his
off days. His 11-year-old son Jackson, an up-and-coming
woodworker, had fun with his dad and learned a few
power tool techniques in the process. We provided the
plans and gave a few pointers along the way, and Justin and Jackson took it from there.
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Jackson at the miter saw
“What a confidence booster when a kid can say, ‘I built that!’ ” –Justin
Here’s a simple project that
gives you a chance to pass
some of your woodworking
skills on to the next generation.
Any kid will love spending
the day with you
assembling this bookcase.
And by the end of the day,
your helper will have hands-on
experience with several
power tools, plus an attractive
bookcase to show off.
The knotty pine bookcase parts are all
standard dimensional lumber
that you can find at any home
center. We joined the shelves and
legs with biscuits. If you don’t
own a biscuit joiner but still
want to build this project, you
can simply nail or screw the
parts together and fill the
holes. We used a table saw to
cut the 1-1/2-in. square legs from 2x4s and a router with a
45-degree chamfer bit to bevel
the edge of the top. If you
don’t have a table saw or
router, you can just use stock
2x2s for the legs and leave the edge of the top square.
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Photo 1: Mark both sides at once
Lay the bookcase sides
together to mark the shelf
locations. The layout marks
have to be perfect, so Justin
closely supervised this step.
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Photo 2: Mark the biscuit slots
Make pairs of corresponding
marks on the legs and sides.
Later you'll center the biscuit
joiner on the marks to cut
slots that align.
Use the Cutting List (see Additional Information, below) as
a guide for cutting all the parts.
The next step is to mark the
shelf positions on the shelf
sides. It’s important to keep
track of the orientation of the
parts. For reference, we placed
a piece of masking tape on the
top of each side, and on the
top side of each shelf. Justin
and Jackson used a framing
square to draw lines indicating
the bottom of each shelf (Photo
No need to mark the location
of biscuits on the shelves
and sides. Instead make marks on the scrap of wood used as a
fence. Draw marks to indicate
the outside edges of the 1x8
shelves and sides, and mark
1-3/4 in. in from each edge to
indicate the center of the biscuits.
To use the fence, line up
the outside marks with the edges
of the part you’re cutting slots in.
And then line up the center mark
on the biscuit-joining tool with
the marks for the center of the
biscuits (Photos 3 and 4).
To mark the legs and sides for
biscuits, set the legs in position
and make pairs of marks that
line up with each other on the
legs and sides (Photo 2). Put a
piece of masking tape on the top
of each 2x2 leg, and keep this
facing up when you cut the biscuit
slots. Photo 7 shows how to
bevel the legs.
Cut slots for the biscuits
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Photo 3: Slot the end of the side
Clamp the fence to the
work surface and butt
the end of the shelf to it.
Then center the biscuit
joiner on the mark and
cut the slot. Repeat for
the second slot.
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Photo 4: Cut slots for the shelves
Line up the 2x2 jig with the
edge of board mark and
clamp it. Center the biscuit
joiner on the center mark on
the fence and cut the slot.
Repeat for the second slot.
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Photo 5: Cut slots for the legs
Line up the center of the
biscuit joiner with the marks
on the edge of the side and
cut the slots. Make sure both
the shelf side and the biscuit
joiner are tight to the work
surface when you cut the slot.
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Photo 6: Position the slot with a spacer
Place a scrap of 1/2-in.
plywood or particleboard on
the work surface. Butt the leg
against it and rest the biscuit
joiner on the spacer while you
cut the slots. The 1/2-in.
spacer will automatically position the slots.
Biscuit joiners have a flip-down
fence that can be used to position
the slots, but instead we’re showing
a method that allows you to
reference the slots from the base
of the biscuit joiner. Photos 3 – 6
show the techniques. For a more
detailed description of this
method, see “Building Cabinets With Biscuit Joints” .
Jackson didn’t have any
trouble mastering the biscuit
joiner. With a little coaching
from Justin, he cut slots like a
pro. What’s trickiest about
cutting the slots is keeping
track of the orientation of the
parts. Just remember to keep
the masking tape facing up,
with one exception: The slots
on the 1x8 top should be cut with the tape side down.
Glue the bookcase together
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Photo 7: Bevel the legs with a simple jig
Screw two scraps to a small square of plywood
to form a cradle for the legs. Clamp the jig to the
miter saw fence, and cut a 10-degree bevel on the
bottom of each leg.
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Photo 8: Add the biscuits
Work quickly to glue
biscuits into the slots.
Spread the glue in the slots,
and onto the biscuits, with
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Photo 9: Assemble the shelves quickly
Biscuits start to swell and
lock in place soon after the
glue is applied, so it's
important to get the
shelves assembled quickly.
Here’s where a helper like
Jackson really comes in handy.
You have to work fast to
spread the glue in the biscuit
slots and onto the biscuits
(Photo 8), and then assemble
the parts before the glue
starts to swell the biscuits
Start by arranging all the
parts on your work surface.
Justin used a flux brush to
spread the glue in the slots,
and onto the biscuits after
they were installed. Any small
brush will work, though.
When you have everything
assembled, install clamps to hold the sides tight to the
shelves while the glue
dries. Check by using
a framing square or by
measuring diagonally from
opposite corners to make sure
the bookcase is square. Adjust
it if needed. Then tighten the
clamps. This is a good time to
take a break while you let the glue dry for about an hour.
Figure A: Bookshelf construction
Figure A: Bookshelf Construction
See Additional Information below for Cutting List and Material List.
Overall dimensions: 39 -3/4" tall x 26-1/2" wide x 11" deep
Build the top
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Photo 10: Beveling the edge is a job for Dad
Use a router and a 45-degree
chamfering bit to bevel the front and
sides of the top. Jackson held the top
to keep it from shifting on the Bench
Cookies (available at www.rockler.com).
To minimize potential cupping,
we decided to make the
top by gluing two pieces of 1x6
together rather than using a
solid board. Choose a straight piece of 1x6 with a sharp, clean edge. Cut
the pieces long and trim the top to length
after you glue the two parts together. For
pro tips on gluing boards edge-to-edge, see “Edge Gluing Boards” . Justin and
Jackson cut biscuit slots in the sides of the
two 1x6s to help hold them in alignment
while installing the clamps. Glue and
clamp the two 1x6s. Then let the glue set
up about 30 minutes before routing the
edge (Photo 10).
Add the legs, top and back
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Photo 11: Insert the biscuits and clamp the legs
Spread the glue and insert the biscuits.
Then glue on the legs. Clamp them and
wait for the glue to dry before moving
on to install the top and back.
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Photo 12: Screw on the back boards
Drill pilot holes to prevent splitting.
Then screw the boards to the back of
the bookcase. With a little coaching,
Jackson was driving screws like a pro.
The legs are held to the sides of the
bookcase with biscuits. When attached,
the legs should protrude 1/2 in. past the
outside, and overlap the shelves by 1/4
in. Glue in the biscuits, spread a line of
glue along the edge of the side, and
clamp the legs to the sides (Photo 11). Let
the glue set for about 30 minutes.
Drill four 3/8-in. holes at the corners of
the bookcase top. The holes are oversized
to allow the top to expand and contract.
Attach the top with four 1-1/4-in. screws
and 1/4-in. washers.
Complete the bookcase by screwing
the four 1x6s to the back of the unit
(Photo 12). Drill 1/8-in. pilot holes for the
screws to avoid splitting.
A little final sanding and the bookcase
was ready for finish. When we left them,
Justin and Jackson were discussing finishing
options but were leaning toward a
wipe-on oil finish. Our build-it-together
bookcase was a great success—give it a go with your up-and-coming woodworker.