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.
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
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
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
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).
Back to Top
Add the legs, top and back
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.