Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bookshelf (2008-2010)

In September 2008 I started designing a big bookshelf for my girlfriend; about a year later, in September 2009, I started building it; and about a year later, in 2010, I finished it.

I know very little about woodworking and approached the build as a fun challenge, not really knowing what I was getting into.  It was great experience; I'm quite happy with the results, even though I used some - ahem - "unorthodox" joinery methods.  On the whole, it was a bit challenging though because I essentially built the whole thing in our living room.  If I had to undertake a similar project again it would have to be in a dedicated work area.  Imagine living in this for a year:

My dad lent me some of his power tools, and gave me counsel when I was unsure about things.  I went through well over 20 iterations of the design, from high-level re-imaginings to fiddling over tiny details.  Most of the design work was done in Sketchup, and everything was modelled down to the millimeter.

Overview; at that point in time we were still thinking of adding crown moldings.  Some detail missing.
Back view.
Detail on inside fixtures, on the ends of the bookshelf.
X-ray view of one of the versions of the adjustable footing.
Final levelling assembly.
There was a fair bit of lamination involved:

9 clamps per shelf.
24 shelves to laminate.
 I made some jigs and drilled lots of holes:

I made a big adjustable routing jig that I had to position with the help of some spreadsheet calculations because the jig nuts didn't sit flush with the wood and I had to compensate for jig tilt (i.e. it didn't hit the router base a predictable 3" from the bit center on certain edges, but my spreadsheet partly compensated for that):

Slot through entire width of wood.
My nice Rubbermaid sawhorse.
Gunning for a rounded rectangle depression.
I used a joinery technique inspired from my years of Lego constructions:

2x8 plate on some base plates.
Looks OK.
Trusty sawhorse! 
Getting ready to screw another bracket in place.
One of the bookshelf ends before it was trimmed to fit the base boards.
Close-up of my sort-of-handiwork.
I had modelled the moldings in Sketchup, and cut out the profile from the base of the bookshelf:

And eventually I test-assembled a unit to make sure things fit properly:

Everything was ready to paint, assemble and level:

I eventually spent an epic day painting, and another assembling everything.  I used my bench power supply (which I'm eventually going to write up) to rig a power supply for my camera, connected the camera to my PC, and shot a large series of timelapse pictures which I ultimately made into a movie using Avisynth.  Here's what that looks like:


  1. I liked the outcome very much and I appreciate all the effort that was being put into this one bookshelf. It's beautiful. If I had one of these myself, I'd be happy. I think it would be better to build one just like you did. If only I had the talent.

  2. Glad you like it! Thank you very much for the flattering comment!