Building the Side Assemblies
Building the bookcase side assemblies is an involved part of this project, but they’re not really too tough. You’ll see that the top areas of the sides are made up of pairs of short, decorative rails and stiles. The lower areas are filled with two long, grooved stiles that capture three thin side slats. The rails and stiles attach to one another and to the posts with Domino tenons. Follow the Material List to make all those rails and stiles (pieces 2 through 5) now.
As I worked through the initial design, I realized that the bottom side stiles would end up flush with the mating rails, so I decided to reduce their thickness to 5/8″ to add visual interest and create more shadow lines. Next, cut grooves along both edges of the bottom side stiles as well as the inside edges of the middle and bottom rails to house the side slats (pieces 6). I cut these centered grooves on the router table using a 1/4″ straight bit. Prepare the two groups of side slats by resawing them from the same piece of thicker material. That way, each trio of slats will have consistent grain pattern and color.
Set your side rails and stiles together, mark centerpoints for the Domino tenons and proceed to cut the mortises. Remember to reset your Domino joiner if you make your lower side stiles thinner like I did, to keep the tenons centered on the material thickness. When mortising the bottom stiles and rails, I positioned the machine’s cutter to just kiss the back side of the slat grooves (the Domino cutters have metric diameters, and the Domino size I chose was roughly 5/16″ thick).
Dry-assemble the rails, stiles and slats so you can mark locations for the slat grooves and rail mortises on each pair of posts. Mill the post slat grooves on the router table, then bore the rail mortises. I indexed my Domino cutter using the slat grooves on the posts. To cut the mortises, I simply folded the fence mechanism down to 90°, then adjusted the height until the cutter met the grooves.
When all the mortising is behind you, it’s time to cut the shelf dadoes in the posts and across the insides of the bottom side stiles. I developed an accurate layout on one post before carefully transferring my shelf dado locations to the other three. Note that since the shelves wrap around the insides of the posts and seat in the lower stiles as well, you’ll need to dado both the inside face and edge of each post to accommodate the shelves. To make these 1/4″-deep dadoes, I clamped the posts together and used a scrap MDF fence to guide my router and straight bit across the part faces. Unclamp the posts and mill the adjacent dado cuts on their narrow inside edges, stopping these cuts at the slat grooves. Dry-fit the side assemblies together again, mark the shelf dado locations on the side bottom stiles (pieces 5), and rout these 3/16″-deep dadoes as well. Glue up and cut your shelf blanks (pieces 7) to size, trim their stepped ends to shape, and make sure they fit the side assembly shelf dadoes.
Making the Bookcase Back and Front
The bookcase back consists of five slats (pieces 10) that fit into centered grooves on the back top and back bottom rails (pieces 8 and 9). Make these two rails first, according to the Material List. Cut the slat grooves at the router table or on the table saw with a dado blade. Instead of wasting 3/4″ stock on an area that won’t receive much stress, I resawed and thicknessed my back slats to just over 1/4″, then planed them by hand to fit the rail grooves. Thin splines (pieces 11) between the back slats will keep gaps from opening up when the slats shrink in the winter. I cut my spline slots along the edges of the slats using a 3/32″ thin-kerf blade in the table saw. Ash was a sturdy choice for my spline stock. Take care to make sure the splines fit the grooves just right without breaking the fragile slat housings.
After checking the fit of your parts, mark the rails and posts for Domino mortises: three on the ends of the top rail and two on each end of the bottom rail. Mill them now.
Next, measure, cut and assemble the decorative front top rails and stiles (pieces 12 and 13), and make the bottom front rail (piece 14). Cut the appropriate mortises in the rail and stile ends and in the posts for attaching these parts with Domino tenons during final assembly.