Making the Bottom Assembly
After taking the panels that I had glued up to make the top, bottom and shelf out of their clamps, I moved on to building the piece from the bottom up. Starting with the piece that would become the bottom, I cut it to size on the table saw. Important details on the bottom are the notches that correspond to the stopped grooves on the frame-and-panel sides and the rabbet for the back slats. I cut and fit the notches carefully, testing them in the side panels, rather than doing this later. Then I formed the rabbet along the back edge of the bottom. It’s important to note that the bottom is a key part of the lower subassembly, which also includes three thick moldings, two stringers and two stretchers — all of these pieces are structural.
I got going by cutting the molding stock overly long (enough to make the side and front molding pieces) and to its proper width and thickness. Then I chucked a beaded roundover bit into the router table and took several passes to shape the stepped roundover on the top edge of the molding. I like to take a very scant final cut on molding like this … it reduces tearout and leaves a really smoothly cut surface. With that done, I machined the stringers and stretchers.
I used pocket holes bored into the stretchers to join them to the stringers. The order of assembly was: first, attach the stretchers to the stringers, then attach the bottom to this subassembly (put a bead of glue on the top edge of the front stretcher).
Next, I used my miter saw to cut the base molding pieces to size. They wrap around three sides of the base with mitered corners. Using glue and screws, attach the base moldings to the stretchers and stringers and allow the glue to cure. I quickly wiped away glue squeeze-out with a wet cloth.
Now a word about the feet. These bun feet match the style of the bookcase very well and are easy to install. I ordered my walnut feet from Osborne Wood Products (osbornewood.com) rather than trying to stain another species to match the rest of the stock in the bookcase. I think it’s worth the extra time and money.
Moving to the Top and Back
There is an internal frame at the top of the bookcase — unseen in the completed unit — that helps hold the top together and to which the back slats are mounted. Because it is hidden, I once again used screws to assemble the frame cleats.
The back slats are shiplapped so they can overlap one another as they go across the back of the bookcase. It is a very traditional way to build a solid wood back that takes into account its expansion and contraction. Note that the center slat has two rabbets on the same face, while the remainder have the rabbet on the opposite faces. These back slats are actually pretty visible from the front of the bookcase, so I took time to compose them in an attractive manner. With the back slats and the upper frame completed, it was almost time to do some more major assembly … almost. First there was some sanding to do. It is much easier and more efficient to sand these components before they are assembled. I took them right up to 180-grit.
After test-fitting all the parts, I glued and clamped the side subassemblies to the base, then glued the top frame in place. I also used screws to help secure the frame to the side subassemblies. It is important to square up the bookcase at this step.
I measured the inside dimensions of the case and carefully cut the shelf to size, allowing for the thickness of the shelf front. I also sliced a narrow groove in each end of the shelf, to accommodate the hidden shelf support pins. When that was done, I cut the shelf stiffener to size and glued and clamped it to the shelf, setting the assembly aside until the glue cured.