My wife recently won a contest held by the world’s largest publisher of romance novels, Mills & Boon. She is among three Indian writers chosen this year to write Indian romance novels for the global audience. Among other prizes, she will receive all Mills & Boon books published during an entire year, which adds up to a lot of books! She wanted to keep all her prize books and I immediately offered to build a new bookcase just for her Mills & Boon books.
Luckily I had several ready Teak planks which I had spent the summer planing and sanding. Materials clearly would not be a problem. To build the thing fast, I decided to use screws and dadoes to hold the shelves. I did not bother to draw out a design because the bookcase would be simple and its dimensions dictated by the available wood. All I needed to check were the inner height of the shelves which I put at 8 inches because the books themselves were all 6 ¾ inches. The lowest bookshelf was higher for other taller books. I set the width of the bookcase at 9 inches because I wanted an extra inch at the back for a wooden back and not a plywood panel.
|Planks Placed together for easy dadoing and sanding|
Sizing the pieces of wood was a breeze because of my new table saw which ripped the pieces exactly to width and I did not have to bother trying to tweak them later on. The table saw I realised is a huge time saver and also adds much to the accuracy of the work. The dadoes were routed as usual with two planks of MDF as guides and a ball bearing guided mortising bit. The work was easy because I placed both the sides together and routed each dado in one go.
|Counterbored holes plugged with teak plugs|
The shelves, top and bottom were screwed on into countersunk and counterbored holes which were later plugged with teak plugs. The carcass was thus ready and looked square and balanced.
The small touches always take time. For instance, the backsplash (the strip of wood attached to the top back) was fixed by dowels which took time to mark and lay out but in the end did not match perfectly. I let this small imperfection go and fixed it later by planing the back. It looked fine from the front.
I also attached two stretchers at the bottom with two pocket holes on each side. This job was made easy, and possible I suppose, because of a Kreg Pocket Hole jig I had recently bought. Otherwise positioning pocket holes accurately can be quite difficult and tiresome.
|Simple zero clearance fence for routing rebates|
Normally bookcases and cabinets these days have plywood backs, which are convenient to attach and can be slipped into a groove routed along the back edge. A project using good quality wood like Teak deserves better. The method of choice was to cover the back with strips of teak with shiplap joints. To make these joints on over two dozen strips, I had to build a simple router table which took a couple of days to figure out and put together (read about my homemade router table here). I made a zero clearance makeshift fence with a straight piece of rubber wood. To make the recess for the router bit I simply pivoted to fence into the bit. Then it was a matter of setting the height and depth of cut to exactly 3/16 inch each. After that it was a simple run with all the strips getting a rebate on opposite sides.
|Strips of wood for the back with shiplap joints|
Each strip was screwed on to the back edge of the sides, top and bottom where I had cut ½ inch rebates. Each strip overlaps the previous and thus holds in down the first and last strips do not have rebates on the joining end and are screwed on into the sides as well. The result is a tight, dust proof back that has enough room (one card space between each rebate line) to expand and contract with the seasons.
My choice of finish for this project was Shellac. I had procured a couple of kilos of the finest quality de-waxed shellac from Calcutta which happens to the world’s biggest market for shellac. The shellac was (and is) occupying a lot of shelf space in our fridge and this was just the opportunity to prove to my wife that the shellac was worth it. After the usual round of sanding, I laid on thin coats of shellac, sanding in between coats with 600 grit sandpaper. The last coat of Shellac was applied using the French Polish method with a rubber. After about four coats have been laid on with brush or wiped on with a piece of cotton rag and sanded in between, the wood surface gets an even layer of shellac coating and feels smooth to the touch. French polishing at this stage is easier because the wood pores and surface imperfections are already filled and do not take up shellac. After a couple of days of slow polishing the grain of the wood began to stand out. That is the moment one realises the beauty of natural wood, unstained by any tint or colour.
|The bookcase with the back done and finished with shellac|
The bookcase was ready just two days after my wife’s birthday and she of course was delighted. It now sits proudly in our bedroom with one empty shelf waiting for more books.
|The bookcase in use|
14 September 2012
14 September 2012