BUILDING ON HISTORY
A challenge is designing and building a wall bookcase where architectural details abound.
SHOP OWNER: Alan Young
LOCATION: Ypsilanti, MI
One of the most spectacular buildings in Ypsilanti and SE Michigan, the Glover House is a block from my own house. Due to its historical and architectural significance, Glover House has been recognized as an important Ypsilanti building. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, the Michigan State Register of Historic Sites in 1979, and resides in the Ypsilanti Historic District.
This five bedroom, ten-room house is about 3,900 sq. ft. and was designed by Detroit architects, Malcomson and Higgenbothum. Alexander Malcomson was an original stockholder in Ford Motor Company when the company was founded in 1903.
The attention to detail lavished on the house is still obvious today. Architecturally speaking, the house is an excellent example of the Queen Anne style popular in the last decades of the 19th century. The visual complexities of the exterior massing and detailing produce a picturesque quality much admired in the late Victorian period.
The owners commissioned me to design and build a wall bookcase for the music room. The new bookcase will replace several store-bought units and must be designed to look like it was there from the beginning. I found this a great challenge as the home has some extraordinary moldings, carvings, and architectural details - any or all of which can be used for the new design.
I decided to begin work on this project by carving the six volute brackets that will ride under the crown molding. The wood is red birch.
Because this case is going to be so large, I am building it in sections. There will be a lower and upper unit for the left and for the right with a middle section that will get assembled on location. Here are the right sideís lower and upper units underway.
The left and right sections will be joined by a center section -just slightly wider than one of the individual vertical sections, i.e. there will be five sections altogether. The center section of the crown will also protrude outward an inch or so. This will be a tricky thing to join the crown profiles on the left, center, and right all over a floor that is 130+ years old!
As work began on the top section, I ran a bunch of crown molding and attached the first three corbels to the top. Thereís no going back now; they are firmly attached. Iíll do some final tuning on them a bit later.
That corner looks pretty weird the way it is now. This is of course, just the right side of the unit. The left side will have the completed corner that will return to the back wall. The right side of this unit will just dead-end to the right side wall. There will be no corner to wrap.
I was looking at the plinth details and was just not happy with they way they looked. They were OK but just didn't seem to fit. So I remade them.
I trimmed down the upper section to just the ball and the first bead. For the lower section, I cut off the beveled blocks and replaced them with new blocks that were formed with the same bit as the crown molding. You only see a portion of the crown profile, but it subtly unites the base and the top and gives these individual pieces the character I was looking for. The long piece down the middle is there basically to cover two holes, which allow the plinths to be screwed to the face frame.
Here they are out of the clamps and attached to the face frame with an accompanying molding. The molding profile was again taken from the same crown molding bit. I'll also use that profile when it comes time to face the front of the individual shelves.
The cases are fabricated and glued up. This includes 20 adjustable shelving strips. These are glued to the vertical sections of each case. The strips in the lower units have 12 holes, spaced 2" apart. The upper units have 17 holes. In total, that's 290 holes for this set, 580 holes when you include the first set.
The crown molding has been completed around the corner of the upper case. A frame and panel look will complete the sides. The process begins with framing the plywood.
An applied molding completes the look.
With the case ready for a finish, amber shellac was the finish of choice.
Here's the completed unit after installation.
Once my work was done with the installation, the homeowners filled the once empty shelves with their many books and the bookcase seemed to come alive! At an Open House that followed, I snapped these shots of the bookcase adorned with volumes of books. The close-up provides a nice look at the volute brackets that ride under the crown molding.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: You can see the complete progress shots of Alanís Glover House Bookcase on his website by clicking the following link - Glover House Bookcase.]. . . Alan Young
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