Commonly available materials and skilled hands can produce stunning results.
SHOP OWNER: Alan Young
LOCATION: Ypsilanti, MI
Recently I was commissioned by two friends to build a pair of bookcases. They wanted an appropriate place to house a number of books as well as musical scores, which they were still storing in boxes since their move.
Since they were looking for a "cottage feel" for the room where these bookcases were to reside, they decided on a painted finish. I began by taking measurements of the wall where the two bookcases would go and set to work on a design. One of my favorite design tools is the SketchUp drawing program. I have been using this since about the spring of 2006. 3D modeling is quickly accomplished with this program and I feel I would now be lost without it.
After some planning discussions with my customers, we arrived at a design. The materials I used for this cabinetry project are commonly available from any of the local home center stores, which are often referred to as Borgs.
The cabinetry will feature face frames from dimensional clear pine, beadboard paneling for the upper cabinet interior and the lower cabinet door panels, hardboard or masonite for the exterior cabinet panels, custom made moldings to trim the exterior frames and doors, adjustable "torsion box" shelving, alkyd oil-based paint, and lighting for the upper cases.
The basic dimensions for the upper case are 57 tall, 33 wide, and 15 ¼ deep. The lower case is 36 ¾ tall, 34 ½ wide, and 15 ¼ deep. The overall height is 94.
Here, the four frames for the upper cabinet sides are attached to the face frame stiles. Rosettes and flutes were cut into the stiles before assembly.
Assembling the side framing for the upper and lower cabinets is made simple with a series of pocket hole joints. The back and front frames, also joined with pocket hole joinery, are then glued directly to the side frames without using biscuits or pocket screws. This photo shows one of the upper case frames assembled.
After gluing the four frames for the cases together, I lined the sides and backs with 3/8" beadboard panels and 1/8" hardboard or masonite panels. The interiors received the beadboard and the exteriors have the hardboard.
Because I wanted these cases to be more than "painted boxes", I set out to add some details that would set these pieces apart from the ordinary. These details include moldings that trim the inner framework and edge treatments using carefully chosen routed profiles.
I began by trimming the inside face frames of the upper and lower cabinets with a ¼ bead molding I made. The bead molding will really give the doors a great "pop"!
After milling and installing the bead molding, I milled and installed the base moldings followed by the moldings for the panels. Here, the moldings are being glued to the framing and panels of one of the upper cases.
The molding-trimmed panels are simple in execution but have the appearance of a more complex look.
To top off the upper cabinets, I created a custom-made crown molding, which is layered. The outside edges of the face frames for both the upper and lower cases are chamfered.
Building the doors begins by milling up stiles, rails, and moldings. For extra strength, I assembled them using mortise and tenon joinery.
With the frames for the doors assembled, I cut a rabbet on the inside to receive a beadboard panel. I have no wood movement worries about gluing the panel all the way around the frame, as it is plywood. The frame and panel is trimmed on the front with more custom milled molding. Also, I trimmed the underside of the lower case top with more molding.
The shelves are simple torsion boxes. A pine skeleton sandwiched between ¼-inch layers of plywood yields a strong unbending shelf, perfect for supporting heavy books.
Initially, I build the torsion boxes slightly larger and then trim to size on the table saw. The front edge of the shelves is then trimmed with a pine molding.
Because I have a basement shop with only 7-foot ceilings, I had to move the bookcases outdoors and finally into my carriage house for the finish work. To prime the cases I started with oil-based "inmate white" primer. Then I top coated with alkyd oil-based off-white. The interior of the upper cases was painted a green color.
To illuminate the upper cases with an indirect soft glow, I lined the inside of the face frames with Tape Lighting. This product features a series of low voltage 1-watt bulbs that run off a 24-volt transformer.
I mounted the 24-volt transformer inside the lower cabinets.
The beadboard panels, inset rosettes, layered crown molding, routed profiles, and custom milled moldings are individual details that come together to give these cases a simple but sophisticated look.
. . . Alan Young