Building Up My Library (V)

We’ve reached the end of the line here with the bookcase project. A short thread with all of 5 posts, not too detailed but hopefully enough information about how I made my way through what has been a quick li’l project. Previous installments are located in the blog archive to the right of the page. Lotsa pics today, but really just skimming through the final few days of the build.

With the carcase and shelves glued together and cleaned up, the remaining work involved the detachable back panel. The unit is a typical sort of frame and panel affair with two central stiles:

Due to their width, a necessity due to the slim panels I had to work with, the central stiles are connected to the end rails with two 1/4″ (6.35mm) pegs:

Once I had done a trial assembly of the pieces, and made necessary adjustments, the joins could be finalized:

The corner joints are haunched mortise and tenons with a wedge to secure them, and a mitered abutment on the front face:

The stiles are left long for assembly to help protect the end of the stick from any potential fracturing for a tight fit. The ‘horns’ are trimmed off afterward. I assembled the entire back panel only with pegs and wedges, deciding to forgo the glue altogether. I’m interested to see how it does over the years.

Here’s a view of the front face of the completed back panel after some shellac was wiped on:

The carcase also received a couple of coats of shellac, which dries fast. I just didn’t have the time for an oil-rubbed finish this time:

A detail shot of one of the sword tip connections – sorry for the slightly blurry pic:

The curly Cherry takes the light in a pleasing way:

I feel that the combination of woods used here, the Canary wood, the Black Cherry, and the Bubinga, all work very well together.

Now then, in a previous post I mentioned that the back of the panel would be joined to the carcase in an unconventional manner. most of the time what you see for back panels or plywood, or tongue and grooved boards. Usually these are fitted to the carcase at the time of assembly, which definitely adds some stress to that process. Typically the back panel is held captive in a dado and once it is in there, it’s in there for good.

A few years ago I came across picture of a Ming Dynasty demountable Chinese chest which had a different approach to construction – the back panel was a separate frame and panel unit held to the rest of the piece by clips. I really thought that was a good method, and I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to make use of the technique. And here we are!:

First off, notice that the central stiles have a portion of their tenons protruding right through the lower rail. These fit into corresponding blind mortises on the lower carcase board.The back panel it therefore tipped in bottom end first, the tenon/clips seated, and then the panel can be swung into place in the carcase rebate provided for it.

You will also notice the Canary wood clips. Here’s a closer view of one of them:

You can see I have mortised the outer stile so that the clip goes clean on through. Then I transfer location of the clip to the carcase and mortise the carcase for the clip.

A while later, it’s time to fit the panel in with the clip, which requires a few hammer taps to drive through:

Once fully in, it is a matter of trimming off the excess wood from the clip:

The result:

And here’s how it looks after trimming on the inside of the frame:

The end grain of those clips was then cleaned up and some finish put on. All in all, there were two clips on each side along with one on the top, fixing the back panel into place. Add to that the two built-in clips on the bottom, which gives a total of 7 clips altogether. Makes for a secure assembly, and if I need to repair it at some point, it will be easy to do. Even for cleaning the bookcase, it would be a simple matter to remove the panel to facilitate the process. I like this Chinese method and plan to employ it on future cabinet pieces. It’s a lot less of a stress to put the panel on afterwards, instead of during carcase assembly, which is absolutely an added bonus.

Here’s a few final shots of the bookcase now serving duty in my apartment:

Another one:


That, my friends, is that. A 2-week bookcase build – I hope ya liked it. I’m okay with how the piece came out, though the finish is hardly what I would wish for under normal circumstances. I left my maker’s mark off it. I may drag the bookcase back to the shop at some future date and finish it a bit more thoroughly, but for the time being it’s nice to have a place to stick some books. We could use yet another bookcase actually, so at some point I’ll need to do another one. I guess if the right sort of leftovers pile up, I’ll do just that. This was a great way to use up the Canary Wood and curly Cherry, which I’ve been dragging around for more than 2 years, and a bit of bubinga left over from the Ming table job which had warped badly.

Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way today.

7 thoughts on “Building Up My Library (V)

  1. OoooH that panel alone is something! Then the red streak in the side panel grain, with contrasting colours of the wedges , ….and not a metal fixing in sight (or hidden)
    A quietly magestic piece! What a treasure.

    Enjoyed the snaps as usual, very inspiring.

  2. Hi Chris,
    Nice work as usual. Have you done a detail on how those “wedged tenons” work? Or is that a trade secret. I really like the sword tip miter. It produces as very satisfying joint.
    Harlan Barnhart

  3. Mark, glad that you grooved on that panel connection method. It was fun to do.


    thanks for the positive comments -it's a shame though that the books cover up 95% of that panel, but I know it's back there so perhaps that's all that counts. Pleased to hear that you found it an inspiration!


    those wedged tenons are a fairly standard cabinetmaking joinery detail, not unique to Japanese joinery or anything, so I didn't think of them as worth remarking too much upon. Not a trade secret at all, though I note your interest in learning more. If I do them again I'll make a more thorough explanation. Also, glad you like the sword tip miters – they're a favorite of mine too, and especially useful when the edges of the connecting boards are identically moulded.


  4. Very good piece of work. I appreciate you sharing this build with us. And I think the Joinery used complements the build very well.

    Outstanding work as usual Chris.

    1. Thanks Duane, and I hear you about the wallpaper. I have to thank the landlord though, as he was so awful that it pushed us to find a way to get out of that apartment and buy our first house.

Anything to add?