Adding Cross Bars to a French Style Bookcase.

Over the past few months I’ve been making these French style bookcases for my wife. They’re pretty popular as they usually sell within a couple of weeks in her booth. The nicest part of the bookcase is the design of the cross bars that mimic the design of the Eiffel Tower. The design also makes the bookcase lighter and feel more open as opposed as having closed sides making the bookcase feel heavy.

Adding the cross bars isn’t so difficult when you take your time and measure everything correctly. When I start to build the cross bars, I rip 3/4″ square stock out on the table saw and sand them smooth on my drum-sander. I take one of the bars and clamp it to both back styles of the bookcase. I then strike a line to show me the correct angle that needs to be cut.

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I take the bar over to my old school Stanley No 140 miter box and cut it close to the line, but not on it. I could do this on a power miter saw, but I feel that’s way too much power for doing delicate work like this.

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After the cutting the bar on my miter box, I size it to the line by carefully trimming it with my AMT miter trimmer. I love this tool, but a miter trimmer is the Rodney Dangerfield of woodworking. For whatever reason, it simply gets absolutely no respect in the hand tool world. I guess hand tool purest would rather use a shooting board and plane, but this thing has never let me down in the twenty-five years I’ve owned it.

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When the bars are properly fitted, they are super tight against the styles. So much so that it is very tough to even fit them in place. Having the bars fit this tight is actually very important because they will be glued in place without any mechanical fasteners other than a 23 gauge micro pin toe nailed to the styles.

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Once I’m happy with the fit, I then scribe a line on each bar where the bars meet to create a half lap joint.

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With a dovetail saw, paring chisel, and router, I carefully remove the material between the lines. The depth of the router blade is exactly half the thickness of the bar ensuring the bars are flush to each other when they are fitted together.

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After the joint is cut, I test fit the pieces to make sure everything looks good. An important thing I do when installing the bars is to place witness marks on the bars and styles so that I know which direction the bars goes when it’s time for installation.

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The cross bars on the sides of the bookcase are done exactly the same way. When it comes to installing all the cross bars, I glue and nail them to the styles. Because I plan on painting the bookcase, I don’t care about the nail holes. I just fill them in with wood putty. I use 18 gauge pneumatic nails and nail the side cross bars from the front and back of the styles. The back cross bars, I glue and toe nail them with 23 gauge pin nails to the back styles.

 

Updating a China Cabinet

My wife bought this china cabinet at the Springfield Antique Show in Springfield, OH in September. It originally came with two glass paneled doors but she wanted to take them off and open up the top part of the cabinet for easy storage. We have a similar china cabinet in our dining room now and opening and closing the doors every time I want to unload my wallet and keys is kind of a pain in the ass, so taking the doors off permanently make sense to me.

You’ll see a lot of china cabinets with their doors removed in antique stores but most of them simply take the doors off and paint the piece leaving the sides of the case 3/4″ thin with the hinge mortises exposed and all. I knew I didn’t want to have that look, so I decided to add stiles to front to complete the case.

I started by milling two pieces of poplar 1″ x 1 3/4″ x 36″ and laid out where I wanted to rout fluting down each piece.

I then clamped the pieces in my modern Moxon vise and used a 1/4″ fluting bit to rout a flute about 1/4″ deep down the front of the stile. I opted to have three flutes 1/4″ apart down each stile.

The scrap portion of the stiles is key. Here I gauged where the fluting should go and then tested the layout. As you can tell, I had to move over the middle flute just a tad in order for it to line up evenly with the other two flutes on the side.

After the fluting was routed, I sanded the stiles and glued them onto the cabinet.

The reason I decided to use 1″ thick poplar 1 3/4″ wide is because I wanted to match the stiles to the top rail as it was 1″ x 1 3/4″. Had I used wood that was only 3/4″ thick it wouldn’t have looked as nice appearing like the stiles were an add on which I did not want.

The fluting on the china cabinet’s leg started up 2″ from the bottom so I mirrored the detail starting and stopping the fluting on the stiles 2″ from the top and bottom.

This is how the cabinet turned out. The fluted stiles gives the piece a nice added touch and finishes it off. It will be sold in my wife’s booth at a vintage designer’s market called “Over the Moon” in Lawrenceburg, IN near the end of the month. I think my wife secretly doesn’t want it to sell because she wants to keep it. I can’t blame her.

French Style Bookcase

My French style bookcase is painted and done. It turned out really well. My wife loves it which is all that really matters. I decided that I will build a few more and have my wife paint them with different colors to see if we can sell them on Craigslist. I posted these pictures on Facebook with a little bit of a description and an asking price of $450.00 which is cheap considering hand-made bookcases sell for over a $1000 in furniture stores. I’ll see if I get any offers on Facebook but even if I don’t, I won’t let it be a deterrent from building more because I feel that people will really like these bookcases.

The bookcase measures 59″ Long x 16″ Wide x 34 1/2″ High and is made from poplar. My wife did an excellent job painting it with two coats of semi-gloss black latex paint and a primer underneath. It’s turned out really well but I’m considering painting the next ones with a lacquer paint for durability. I’ll have one black, one white and one black with white stencil, or vice versa, whatever my wife decides to do.

The side shot shows the detail of the crown molding that I cut with an old molding plane and the cross bars that hold the case together. The crossbars are strong but make the whole bookcase light. The crossbars also imitate the sides of the Eiffel Tower which puts it in the French Style.

This morning my wife and I decided to fancy up bookcase by decorating it. We searched all over our home for trinkets and stuff to stick on the shelves. I used a picture of a bookcase from a furniture catalog to act as a guide on how to decorate it. After we were done, my wife didn’t want to put the stuff back from where we got them since the bookcase looked so nice.

Hopefully I’ll get good feedback from my friends on Facebook. Maybe I’ll even get an order or two.

Making crown molding with a complex molding plane

While in the process of building a Bourdonnais French style bookcase I needed to make some crown molding for the top.

I wasn’t about to go out and spend money on some pre-made crown molding. That would be the easy way out. I have a boat load of antique molding planes in my shop, so I decided to put one of those bad boys to use.

The first step in make making crown molding is to get the stock prepared. I ripped a couple of pieces of straight grained poplar 5/8″ x 2″ x 6′ long. It’s important to get wood with grain as straight as possible to avoid tear out caused by the plane’s blade.

I then chopped off a section of one of the boards to use as a test piece. Placing the piece in my sticking board, I began running my molding plane over the board to create the Roman ogee profile. After a few strokes, the shape was completed in about five minutes. By the way, my sticking board is similar to the one based off of Jim Toplin’s in the book “The New Traditional Woodworker” by Popular Woodworking Books.

The next step is to create the angles on the board so that is works as crown molding on the case. I took the board over to the table saw and set the blade to 30 degrees. Once I set the fence to the proper location, I ran the board through and then flipped the board over to rip off the same 30 degree angle off the other end of the board.

I then took the molding back to the bench to finalize the profile. I used a block plane and just knocked off the top corner. This corner should be 90 degree to the 30 degree angle cut on the table saw so that it will lay on the case properly. (It’s really helpful to have a small sample piece of crown molding laying around so that you can use all the angles on the molding as a template for your piece).

Once the profile has been completed, a light sanding with 120 grit sand paper helps clean up any chatter left by the molding plane. I use a styrofoam sanding sponge and some sticky sand paper to sand the profile.

After sanding the only thing left to do is attach it to the case. Always make more molding than you need. There may and will be parts of the molding where the plane falls out of line a little bit and the profile won’t match the rest of the board. You simply cuts those parts off and use the rest.