Bookcase-Progress 1-Design

As we continue the never-ending unpacking of boxes and putting away of stuff, it has become apparent that the Hillbilly household is in immediate need of a bookcase.  This of course means that the nightstands have been bumped from the top of the list to the #2 position.  In either case, neither of these projects can be started until I have the new shop space up and running.  I’m getting close on that front and might even post about it as early as tomorrow.  Anyway, back to the bookcase.

We currently have a standard, tall bookcase that was purchased many years and holds quite a few books.  That piece now resides in my office and holds all of my woodworking and craft related tomes.  It’s full.  Additionally, there are a few built-in shelves in the new house and they hold several books.  They too are full.  We own a lot of books.  So with a couple of boxes of books still needing to find a home, a bookcase is needed.

I began, as I always do, by doing an image search on the internet and looking at as many examples of bookcases as I could find.  Scanning through the images and culling from them the ideas and forms that I liked.  As well as making note of what I didn’t.  Of course I searched for Japanese antique bookcases and  found a few examples.  Here and here.  The problem is that these were made for an entirely different form of book that were meant to be stacked flat.  I know that I can adapt these designs to accommodate my books but it still isn’t exactly what I’m in need of at the moment.  Although, I have filed that idea away for a later date and may build one specifically for my collection of woodworking books.

No, what I want is a low and wide bookcase with open shelving.  I need it to hold books of varying sizes and I also want it to readily fit in several places throughout the house.  I know that one will not be enough and will probably end up building at least one more of this design in a year or two.

So I went around the house scoping out potential locations and what maximum height and width would work in all of them.  I ended up with a maximum height of 37″ and a maximum width of 44″.  A little work on the calculator and I established that I needed to design this bookcase within a rectangle with 4:5 proportions.  In other words, I wanted the height to be four fifths of the width.  A little more deciphering and I established a Module of 216mm.  I know I’m mixing my measurement standards.  I think and visualize in imperial and work in metric.  At any rate, I now have a rectangle that is 864mm(34″) x 1080mm(42.5″).  This should keep me within my maximums but still allow a little wiggle room.

One design element that I find myself drawn to is the trough style shelf for holding books.  This can typically be found in bookcases in the Arts and Crafts style.  I like how the angled shelf cradles the books as well as how it makes reading the spines of the books easier.  Assuming the shelves are no higher than say, about chest high.  Another design element that I like is the addition of drawers.  I found several examples of this across many different construction styles.  Plus, I’m big on drawers and will add at least one to just about anything if given the chance.

There is nothing earth shattering about this bookcase design.  Its has simple lines, room for two rows of books and drawers as a bonus.  I will be employing simple joinery and will peg everything with bamboo pegs, as is per my norm.  Still, this should be a solid piece of furniture that will hold up over time and use.

So here is what I have come up with.  Normally I design based a piece based solely on proportions once I have established a controlling dimension.  With this piece I had to pay particular attention to the distances between the shelves.  It would have been quite the failure to build a bookcase that wouldn’t actually hold most books.  I managed to locate the trough shelf so that it will hold books as large as quarto (9.5″x12″), the shelf directly above the drawers will hold books as large as octavo (6″x9″) and I still managed to do it with proportions.


I hope to be able to start cutting wood for this project in a week, maybe two.

Greg Merritt

This entry was posted in Design, HBD Bookcase and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Bookcase-Progress 1-Design

  1. Brianj says:

    Should be a nice piece Greg. When you do your layouts, do you flip drawers to top for example to determine best configuration? I find my mind’s eye sketches out possibilities, and i suffer from “paralysis by analysis” on occasion because of it.

    • Greg Merritt says:

      I suffer from the same ailment on occasion. I keep a clipboard with blank paper close for quick sketches as I work through the possibilities. These are so rough that only I would know what they are. In the end I defer to “form follows function”.
      This primary function of this piece is to store books. The drawers add a secondary function but are not required for the piece to perform its primary function. Following that line of thinking, the books should be easier to access than the drawers. So I located the drawers to the bottom. The added benefit of this is that the drawers add visual weight to the piece.
      Function is always first in my designs.

  2. Reblogged this on Paleotool's Weblog and commented:
    As usual, Greg Merritt at “BY MY OWN HANDS ” has again shared a great project with his beautiful drawings to illustrate the work. Check out this nice little bookcase below.

  3. Dave G says:

    Hi Greg
    Good to see you back, I look forward to you starting manufacture or this project,
    Thanks for posting they are always a good read

  4. Pingback: Side Table-Progress 1 | GREG MERRITT – BY MY OWN HANDS

  5. Pingback: Bookcase-Progress 2 | GREG MERRITT – BY MY OWN HANDS

  6. Pingback: Not Sure I’m Man Enough | GREG MERRITT – BY MY OWN HANDS

If you don't comment this is just a fancy way for me to talk to myself.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s