The final instalment

Holding the backboards in place while drilling pilot holes for the nails

for th enailsThe final stage of the boarded bookcase build involved fitting the backboards. The outermost pair of boards are glued to the sides of the bookcase, and then nailed to the shelves. The rest of the shelves are nailed only, to allow for seasonal wood movement. Before fitting the boards I applied several coats of blonde shellac by hand – it is much easier to do this before they are installed, and also helps to wipe off any squeezeout when gluing the outer boards in place. I adjusted the width of the middle board until all five fit snuggly in the casework, and then held them in position with a cam clamp holding each against the top rail. That allowed me to mark and drill the pilot holes for each nail. Cam clamps don’t offer endless gripping power like Bessey K clamps do, but for delicate clamping operations such as this they are perfect. Before fixing the shelves in place I also planed the top rail flush to the sides.

Nailing the backboards in place

I fixed the shelves in two batches. The first batch was the outermost shelves, which I glued and nailed in place in the kitchen as the workshop was getting too cold for the hide glue to flow properly. One day I will have a heated ‘shop, but that day is not yet here. The sides of the bookcase had bowed slightly, so I used clamps to pull them into the edge of the backboards. Once the glue had cured, I moved the bookcase back into the workshop and nailed the remaining backboards in place.

Cleaning up the front of the bookcase. The moment of truth when you find out if the joints look tight or “beaver with a meth habit” gappy

I had left cleaning the outside surfaces of the bookcase until it had been fully assembled. I started with cleaning up the front by smoothing the edge of the shelves and sides with the Holtey No985. Once the front of the bookcase was clean and pretty I then smoothed each side, with the bookcase standing on a thick moving blanket to protect it from acquiring more workshop rash. Once each side was smoothed I drilled pilot holes for the nails, drove the nails home, and then applied several coats of shellac. This also helped to protect the freshly smoothed surface when the bookcase was turned over.

Cleaning up the sides

With both sides smoothed and all the nails fitted, the only tasks left were to plane the backboards flush to the toprail using a blockplane, and make pretty. I broke all the sharp edges to prevent them from splintering in use, using the Philly Planes chamfer plane for all accessible edges – this tool is far from essential but is an excellent way of cutting repeatable and quick chamfers. For the shelves I used a Veritas scraper shave, which works well right into the corner where the shelf meets the side. A final hand rubbed coat of shellac on the sides and front of the bookcase, and the final finishing touch was to apply my maker’s mark to the top end of a side (the stamp works best on end grain). Yes, nothing beats taking a lump hammer to a newly completed piece of furniture.

Nailing the sides in with 6d nails

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