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collinb

Looking for bookcase recommendations

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My winter project will be to build new bookcases. Five of them.

I'm torn between a quality plywood solution vs a hardwood/panel style.

I really like the wood concept. I will take longer but would be a potential heirloom piece.

Any design/structural considerations I should be aware of if doing it with hardwood?

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If you do solid wood, movement becomes something you should worry about with the shelves. The best way would e a sliding dovetail or a breadboard style connection to the side panel.  The bookcases i made a year ago were solid wood and have a very open feel to them. They have held up very well over a full year of humidity changes.

1 thing i consider is that good quality plywood doesn't necessarily save money over hardwood but it's easier to use for some situations.

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Wood movement can be controlled if grain direction is harmonious between the sides, the shelves, and the top. This harmony is developed by using solid wood panels, not frame and panel construction. Frame and panel sides will need sliding dovetails as Nut mentioned. If doing solid panel construction stop dados and a solid back are a good choice also.

This is not a bookcase but this kind of design, legs with a solid wood panel would also not be affected by wood movement as long as the grain of the shelves match the grain direction of the sides. This design also allows you to put dovetails in the legs for the top support rails for added stability and to attach the top. You can also put dovetails in the bottom rails of course.

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Plywood would be ideal for the back of the case if you are not opting for an open design. Solid plywood in the back of the case gives a lot of strength to the case.

Options for the back could be hardwood ply or something you can paint. I sort of like a painted back of a bookcase, meaning you see some color "behind" the books. So when I say paint I'm talking about painting the part of the back that faces out, not the part that faces the wall. I'm partial to a deep forest green with walnut. You can also get some beaded plywood to add some texture to the back panel.

I'm starting to get in the weeds, so before I go further  I'd love to see what design you are considering.

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11 minutes ago, curlyoak said:

This frame and panel shelves is working well...

True, but it is not necessary. I think the point was just overstated above. 

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2 hours ago, K Cooper said:

Marc's "Barrister Bookcase" was a lot of fun as well as challenging.

Definitely fills the heirloom bill.

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6 hours ago, Bmac said:

Frame and panel sides will need sliding dovetails

No dovetails. Just Dado's

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27 minutes ago, curlyoak said:

No dovetails. Just Dado's

It's my understanding most frame and panel bookcases use a system like you used in your picture for the shelves, holes with adjustable shelf supports. I was thinking along those lines for the shelves, not dados or sliding dovetails for frame and panel sides. I was talking about dados with solid panel sides, I wasn't clear in my post.

But a sliding dovetail is nice for connecting the top of the case to a frame and panel side since the top stile of the side panel has a grain direction opposite the top. Then just gluing the very front part of the dovetail and let the rest of the dovetail float, thus allowing for wood movement. . This was what I was thinking of with frame and panel sides, sliding dovetails, and wood movement. 

6 hours ago, K Cooper said:

Marc's "Barrister Bookcase" was a lot of fun as well as challenging.

Was this bookcase one piece or is it modular? 

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Colin, do you have general dimensions in mind? Some of these design choices scale up easier than others.

Also consider wall-hung vs. floor-standing. 

Google for 'campain furniture', there are many good examples that not only manage wood movement, but also come apart for movement of the piece itself.

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12 hours ago, wtnhighlander said:

Colin, do you have general dimensions in mind? Some of these design choices scale up easier than others.

Also consider wall-hung vs. floor-standing. 

Google for 'campain furniture', there are many good examples that not only manage wood movement, but also come apart for movement of the piece itself.

These will be floor-standing, to the ceiling, with a crown connecting the set. The crown will be removable should we at some time move.

Also important is a check I'll do to not how co-planar the floor and ceiling are. They won't be off by much, but there's always a little to adjust for. Shims ought to do, but just in case ...

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27 minutes ago, collinb said:

These will be floor-standing, to the ceiling, with a crown connecting the set. The crown will be removable should we at some time move.

Also important is a check I'll do to not how co-planar the floor and ceiling are. They won't be off by much, but there's always a little to adjust for. Shims ought to do, but just in case ...

Cabinetry and doors in the bottom half or all open bookshelves?

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53 minutes ago, Bmac said:

Cabinetry and doors in the bottom half or all open bookshelves?

All open.

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For safety, ceiling-height cases should definitely be fixed in place. I made a utility-grade set in similar fashion, and used a french cleat to fix the top to the wall, while still allowing it to rest on the floor.

I suggest framing the bottom so you can included leveling feet, then use a base molding to hide them. The molding can be scribed and cut to follow any irregularities of the floor. If the crown is not touching the ceiling, it can be aligned with the case and look good. If it joins the case and ceiling, extra care will be necessary to get a good fit without visible gaps or misaligned edges. Ceilings & floors are never truly flat or square.

For a case that tall, I'd prefer to use solid panels for the sides, with shelves dadoed or dovetailed into them. Grain orientation is all the same, so all parts should grow/shrink together. I'd also use a face frame to add rigidity. If appropriate ply is avalable and looks good to you, it would be simpler to use for the case and shelves, and the face frame will cover the edges.

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There is an extremely good design and plans for a bookshelf in The Anarchist's Design Book. All boarded construction. I'm going to make one pretty soon.

The design is based off of pieces that lasted hundreds of years. If nothing else, I recommend the book pretty highly. I have drank the Christopher Schwarz cool-aid though.

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