Thursday, August 11, 2016

Stuff I've made: Book House

I've been meaning to go back and document some of the things I've made prior to starting this blog. Of course life intervenes and I don't get around to it. But last week my baby girl daughter told me that she was done with something I made a long time ago, and I decided I needed to document it somewhere lest it disappear forever.

I'm pretty sure this was made late 2002 early 2003 as it was made in preparation for the birth of my daughter (might have finished after her birth.) Still as I look at this piece for one last time, I can't help but think of that time when I thought I would never have a complete enough shop. 


Pretty much stolen a reproduction from a Crate & Barrel or Pottery Barn catalog of the era. I do recall changing up some of the dimensions to either maximize 1X12 material usage (I probably had a spreadsheet formula) or to better fit books. I think it still looks classic, although only as I've went to move it have I noticed that it being >48" in two directions makes it a pain to fit in most vehicles


The project was made with pretty basic materials:
  • Painted 1X12 #2 pine from Menard's, chosen because: A) Home Depot hadn't come to town. and B) Lowes only sold "select" (read $) grade 1X12's. 
  • The back is 1/4" hardboard (!) which was pretty neat at the time because I was able to use some of the material to make a dado jig without additional project cost.


  • Most of the joinery is nails, not the fancy good ol' cut nails either, the bad reputation 4d wire finish nails. Still it's held up just fine.
  • It has a rabbet for the back, routed with my then brand spanking new Milwaukee body grip router (probably it's first use). 
  • The shelves were narrower than the complete 1X12 (to allow for the rabbet), so I had to rip & crosscut on my then new Grizzly cabinet saw. At the time, those 2 items, plus a 1" Stanley carpenter chisel and a Stanley coping saw probably made up my entire kit, (oh yes, also a B&D 1/4 palm sander, which has since died) I bought that cabinet saw after agonizing between Table or Band saw first after a very personally influential FWW article of the day.
  • The top is nailed on (a poor choice as I've found in moving it around over the years), yet it is has angled dovetails at the apex, which shows that even back then I often took on joinery that was beyond my capability. I really don't remember how I pulled this off at the time, but it actually looks pretty good and I don't see major gaps, though it has been painted a couple times.
Looking back at this project takes me back to a time when materials and tools were often limiting factors, but fewer family obligations. Even more than the memories I have from this build, are the countless hours I subsequently spent with my little girl picking books from it's shelves and reading together; watching those books go from board books to Dr. Seuss to Judy Blume and now beyond to thicker books without pictures.

If you know my little girl, you know of her love for books, we've certainly gotten our use from this item and it seems fair to allow her to move on to a Teen style (sigh.) Still, it was with a bit of sadness that I tried to figure out what to do with it. Put it away somewhere? (not a lot of storage space) Put it on craigslist? Bonfire? My daughter suggested we offer it to a cousin who has a toddler daughter. I tentatively sent a text and was overjoyed when I immediately got a positive response, they were just talking about getting one like it. It's in good hands.

More than just the things made, we make memories. Never forget that.


  1. It's always interesting seeing where we came from to better understand how we got here. Once I finally finish my current project, I think I may compare it to my first attempt at furniture building.

    1. That sounds like a good idea. I can't wait to see what you are up to.

  2. Sniff 'tear in my eyes' Hard to see baby girl grow up. But a fine young woman she will be. She has a great role model in her dad.

  3. What a great looking book house.
    I like the idea of passing it on to someone who need it more than selling it. The good thing about little girls is that they all seem to fancy pink and princess' stuff.