Posts Tagged With: Arts & Crafts Bookcase

Arts & Crafts Bookcase – Another Option

I’m playing with some different ideas for the final details on the Mission-ish bookcase.  I think the basic bookcase with the Greene & Greene stained glass panels I posted earlier has a lot of merit.  Even without any inlay the glass will add a lot of “zing”.

I wanted to try something more traditionally “mission”.  This version has basic leaded divided panels in the doors, and a original Ellis inlay design.  It would be more subtle.

Bookcase with "Mission" glass and inlay

Bookcase with “Mission” glass and inlay

The inlay design I’m using is out of Bob Lang’s “Craftsman Inlay Designs” book — which is out of print, but all the same designs are in his “Great Book of Shop Drawings for Craftsman Furniture“.  This design is intended for a table leg, so I cut off the bottom extension to make it fit in the smaller horizontal space.  I could add some more elements to better fill the horizontal space, I might also play with different designs.  My cad software isn’t doing a good job rendering this design, there are some visual glitches, it’s supposed to be pewter and copper

Closeup of the inlay design

Closeup of the inlay design

I’m going to keep playing with different design ideas, but I’m holding off on doing a full layout of most of these in CAD for now as that will be a giant time sink.  If I decide to go with the design from the Earl C. Anthony house for the glass it will be faster to print out the original photos to scale and use that as a guide to draw out the pattern for the glass.


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Arts & Crafts Bookcase – Idea for Stained Glass

I spent several hours over the past couple of days trolling through the Greene & Greene Virtual Archives, mostly exploring but also looking for inspiration for the stained glass and inlay for this “Mission-ish” bookcase I’m designing.  I found some interesting bits in the files for the Earl C. Anthony house, including some drawings for various stained glass panels.  I’ve adapted one to work in the doors on the cabinet.

This is just a crop-and-paste of the original image, the horizontal ribbons need to be places at the location where the shelves are, and I have to do all of the fussy detail layout for the glass cuts.  At least if I want to do full scale patterns in SolidWorks.

I think this has possibilities.  I’ll probably do a simple mockup of one or two other ideas I have before investing a lot of time in the CAD layout.

Bookcase with one Greene & Greene-designed stained glass.

Bookcase with one Greene & Greene-designed stained glass.

I also thought about adapting the design for the curtain pattern from the same house for the inlay, this is the pattern from the archives:

Charles Greene's design for the fabric for the curtains for the Anthony house, maybe this could be done as an inlay in the backsplash?

Charles Greene’s design for the fabric for the curtains for the Anthony house, maybe this could be done as an inlay in the backsplash?

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Pondering Details – or Outlay for Inlay

Last weekend I worked through most of the design for an Arts & Crafts bookcase, to the point where  I’m pretty comfortable with the scale, style and proportions.  I think the joinery is going to be rock solid.  I have some concerns about getting the sliding dovetail to work properly, and about getting clean through mortises, but otherwise the construction is relatively straightforward.

What’s missing?  Aside from some spectacular and unusually wide Quartersawn White Oak planks, I need to sort out the accents that will make this piece “pop”.  I want to have inlay on the back splashes (at least) and a subtle but coordinated stained glass design for the doors.

Most craftsman furniture had relatively simple, abstract geometric inlay designs.  My understanding is that these are generally attributed to Harvey Ellis.  There is even a place (Mission Furnishings) that reproduces these designs in veneer sheets to glue down to a substrate.

There cabinet doors with veneered "inlay" (marquetry, really) panels

There cabinet doors with veneered “inlay” (marquetry, really) panels

Many of these designs were vertically oriented, fitting onto door stiles, table legs or chair slats.  That’s a small conundrum, as the area I want to decorate is horizontal.  There are a couple of “textbook” Ellis designs for horizontal areas, like this one:

Original Ellis' design

Original Ellis design

And others that could certainly be adapted.  The veneered panel seems like a simple approach, especially if I could click on a web page and have a canned design delivered that I just need to glue down — but it’s not as satisfying.  I also want a design that will coordinate with whatever I do in the stained glass for the doors.  I also know that I’ll  be dying this piece, and the idea of masking the inlay to keep it from getting colored isn’t a satisfying feeling.  I can just see the dye leaching under the masking stencil and ruining the inlay.  Ick.

Another Ellis design

Another Ellis design

There is another factor, which is that a lot of Greene & Greene furniture had delicate inlay designs using wood, shell and metal, and I want to learn how to do that myself.  I’ve been greedily gathering videos, images and articles for a while, and I’m eager to try this out.  William Ng has taught a class on G&G Inlay in the past, but I don’t see it on his 2015 schedule (rats!).

Detail of inlay drawing from the Thorsen house

Detail of inlay drawing from the Thorsen house

Some of the G&G inlay was silver wire and shell and relatively simple design, like on this table and chair from the blacker house.  The weaving vine and petals on the leg are obvious (if not completely clear), but you will need to look closer to see the matching detail on the table top.  In fact, I want to make this exact table as a practice project to learn inlay. (I wonder if my wife will let me get away with that before the bookcase?)

One example of G&G inlay

One example of G&G inlay

Other Greene & Greene inlay was significantly more complex, like this example from a desk done for the Pratt house in Ojai, Ca.  The tree was inlaid in different species of wood, left proud of the surface and carved.  I love the organic feel and the Japanese influence of the design.

Detail of an inlaid desk done for the Pratt house

Detail of an inlaid desk done for the Pratt house

My understanding of the process is the the individual pieces are cut out and then either singly or as a unit scribed onto the surface which is then excavated with a tiny router bit and chisels.  The inlay is then glue into place, and either sanded flush or textured.  Obviously any dying would have to be done before wood was inlaid, although metal and shell could be done before dying.

I found a video that demonstrated the process of doing a flush inlay nicely.  I’m definitely going to buy a tiny router base for my Foredom tool and give this a try soon.

I still don’t have a handle on the inlay design to use on the bookcase, but I’m staring at lots of stained glass and inlay designs (and pottery, tile and textile patterns) looking for inspiration.  Once I get a better bead on where I’m headed I’ll add some designs to my CAD model and see how it feels.  For now I’m going to watch that video again…



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Designing an Arts & Crafts Bookcase IV

So, where was I?  That’s right, trying to sort out the details on the joinery on the Craftsman-styled bookcase I’m designing.

I had the overall structure together, and I’d just shortened the through-tenons.  Originally the tenons we about two inches narrower than the bookcase was wide, so they nearly cut the case sides in half.  That would have been an unfortunate moment in the shop when I realized that, right?

So I changed the single wide tenons into two narrower tenons, and that took care of that.  But I still had the niggling concern about the overall strength where the wide pods joined the main unit, and to a lesser extent the strength of the center unit.  Except for the through tenons, the other shelf-to-sidejoinery was just short stub tenons.  And in they configuration, most of the glue area is long grain to end grain, not ideal.  So here is where we left off:

Previous version of the Bookcase

Previous version of the Bookcase

My concern is that there isn’t enough structure to keep the side pods from pulling out of the center unit, the only thing keeping it there are the 3/8″ long stub tenons on the ends of the shelves, back splash and toe kick.  The solution, I think, is to put some mechanical strength into that joint.  The best way I can think of is to substitute a sliding dovetail joint for the stub tenons.

The decision to add this joint gives me loads more confidence in the structure of the design, but it also sets off a small panic attack because it’s not at all forgiving in terms of fit.  If it’s too tight it won’t go together — or worse will seize up during assembly.  If it’s too loose it won’t have the strength it needs.  There can be a lot more slop in a hidden tenon.

So the first thing I did was go look at how people make this joint.  It could be done with hand tools, but I doubt I’ll do it that way.  So the more common approach is to use a dovetail bit in a router to cut the slot and shape the flared tenon.  I looked at bit sizes and found a Whiteside bit that will make a large enough cavity without having to re-set the alignment to cut the groove wider.  When I do this, I’ll remove the bulk of the waste with a straight 5/8″ bit in several passes.  Then I’ll use the dovetail bit just to cut the walls and a shaving off of the floor of the groove.  I drew up a diagram of the joint in 2D to check out the router bit geometry and make sure it will work as I hope.

Mockup of the sliding dovetail joint I'm using

Mockup of the sliding dovetail joint I’m using

Once I’d figured out the process (at least the theory of the process) and finished talking myself into this change I updated the CAD model.  I removed the stub tenons on the two middle shelves in the sides and in the center unit, and added the dovetail.  I added the dovetail slot in the case sides and fixed up the model as necessary.  The top and bottom shelves on the side pods still have through twin tenons on one end and stub tenons on the other end.  I could change those to sliding dovetails too, but I don’t think it’s necessary structurally, and the setup would be slightly different because of the stopped rabbet for the back.  I might still change those, I’ve been know to reverse myself on occasion.

This is the view of the back of the unit, with the ship-lapped back removed.

Back of modified case showing sliding dovetails for the middle shelves.

Back of modified case showing sliding dovetails for the middle shelves.

There are a couple of other “tweaks” to the design too.

The top profile on the back splashes now has an elliptical arc, I think this is a nice improvement.  Ralph (Accidental Woodworker) nudged me in this direction.  It was something I wanted to try, and I’m glad for the shove.  It sorta wakes things up.

The doors are different now too.  I made the stiles and top rail wider by a quarter of an inch, and the bottom rail wider by a full inch.  I think the wider bottom rail is an improvement.  I added hinges and pulls – although I just made these pulls up, I don’t think you can buy them.  I’ll almost certainly having something similar but different (and commercially available).

Version 3 of the Bookcase

Version 3 of the bookcase design

The arc in the top of the back splashes looks more subtle than it is in this view.  In a straight-on view is more apparent I think.  Aesthetically, I don’t think I’m missing anything by omitting the through-tenons on the middle shelves.  I’m feeling pretty good about the overall visual impact and about the structural integrity of the unit.  I don’t think I have any problematic wood movement issues, and except for the sliding dovetails there isn’t anything too concerning in the construction.  The through tenons worry me a bit I guess, that might be fussy.

What’s left in the design?  A few details, mostly.  I want to add pins through the edge of the case sides to lock in the through tenons.  I want to try adding ebony pegs to the doors at the joints.  I want to play with adding  an inlaid design in copper and pewter to the back splashes.  And I need to design the stained glass panels for the doors.  Finally, I need to develop a set of plans that I can take out to the shop too – but that fairly simple since I have the whole think in 3D CAD, it’s just plunking parts on pages and organizing the dimension callouts.

Version 3 of the bookcase, front view, looking down

Version 3 of the bookcase, front view, looking down

Closeup showing door pull

Closeup showing door pull


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Designing an Arts & Crafts Bookcase III

First, thanks to folks that pointed out potential issues with the previous version of the bookcase design.  The key concern so far was around the length of the through tenons.    While I’ve seen other cases built this way, I can see it seriously weakening the case sides.  So, here is the previous version for comparison first:

First complete version of the bookcase, with long through tenons

First complete version of the bookcase, with long through tenons

I decided to make some changes to address this.  First all of the through tenons were made into split tenons.  3″ wide on the main case and 2.5″ wide on the side pods.  Between the twin tenons is a 3/8″ long stub tenon that fits into a groove in the case sides.

Twin through tenons with a stub tenon and shallow dado

Twin through tenons with a stub tenon and shallow dado

On the opposite side of the through tenons there is just a wide stub tenon and matching dado in the inner case side.  This means less of the sides is removed for the joinery.  I’m on the fence about whether 3/8″ is long enough for the stub tenon on the sides without a though tenon.  Maybe that should be a half inch or even 5/8″?  It’s a balance I guess, between glue surface and side strength.  My gut feel is to increase in on the inner sides to a half inch.

3/8" stub tenons join to the inner case sides.  The same from the long shelves into the sides.

3/8″ stub tenons join to the inner case sides. The same from the long shelves into the sides.

I also made the back splashes taller, I like that better than the shorter version.  And I removed the through tenons on those parts.  I don’t think it added anything visually, and it’s one less visible joint that could show problems.

So, here is the second version.  It’s better I think.  The back splashes might be a tiny bit too tall, but I could go either way.  I’m concerned about the strength of the stub tenons into the case sides — in particular the short side shelves into the center case sides.  There isn’t much glue area there, and it’s mostly end grain on one side of the joint.  I might need to think about that a little more.  I could make it deeper, maybe with twin tenons that went quite deep into the sides.  I could thing about a sliding dovetail joint (but that seems like it would really complicate matters).  I’m open to suggestions on that joint.  Pocket screws? (kidding).

The more I think about it, the more I’m convincing myself that I should change the joinery once more.  Through tenons on the top and bottom shelves, and sliding dovetails on the middle two shelves in each unit.  That will lock the units together mechanically and there won’t be any reliance on glue strength for the overall structural integrity of the piece.

Version 2 of the Bookcase, with improved joinery and some small refinements

Version 2 of the Bookcase, with improved joinery and some small refinements

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Designing an Arts & Crafts Bookcase II

A couple of days ago I start working on designing a bookcase for for the guest room in our house.  I’ve done a couple of other projects for that room and we really just need this bookcase to finish it off.

The design brief looks like this:  The finished bookcase has to be wider than it is tall, roughly five feet wide by maybe three and a half feet tall.  It will be made from Quartersawn White Oak and finished with the same regimen as the cabinet and sconces I made so it matches in color.  The style should tend toward “mission” or “craftsman” within the Arts & Crafts genre.  I’m generally fixated on Greene & Greene these days, but this works too.  For myself I want to incorporate some stained glass work, and it’s important to me that this be more than a rectangle with shelves and mission-y details.

In the previous post I started by laying out a 2D drawing of the rough proportions first, then building up the initial components and assembling them in SolidWorks.  I ran into a couple of problems, neither were insurmountable, but I ran out of time to go through the model and make all of the requisite changes.  I won’t rehash all of the specifics, but the main problems were around how to fit the back and clearance issues with the side pods and not having enough room to fit everything.

I’ve solved both problems.  For the back — for now — I’m going with a solid wood ship-lapped back.  I changed the width of the staves for a little more visual interest.  They will be screwed into a rebate on the back of the case and into each shelf, which should lock everything together reasonably well.

For the side pods I made them deeper by an inch and shortened the length of the mortises, moving them further back from the edges of the case sides.  This gave me (barely) enough room to inset the middle shelves and door.  I also chased down several other “bugs” in the model, so this is probably close enough to reality that I could build it.

Version one of the bookcase

Now that I have the basic “bones” in place I can start playing with the details to develop a better feel for it.  I’ve already tweaked a few things, for example I removed the through tenons on the toe kicks, I decided that didn’t add anything and it felt inconstant to have them on the side pods but not the center unit.  And adding through tenons on the ends of the toe kick on the center unit would be visually messy with the side pods.

I want to play with the height and shape of the backsplash components, explore different options for the case back, add hinges, door pulls and of course figure out the stained glass design for the doors.  I’ve got another several hours of CAD-hackery to go before I’m ready to decide it’s ready for construction — and then the real work begins.

I’m worried about getting the wide Quaretrsawn White Oak for the project though.  Usually when I see this material it’s in narrower widths.  I can certainly glue up narrow bits to make wider pieces, but for the sides and top shelves at least I really want solid wide boards with some dramatic ray fleck figure.

Realistically I’m at least a week from being able to start on it as I need to finish the Thorsen House Cabinet first.  The woodwork on that cabinet is 99% done, there are just a few details to complete, finishing and making the stained glass for the door.  I’m really eager to see that one come together.

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Designing an Arts & Crafts Bookcase

My wife has been wanting a nice bookcase for the guest room for a long time.  We recently redecorated that room with a wall cabinet, pair of stained glass sconces and a picture frame I made (plus paint), so the bookcase would finish the room off nicely.

Sconces and Cabinet in the guest room

Sconces and Cabinet in the guest room

My first thought was to build the Limbert 355 bookcase.  I like the design, it’s got a unique style and would hold a fair number of books.  The Limbert 356 was the same basic design, but with two doors.  This would be fun to make, but it was a no-sale with the wife.  She wanted something shorter and wider.  Maybe five feet wide or so, and three to four feet tall.

Limbert 355 Bookcase

Limbert 355 Bookcase

I looked through all of my books and googled for images and plans to no avail.  There were a couple of interesting hits, like this one by Kevin Rodel.  I like this one a lot, but I don’t think I could pull off the inlay.  I know I’ll be making this in quartered white oak and dying it to match the other furniture I built for the room, so that would make the inlay dicey anyway.  But it was a no-sale too — apparently we need to see the books in the bookcase.

Cabinet by Kevin Rodel.

Cabinet by Kevin Rodel.

I did find one design my wife liked, although it doesn’t really work for me.  It’s OK, just not enough visual excitement.  It looks too close to some inexpensive plywood bookcases we want to get rid of.

Wide mission-style bookcase I found on Pinterest -- without any attribution.

Wide mission-style bookcase I found on Pinterest — without any attribution.

So I fired up my copy of SolidWorks and started doodling.  I had an idea for a larger central unit flanked by two smaller bookcases that were shorter, narrower and set back from the main unit.  I’m imagining the side units having doors with stained glass panels, and the middle unit being open to show off the best looking books.  The top of each section would have short sides and a backsplash like a lot of Stickley serving tables.

I started by blocking out the dimensions / proportions for the front view.  This is just a simple 2D drawing at this point.  I started by drawing a square 60″ wide and 42″ tall.  I added lines to represent the major elements — center unit, side pods, shelves, backsplashes, and a door on one side for comparison.  I tweaked the sizes and played with shapes until I had a sense of where I wanted to go with this.

Rough dimensions and overall proportions being worked out in CAD

Rough dimensions and overall proportions being worked out in CAD

I settled on 42″ tall because I could get three generously tall shelves and a backsplash — and it would fit under the picture that I already hung in the room.  The height for the shorter shelves is just what looked good to me at this stage, it will change as I go.  The way I design I get the big bits in place, then start solving fit/clearance problems.

So I started by modeling the case sides and and central shelves.  SolidWorks (and other 3D CAD programs) generally start by making a 2D drawing that is then “extruded” or otherwise manipulated to make a solid object.  So if I were to draw a 12″ by 12″ 2D square and extrude that sketch 1″ I have a one board foot CAD model.  If instead I rotate it around one side of the square I have a 12″ thick by 24″ diameter hockey puck.  Most furniture is simple rectilinear parts, if I was trying to model a 1940 Ford where everything is changing radius surfaces it would be a much different story.  Modeling this piece is just a process of drawing rectangles and extruding them into solids or extruding cuts into existing solids to make mortises or rabbets.

Step one, I’ve modeled one side and created a mirrored part — this is an incredibly useful feature in SolidWorks.  The two parts are linked, so if I add a dado or move a mortise on the original part the mirrored part stays in sync.  I modeled the shelves, backsplash and toe kick too, all as separate parts.  These individual parts are mated together into an assembly.

The top shelf has 1.375″ long tenons that protrude through the sides, the other shelves have .5″ tenons that fit into blind slots in the sides.  I made the sides 1.125″ thick, and the shelves 1″ thick.

Mockup of the central bookcase unit

Mockup of the central bookcase unit

There are lots of details to play with in the design, but at this stage I’m more focussed on blocking out the main elements.  Should the backsplash be shorter or taller than the sides?  Should it be flat or arched across the top?  It doesn’t matter at this point.  I need to get far enough along to verify the proportions in 3D and verify the fit of all of the parts.

My next step is to model the outer sides and side shelves.  The shelves in the main unit are 29″ wide right now. and I made the shelves in the sides 15″ wide.  I set the depth of the sides at 10″ — that’s two inches shallower than the main unit.  I wanted some set back on this, but as you’ll see this caused a problem as soon as I got a little further along.

I only added the left side pod for now, assuming there will be problems to sort out before I go any further.  You can see the blind mortises for the side shelves in this view on the right side of the model.  I also modeled a door to fit into the left side opening.  This should give me enough information to start troubleshooting the layout.

Bookcase with central unit and the left side pod in place.  The right side pod will be the same, but I don't want to do that until I check the design at this stage.

Bookcase with central unit and the left side pod in place. The right side pod will be the same, but I don’t want to do that until I check the design proportions and fit of the individual parts first.

So what are the problems I need to sort out?

First, the setback on the side makes the toe kick on the side units look too far back.  I think it’s just too severe at two inches of setback.  I’m also concerned about running out of room for books — with the sides at 10″, a rebate for the back of a half inch, an inset door at least .75″ thick (it really wants to be .850″ thick to hold the stained glass with a retaining strip) I’m running out of depth for larger books.

There is another problem with the depth of the sides — making the shelves shorter for the inset door runs into clearance problems with the through tenons in the side.  It just barely works at this stage, meaning the front edge of the through tendon is still 1/8″ set back from the front edge of the shelf.

But if I zoom in to look at the fit of the door — with the door tight against the shelves — let’s see what we have.  This is looking up from ground level at the lower left side of the case.  You can see that the door is sticking out in front of the lower shelf.  On the side pods I want the top and bottom shelves to be set back from the sides by about .25″, with a tiny radius on the case sides.  I want the door set back maybe 1/8″ to 1/4″ from the edge of those shelves.  So, something here has to change, because this actually doesn’t work!

There is also something wrong with the height of the toe kick, or at least the positioning of the toe kick on the left pod.  I’ll need to investigate that.  It should end at the floor level, but it short by maybe a quarter of an inch.

The door doesn't quite fit...

The door doesn’t quite fit…

My approach to fixing the problems so far is fairly obvious.  I’m going to make the case sides wider, probably going from 10″ to 11″ – which will still give me a full inch of set back.  I’m also going to shorten the length of the through mortises in the sides.  Right now they are set at 1″ from the front and back of the case sides, I’ll change them all to 1.5″.  That means editing the models for the sides and all of the shelves to adjust the tenons to match.  Not a huge deal, but this is exactly why I didn’t want to get too far ahead of myself.

I’ll also make the door thicker, and leave some clearance between the interior shelves and the inside of the door – at least 3/8″.

There is another problem to sort out at this stage: the back.

What I’ve used for most cabinets I’ve made in the last year or so is a ship lapped back.  I like being able to finish the back and case separately, and I like the visual interest from the grooves between the individual boards.  When there are fixed shelves it also means I can screw through the back into the shelf to support the shelf and help keep the case from racking.  I also prefer a solid wood back over thin plywood.  If I’m building a plywood cabinet then that’s the natural choice for the back, but in a solid wood cabinet…

That meant that my starting position was a ship lapped back.  I modeled rabbits into the back edges of the case sides and top and bottom shelves, but let’s take a look at the back of the unit at this stage.

I see a problem with the back here, how am I going to fit the back so that it's attractive and strong?

I see a problem with the back here, how am I going to fit the back so that it’s attractive and strong?

The red areas are the rabbets I have in the model at this point.  From experience I know I need about 1/2″ of width to attach the back to the case with screws.  With the case sides at 1.125″ thick, if I put a 1/2″ wide rabbet in for the back on the side pod I’ve got a 1/8″ of waste left.  Of course I could just completely cut away the back of the tall sides at that point.  I’m also concerned about where the gap between the slats will end up, I don’t want a gap between slats right next to the side.  And I don’t want a slat that spans the tall case side because then it has to have a dog leg cut at the end.

I think I can calculate the slat sizes properly so that they end up just right though.

Another option for the back would be to make a frame and panel back.  The downside with that is I’ll need to make the rabbets a bit deeper, probably 3/4″ for the frame.  I’d want cross bars in the frame where the shelves so I can screw the back to the shelves, because the panels will be set back from the face of the frame.  I’m not sure what I’d use for the panels if I went with tis approach.  Plywood would be the simplest, and I could glue it into the slots in the frame without worrying about wood movement — that would make for a pretty strong back.  But I would lose the ship lapped look.

I think I will work out the first set of problems with the depth and door fitment, and then make two copies of the model.  I’ll add a ship lapped back in one and try a frame and panel back in the other, and see what I prefer.  I’ll post more on this as it develops.


Categories: Design, Uncategorized, Woodworking | Tags: | 6 Comments

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