Bookshelves: Episode 1

Bookshelf 1

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In this episode, Paul walks us through the selection, cutting and planing of stock. He then marks out and chops the stopped housing dado joints on the top piece of the bookshelves using a few different techniques.

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  1. undergroundhunter on 29 January 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Thanks Guys.

  2. Eddy Flynn on 29 January 2014 at 5:26 pm

    i wish i had enough head hight to put a six foot length of timber on my bench top but i’m sure i’ll find a way round it, it will probably be spring/summer when i catch up enough to start this project so i can set a bench up in the garden, where there’s a will there’s a way thanks team

    • rusty on 30 January 2014 at 2:38 pm

      I will save you the trouble.
      Paul only makes a small mark. So if you lay the board on its side and marked from the very end of the board you are obtaining the same thickness.

    • D.J. King on 31 January 2014 at 6:13 pm

      Eddy, another approach might be to mill your shelf to final thickness before cutting it to final length, then crosscut it to final length. This way you might use the properly thicknessed off-cut to mark the housing dado. I’ve used this technique to good effect in my small shop. Like a shop with limited tools, small shops have their own unique challenges. This is why I am so impressed with the ingenuity of woodworkers and make so many comments about being innovative problem-solvers. Good luck.

      • Eddy Flynn on 31 January 2014 at 6:23 pm

        thanks i’ll give it a go

        • Paul Sellers on 4 February 2014 at 9:13 am

          Cut a hole in the ceiling, Eddy?

          • SharpPencil on 16 September 2014 at 11:34 pm

            I am in the enviable position and have the good fortune to buy TWO 10″ wide jaws that open to 12″ on eBay for 99p !!!
            These, fitted to my new 9″ x 3″ bench top timbers are superb, both quick release and one with a bench dog. At 7′-0″ centres.

            I do appreciate my good fortune and really enjoy practising Paul’s teachings.

            Thank you Paul and team

  3. STEVE MASSIE on 29 January 2014 at 5:50 pm

    Thanks Paul and staff, this is going to be another enjoyable build project as I am in dire need of some book cases.


  4. david o'sullivan on 30 January 2014 at 1:36 am

    i definitely want to attempt this project as i have books all over the house. the one aspect of this project that keeps coming to mind is the clamping especially to do a dry fit and glue up .i presume with housing dados on top there will be clamping pressure needed .which if i am thinking correctly will need 6′ clamps .which i don’t have .maybe the top is secured with screws and the clamping pressure comes from the sides .what do ye think ladies and gentleman ?

    • D.J. King on 31 January 2014 at 2:58 pm

      If faced with this challenge I would rough clamp it from side to side, stand the bookcase vertically, place heavy weights (such as bricks, cinder blocks, books or physical training weights to apply downward pressure on the top. Finally, I would adjust the horizontal clamps to perfection. This is naturally, just one approach. I hope it helps.

      • Dave on 31 January 2014 at 6:42 pm

        Depending on your situation, pipe clamps would be my choice. You can make them any length you want. Personally having long lengths a seldomly used pipe laying around would be an issue given my space constraint. I would simply clamp the shelving, then clamp the bottom and top using cawls on the nearest shelf (clamp on both front and back). Double checking the entire book shelf for square throughout the assembly process. It is very easy to clamp projects this size out of square.

    • Greg Merritt on 31 January 2014 at 4:50 pm

      David…I beat Paul installs the intermediate shelves first and then clamps the top on later. Then your clamp just has to span from the top most intermediate shelf to the top.
      Approximately 14-16″. At least that is how I would do it.

      • D.J. King on 31 January 2014 at 6:05 pm

        Great approach Greg. I hadn’t thought of that. That sort of innovative, out-of-the-box thinking and problem solving is part of what makes for a great woodworker.

    • Paul Sellers on 4 February 2014 at 9:16 am

      If the dadoes are tight, and that’s the trick, you can tap the top in place and leave to dry. Alternatively you can clamp from the underside of the next shelf down. The third option is to glue and screw the top in place and then plug the holes. That’s my preference.

  5. Anonymous on 30 January 2014 at 2:40 am

    Lovely, my wife wants two.

  6. emilio.remogna on 30 January 2014 at 11:41 am

    Wonderful and useful project. Thank you.

  7. rusty on 30 January 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Paul & team,
    I was skeptical of how this project was going to advance our skills. But just watching the first episode I can see why it was selected. Watching you navigate and work larger components has already proven that this project is useful. Plus I like the design with supports for each shelf. I can see how the glue up of the wider board removed knots from the project, originally I thought it was just a funny looking board and majestically clear and I figured you had some serious connections to get a pine board like that with a wild face grain.
    Thank you

  8. Jason on 30 January 2014 at 4:53 pm

    I’m looking forward to making this project. How many episodes (weeks) do you anticipate it will take?


  9. JASON ROGERS on 31 January 2014 at 1:11 pm

    This looks like a great project. I’m thinking about cutting the height down and making it a wall mounted cabinet for the shop.

    Thanks Paul and team for all that you do.

  10. D.J. King on 31 January 2014 at 5:49 pm

    I noticed that when Paul marks for the 2nd wall of the housing dado, he offers the top/shelf to the side, creates just one small witness mark, then squares a line from that mark. He must find this more accurate than attempting to mark the entire edge as I was taught and would have done. I’ve always found marking the entire length to be problematic in holding it steadily and accurately in place, but Paul’s method overcomes this. At first I feared that his method would allow inconsistencies in the shelf thickness to cause gaps along the shoulder of the housing dado, but once again Paul shows us that he accounts for that by telling us that hey purposely cuts the housing dado a hair right. By erring on the tight side when cutting the housing dado and planning to tweak the shelf thickness during final fitting, these gaps wouldn’t occur. I mention this merely because thinking this through for myself exposed some of the things that make Paul such an amazing craftsman that were not apparent to me at first blush. Since woodworking requires a great deal of problem solving I thought walking through my thought process and pointing out some of the revaluations I had about Paul’s masteryful approach might benefit some in the group. I’m continuously and consistently astounded by Paul’s methods and by the fact that they are so well proofed through his half century of experience. Every time I suspect I’ve seen a better way, contemplating Paul’s methods proves me wrong and reveals that his method doesn’t have the shortcoming I might have initially suspected. When will I learn not to second guess him or compare his methods to others I’ve learned from? It’s clear that invariably has a superior method to what I already know. I should know that by now. Bravo air for repeatedly wowing me with your craftsmanship and your supremely effective methods! Has anyone else had this experience?

    • Scott on 5 February 2014 at 8:49 pm


      I am new to the term “witness mark”. I like that.

      These days we are often told that there are “many ways of doing something”. When that mantra is ingrained in us, I think we begin to freely question and/or disregard methods – sometimes even before we try! I bet a rigorous apprenticeship training would never allow for such liberties. I feel there should be an expectation to practice in the manner we are taught until we have mastered a skill…

  11. D.J. King on 31 January 2014 at 6:00 pm

    I hope despite my several spelling mistakes my point is well taken. Bravo Sir!

  12. Eddy Flynn on 31 January 2014 at 6:22 pm

    @xjumper65 thankfully a lot of the members are from all over the world so no one picks up on spelling aren’t i glad 🙂

  13. hayes on 1 February 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Paul & Team,

    Thanks for another great video. One question regarding stock prep…the top board looks like it had some twist, on video it appeared to be rocking at the corners. I would be I interested in your thoughts on how much you worry about twist, and how much twist is “acceptable” to maintain the integrity of the joinery? Thanks.

    • Paul Sellers on 4 February 2014 at 9:25 am

      This a good question and I am glad that you asked it. The top was not actually twisted but does look so; sometimes this is camera lens warp. In a case project like this, a single twisted board is unlikely to affect the mass of others. However, several twisted boards will have a negative affect and can indeed twist the whole of the project.

  14. Sandy on 3 February 2014 at 3:30 am

    Great timing with this project. I need a bookshelf and so does my sister… I’ll have to make two if I want one. You know how that is.. Housing dado is just like the clock only bigger. Thanks for the lesson!

  15. Scott on 5 February 2014 at 8:54 pm

    When should we use an shooting board versus squaring the end in the vise? Performing this operating in the vise always feels more comfortable for me, but the shooting board seems a bit more fool-proof.

    • Paul Sellers on 28 February 2014 at 7:35 pm

      The shooting board does remove the risk and guarantees squareness but it’s also slower and removes the development of skill that would make you very fast.

  16. adrian on 5 February 2014 at 10:49 pm

    Thanks again, Paul, your method of removing the bulk of material in the housing dado was a great lesson for me. I came from the machine world of making dado’s and always had that nagging worry of proper fit at the end along with wasted material and time in test cuts.
    I am now sure that this method of hand cutting is dead on accurate, simple and relatively quick.
    Also a heck of a lot quieter too.

  17. Carlos J. Collazo on 27 March 2014 at 6:32 am

    I thought I heard Paul said the wide board was glued. when looking at the end grain. Is it common practice to do this? To create wide boards? it did look like they turned the board over, if you look at the grain, and glued it.

  18. Dave on 27 March 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Carlos, yes this a common approach to making wide panels from narrow boards. Think table tops, desks etc. Common recommendations is to alternate the orientation of the growth rings up and down, apparently to reduce cupping.

    The next stage in mastering hand tools is edge joining boards to get a perfect glue line :). Have fun with this one!

  19. D.J. King on 18 August 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Another great way of holding long stock for edge planing when you do not have a tail vise is to clamp a wooden hand screw oriented horizontally to the faces of the board. If you do this even with the top of the bench you can then clamp the hand screw to the table top and stabilize the back end of the board. I find this particularly useful because I do not have a tail vise and my bench sits along the wall. Lacking a tail vise I can’t use the aluminum bar clamp the way Paul does and since my bench is up against the wall I can’t simply clamp to the backside of the bench. Use a piece of shelf liner or glue fine sandpaper to the inside of the jaw faces to achieve the best grip with the hand screw. One other tip I would offer for those installing new front vices is to take the time to make it so the non-movable jaw is recessed into an even with the front edge of the bench taking the wooden jaw thickness into account. I have done this and it has served me well because it prevents me from having to add spacers at the far end of the bench between the workpiece and the front edge of the bench when edge planing.

  20. bit101 on 28 August 2014 at 7:08 pm

    I think this may be my next project. I’ll keep it simple, as I just need a set of shelves for my shop. Feeling pretty confident with my skills at this point that I could probably just bang this out, but I’ll watch the rest of the videos and I’m sure I’ll pick up some good tips.

  21. dancbarber on 8 August 2015 at 5:08 am

    What size saw was Paul using at the beginning in his first crosscut? I am looking for one that size as the 26″ in just too large for me. Thanks!

  22. tmpt on 27 October 2015 at 8:25 pm

    At the 15:32 mark in the video, while Paul is clamping the clamp into the end vise, there is a mahogany colored, “S” or ogee shaped wooden item with a small handle. What is that???

    • lutejones on 27 October 2015 at 9:00 pm

      Hey Tim,
      I think It is a wooden router plane, also called Old Woman’s Tooth

  23. Betzalel on 20 May 2017 at 10:32 pm

    Hi Paul,
    a. do you ever use a handsaw for the side of the dados?
    b.the board you are working on here has two pieces glued together, the cheap pine boards I can find around here are several 7-10cm pieces glued together. Will that be a bad idea for me to try this project?

    • Philip Adams on 26 May 2017 at 1:01 pm

      a) Paul would sometime use a tenon saw to cut a housing, but generally for less fine projects. If you cut the housing dado with a saw, you would need to chisel the walls to get a clean cut.

      b) Laminated boards should work well for this project. No issues there.

  24. rchrismon on 26 August 2017 at 4:58 am

    Under what circumstances would one use a sliding dovetail rather than a dado? Is a stopped sliding dovetail more difficult than a full-width dovetail?

    Planning on building this for my mother. If I don’t get it exactly right, I’ll hear about it until the end of time!


  25. Charles Matteson on 15 January 2018 at 5:14 pm

    Is there a page of the cut list or final dimensions? I can’t find the distance of the offset for the top of the shelf housing dado.

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