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Jeffersonian Purity

I received a rather odd request from my wife the other day. No, not that (get your heads out of the gutter); instead, she asked me to build a bookcase. In fact, she asked me to build a “Jefferson Bookcase”. I know what a Jefferson stacked bookcase is because I can recall one being featured in Popular Woodworking magazine, though I can’t ever recall seeing any other real references to a bookcase as “Monticello” or “Jefferson” anywhere but PW magazine. In any event, this is odd to me because my wife rarely asks me to make furniture, and here I have not one, but two requests: a blanket chest and a bookcase, both of which were featured in a woodworking magazine.

A "Jefferson Bookcase" example. This photo was taken from Bing

A “Jefferson Bookcase” example. This photo was taken from Bing

There are two problems with the bookcase request. One is that I am building the blanket chest before I do anything else. We really need it, the materials for the project are less expensive, and it is frankly easier to construct and will take up less space in my garage as I’m building it. The second problem is the simple fact that I don’t like the Jefferson bookcase, at least not the incarnation from the magazine. To my eye it is an odd mix of utilitarian joinery and a frilly base that doesn’t compliment the design. I do like the idea of a tiered bookcase. Bookcases can obviously look boxy and sometimes need ornamentation to liven them up. The tiers can help break up the monotony and visually lighten the appearance of a large box without compromising the storage capacity or stability of the case. More importantly, they don’t need to be overly frilly to make them appealing. However, the only examples I’m finding of this design are more on the modern side of furniture design, and I generally don’t care for modern furniture.

So, if I want to make a tiered bookcase to make my wife happy, and I want the design to appeal to my own sensibilities (which are quite sensible) then I will have to build a bookcase of my own design. Because it is for my living room, it will probably lean towards the Arts and Crafts style. However, if I look through my books and see something in the Shaker style that I can modify then that is the route I will take.

When I build furniture of my own design it usually goes in three stages. The first stage is the rough measurements and drawings, the second stage is the finished drawing/plan, and the third stage is when I change a part of the design after I’ve already started construction. The rough drawings will take longest, usually around a week or so, because I will have to come up with something that will fit in the allocated space without overwhelming it, as well as being based around material that is easy to obtain, I don’t like gluing up boards to width if I can’t help it, so that may mean birch plywood for the outer case.

The good news here is I now have two projects to look forward to in the spring, and because one of them is already measured and planned, I only need to pick up the material to build it. I will also have the opportunity to do some sketching, which is prep work that I enjoy doing. Now I have a little work cut out for myself, and being that it is Winter, and it’s been below freezing for the past few weeks, this is the perfect time for me to get designing.

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