Anarchist’s Bookcase


I got back to a little woodworking last week.  I built a bookcase from Lost Art Press’s Anarchist’s Design Book (ADB) to go into my son’s dorm room.  It took a fairly big mental hurtle to convert my shop from bathroom-remodeling mode to woodworking mode, which was a good thing.  Because of the tight timeline, I used 1×12 pine from the home center.  That wood is terrible.  It appears that even the “premium” quality boards are poorly dried.  Out of about twelve boards all but two cupped just a day or two after I brought them home.  That put me on the slippery slope which led to power sanding, and then purchasing Bench Cookies (ew).  I used the two boards that stayed flat for the sides, and ended up using cupped boards for the shelves.  That seemed to be ok since the shelves are housed in 1/4-deep dadoes.

I was happy with how the shelves turned out.  I finished the outside of the sides with two coats of General Finishes milk paint (black over red).  Given more time, it could have used one more coat of paint, and some BLO or wax over that.  I would have also liked to wax the shelves, or even burnish them.  I was asked if I could make more of them to stay in the house, which is a good sign.

These felt really sturdy.  After just the glue-up and nailing the sides to the shelves they were very rigid.  They were a little out-of-square and I had planned to square them up before nailing on the back.  But it felt like it would be too big a fight (and I was running out of time.)  Then after nailing the back boards to the sides and shelves the case felt totally rigid.

Here are a few random bits that I might want to remember when I build them again.

  • Used 6d clout nails on the sides and 4d clout nails for the ship-lapped back
  • Put 2 nails in each end of the top rail and kick
  • Did not nail the back boards to the top rail
  • Made the outside back boards full-height, and nailed them on the outside of the sides and shelves, not inset as the plans specify.  This worked well and made the case a little wider than if the back was inset
  • The main glue-up was tough – not sure how much worse because of cupped shelf boards.  Would rather just glue and nail the sides to the shelves all at once, then use clamps to adjust squareness if needed
  • Height open above each shelf was 13″, 11″, and 9″.  This seemed like a good size for use at college.
  • The depth achieved by using 1x12s seemed plenty. The plan in ADB calls for wider boards, but I don’t think I’d want the case that deep.
  • Power sanding is totally gross.  Maybe it’s just that the dust collection on my random-orbit sander is lame.  Regardless, I should shoot for never doing that in the house again
  • My old Jet “lunch box” planer is a rock star.  Turned the cupped 3/4″ boards into 1/2″ back boards and went straight from the planer to plowing the rabbets for ship-lapping, and nailed them onto the case.
  • Need a small crock pot to keep the hide glue warm

About johnjoiner

Computer nerd by day, Dad and woodworker by night. Woodworking blog at
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