The Last Bookcase?   Leave a comment

MrsMowry asked me to build a couple of bookcases for her new classroom (!). I was happy to oblige. It did make me wonder, though … how much longer will bookcases be something woodworkers build?

A pair of bookcases was my very first DIY project, back before “DIY” had entered the lexicon. Velda and I had set up our first apartment in Newhall, CA, while I went to grad school … and we were awash in albums (remember those?) and books. It was 1978.

I bought some pine and a sheet of 1/4″ ply – plus a Skil Saw and a carpenter’s square – and built 2 bookcases. Shelves were held in place with 1″ x 2″ cleats and 6 penny nails. Simple, clunky but effective. One bookcase was 3′ x 4′; the other was 4′ x 5′. Even then, I knew how to design a project to use all of a 4’x8′ sheet of ply.

The bookshelves moved with us to our first house, but didn’t make it to our second house. We demanded better … and bought them. I wasn’t really a woodworker back then.

My skill set – and my tools – have improved since that first set of bookcases. For MrsMowry’s commission, I used dadoes for the shelf joints, with the plywood screwed & glued into place. The edges got 1/2″ red oak trim, which was glued and then secured in place with my nail gun. My, how the times have changed.

Prior to this project, I had only made one bookcase since 1978. That got me to thinking. Will I ever build another one?

Woodworking projects, you see, reflect the times that the project lives in. Woodworkers used to make pie safes. CD Racks. Bread boxes. Today, not so much.

English teachers in junior high classrooms still need bookcases, apparently. But I wonder … for how much longer?


Posted August 23, 2014 by henrymowry in Woodworking

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