Low bookshelf

I built this low bookshelf for a friend's sister. The bookshelf went into a room that was also used to practice dance routines in. So one of the design criteria was that it should be OK to bump or crash into this shelf.

So I made the shelf sturdy enough to survive getting crashed into. I also rounded the corners so that, hopefully, any crashing into this shelf would not cause undue injury.

I joined the boards with pieces of 3/4" dowel. I used my horizontal boring jig to drill the dowel holes into the ends of the shelves. I built this shelf back in 2006, in my old workshop, long before I built my horizontal boring machine. Note how the workpiece is clamped to my workbench. Drilling holes in end-grain with a forstner bit takes a lot of force, so securing the work piece is important.

Getting the dowels to all line up is a matter of marking carefully, best done with a marking gauge. The back edges of all the boards end up flush with each other against the wall in the assembled shelf. I set my gauge to mark the right distance from the back edge for one of the dowel positions, then marked both ends of both shelves and the sides for the first dowel position. Then I set it for the other dowel positions and repeated.

I put a faint pencil line on the sides of the shelves so I could see where to put the marks. I didn't have to be as careful when I marked the actual dowel positions because the 3/4" holes drilled away any marks near the hole center.

Here's all the boards, drilled, prior to gluing. I drilled all the holes except for the ones in the top of the sides before starting assembly.

I first glued the sides and lower shelves together, then clamped the top of the shelf onto what I had assembled and drilled holes through the top of the shelf and into the upright. That way, I could be sure that the holes for the top piece aligned with those in the side pieces perfectly. This photo shows a dry fit (before drilling the holes in the tops of the vertical side pieces)

I didn't add any diagonal bracing to the sides. I figured with 18 3/4" dowels holding the corners together, that should give the shelf plenty of sturdiness against side loads from somebody bumping or crashing into the shelf. All 18 dowel joints would have to break before the shelf could tip sideways. Certainly, the glued together shelf felt very rigid.

I have drawn up some plans for this low bookshelf

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