Built-In Bookcase And Mantle Installation

By Robert Robillard on Finish Carpentry

Edge jointing Bookcase parts

Installing the Bookcase Back Panel:

Once I have the carcase assembled I square the case and add a 1/4″ maple plywood back to the bookcase.  The plywood back helps square the case as well as give it strength.  I like to use 3/4″ staples and wood glue to attach the back panel.

Because the bookcase is against the mantle and the TV panel I did not have to worry about the back plywood panel edge showing.  If this was a concern I would have used a dado blade on the table saw to cut a rabbit cut to hide the plywood.

After dealing with the back panel I fill any nail holes and defects that will show and give the bookcase carcase a good sanding.  It’s easier to sand the case at this point prior to installing the face frame.

Making the Face Frame:

I also used the story pole to layout and make the face frame.  All face frame and shelf nosing trim was done with paint grade poplar wood.  I like poplar, its a hard, durable wood, easy to work with and usually has no knots.

Prior to gluing any bookcase components together everything gets a clean and straight edge on the joiner.  Doing this now makes for tighter glue joints and easier sanding of mill glaze later.

One of the most common methods of building a built in bookcase involves using a face frame, which is an assembly of vertical and horizontal wood slats, typically 1×3’s.  The face frame is attached to the front of a plywood case. Using a face frame construction on built-ins is a popular design in older homes and traditional settings.

Installing a bookcase faceframe

I use a biscuit joiner to cut slots in to the face frame for wood biscuits.  A biscuit joiner, also known as a plate joiner is a tool used to join two pieces of wood together.  It uses a 4″ diameter carbide tipped circular blade to cut a crescent shaped slot or hole in two opposing pieces of wood.  A wood biscuit is then inserted in the slot with wood glue and the assembly is clamped.

Wood biscuits are made from compressed beechwood and are often called Wood Plates or Wafers. Wood biscuits are used for edge or corner-jointing. The wood biscuits are fitted into slots usually created with a biscuit joiner. The biscuits add strength to the face frame, especially prior to installing it.  The secret behind using a biscuit is when it comes into  contact with a water based glue it swells and creates a tight locked joint. Once all of the biscuit slots are cut I insert the biscuits and dry fir the face frame prior to gluing and clamping.  A quick check with the story pole ensures that I stay on track.

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About the author

Robert Robillard

Carpenter / Remodeler / Editor

Rob Robillard is “The Concord Carpenter” Rob is a builder, general contractor, carpenter, woodworker, and editor of Concord Carpenter and ToolBoxBuzz As a General Contractor and carpenter, Rob owns and operates Concord Carpenter LLC. A full-service remodeling and construction company. Rob is a recognized leader in home building best practices and a source for how-to information for building professionals. On this website, Rob covers all aspects of home construction, building science, home improvement, woodworking, remodeling, and some of the best product and tool reviews. Rob is in charge of our Tool and Product Review series - Concord Carpenter Videos where we post all of our tool reviews and video tutorials. Rob approaches remodeling and building construction with a pragmatic and problem-solving approach. He enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help and educate building professionals as well as DIYers on best practices in the construction and remodeling industry. He's a strong advocate for "raising the bar" in the construction trades and promoting the trades to youth. #BeAMentor #Green2Great Craftsmanship, quality, and pride guide his journey on this channel The Concord Carpenter's motto: "Well done is better than well said!" : Read more about Rob

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