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Half Wall Bookcase

Adding A Bookcase To A Half Wall

This is a job that I had worked on this past October. At the time we were renovating this home we removed the carpet in this room and on the 1/2 wall and installed hardwood flooring.  The plan was to install a 27″ high bookcase on this Half Wall Bookcase . Budget delayed the work till now.

The bookcases and brick tile floor in front of the fireplace were removed as well. The floor was filled in and hardwood installed.

Here’s a picture of the demo process. The blue tape on the fireplace was to help visualize a future mantle.

This half wall will receive a bookcase on top. the small return wall at the steps will also receive a bookcase but this section will be open so you can see through.

Half Wall Bookcase Construction

Today we measured for the bookcase. The Oak hardwood floor is barely visible. It was stained to look like walnut.

To lay out this project we used a story pole. A story pole is a length of narrow board, often a rip of 1×2 and cut to a bit larger than the length of the project.

It made for quick, repeatable measurements without the need of otherwise calibrated measuring devices or workers skilled in using them.

All of the important facts and measurements are laid out on the story pole which is a length of narrow board, often a 1×2 usually cut to the length and height of the project. It allows for quick, repeatable and accurate measurements without the need and risk of graduated error from using a tape measure.

Back in the shop we started making our bookcase out of cabinet grade Birch plywood. Because this bookcase is sitting on top of a wall we had to design it with a thicker back panel to help keep it in place and stable.
We use the joint below to join the cabinet frame together. this joint provides strength, a hidden joint and ample surface area for glue.

Building the Face-frame

Using the story pole we laid out and made the face frame for the bookcase. The face frame is designed to drop down and overlap [hide] the top seam of the 1/2 wall.

This face frame is approximately 13′ long.

I used biscuit joints to join the face frame together.

For certain types of woodworking joints such as edge-to-edge joints, miter joints, T-joints and corner joints, biscuit joinery provides a fast, strong and accurate, joint. A special tool is used to cut the slots for the biscuits and is called a a biscuit joiner (or plate joiner).

Below is my biscuit joiner. Sitting on top of the bookcase vertical dividers ready for assembly.

Super Long Top

The top of the bookcase will have a shelf with an overhanging nosing and Scotia molding underneath. Below we are cluing the 3/4″ poplar nosing to the top shelf.

After the glue dries we used a router to make the round over edge on the nosing. Normally /i would do this type of routing on my router table but the shelf top is over 13′ long and difficult to manage.

Half Wall Return Cabinet

Below is the return bookcase that will sit on the wall at the steps. this section will have an open back so you can see through it.

A 3/4″ face frame was applied to the vertical edges and nosing applied to the top – clamps waiting for the glue to dry.

The small, two sided, return bookcase sanded and ready for install.

Checking for fit before gluing the frame and back together. Two of these sections will be joined together to get the 13′ bookcase length we need for the long section of the 1/2 wall.

Building the Large Bookcase

Frame is glued and screwed together, now I’m applying glue to attach a 3/4″ back.

After the back is applied we joined both book cases together and then applied the face frame below.

Face frame applied now the tedious work of filling and sanding.

Bookcase awaiting install, the top shelf / Scotia is not attached. I leave it off because it is easier to scribe to the wall after the cabinet is placed. We then will attach the top on site.

Your looking at the end of the bookcase that will go against the wall. The overlapping wood is necessary to scribe the case to the wall. During layout we discovered that the wall is out of plumb and the 1/2 wall is not level.

The other end of the bookcase has a finished shelf edge and a finished end panel.

See the installation of this bookcase.

A Room Divider

A bookcase used as a room divider can serve several purposes at the same time. This bookcase will most likely be used to display items and photographs versus book.

Before photo: Carpet over a half wall, can you say 1970!

After the carpet was removed.

Today we place the 13 plus foot bookcase on the half wall. The face frame, side and back panels were designed to overlap the top of the half wall to hide the joint.

Scribe to Wall

First order of business is to scribe the side going against the wall. You’ll notice that the face frame is extra long on this side.

That is because when we measured the job we checked the wall for plumb and the wall for level. Both were out a lot so we added extra wood on this side to scribe it tight to the wall.

Shim Level

Once scribed to the wall we trimmed the bottom partitions and shimmed the bookcase as needed to get it level.

The side of the bookcase overlaps the half wall.

The back of the bookcase is 3/4″ birch plywood and was needed for strength. the seam will disappear once painted.

The bookcase ends at the steps and the homeowner did not want to put in a railing so she suggested we build a “see through” case to return on this short wall.

Attaching Top and Return Cabinet

The top shelf was attached from below with screws and Scotia molding was installed under the shelf.

Below: Bill is attaching the return case.

Return bookcase installed.

A larger view of the room. While Bill was installing the bookcase I installed the mantle in the background.

View when you enter the front door. Furniture in the way is temporarily placed.

Bookcase installed. When the client came home she told us she loved it,and that it was better than she had hoped for…. now that’s what I like to hear.

Return “cubby” style bookcase.

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