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Building a Bookcase with an Art Deco Pattern Carved into the Side

Building a Bookcase with an Art Deco Pattern Carved into the Side

This build was for a client earlier this year. She had this pattern on some wallpaper and loved it so we incorporated the pattern into the bookshelf sides and carved it out with a V bit

Specialty Tools I used (affiliate links)
• West Systems Epoxy
• 1/2” Flush trim pattern bit
• Domino 500 –
• Whiteside Setup Blocks

For a list of some of my favorite tools and typical consumables I use in my shop, please visit my amazon page. (This is an affiliate link and funds raised help this channel grow.)

Video Recap

For today’s project I am building a bookshelf with an art deco pattern carved in the side and the coolest thing it has adjustable shelves.
Once I got the design approved by the client I made a print to scale pattern and used a little spray adhesive to attach it to a piece of plywood so I could turn it into a template.
I didn’t fuss around with trying to line up the drawing to the edge of the plywood. Instead I just I cut the plywood to the edge of the drawing
The with a sharp razor blade I traced around my drawing leaving just the pattern
This is probably more of a physiological step, but in my mind all these years I’ve taught myself to leave the line when cutting out curves, so I used some spray paint to create a negative of the pattern. This way when cutting out the patter I can leave the line and sand to it.
Now that the paints dry I ripped off one side. The reason for this will become apparent later on.
To cut the curves in the design I could have used a jig saw but that’s a tool for a savage, so instead I plunged halfway and freehanded it with the router.
By only taking a shallow pass the router is fairly easy to control around a curve.
I chucked in a pattern bit with a bearing on it and with a straight edge, I routed out the straight parts of the pattern.
Then since I only took a shallow pass on the curved areas I used that same bit and cleaned up the curves
Then did a final smoothing and shaping at the spindle sander .
Now it was time to cut the other side. I predrilled a starter hole.
Then used the same pattern bit to trace the template I had just made onto the other side. The bit is ¾ of an inch in diameter. This will cut a grove to allow a ¾ inch collar to ride in the grove ensuring it doesn’t wander away from the
Speaking of wandering away from the template, I’ll fix that in a minute.
I took a second pass to cut the rest of the way through
then used some blue tape to create a dam, mixed up some epoxy and filled where I wandered away from the template.
Then I smoothed out the epoxy and reshaped the curve with a rasp
Then finally to cut the patter out I am going to use this ¾” collar with a v grove bit in a router to ride in the channel, but first I tested it and any place it got hung up I smoothed out with the rasp.

Once I got the template made it was time to mill up some lumber to build the sides so I could put the template to the test.
Normally you seem me use biscuits or dominos to help keep the boards in line during glue up. But since I’m going to carve into these boards, I didn’t want to risk carving through a missed place domino.
So instead of dominos, I’m going to clamp cauls across the workpiece to help keep it flat. The riser bocks you saw me set up was to give a extra room to get a clamp head under their, and the tape on the cauls is to keep them from being glued to the work piece.
Once the glue dried I ripped it to its final width at the table saw, and cut it to its final length.
And then head back to the table saw to cut a dado to receive that back
Then I finally got to test out my template. I lined it up, clamped it down, chucked up a V bit with the ¾” collar, and routed out the pattern
Then I flipped it over, clamped it down, and routed out the pattern on the other side.
Then I used a some double stick tape and scraps of plywood to build up a little jig to route the center pattern.
That sound change right at the end, well that was the sound of it no longer cutting because the bit broke off.
Luckily it only had a ¼ of an inch left to go so I just finished it up old school with a mallet and chisel.
While I had the chisel in hand I used it to clean up some of the fuzz left behind by the router.
I changed out the router for a ½” guide bushing and ¼” plung bit and plunged out the holes for the adjustable shelves.
Now it was time to mill up the 8/4 stock for the top and bottom. Same procedure as always, accept instead of using cauls for alignment I was back to dominos
The front of the bookshelf has a gentle curve to it, to create this I plotted out the center and end points, ripped a thin flexible strip of scrap wood, drove some nails to act as pivot points and drew in the curve.
I pulled out the nails and head over to the bandsaw to cut it out.
I made sure I left the line so I could refine the curve and sand away the saw marks at the spindle sander
Now I used the template to trace the pattern on my work pieces, then roughed them out at the bandsaw.
Instead of using the spindle sander to refine the edge, I double stick taped the workpiece to my template, and used a pattern bit to make an exact copy.
I needed to extend the dado for the back panel into the top and bottom pieces, so before heading to the router table I made a relief cut with my chisel to prevent tear out on the ends.
I set the height of the bit using a brass setup block, then added stop blocks on the fence so I would have a starting and stopping point.
Of course the router left rounded corners so I cleaned them up with a mallet and chisel
We’re on the home stretch. I used floating tenons to attach the top and bottom. Since this joint is end grain to long grain it’s not going to be very strong. So in addition to floating tenons I used epoxy for the glue up. Epoxy is gap filling so it will soak into the end grain and fill the gap between the two piece creating a joint strong enough for this bookcase.
Once I got all the glue spread on both sides of the joint I started assembling it, I discovered that this thing was tall and awkward to put together. Which is another benefit of epoxy, it has a long working time before setting up.
Before the glue was set I did one final check to be sure it was square, then measured for the back. The back is just a piece of ½” plywood I cut to fit at the table saw.
Making the adjustable shelves where the same process as the top and bottom accept I added a filler strip to my jig to take into account the thickness of the sides of the case.
After paint the only thing left to do was attach the safety straps if the customer to install on their end.

I’m the owner of Benham Design Concepts, a mixed media art studio where I design and build custom furniture and other works of art using wood, glass, stone, and various metals.
In this blog, I talk about the art I create, my journey, and the things I learn along the way.

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