Finishing non-visible parts, Ron Layport, Scott bookcase
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Scott bookcase: more work on the top – fabricating the back

How nice should the back be? I like solid backs on big pieces of painted cabinet work that will hold a lot of heavy items like books. This adds a lot of rigidity to the piece. But, some woodworkers put much more effort towards dressing up the back of their pieces.

With this project, I am making a conscious effort to improve the look of the back. You may wonder why I would do this since the back of this project will not be visible. It really comes down to craftsmanship. Some woodworkers actually put just as much effort to making the back look good as they do the front and sides. Note the photos below…

A gorgeous back. This open hutch by Ronald Layport features a beautifully detailed back made of tiger maple. Layport’s project appeared in Fine Woodworking #89, August 1991.

If it’s expected. With fine pieces like Layport’s and this Arts and Crafts writing desk by Stephen Lamont, you would almost expect the back to be nice. This photo is from the Summer, 1996 issue of Home Furniture magazine.

When deciding how nice the back should be, the real consideration is what does the client expect and how will the piece be used. Plus, there are time and cost issues to consider. If it goes up against a wall as the Scott bookcase will, then the back will not be seen. And I can honestly tell you that with all the hand sanded and hand stained pieces in my home, I have never shown the back to a friend. But, depending on the level of craftsmanship desired by the client, a high quality back certainly has it’s place. What do you think?

On to the construction
The back starts as an over sized piece of half inch MDF that is then trimmed close to finished size with a router and a straight scrap piece of lumber as a guide.

The router. I use my router for all kinds of tasks. I thought about cutting this with a circular saw and a straight edge, but I went with my router instead. I have left about a quarter inch overhang at this point.

Removing the excess. I switch to a flush trim bit and cut away the excess. This makes for a perfectly fitted back.

Flush. This photo of the finished cut shows how nice the fit is. Cutting MDF creates a fine dust and I have not yet devised a good way to connect my router to my vac. But, my new dust mask is working well.

The current project. With the back in place, it is time to move on to some work on the sides.

Up next is creating the simulated side panels. While I would not say adding the back was all that fun, the next steps will be, because with each step, the project will look noticeably better.

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