My Dad, Norm Abram, Window Seat Bookcase
Comments 6

Window Seat Bookcase: Making the Shelves

Glue-up of two small cherry boards.

Glue-up of two small cherry boards.

Let’s say that one day I become a woodworking rock star and I am asked to appear on one of the many woodworking podcasts that will no doubt exist (creating a woodworking podcast is very trendy these days).

A frequent podcast question posed to ww rock stars is this one: “Who has influenced your work?” To keep you from waiting the many years it will take me to rise to rock star status, I’ll go ahead and tell you how I’d answer this question.

First, a very key influence has been my Dad. He often tackled woodworking projects while I grew up. This exposure to woodworking gave me the confidence to take a woodworking class while at the University of Alabama (see a special blog post about my Dad by clicking here).

Others include Thomas Moser, Ronald Layport, Peter Kramer, then more recently, Lonnie Bird, Glen Huey and Mike Pekovich.

But the woodworker who has influence me the most is Norm Abram. His show, The New Yankee Workshop, debuted prior to widespread use of the internet. His weekly TV shows were almost like 30 minute woodworking classes. I paid close attention to the processes he used to make furniture and rarely missed an episode during the show’s long 21 season run.

While making the shelves for the window seat bookcase, I utilized a tip seen in an early episode of Norm’s show. Norm went through the steps needed to make a panel cutting sled.

After glueing together the cherry boards required to make the three adjustable shelves for the window seat bookcase, I needed to trim them to final length. Because the shelves are more than 12 inches wide, I used my Norm inspired panel cutting sled to make accurate cuts.

My panel cutting sled.

My panel cutting sled.

A nice, square cut.

A nice, square cut.

This is the second version of Norm’s sled I have made and it works very well. I was able to make accurate cuts and even take thin shaving off the length which enabled me to get a really sweet fit.

With the shelves cut to final size, the next task was to create a notch at each corner…

Left side shelf being fitted around the legs.

Left side shelf being fitted around the legs.

I used my bandsaw to cut the corners completing fabrication of the shelves.

One other thing – as you can see above, virtually nothing has been glued together at this point. Since there are so many parts which fit between other parts, I will likely wait to glue-up everything near the end of the project.

The shelves are designed to be adjustable. Adjustable shelves need adjustable supports. To create the supports, I used my Kreg shelf pin jig to ensure the shelf supports align with each other.

Adding adjustable shelf supports.

Adding adjustable shelf supports.

Note the tiny brass shelf pin.

Note the tiny brass shelf pin.

With the first four holes drilled, I move on to the other legs. I need to drill a total of twelve sets of four holes.


Adjustable shelves in.

Adjustable shelves in.

This was a fun step in the build process for the bookcase. I was able to use my smoothing plane on the surface of the shelves, but not too much smoothing. I still have a long way to go before I have the confidence I need to really go at it with my smoothing plane. I am strongly considering joining the Alabama Woodworkers Guild which is based about 30 minutes from my house. I think I can get some good advice on hand planes there. Plus Chris Schwarz will teach there in a matter of months.

Next is the back; a step that will involve re-sawing and work with my thickness planer, and overall, a very similar process that I took with the case sides and dividers.

But before I get to the back, I have a quick little project to tackle. More on this new, very temporary diversion from the window seat bookcase next weekend.


  1. Jack Branch says

    Thank you, Jeff, for mentioning your dad in your blog as someone who influenced your life! It makes me so proud! I have mentioned to many people that I hope that my children will say I had a positive influence on their lives. One of the greatest phrases, I think, is, “My dad used to say.”

    One day your sister, Amy and I were walking together at the beach and she said to me, “you and I are a lot alike.” And I was busting my vest! I couldn’t help but say, God, I hope so” I got that same feeling when I read your comment about me! I had a college professor, Dr. Phippins, used to say about children, “they all have their individual differences, and your job is to develop those individual differences. That’s what your mom and. I tried to do, and if I may boast a bit, we have done that well.

    Thanks again. I hope a lot of people read your comment and this reply. I love you!


    Sent from my iPad


    • Hey Dad, your influence on me spreads way beyond woodworking. Thanks for being supportive during my college days. Some parents might look upon a college woodworking shop class as being out of the scope of what should count as a college class, so I am thankful for your support. It led to decades of fun at my workbench.

  2. Things are coming along nicely; I especially like thickness of the movable shelves.

    If the AWG figures out what they will be building, I might make the trek up there to take that Schwarz class. I’m a little further out than 30 minutes but it would be interesting nevertheless. And my first woodworking class.

    • SNWW – you have a good eye. I have taken most of the cherry down to 3/4″, but for the shelves I decided to keep them about 7/8″ thick. Didn’t want them to look thin.

      As far as AWG goes, I did not see Chris Schwarz last time because I did not need to pay for the project he was teaching; I’m thinking it was the 6 board chest? Like you, I’m not sure yet what he will teach.

      Good to hear from you.

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