Window Seat Bookcase
Comments 11

Window Seat Bookcase: While the Polyurethane Dries

Over the past two weeks, I have been completing final sanding of the eight panels which reside in the sides and interior dividers for my daughter’s window seat bookcase. With the panels coated with finish, I began glue-up of the sides and dividers.

As I began prep work on the panels, I remembered how slow finishing work can be. At least for me. I finally settled on wipe-on polyurethane as a finish. I had been thinking of shellac, but I have never used shellac before, and I did not want this to be the project to gain shellac experience with. I have used wipe-on poly repeatedly and am very comfortable with it. Also, my decision to select poly was greatly influenced by a Fine Woodworking article where a poly and sawdust paste was created to help repair tear-out. Shellac has a quick drying time; polyurethane does not.

Applying Minwax satin wipe-on polyurethane.

Applying Minwax satin wipe-on polyurethane.

After some touch up smoothing with my #4 bench plane and a little sandpaper work, I add three coats of wipe-on polyurethane per side. The drying time required is considerable.

Note the color change on the panels closest to the camera seen above. I have a thing or two to learn about book matched boards. I want consistent wood color throughout this project. The color above is not and it is caused by light hitting the book matched grain. To be honest, I may have mistakenly re-arranged a some of these boards. I emailed Glen Huey about using toner to correct the color change, but because the color shifts with light, we agreed that toner would not fix it.

I was showing this photo to my Dad who did not see this as a problem, and I know my daughter won’t be as picky as I am. Despite the inconsistent color, with poly applied, the cherry looks KILLER. So, I have decided to leave it as is and move on.

Glue-up Sides/Dividers and a Problem
With the panels coated with finish, I can begin glue-up of the sides and dividers. To give you an idea of the components involved, see the exploded view below…

Side with Identifiers

The image above shows the left side exploded away from the bookcase. I like to move through a glue-up in a controlled manner. This means I don’t glue-up the whole side/diver in one operation. I baby step it to make sure I don’t attempt to glue too many things at one time. Yellow wood glue can set-up pretty quickly and things can begin to stick faster than I want.

Glue-up begins.

Glue-up begins.

This image shows the lower apron being glued to the front leg. Note the little chamfer I added to the center of each panel. The center stile (foreground) is to be glued in place next. Everything is square…or so I think.

I dry-fit the rear leg and am not able to get the side square.

Not square.

Not square.

I couldn’t figure why the frame wasn’t square. Then I checked each leg measuring the distance of the lower apron to the bottom of the leg. The rear leg was about 3/16″ too low. An error which occurred early in this project which I am just now realizing. Fortunately, I can repair it; I filled the misaligned holes with dowels and cut them flush…

Problem dowel holes filled and trimmed with a pull saw.

Problem dowel holes filled and trimmed with a pull saw.

A few passes with a smoothing plane completes the repair.

A few passes with a smoothing plane completes the repair.

Using my dowel jig to create new holes.

Using my dowel jig to create new holes.

Note the location of the filled holes (click to enlarge).

Note the location of the filled holes (click to enlarge).

With this problem taken care of, I could complete the glue-up of the four sub-assemblies. Again, I move cautiously through this step accomplishing the glue-up in two steps: lower apron to front leg first; at the same time add one panel and the middle stile. With the glue set, I then add the remaining parts completing the glue-up.

And, all of this goes well. Prior to glue-up, I took the time to run my smoothing plane over the various parts one more time since my plane had a freshly sharpened blade and was performing extremely well. 🙂

Sides and dividers; three completed and one still clamped up.

Sides and dividers; three completed and one still clamped up.

I can't wait to get more finish on the cherry.

I can’t wait to get more finish on the cherry.

By this afternoon, I’ll be able to remove the right side from the clamps you see above and begin to add the curves to the seat back crest rail. My first blog post about the construction of this project was on April 23, 2014. Almost eleven months later, the most fun part of this project is about to begin. FINALLY! I’ll provide an update soon.

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Have a question or comment about this post? Leave me a comment below; but I also like email. Use my contact form to send me an email (click here).

This entry was posted in: Window Seat Bookcase
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During the week, I sell flooring products for The Dixie Group. Weekends, you'll find me in my basement workshop making furniture.


  1. Dave says

    Jeff, don’t worry about the color shift. This is one of those things that we woodworkers have to keep our mouths shut about. We may see them as “errors” but others won’t. They will see them as adding character and love the piece more for it. Remember (as if you’d need it!) that wood is a natural material and colors and grains even on the same board will often vary. If you really wanted something with everything in a consistent look you could always make it out of plastic. But it won’t be as much fun, nor your shop smell as good after an evening of work. 🙂

    • Thanks Dave. I know what you mean about how others view hand made furniture. My goal has been to take my time with this project and elevate the level of woodworking I’m doing, and getting good, consistent color is a goal. Thanks for your words of support.

  2. Jeff, I’m curious about your decision to pre-finish the panels but not to pre-finish the other components. I understand fully why you choose to pre-finish the panels so that if they shift in the future they won’t expose unfinished wood. My question is more about the choice not to finish the other components.

    Some backgroud: I frequently pre-finish before assembly, especially cabinet interiors. I should probably explain that my go-to finish is sprayed lacquer, so finishing the inside of a cabinet after assembly can be a very unpleasant experience and getting even coverage without drips and sags can be a challenge. So, I mask off glue/joint areas and spray components while they are lying flat, for far better coverage and far less blow-back. But enough about me …

    I’m in no way being critical or saying that my methods are better. They work for me, but we’re talking different finishes and different woodworkers. I’m just curious how you view the process.

    The panels look beautiful, BTW. I’d view the light/colour shift as a feature, not a bug. I did a cherry kitchen for a client recently, and I have to say, it won me over. I still like maple for its hardness, but cherry wins for beauty and warmth.

    Thanks for posting. I look forward to seeing the finished product.

    • The main reason for not pre-finishing the remaining parts is I did not want to mask off areas of the legs which I want to apply glue. Applying glue the the ends of the aprons probably has little holding power, but I have always thought there is a little glue strength. Plus, I am not finished shaping the upper portion of the rear legs. So I was going to have to leave that part unfinished anyway. I am a believer in pre-finishing parts. Without pre-finishing, expecting good results with all the different surfaces in this project would be wrong.

      Once I get the rear legs completed, I’ll probably go ahead and prefinish to sides/dividers before any further glue-up. I am just not there yet. 🙂 And, your point about the warmth of cherry is so true.

  3. It looks great Jeff. I love the chamfer on the panels. It adds a little character to the glue up. I always say that if you can’t get it to match perfectly, then you should highlight the differences.

    Also, the repair is brilliant. I too am a perfectionist and my own worst critic. Your secret is safe with me.

    It’s coming together very nicely. Did you have any trouble getting lumber to match considering you have had to go back at least once to your supplier? I’m a little leary of this. My local Woodcraft doesn’t seem to carry a large wood stock and I’m afraid that if I don’t get all I need up front I’ll never get good color and grain March.

    Looks awesome. Thanks for the update.

    • The color from board to board is otherwise pretty good. I did buy some toner when contemplating the fix for the panels. I did not return it because I may need it to blend some of the other boards. My current thinking is that my daughter wants this book as badly enough that I will probably not worry about color from this point forward. Plus, I am very badly wanting to get this thing FINISHED. 🙂

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