Window Seat Bookcase
Comments 8

Window Seat Bookcase: The Crest Rail

When contemplating how to lay out the curved lines for the crest rail, I thought about cutting away a slender strip from a left over piece of 3/8″ plywood. I would then grab some measurements from the bookcase SketchUp model and bend the slender plywood to form the shape needed. The bookcase is 48″ wide and keeping the bent form in place while transferring the curve to the longish seat back/crest rail seemed cumbersome.

So I called on SketchUp to help me print a template which could be easily taped to the back of the seat back/crest rail. I could then trace the outline of the crest rail directly onto the blocks of cherry without having to call upstairs for help.

And this worked super good. While building this project, I have become proficient at printing full size templates from SketchUp. The output from SketchUp is just about perfect. I spaced guide lines in one inch increments to gain good align of the five pieces of paper needed to form the template. One inch in SketchUp truly equals one inch on the printed template. I highly recommend this process.

The crest rail template. The actual crest rail will be in three sections.

The crest rail template. The actual crest rail will be in three sections.

I did not get a shot of the template in place on the bookcase, but the photo above gives you an idea of the subtle curves I need to make.

I then had to work out in my mind how I was going to cut away the curved material on the front face of the crest rail and then cut the curves (remember there are three sections to the crest rail – see here). At the same time, I would need to see the pencil line of the curve, which would have been cut away with my first cut. Then it hit me. I simply need to cut away the material from the front, then tape the cut-off back in place; like you would do with a cabriole leg. This would allow me to maintain two flat faces and help me make the pencil line cuts at the bandsaw.

Cut one: remove a majority of the waste from the front.

Cut one: remove a majority of the waste from the front.

A rare shot of the back corner of my workshop. I'll use my bandsaw to make cuts two and three.

A rare shot of the back corner of my workshop. I’ll use my bandsaw to make cuts two and three.

(Note from Jeff: I have big plans for a workbench to fit under the twin double hung windows to the left in the photo above. This would be a bench but have cabinet storage, but I envision something old school and massive).

Cut two; the lower curve. Tape the cut-off back in place.

Cut two; the lower curve. Tape the cut-off back in place.

Cut three: the upper curve.

Cut three: the upper curve.

With the right side crest rail cut to rough shape (emphasis on rough), I then repeated these steps for the middle and left crest rail.

Then, time for a lot of hand work. This meant using two of the three hand planes I own: my #4 and #60R along with a fine rasp. These tools smoothed the very rough surfaces left by the bandsaw cuts.

Smoothing the top edge - right side.

Smoothing the top edge – right side.

In the photo above (click to enlarge), note the bottom cut-off taped back in place. This gives me a flat surface to work against.

A couple of weeks ago, I got some expert advise concerning sharpening plane blades at the Alabama Woodworker’s Guild. This was especially important because I knew the time was coming for me to shape the front profile on the crest rail.

Lots of hand plane work.

Lots of hand plane work.

Curves - the lower curve has a tighter radius than the top.

Curves – the lower curve has a tighter radius than the top.

Note the shavings.

Note the shavings.

Matthew Wolfe is someone I watch, paying close attention to how he uses hand planes, especially when planing boards where joinery is located (see this six-minute video – it is full of envious hand work). This bookcase is my first furniture project where I have utilized hand planes to surface wood. I have a long way to go to gain the expertise Matthew has. All I can say that he must be a sharpening master and he has a wide variety of hand planes; he has the right tool for the task at hand.

I got some tear-out where the crest rail sections meet up with the legs, but my orbital sander made these issues go away. I think Matthew Wolfe would not have created tear-out. I’ll continue to watch his work and practice my sharpening skills; but I am pleased with how the crest rail looks.

Crest rail looking good.

Crest rail looking good.

I’m about 85% complete on the crest rail. After standing the bookcase upright on my bench, the light helped point out a few more areas to blend. And I have some flattening to do on the back of it. There is something to be said for making the initial crest rail blocks of wood larger than need be. Some stick out a 1/16″ or so from the back of the legs. I’ll plane them smooth this week, and I am thinking about waiting until after all the glue-up is completed to trim the top of the rear legs.

Also this week; I am going to set up a finishing area in my home office. That way I can use my shop and begin applying finish to the back panels without the worry of saw dust contaminating the finish.

With finish applied to the back panels, I can then begin the left to right glue-up of the bookcase. I hope to have this project finished by the end of April or early in May. Lots of work still to do…

* * * * *

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).


      • Let’s see, I have a new workbench I hope to begin building before the end of the year. Then the workbench for under the windows will be in addition to that, so building it will likely be sometime in 2016 at the earliest. I wonder if others have project scheduled out like this. Probably. 🙂

  1. It looks awesome Jeff. I have never done something with compound curves and a does like that. Thanks for working it out for the rest of us :). I too have more projects in my head one on my to do list than I have time or money for. Thanks for the update. It looks great.

    • Yes, the method of taping the cut-offs back on was something that just popped in my head. It was a woodworking miracle. 🙂

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