Window Seat Bookcase
Comments 14

Window Seat Bookcase: Work on the Seat Resumes

THERE IS COMFORT in knowing that others feel the same way I do. I am talking about Joe McGlynn who writes at his blog, McGlynn on Making. Joe builds furniture often in the Greene and Greene style. He has been working on a Blacker House Serving Table, most recently adding delicate inlay to the legs. I left him a comment about how good his inlay looks. He replied thusly:

“Thanks Jeff. Now that I’m on the other side of this part of the project I’m feeling better about the whole effort. And I’m already worrying about how to pull off the next detail…the ebony splines for the bread board ends.”

Worrying how to pull off the next detail – that is exactly how I have been feeling towards my bench seat. I have been procrastinating finishing construction; this delay 100% fueled by worry that I would screw it up! I feel like putting about 10 exclamation points at the end of that last sentence.

My daughter’s window seat bookcase has been one big teaching exercise for me. While I have built other furniture projects using many of these same construction methods, there are several processes which I have not attempted in a while and a few steps I have never attempted before. And the cherry I am using is expensive. An error would likely be costly and just add further delays to my target finish date (which is now June 30th).

Exploded view - seat end.

Exploded view – seat end.

A way to make seemingly stressful woodworking less so is to break it down into smaller steps. And that is what you see here. The first thing I need to do in this segment of the build is executing the joinery for what I call the “seat ends”. This component is joined to the seat via a mortise and tenon joint (illustration above).

Making the tenon isn’t a big deal, but making the mortise in the seat ends will be challenging to pull off exactly as needed. Careful marking will be key. Let’s get started… (lots of pictures)

Making Seat Tenons

To make the tenons, I’ll form a 5/8″ x 1/4″ notch on the top and bottom of each end of the seat. I’ll be using my plunge router to make the cuts which define the boundaries of the tenon. What you see below, resting on the seat top, is a jig I made from scraps. Basically this is a fence which wraps around the seat. The top and bottom pieces of the fence are parallel to each other.

A quickly made double-sized router fence.

A quickly made double-sized router fence.

I used a similar jig many years ago – the jig layout is an original design of mine. I later saw this same method taught in Fine Woodworking. I thought of it first though :). The jig is easy to make and does a very good job of creating mirror cuts on both sides of the seat.

The jig clamped in place.

The jig clamped in place.

In the photo above, I am working on the top side of the seat. I carefully position the jig so that it is square to the end of the seat and is located the proper distance from the end. I’m using my adjustable height sawhorses for this operation.

Tenon clean-up.

Tenon clean-up.

In the photo above, the seat has been flipped over so I can create the bottom half of the tenon.

The completed tenon.

The completed tenon.

The fence enables me to locate an identical cut on both sides of the seat. I then used my rabbeting block plane and my new shoulder plane to clean up the tenon. I then repeated this operation for the other end of the seat.

Making the Mortise

Cutting the mortise is accomplished using my current favorite technique – my plunge router outfitted with a micro-adjustable fence. After making layout lines defining the boundary of the mortise, I carefully set up the router and make the cut along the inside of both seat ends.

Using my plunge router to make the mortise.

Using my plunge router to make the mortise.

The completed mortise.

The completed mortise.

I find it easier to make the mortise a little narrow and then trim the tenon to fit. My rabbeting block plane is perfect for this task, taking very then shavings off the tenon until it fits.

Trimming a tenon looking for a near perfect fit.

Trimming a tenon looking for a near perfect fit.

This process took the better part of the week, working most nights and some early mornings. All-in-all, it went very well. At this point, I have left the seat ends longer than they should be. I’ll trim them to final length and do the needed shaping later.

Adding Weight to the Seat

The design calls for a 1 1/8″ thick board to be added to the front edge of the seat. See the image below…

Note the thicker board at the outer edge of the seat.

Note the thicker board at the outer edge of the seat.

This board is simply meant to keep the front edge of the seat from looking too skinny. I form the board at my table saw, remove the saw marks and cut biscuit slots for #20 biscuits.

Biscuits in place.

Biscuits in place.

Glue-up.

Glue-up.

There is a minor alignment problem with the new front edge; it is slightly lower than it should be. Hopefully a little work with my #4 bench plane will take care of this.

Sunday morning workout with my #4 smooth plane.

Sunday morning workout with my #4 smooth plane.

I was looking for a reason to get some more experience with my smoothing plane. After removing the seat from the clamps, I went to work making the seat top smooth. Note that I am using my table saw/router table as a work surface. I NEED A SECOND WORKBENCH!

Forming the last part of the tenon.

Forming the last part of the tenon.

Completing the tenon on the seat.

Completing the tenon on the seat.

Creating the last segment of the tenon on each end of the seat involved chisels, a hand saw and my block plane. This worked really well.

Currently.

Currently.

As you can tell, this step was a lot of work, but there just doesn’t seem to be a lot to show from it. The seat ends are still too long at this point (they stick out too far from the front edge) and both the ends and the seat will be moved rearward to fit into a slot where expansion will take place. I am going to lock the front edge of the seat flush with the front legs.

Also, I need to cut slots for the fasteners which will join the seat to the bookcase and I need to form the final shape of the seat ends. Still a lot to do before construction is concluded. I’ll have more next weekend.

* * * * *

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 carpet and rugs for The Dixie Group. Weekends, you'll find me in my basement workshop making furniture.

14 Comments

  1. Looking good Jeff, I haven’t used an electric router in many years but for these long narrow slots it would make a lot of sense. You’re definitely on the down hill side of this project. Can’t wait to see it complete.

    • Thanks Richards. Recently I have seen two of the ww pros use a router this way. It works surprisingly well. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Congrats on forward progress. I’m familiar with this fear as well. Nothing is worse than ruining a joint after so much preparation. Except maybe worrying so much that it stops me in my tracks 😊

  3. I really appreciate your honesty – even though looking at your very fine photos one would never in a million years be able to tell that the building process was stressful. The bench is truly gorgeous and once it’s finished (almost) all will be forgotten.
    Even though time-lapse filming of woodworking projects is fun and instructive something extremely important is lost.
    Thank you!

  4. Looks great Jeff. Your use of both hand tools and power tools is has been challenging me to step outside my power tool comfort zone. I find that I usually hit a dead spot in most of my projects where I get so far, then I kind of hang up – I guess anticipating and anxious about the finish. I’m fast approaching my bookcase build and I’m dreading the finishing (worst part about woodworking as far as I’m concerned). But your word is superb and your illustrations are magazine and book quality. Thanks for the update.

    • You are too kind. I only began seriously considering hand tools about three years ago. I have found that I can make the fine cuts much easier with hand tools. Example: my little rabbet block plane. It took thin shavings off the tenons and helped me ease up on the best fit. I am really enjoying my hand tools these days.

      • I’ve only recently started investing in hand tools (planes, chisels, etc). I’m afraid I’ll make the same mistake I’ve made with power tools – buying inexpensive, cheap tools up front and regrets g it later. My wife keeps telling g me to stop that and just save up for the better tools. One day I’ll learn. In the mean time I’ll just watch and learn from the masters. 😀

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