The knotty pine bookcase parts are all standard dimensional lumber that you can find at any home center. We joined the shelves and legs with biscuits. If you don’t own a biscuit joiner but still want to build this project, you can simply nail or screw the parts together and fill the holes. We used a table saw to cut the 1-1/2-in. square legs from 2x4s and a router with a 45-degree chamfer bit to bevel the edge of the top. If you don’t have a table saw or router, you can just use stock 2x2s for the legs and leave the edge of the top square.

Add a little rustic décor to your walls by building a wooden mail sorter. Not only does this give you beautiful rustic décor, it also serves a very handy function by keeping mail neatly organized. You just need a few pieces of wood and some small coat hooks at the bottom to hang your keys. Stain it in any color you want and you have a very functional and very beautiful sorter.
All things considered, the easiest and most practical way to plane a piece of unmilled wood is to use a router. You can pick up a halfway decent router fairly inexpensively, and the good thing about investing in one is that there’s truly no limit to what you can do with it - planing a piece of wood is just one of a million different things a router can be used for.
Hand Tools — Three to four hand planes. A low angle block plane, smoothing plane, jack plane and a jointer plane are the most used sizes. With these in hand and some practice, you can go a long time without a planer, jointer, belt sander, and a few other machines. The market now has a few brands that are close to, if not ready, to use off the shelf. I also think the purchase of at least one good hand saw, a few good chisels, some clamps and a card cabinet scraper are necessary for most projects.
Stiles are 2-1/2″ x 72″, the top rail measures 1-1/2″ x 32-3/4″, and the bottom rail is 2-1/2″ x 32-3/4″”. My favorite way to assemble frames is with a pocket hole jig, but you can also choose to use biscuits, or simply use brads to nail individual face frame pieces into place. I sometimes use that approach for large built-ins, where it may be cumbersome to construct a face frame on-site during the installation process. The school that will receive these bookcases requested that the face frame go all the way to the floor to prevent pencils and other items from rolling underneath. I generally prefer to keep the face frame about 2″ from the floor to lighten the appearance, but this is a stylistic choice. On larger pieces, such as armoires, I like to keep them high enough to allow a vacuum cleaner to pass underneath.
Picture it: eight people with different skill levels, each trying to design a different project (which, by the way, they have no idea how to do) and hopefully cutting some wood by the third class. Meanwhile, the instructor is running from student to student, and then running to the table saw where a kickback has occurred. It is no wonder that at the end of the class not a single thing has been made and most of the students don't come back.
I prefer the large size because it will cut the most sizes. Years ago I purchased a medium shoulder plane, but it didn’t cut the larger sized joints, so I sold it and purchased a large shoulder plane so I could cut and trim most sized joints. Most of your traditional woodworking hand tools can be vintage/used, but used shoulder planes can be very hard to rehab and get “square”, so I recommend spending the extra money on a new shoulder plane. See my recommendations in my hand plane buying guide.
Power Tools — A good table saw is usually the most used machine in the shop. New saws have vastly improved fences and better safety features. A good contractor saw has adequate power and can come with up to 49" of ripping capacity to handle sheet goods. This would be my first big purchase. A router is often a highly coveted machine. There are almost endless cutters available now and it is hard to argue with their versatility. I recommend looking at the combo packages that include a plunge base. It is a good way to get two machines for the price of one. In my opinion, an elaborate router table is not necessary for most applications, nor are the expensive and bulky jigs and templates for making joints. What tends to happen is the tools start to drive what is made. Drawers start to fit the machine or template instead of the piece of furniture. Sufficient joints can be made with the table saw, by hand, or you can make your own templates to fit your project.

Stiles are 2-1/2″ x 72″, the top rail measures 1-1/2″ x 32-3/4″, and the bottom rail is 2-1/2″ x 32-3/4″”. My favorite way to assemble frames is with a pocket hole jig, but you can also choose to use biscuits, or simply use brads to nail individual face frame pieces into place. I sometimes use that approach for large built-ins, where it may be cumbersome to construct a face frame on-site during the installation process. The school that will receive these bookcases requested that the face frame go all the way to the floor to prevent pencils and other items from rolling underneath. I generally prefer to keep the face frame about 2″ from the floor to lighten the appearance, but this is a stylistic choice. On larger pieces, such as armoires, I like to keep them high enough to allow a vacuum cleaner to pass underneath.
As Chief Creative Officer and Founding Partner at Brit + Co, Anjelika Temple brings her voracious consumption of all things creative and colorful to DIY projects, geeky gadgetry finds and more. When she's not DIY-ing her heart out, you'll find her throwing dinner parties with friends or adventuring with her husband David, their daughter Anokhi, and their silly dog Turkey.
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Being without machinery to dimension and dress rough timber myself I can definitely see the benefit, but I think the investment (both in money and space) in machinery like this is premature for ‘basic’ woodworking. Additionally, without some other machinery (table saw, bandsaw) you’re still going to have trouble dimensioning smaller timber for projects from large/rough stock (e.g. producing timber strips for case fronts, ripping to reduce thickness, etc).

As for schooling, many local school districts, community colleges and woodworking stores offer woodworking classes, but those are a mixed bag. A handful is really good and many are terrible. There’s also a big difference between woodworking for fun and doing it for a living, and most classes are geared towards hobbyists. Out of all the proper woodworking schools with good reputations, I’ve only had personal experience with Marc Adams School of Woodworking. That place I recommend 100%, as the instructors are generally active professionals in their specialized niches, so one can always pick their brains for extra information related to earning a living. The director of the school also does a good job of screening instructors to eliminate the ones that don’t interact well in a classroom setting.
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