Jefferson Bookcases – Back Boards

Originally written Aug 21, 2020

One of the things where I've improved my workflow while building these bookcases is the process of cutting all the rabbets on the boards that make up the backs of the cases.

Each back is made up of two boards, rabbeted into the case, and ship-lapped where they overlap. The rabbets are all ⅜ from the front or back of the board, and the rabbets on the edges that join the case are ⅜ wide. The ship-lap is ¾ wide, because with my 1×8s, that means the outside of the joined boards is about 14 inches, with the inside being 13¼ inches, to fit into an opening that's about 13½ inch, so they fit pretty well. When I start building cases that are smaller, I'll have to adjust things.

So I start by pairing up the boards. Mostly I'm looking to avoid huge differences in color. Each pair gets the shiplapped rabbets marked first. I'm using my ⅜ inch kerfing plane and my ¾ inch kerfing plane to do the marking. Originally I was cutting the rabbets with them, but a 30 inch long rabbet, ¾×⅜ inch deep is a lot of work.

Small sawn marks down the middle of two 3/4 inch wide boards

With my marks ⅜ from the outside of the boards, I set the circular saw to make a cut ¾ inch deep.

Setting the blade of the circular saw to make a 3/4 inch deep cut, using the width of the board to set the depth

And I make the two cuts.

The circular saw about to cut the board

Making the cut down the length of the board

Then I set the saw to make a ⅜ deep cut.

Setting the circular saw's depth to the distance to the cut I just made in one of the boards

And cut the other part of the rabbet.

Making a cut into the face of the board to complete the rabbet

By having the two boards side-by-side while cutting, I've got a wider surface for the circular saw to ride on, and I end up with reasonably good cuts.

Here's the stack of eight back boards (for four cases) with the larger rabbets cut.

Eight boards with rabbets

At this point I consult my story stick (not shown) and see if the boards are too big. If so, I'll plane down the pair of boards so they'll fit.

Planing the edges off two boards to make them fit correctly

I flip half of the boards, so all of the rabbets are now on the same side, and set the up in the vise again.

Two boards in the face vise. The previously-cut rabbets are visible on the side of the boards that is down

And I make the marks.

Marks sawn into the edges of the two boards, roughly down the middle of each board

And make the cuts.

Making the second cut for the second rabbet on one of the boards

Yep. I got them alternating correctly.

A stack of four boards, viewed from the end, showing how the rabbets alternate sides in each pair

Then they go into the vise edge up, with the inside of the back away from me.

A board with the end-grain up, in the vise

And I hand-cut the rabbets on the ends of the boards. It goes pretty quickly.

Using the 3/8 inch kerfing plane to cut a rabbet on the end of the board

The completed rabbet is visible

The completed rabbet on the other board is visible

And that's it. Took me about an hour to cut four pairs of backs, as opposed to about an hour for a pair of backs doing it all by hand.

And yeah, if I had a table saw, it would go even quicker. But I don't, and don't do this sort of mass production often enough to make me want to get rid of something else from my shop to make room for a table saw.

Jefferson Bookcases Contents #woodworking #bookcases #rabbets

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