Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A pair of Arts and Crafts Bookcases - Design and Concept

A faux slip-tenon joint looks to blend an Arts and Crafts aesthetic with a more formal design

I'll not make too many excuses about the lack of posts during 2012 -- I'll just say that it has been a big year for landscaping and duplicate projects here at the studio.  If you are interested in our equally slipshod gardening blog, feel free to check out Heydonbury End.  I can't promise any consistency, but it is my second great passion.

But back to the studio.

Today's objective is to create a pair of bespoke bookcases in the Arts and Crafts tradition.  Stickley produced several iconic pieces that are worthy of duplication (Number 719 or Number 700), but as these bookcases will bridge an area between an informal family space and a more traditional office, the design should be a bit less imposing and compatible with both styles.

The wider of the two bookcases in its initial form

 Arts and Crafts (for most of us) generally means quarter-sawn white oak and some degree of exposed joinery.  Part of its appeal is an almost architectural mass -- a little oak fortress dominating a room.  I'm lightening the look by using frame and panel construction and combining straight-grained rails and stiles with quarter-sawn panels.

Very shallow grooves are cut in the panels to accept straight-sawn battens

 If the figure on the panels looks suspiciously regular, it is because I'm using veneered plywood from Russell Plywood.  There are a couple of reasons for this choice.  As these bookcases will not have doors, the back panels will be very visible, and I'm not looking to do any sort of ship-lapping oak or painting poplar. Also, at 32" and 40" in width, the re-sawing and gluing up would drive the price out of the client's budget.  It seems a practical and attractive compromise.

Coming up:  A look at the light-yet-strong joinery that keeps it together, as well as the faux slip-tenon joint that I quite like.  Thanks!

In case you are interested, this is the Japanese-style garden that I designed and built throughout the year -- at the cost of much shop time!