I’m on my way towards making a Book Stand…
A while ago I made a picture of the White Horse, in a piece of plywood using a Scroll Saw gifted by my Father-in-Law. This picture was to be turned into a stand for cookery books in the kitchen. So far I have a set of four strips of Ash cut with dovetail joints, and a selection of other strips of Ash and plywood with which I hope to build a tray and some legs for the stand.
First, the frame needed a little finishing. The edges felt sharp and rough, and I thought it would be good to soften them a little. So I took a little run around the top inside and outside with the router and a Chamfer Bit. I took off just enough to make the edge feel smooth while still looking square.
I felt I needed to tidy up some of the dovetail joints. There were a few thin gaps between the woods, where I had not cut precisely square and true (and one place where I had accidentally nicked a lump of wood out of the end of a dovetail pin.) I sorted these by gluing slithers of wood shaving into the gaps, cutting off the excess then sanding down to a smooth surface. Using the Ash wood shavings from my planing work ensured a good colour match with the rest of the piece, and the repairs would be hidden
Now to work on the base. This required a flat strip sticking out from the bottom of the frame to support the books, with a second strip sticking up from this to hold the pages down. I would use one of the remaining pieces of Ash for this page-holder, so that it mirrored and matched the frame. The frame was quite thick though, and a page-holder the same thickness looked a little too heavy and ungainly. So, I got out the plane once more and shaved it down to about half its thickness, then used the router to chamfer the edges to smooth them out.
I also cut the page-holder to be about a centimetre shorter than the width of the frame. This was to compensate for a similar optical illusion to the page-holder thickness. I felt that if the page-holder was the same width as the frame, then being stuck out in front it would be closer to the viewer and would appear to be wider than the frame. It needed to be made a little smaller in order to look the right size.
For the book-support I would need something quite wide, and thin but still sturdy. I had plenty of plywood that matched the wood used for the horse picture. This would be ideal. On its own it was a bit too flimsy, but I realised I could easily laminate two strips together to make a single, thicker piece.
I found a long narrow strip which could be cut in two to make two pieces the right size. While setting up the cut I thought I could use this to demonstrate a technique I’ve mentioned a couple of times already in this blog. One of the difficulties in cutting wood is that the underside of the piece often splinters. This is especially true for plywood. It happens because the saw teeth push against the wood fibres. If the fibres are held firm, then the teeth will cut through them. If there’s nothing pushing back against the fibres, then the saw teeth will instead bend them and they will break at their weakest point. This gives a ragged cut that does not follow the saw line. So, I try to remember to cut board with another scrap piece underneath. The scrap can splinter, but hopefully it will preserve the board and give a nice edge. In this picture the strip of scrap has suffered but the wood I want has been cleanly cut into two.
So now the two strips of plywood can be laminated and cut to the right shape for the book-support. To check the width, I tested various cookbooks in our collection, and deduced the largest one was about 5cm thick when opened to the first recipe. My frame was 1.8cm thick, and the page-holder was 0.7cm. Add all this together and I would need a 7.5cm wide book-support.
Of course, the nice neat cut I described above would have to be lost because the book-support would not be square – one edge would be a centimetre shorter than the other.
With the book-support cut, I could then glue and pin it to the frame and page-holder.
I then spent a while sanding and polishing to get a slight chamfer to the edge below the page-holder, and a smooth curve below the frame. I decided to give this bottom edge a curve, partly so that it would shift the centre of gravity slightly, to be further underneath the book when the stand is set to a high angle. This should reduce the risk of the stand toppling forward.
It was time to work on the legs. It took me a long time to figure out how best to do these. My brief was fairly simple:
“What angle do you want the books to be held at?”
“That depends whether I’m sitting down or standing up. Plus, if you and The Chap use the stand you might need it at different heights.”
So, best go for something that lets the book stand be adjustable…
I tried out dozens of different sketches, with ideas ranging from simple to ridiculously complicated.
In the end I settled on simplicity. The easiest design would just have a pair of stubs sticking out of the back of the frame. I saw that changing the point at which they stuck out would change the angle at which the frame sat.
My design therefore would be to have two short strips of Ash – made from remaining bits of the wood I had prepared for the frame – that could somehow be fixed into the back of the stand at various different points to hold the books at different angles. And look! I could do some trigonometry to work out the best length of leg and approximately what angles I could get as a result. Ah maths!
Now to make the legs themselves.
I wanted to have the legs’ ends curved so that they would sit neatly on the counter whatever the angle. I decided the best way to make these curves was to use the router with a Rounding-Over bit.
The rounding over bit was going to be used on the end of the wood. This would be tricky. First, it wouldn’t present much of a target for the router to line up with, which might give an ugly result. Second, the router bit was likely to splinter the end of the leg. As for sawing the plywood, noted above, the safest thing to do would be to sandwich the legs between scrap bits of wood and let the scrap take the splintering problems. Using scrap wood also gave a wider edge for the router to work against, which would help give a better cut.
So, I sandwiched the leg pieces between scrap pieces and got busy with the router. I decided to make three legs at this point – there were still things that could go wrong with my design, and a spare leg would give me something of a safety net.
The routing worked, and a bout of sanding produced some good-looking legs to use.
Next, I needed to square up the tops of the legs. There were two things to take care of here. First, the legs would need to be the same length. My hand-sawing had got them within a millimetre or so of each other, which was good, but not perfect. I ran the risk of the book stand wobbling if the legs were not identical.
The second thing to consider was the flatness and squareness of the tops of the legs. My hand sawing was again, good, but not perfect. The leg tops were both slightly rounded, and wouldn’t sit exactly flat against the frame.
I needed a quick lesson in how to square off the ends of bits of wood. I knew how to plane sides, taking strips off in the direction of the grain, but I did not know how to plane across the grain.
An online search revealed a clever technique for building a jig that would allow for simple end-planing. Unfortunately, I’ve lost the details of the video clip that taught me this – it’s not in my search history and I can’t remember the name of the vlogger who posted it. If/when I remember I will edit this to give them full credit as it’s a nice trick to use.
Begin by finding a smooth, flat piece of board with a good smooth and flat edge. Clamp a piece of scrap wood to the end of this board, perpendicular to the smooth edge and with a tiny bit of overlap.
Put the plane on its side and run it against the smooth edge of the board so that it planes the end of the scrap wood. Plane the scrap down bit by bit until it is smooth and flush with the edge of the board.
Next, clamp the piece of wood you want to end-plane on top of the board and up against the scrap wood, with the end slightly over the board’s edge.
Again, with the plane on its side, run the plane against the edge of the board and let it shave the end of your piece of wood. Keep working, quite lightly, on your wood piece until the plane no longer scrapes any wood off it. The scrap piece on the end of the board will help stop your wood from splintering as you go
The end of your wood will then be nice and flat and square to the board. You can repeat this, taking fractions of millimetres off the end of the wood until it is the right length.
This figure shows the effect of end-planing on one of my stand legs. The gaps at the top and bottom of the end have been flattened out just right.
That should do for this post. Next time I will talk about how I fixed the legs to the stand, and finished the project.