Child’s book stand

By Tim Alexander

Photo by Felix Wedgwood

We all have some book or manual that we keep at the ready on our desks. I have a few small manuals that I’m often reaching for, but they can be a source of desktop clutter. This desktop bookshelf keeps those in-demand books neat, tidy and accessible. Also, if you are like me and can’t bring yourself to throw away perfectly good pine scraps, this project offers the opportunity to use them productively.

The design is also quite versatile. You can build the shelf as wide or as narrow as you need simply by changing the length of the back and shelf bottom pieces. Simplicity, usefulness and good looks also are the reasons this project will be part of the 2011 Canadian Home Workshop Show. Budding woodworkers who participate in our Kids’ Corner interactive area will be able to build their own shelf, including custom features that make the work their own.



Prepare the parts

One piece of 1x8 pine 3' in length is all you need to get started on this shelf. First, cut the two sides 11 1/2" long. For the curve at the top of each side, centre a compass point 4 1/4" from the top and draw a semicircle that just touches the edges of the workpiece. Now is the time to mark the bottom ends of the sides with concave curves. Set your compass to a 2" radius, then place the point 3/4" below the bottom edge of each side for marking. Finally, mark four holes for the screws in each side, as shown in the plans.

Once you have the sides laid out, cut the curves with a scrollsaw, bandsaw, jigsaw or coping saw. It’s best to cut proud of the marks and then sand down to the lines. A disc sander is the best machine to use for refining the top curves, and an oscillating spindle sander for the bottom curves. A handheld random-orbit sander will do for the top curves if you don’t have a stationary sander. Just be sure to secure the workpieces in a vise before you get going. If you don’t have access to an oscillating spindle sander, wrap sandpaper around a thick dowel or chunk of old broomstick and apply plenty of elbow grease for a nice, even finish.

Cut the back piece 10" long and the shelf bottom 4 1/2"-wide x 
10"-long. Sand the pieces with 120-grit sandpaper, then switch to 180 grit.

Put it together

This project requires 10 screws to hold it together. My preferred choice is #8 x 1 1/2"-long Spax screws because they are less likely to cause splitting. The serrated threads of these screws let them burrow into the wood split-free, even without predrilling. If you’re using regular woodscrews, predrill. For the best appearance, consider installing screws into counterbored holes that will accept tapered wooden plugs.

Begin by joining the back to the shelf bottom to form an L-shaped assembly. Take a look at the plans to see how the back caps the rear edge of the shelf bottom, not the other way around. The next step is to fasten the sides to the ends of the back and shelf assembly. If you are building more than a few shelves, make a jig to line up the sides with the ends of the L-shaped assemblies you’ve just put together.

You can do this job without a jig, but here’s a trick: start the screws in one side so that they just break through the inner face. This way, you can position the exact placement of the screws into the shelf pieces. Repeat the process for the other side before driving the screws all the way in. It’s vital that both side pieces be fastened in the same orientation to each other. If one is rotated in relation to the other, the shelf will wobble.

Finishing touches

Let your creative juices flow and finish this project any way you like. A little folk-art paint and some basic designs can turn this shelf into the perfect spot for a child’s favourite set of bedtime stories. A deep-coloured stain will turn your shelf into something destined to hold some classics on the mantle. You can even store movie and music disc cases on the shelf, too. The possibilities are endless.


Tools & Materials

Part Material Size (T x W x L*) Qty.

Sides 1x8 pine 3/4" x 7 1/4" x 11 1/2" 2
Back 1x8 pine 3/4" x 7 1/4" x 10" 1
Shelf bottom 1x8 pine 3/4" x 4 1/2" x 10" 1

* Length indicates grain direction

Recommended Tools

mitre saw



disc sander

oscillating spindle sander

random-orbit sander


1 comment

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Jun. 14, 2013

8:09 pm

My first project and turned out great. Kids use it for their books. Hope to build some other things from here.

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