Thomas Jefferson's revolving book stand is a significant piece of furniture, on par with noteworthy items such as the Resolute desk in the Oval Office. Thought to have been designed by Jefferson, the solid walnut book stand in Monticello has five adjustable book rests to allow several books at a time to be cross-referenced. (See Reference 1.) The piece has even more charm and design flair in that it can be folded away into a cube. You can buy a reproduction at Monticello's online store for more than £390, but you can make this similar piece for much less.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- 24 pieces of wood, measurements in inches:
- Stand base: 10 x 10 x 7/8
- Stand pole: 9-5/8 x 1-1/8 dia
- Carcass (internal structure) base
- Carcass side posts (4): 9 x 2 x 7/8
- Carcass top: as stand base
- Side book rests (4): 12 x 9 x 1/2
- Book rest stays (5): 7 x 1-3/4 x 1/4 ("bottle" shaped)
- (Decorative) ledges (5): 12 x 3/4 x 1/2
- "Table top": 12 x 12 x 7/8
- Top book rest: 12 x 12 x 1/2
- (See References 2)
- Hand saw or power saw
- Wood file
- Drill and 1-1/8" bit
- Mallet (optional)
- Hinges and screws
- Wax polish
- Soft cloth
Cut all the pieces of wood required. Choose the more decorative faces of each of the four side book rests to be the outer faces of the book stand. Bevel the two shorter (9-inch) edges of each side book rest with a wood file from the outer face to the inner face to allow the rests to close easily. (See tips for a further option.) Shape each of the five book rest stays into a "bottle" shape (with a neck 3/4 inch wide) using a jigsaw, wood file and sandpaper as required.
Draw diagonal lines across the face of the carcase base intended to be the underside, to find the centre. Square up the stand base and carcase top below the carcase base to allow them to be drilled at the same time. Clamp the three pieces together and using a 1 1/8-inch bit, drill through the centres of the three pieces. Sand the holes in the carcase base and carcase top to make them slightly larger. Glue the pole into the hole in the stand base so that it clears the bottom edge by 1/8 inch.
Chisel out five rectangular recesses (7/8 inch wide by 3/4 inch high) in the four carcase side posts to act as holds for the rest stays. Dovetail the four carcase side posts into the centres of the edges of the carcase base and carcase top. This will make a firm carcase.
Draw and saw two guidelines for a groove along the centre of the "table top," 2 1/8 inches wide and 1/4 inch deep. Chisel out the groove. Chisel out five rectangular recesses (7/8 inch wide by 3/4 inch high) in the groove, similar to the ones cut in the carcase side posts, to act as holds for the top book rest stay. Join the carcase to the "table top" with glue or hidden countersunk screws. Hinge the book rest stays on the sides of the book rests chosen to be the inner faces.
Hinge each of the four side book rests to one of the undersides of the "table top." Hinge the top book rest to the top of the "table top" with the hinges on either side of the groove. Glue the ledges onto the outer faces of the book rests, slightly above the bottom edge of each. Place the carcase (with attached book rests) onto the stand so the pole slips between the two holes in the carcase. Check that the carcase rotates easily and without squeaking. Sand the holes again, if necessary. Apply wax polish to the book stand and buff to a shine with a soft cloth.
Tips and warnings
- The groove referred to in Step 4 goes the full length of the top piece on Jefferson's book stand and is therefore visible even when the top book rest is closed. This is not essential; the groove could be cut short of either edge of the "table top" so long as there is room to house the hinged stay.
- Use hardwood for an elegant and durable piece of work. Jefferson's book stand is made of walnut, and the reproductions sold via Monticello's online store are made of mahogany.
- The book rests can have tenons cut at their edges to fit into mortises on bevelled edge pieces. This is in line with the design of the original.
- To save money, the carcase could be made of cheaper wood stained to look like hardwood.
- Take care when using power tools.
- Wear goggles to protect your eyes.
- When clamping wood, avoid damaging it by placing waste wood pieces between the jaws of the clamp and the wood.
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