Construction techniques – Not how I would have done it

The other day I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was roped into helping my brother load a family heirloom bookcase into his minivan.  This is a bookcase that my father got from his father who got it from I don’t know where.  It’s fairly large – about 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide with two large doors with beveled glass.  Below the door is a low case (maybe 12 -14″ high) with two drawers.  Above the doors is a section of molding about 8″ high. For my whole life the bookcase has held books that must have come with it when it was built – old leather bound classic that are covered in dust and starting to crumble and some huge family bibles with 1/2″ thick raised panel covers.  It’s a piece of furniture that’s been around my entire life and I’ve never really looked at.

The bookcase was too wide to fit in the van and my brother had discovered that the top section with the molding could be taken off by undoing a couple of bolts inside the bookcase.  It seemed obvious that the bottom section would do the same leaving 3 pieces – the bookcase section with two doors, the top molding section and the bottom drawer section.

We took out the two bolts that held the bookcase to the drawer section and found that it still would not lift off.  After some close inspection I decided that the back was screwed to the base as well.  Once these were unscrewed it was obvious that the bookcase section was not in fact one piece but totally disassembled into 6 pieces – 2 doors, 2 sides & 2 back panels (frame & panel construction ship lapped together in the center of the bookcase). This seemed pretty clever and certainly would make it very easy to move.

As we disassembled everything I noticed something very peculiar about the drawer section.  The vertical divider between the drawers extended up through the top of case.  The top of the drawer case (and therefore the bottom of the inside of the bookcase) was completely split in half by this drawer divider.  I took a few quick snapshots as we loaded the case into the minivan:

 Photo above shows the drawer divider extending through the top of the drawer case.

Top of drawer case (inside bottom of bookcase) showing drawer divider extending through it.
Two drawer base of bookcase.  It appears the only piece of wood that extends the length of the case is the bottom face piece.

This is the bottom front of the drawer divider.  Notice the odd patched molding.  The piece of wood below the patch is the only piece that appeared to run the entire length of the case.  The decorative piece at the very bottom of this photo is a portion of the top of the bookcase.

I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone would construct a case this way.  It would seem to be the hardest way possible.  Anyone have any ideas?

You can see my Shaker furniture at

Richard Bissell
Putney, Vermont


2 thoughts on “Construction techniques – Not how I would have done it

  1. chris ericson

    i'm thinking along the same lines as dan. you find really odd things like this in old houses that have been altered over there lives.
    correcting an "oops" can also bring out ones creative side as well.


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