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Revolving book stand: recreating 1800s-styled joinery with solid walnut.

Earlier this year we were asked to quote and build a Thomas Jefferson Revolving Book Stand, by a parent at The Ambrose School, as a class project for the school's annual auction. The original was built in 1810 at the joinery, a workshop at Monticello.

I began by creating a 3D rendering of the book stand, showing both the open and closed positions. Designing the scale of the piece was fairly simple since all the dimensions were pretty much based on the size of a trade paperback or hardcover book. The overall height of the piece is 15.75 inches. Each side wing measures 13.75 inches wide and 12.75 inches tall, with a platform for the book measuring 12 inches wide and 12 inches tall. The top platform has a 12-inch wide and 11-inch tall space for a book.

I began the project by constructing the four book wings. Each wing would consist of a 1/2-inch maple ply field framed by 0.75-inch by 0.75-inch walnut trim on the top and sides and a 1.5-inch by 0.75-inch walnut trim on the bottom. The walnut trim on the sides and bottom would be mitered along the entire length to allow the front edge of each side to meet and nest together when in the closed position.

With all the parts cut to length on the chop saw, we used the Festool Domino to cut two mortises on each side. The mortises, once paired with a loose tenon, made aligning the trim along the top surface a breeze, and also ensures that the assembly stays solid for the next 200 years, just like the original.

We tackled the framing of the maple ply field in stages. First, we mitered and attached the sides. After that, we cut and fit the top trim. At this point, we sanded the front and back faces and the edges, which was a necessary step to complete before we attached the bottom trim, since the bottom trim would add a lip that would make the sanding process more difficult.

After we sanded the faces, we attached the bottom trim, which is the rest that each book will sit on. Once the glue had dried, we set our table saw blade on a 45 degree angle and cut each edge of all four sides.

After we completed work on the four sides, we turned our attention to the base. The base would be made up of a 3/4- inch maple plywood field, with four walnut feet. The walnut feet were in the shape of a small "L" and would fit into notches cut into each corner. We created those notches on the table saw and, with a series of cuts, we had the necessary material removed to accept the walnut feet.

The easiest way to clamp small items, like the corner feet, is to use blue painters tape, which holds the small pieces steady while the glue dries. The next morning we sanded the face and eased all the edges.

Jared Patchin is the owner of J Alexander Fine Woodworking. Follow his project series at

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Title Annotation:HOW it's made
Comment:Revolving book stand: recreating 1800s-styled joinery with solid walnut.(HOW it's made)
Author:Patchin, Jared
Publication:Woodworking Network
Date:Oct 1, 2014
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