Need design help with built in bookcases.

Hi,
my wife has asked me to justify my purchase of woodworking equipment by building some built in bookcases. I think I understand most of what I need to do I just need some design help.
On one wall of a room I have a brick fireplace which runs from the floor straight up to the ceiling. I need to build bookcases on either side. The left side is 52" wide, the fireplace is 53" wide and the right space is 74" wide.
First problem, the spot for the two bookcases are different widths. Do I just make one bookcase that fits each spot or break the large spot into 2? What is the better design decision.
Second question. The perpendicular wall next to the larger spot has a window 23" from the corner. The fireplace is 8" in depth near the top and is 19" in depth at the bottom.
Do I make the bookcases 23" in depth so they run right up to the window or 19" so they are flush with the fireplace?
Third question. If the ceiling is 8' how much space do I need to allow so I can tilt the bookcases into their spot?
I was thinking of using the bookcase plan in Woodsmith 159 as the basis but adding drawers along the bottom.
Thanks for the help.
Alex
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Both 52 and 74 inches are too wide for a shelf which has no center style. I would make each bookshelf to fit its side.

I would make them flush with the fireplace.

Measure the height of the wall. It may or may not be exactly 96 inches Then compute the diagonal. Make the diagonal measurement of the sides of the bookshelf equal to or a little less than the diagonal of the wall. When you get the bookshelf installed, add suitable molding to cover the gap.

Jim
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Sounds like custom width in all cases.
I like to do 24" boxes and make up the wall section till I fill it up. You can come up with a similar size to fit your wall sections.
What you might consider is to make "filler" panels that go between the boxes that you could use to "balance" the section of wall. You can do a fluted section that will look quite nice.
Do a "mock up" with mdf to see how it will fill out the sections. Keep the mock quite short,, so you can play with sizes.
I would check my ceiling. I doubt it is 8' exactly.
Screw a board between two 2x4 the width you are planning to use and take it in the room in question.
Stand the "unit" up and see what happens.
You will need two or three inches to lift up a box that tall.
Instead of doing that, build the box 3 1/2" shorter and create a base that the box will sit on.
This way you can build the box to fit very close to the ceiling(assuming that's what you want).
You don't want a shelf on the floor level and will probably use baseboard around the bottom which will cover the base I mentioned earlier.
A bookcase should not be any deeper than "about" 11 3/4". With a 3/4" face frame, you got plenty of space.
This get max usage out of plywood and will handle 95% of most books.
Jim wrote:

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wrote:

I think you will have to split them both. 53" is still too wide without support.

I'd probably stay behind the fireplace front. If the FP is 19" I might stay at 18" or so.

You have good suggestions about how to handle turning/building the cabinet for your 8' ceiling. You might also consider a break front style cabinet especially if you want some drawers. You could make a deep lower unit with drawers and then a bookcase depth (12") upper unit. This also eliminates the ceiling dilemma since you can now stack the units.
Mike O.
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"Alex" wrote:

Check out the NYW web site.
Norm did a couple of shows that specifically address the questions you ask.
Wall coverings, book cases, etc.
The videos of the shows should help you.
Lew
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snip
Everyone seems to have missed the most important decision: what New Tool will you need before you can do the job Properly!
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Look at the room and try to figure out why the fireplace is off-center to begin with. Was it an independent design decision, or something forced by other considerations in the building? Does it "work", or look odd? Absent the answer to any of those, I'd opt for 53" wide (2x26,5) on either side of the fireplace. Id then plan something for the 21" of space to the right of the bookcase: statuary, potted plant, small curio cabinet, etc.

I don't think either should control your design. I'll second Mike's suggestion for a cabinet bottom with shelves on top, unless you want a very formal look. Gives more depth for drawers in the bottom, a nice flat surface, and ability to do "normal" depth shelves. I don't think you will normally see depth over 12" above counter top height in a built-in other than in a kitchen, laundry room, workshop, or entertainment center.

1) Stacking units.
2) A base that the unit can be lifter up onto.
3) Go back to your junior high math teacher with hat in hand and say "I know that when you were trying to teach us that 'square of the hypotenuse equals the sum of the squares of the other two sides" thing, I said I didn't see any use for it. But now I do, so can you please go over that again for me?" <g>
4) 2" height margin is good enough for tilting an 18" deep unit into place
--
Alex -- Replace "nospam" with "mail" to reply by email. Checked infrequently.

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Thanks very much to everyone.
I'll take your suggestions and build some type of cabinet bottom with drawers and then left the bookcase into the spot. Like you have suggested this way I will have deeper drawers with regular depth bookcases on top.
Now since I am painting them can I just make them out of MDF or should I stick with plywood?
Alex

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As you might expect, there are trade-offs
Plywood: Stronger More water resistant
MDF: better surface for paint Dust problems when working: more of it and carcinogen Heavier Exposed edges okay.
The ones I built recently I did in plywood. MDF would give a better surface for the counter top if adequately braced so it doesn't sag. I'd recommend ply for shelves themselves, with solid wood front edge.
MDF is fine if you have designed for it. Using MDF for a design that is engineered for ply will lead to lots of sagging.
For the surface smoothness of painted ply, I used drywall mud as a filler, then primed with oil-based primer and painted with oil-based enamel, and was very pleased with the results. On less obvious surfaces, I omitted the drywall mud filler, and the grain really telegraphs through, even after I thought I had the primer coat sanded really smooth.
--
Alex -- Replace "nospam" with "mail" to reply by email. Checked infrequently.

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Look at what this guy did with MDF
http://www.twistedknotwoodshop.com/laurioffice.htm
Your design will have a heavy bearing on where and when you can use the mdf.
Joe used to be a very active member of the news group.
Alex wrote:

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Wow, great example of what you can do with MDF.
I

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In article <6fe169d7-6399-4ea1-959b-

Has anyone here turned MDF? That doesn't sound like fun.
S.
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You might find the April 2001 issue of BH&G WOOD Magazine ( Issue 132 ) very instructive. The issue's theme was the start of a series of articles entitled "The Handcrafted Home". A family room was transformed into an Arts & Crafts showplace . Step by step instructions were given for wall preparation, paneling, HVAC modifications, wall paint, hardwood floor, upper mantel, built-in bookcases, lower mantel, fireplace stained-glass windows and wall sconces. Many of the step by step references are no longer available from the WOOD Magazine website, but the articles did give direct links to the vendors listed. Most are still functional. I used this issue as a planning guide to two remodel projects for my family.
Check out your local library or woodworking guild for a look at this issue. If you are interested there are two eBay auctions currently available for this issue.
eBay Item # 380054146400 - Buy It Now price $ 2.75 - Shipping $ 3.00
eBay Item # 170176532674 - Buy It Now Price $ 4.99 - Shipping $ 3.30 ( Item listing states it is for Issue 125 but description is Issue 132 )
I have no connection with either eBay listing.
Planes True

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Use the issue as a selling guide on your wife.
"Honey, I can build you this......but I'm gonna need some new TOOLS....and clamps, a lotta clamps ".

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