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How To Build A Modern Credenza Bookcase

How To Build A Modern Credenza Bookcase

I built this modern credenza bookcase over the course of the last few months. This massive project was built from Purebond Walnut veneer plywood and solid Walnut. I'm really happy to have this one done! Plans will be available soon, sign up for my email newsletter to be notified when they're available.

Thanks to Purebond and Rockler for sponsoring this week's project video. Support me by supporting my sponsors! 

Materials Used On The Modern Credenza Bookcase (affiliate):

Tools Used On The Modern Credenza Bookcase (affiliate):

Voiceover Script : 

The first step in this project, as with any other sheet goods project, was breaking down the full sheets into the individual parts. I used a lot of plywood on this build, about three sheets of ¾” plywood and one sheet of ¼” plywood for the back panels. 

To break down the sheets, I used a combination of tools, first starting at the table saw to break down the larger pieces. 

After ripping the pieces to length, I crosscut them to width using my Rockler Crosscut Sled.

For some of the longer pieces that were too long to manage with the crosscut sled, I used my track saw and cut the matching pieces at the same time to make sure they were the exact same size. 

The side panels of the bookcase section have a decorative curved section cut out, and next I worked on getting that cut to shape. I traced the curve using a compass and then ripped a straight line at the table saw to the point where the curve started. 

Next, I used my jigsaw to cut the curve, but I was left with an uneven curve and just couldn’t get it dialed in by hand. The human eye is really good at seeing when circular objects aren’t perfectly round.

Then I remembered I have an X-Carve, so I used that to knock out a quick curve template.

I trimmed off the excess from the side panel and then attached the template with double stick tape, and then used a flush trim bit in my router to route the side panel flush with the template. This left me with a perfect curve.

With the curve cut, I ripped the straight section flush with the curve at the table saw, and then could create the matching panel using the completed panel as a template. I cut away the excess using a jigsaw and then clamped the two panels together and used the router to flush cut the edges. 

Once the edges were cut, I came back with a sanding block to remove any tool marks and get the edges perfectly even. 

With all of the pieces cut out, next I needed to start getting the plywood edges covered with edge banding. In the past, I’ve always used peel and stick edge banding, but it can be extremely fragile and has a tendency to crack.

On this build, I decided to cut my own hardwood edge banding, which I did at the bandsaw. Each strip was roughly 3/16” thick, which gave me plenty of material to work with.

After ripping the strips at the bandsaw, I smoothed them all out at the drum sander and brought them all down to a consistent thickness.

To attach the edge banding to the panels, I used glue and clamped the banding in place using Rockler’s Bandy Clamps. I thought I had way too many of these things but ended up using every single one of them on this build. 

As you can see, the edge banding was left about ¼” wider than the plywood, to leave plenty of overhang on each side, so after the glue dried, I needed to flush it up.

I used a trim router and a spiral flush trim bit to do this, and found this awesome Little Lipper attachment for my trim router that allowed me to run it on edge. It was the perfect tool for the job and I was able to perfectly trim all of the edge banding super quick. I’ll have a link to it in the video description in case you’re interested.

The only tricky part of the edge banding process was the curved edges of the side panels. The 3/16” edge banding was too thick for this, so I brought it down to about ⅛” thick, but it was still a little brittle. I used some hot water to soften up the wood and then clamped it to the template I had cut earlier and let it dry, which helped it keep that shape. After it dried, I glued it onto the side panels just like the rest of the edge banding and it worked great.

With all of the edge banding applied, I could move on to the joinery for the credenza cabinet. I used my Domino for this process, and it was really perfect for this application, but you could definitely use dados, dowel joinery, or pocket holes if you don’t have a Domino. 

I used the wing attachments on the Domino to get even spacing from the edges of the cabinet, so I didn’t need to mark out all of the Domino locations. This really sped things up, and I was able to cut all of the joinery for the cabinet super quick.

To cut the mortises for the center dividers, I clamped one of the dividers to the top or bottom panels, made sure it was square, and used it as the reference surface, which worked great.

Once all of the mortises were cut for the credenza, I went ahead and glued it up, which went pretty smoothly, although I used way too much glue and had a ton of squeeze out to contend with.

While I’m working, let’s talk about one of the sponsors of this week’s project, Purebond plywood. I really love using Purebond, it’s a formaldehyde-free hardwood plywood that’s made in the USA, actually right down the road from me here in North Carolina, and it’s super high quality. Basically, any time I’m using plywood on a project, especially for furniture, I’m using Purebond. Purebond is formaldehyde-free, uses soy based glues, and available exclusively at Home Depot, and I’ll have a link in the video description if you’d like to learn more.

With the credenza carcass drying, I moved on to the bookcase, which was basically the same as the credenza. Once again, I used the Domino for the joinery and it went really quickly. 

Also, I am just loving the assembly table I built a few months ago. The t-track clamps are super handy, and I’ve got plans available in case you’re interested in building one of these tables for yourself. I use it on every build and it’s become one of the most essential pieces in my shop.

Once all of the joinery was cut, I moved on to gluing up the bookcase, which was a real challenge due to the sheer size of the piece. I didn’t have any clamps long enough to reach across the 64” wide bookcase, so I used some strap clamps, which worked really well. This was definitely a stressful glue up, having an extra set of hands would have been super helpful for sure.

Since the bookcase and credenza cabinets are two separate units, I had to think out how the two would attach, and I decided to add a strip to the bottom back edge of the bookcase to allow a mending plate to be attached and a screws to be added from behind later.

I attached this strip using pocket screws, since these screws will be covered up by the back panel anyway. 

Next, I needed to notch out the bottom dividers on the bookcase so they could be attached around the strip, and I marked out the notch using the strip as reference. I cut the notch using my bandsaw.

With the strip in place and the dividers notched, I could glue the dividers in place using the Domino mortises I cut earlier. I used these Rockler corner clamps to make sure the dividers were square to the shelves while the glue dried.

Once the glue dried, I came back and attached the strip to the dividers using a couple of screws from the back side of the strip.

With all of the pieces in place, I could attach the back panel to the bookcase and credenza. I used ¼” Purebond Walnut veneered plywood for the back panel, to match the rest of the cabinet, and I cut the sections to rough size at the table saw.

Before gluing on the back panel, I marked out the locations of the shelves so I knew where I could add brad nails to hold the panel in place while the glue dried. I also added a few spacers to the top shelf, to make sure it didn’t sag at all during the glue up. 

Next, I added glue to the back edges of all of the pieces, dropped the back panel into place, and added 1” brad nails every foot or so. I then flipped the bookcase onto it’s back, for two reasons. First, this applied a little more pressure to keep the back panel in place while the glue dried, and second it allowed me to wipe off any glue squeeze out. 

I repeated the same process for the credenza off camera.

After the glue dried, I came back with a flush trim bit on my router and flushed the back panel up with the sides of the bookcase and credenza.

With the back panel flushed up, I swapped to a chamfer bit and chamfered the edges of the back panel so that the chamfered edge was flush with the sides of the cabinets. This little trick really helps to hide the back panel and gives it a super clean look.

Now that the credenza carcass was done, I could cut the doors and shelves to size based on the actual final size of the credenza. This was more of the same process, cutting the pieces to size from plywood and then adding hardwood edge banding. 

I accidentally cut some of the shelves too narrow, so I made up for that extra length by adding thicker edge banding, which worked out perfectly.

I didn’t show most of the sanding on this build, just because it’s boring, but there was definitely plenty of it. I got through a lot of audiobooks on this project, hah.

While I’m sanding, let’s talk about the sponsor of this week’s video, Rocker Woodworking and Hardware. I used a ton of Rockler products during this build, including their bandy clamps, t-track clamps, crosscut sled, tapering jig, bench cookies, and lots more, and I’ll have links to all of the items I used in the video description below. 

Rockler has got tons of great tools and accessories for your next build, and they’re always coming up with new and innovative ideas to help make your woodworking more efficient and more enjoyable. Thanks again to Rockler for sponsoring this build.

Next, I could start getting the hardware added to the credenza. First, I drilled the shelf pin holes using a homemade jig. I used ¼” brass shelf pins, which I think looked super nice with the Walnut.

Next, I drilled the holes for the inset hinges I used on this project. I used this little Kreg hinge jig and it worked awesome, allowed me to drill perfectly square holes without using my drill press. It also has guides for pilot holes for the screws that hold the hinge in place. I’ll have a link to it in the video description below in case you’re interested. 

For the door pull, I decided to keep it simple and just drill a hole through the door. I used an 1 ½” Forstner bit for this and drilled the hole at the drill press. 

After I drilled the hole in the door, I chamfered both sides to give it a clean look and a better feel. I really like the way these pulls look on the final piece, they’re super clean and minimal.

Next, I hung the doors on the cabinet, first marking out the screw locations and pre-drilling before adding the doors. These Blum soft-close hinges are super adjustable and it was really easy to get an even reveal all the way around the door. Also, I just love how smoothly they close, so satisfying.

The last part of this build was the base, which you might have seen in previous shots. I actually built the base along the way, but figured I’d keep it all together to make it easier to follow. 

I only had 5/4 Walnut on hand, so I first needed to mill the wood square and then glue up some of the pieces to get the 8/4 thickness I was looking for on this base. The base will be supporting a ton of weight between the bookcase, credenza, and all of the contents of the two pieces once they’re loaded up, so I wanted a really beefy base.

After the glue up, I milled all of the parts square, cut them to length on the miter saw, and then cut a taper on the legs using the Rockler Tapering Jig. I ideally wanted splayed legs on this piece, but I was worried that there would be too much weight on the legs and the splay would cause the legs to fail.

For the joinery on the base, I used, you guessed it, Dominos, and the process went super quick. I used two Dominos per corner and this made for a super strong base. 

Once all of the mortises were cut, I glued the base together. Also, you can tell how long I’ve been working on this piece, since I still had the pegboard up in the background of this shot. This project has been lurking in the background for a few months, super happy to have it finished up finally.

To attach the base to the underside of the credenza, I used 1 ¼” pocket screws, so I needed to drill some recessed holes for the screws. I used a Forstner bit to drill the recess and then drilled the through hole using a twist bit. 

Before attaching the base to the credenza, I gave it a good sanding, and then used the aforementioned pocket screws to permanently attach the base to the underside of the credenza.

After sanding all of the parts up to 180 grit off camera, it was finally time to apply finish. I went with General Finishes Enduro Var and sprayed it with my Fuji Q3 HVLP system. You certainly could wipe or brush on the finish on a piece like this, but it would have taken forever.

These huge pieces are where spraying finish really excels, and I was able to finish this whole piece in an afternoon, spraying three coats and scuff sanding before the last coat. 

The last step on this build was to attach the credenza to the bookcase. This is really just a safety mechanism, it keeps the bookcase from sliding off the credenza when in use.

I used these 6” mending plates, which were perfect for this task. I needed to make sure the screws went into the dividers in the credenza, so I measured and marked out where to add the plate. On the bookcase, it didn’t really matter where the screws landed since I added that strip during the build process.

With that, this massive build was finished. Man, that was a lot of work! 

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