Pencil-Post Bookshelf

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For those who think that pencil post furniture is too “period,” here’s a literal re-interpretation that fits perfectly in a child’s playroom or bedroom.

Knowing how quickly kids outgrow furniture, this bookshelf was designed to be fun, easy to build, and inexpensive. You’ll find the bulk of the materials at your home center: the posts are laminated 2×4s; the erasers are turned from a 4×4 cedar fence post; and the ferrules are 21⁄2" thick-walled PVC conduit. (I used Baltic Birch for the shelves, but you can save money by substituting hardwood plywood.) The connector nuts and cross dowels not only lock the shelves to the posts, but also make it easy to disassemble the pieces and transport them to the grandkid’s house.

Depending on your clamp collection, assembling the pencil posts may take a few glue-up sessions, but after that, the shelving unit can be finished in a weekend. Despite its simplicity, there are a few interesting twists and turns. You’ll learn how to lay out a hexagon; practice turning cones, cylinders, and tenons; and discover a few tricks for negotiating long columns with a short-bed lathe.

(Note: Bright colors add a nice dose of whimsy, but painting the posts yellow or black–or leaving them bare–provide options that may work better with your home's decor.)

Pencil Bookshelf

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