Hiding Dados in a Solid Wood Bookcase

Article - September 21, 2009

This Viewer Question comes from Mark. He writes:

My question has to do with a bookcase I am building. I consider myself a novice woodworker. I certainly learn from my mistakes and this may be another one. I am building this bookcase from solid red oak. It has three fixed shelves that I have glued into dadoes. I am wondering about finishing the front edges to cover the dadoes. I have curved the top of each side, so I cant attach anything with any thickness. I cut some thin strips, but I am afraid they won’t be flexible enough to bend over the curve at the top. Any thoughts? Can I leave the edges unfinished? I am thinking I should cover those dadoes.

edgebandingHey Mark. Bottom line is you don’t have to cover the dados if you don’t want to. Since its solid wood, the edges probably look fine and I doubt anyone will ever notice the joinery. But if it bothers you, there are solutions out there. You can buy rolls of veneer tape in many species, including red oak. This thin veneer can take just about any curve you can dish out. Many even contain a heat activated glue so all you have to do is put it on the edge, run an iron over it, and use a roller to push it into the grain. Then trim the excess and you’re good to go. But that technique is usually reserved for plywood, since we don’t want to see the ugly edges. You can see how I apply this type of edge-banding here: Video – On the Edge. But boy oh boy it really pains me to think of you covering solid wood edges with veneer edge-banding.

bookcaseSo here’s one other suggestion. You might think this idea is crap so feel free to discard it, but this is something you should try to do whenever you confront a problem. Always try to think of a way to add something to your design, rather than just fix the error. For instance, what if you ran a decorative trim piece of walnut across each fixed shelf. It could look like an intentional design choice instead of something that disguises a joint. You could cut the strip with a bevel on it or even some kind of profile to make it really pop. The picture on the left gives you an idea of what this might look like. Obviously this may or may not work depending on the look you are going for, but its one possible solution.

StopDadoNow we should probably also discuss how to prevent this in the future. What could have been done to prevent the exposed dado joint? The first thing that comes to mind for me is a stopped dado. So instead of running that dado all the way through to the end of the case side, you can stop it about an inch back. And your shelf simply receives a little notch at the front corner. This would give you the strength of the dado with the appearance of a simple butt joint at the front of the case.

***So how would you guys deal with a problem like this? And what ideas do you have for prevention?