Notes on the Schwarz Folding Bookstand

In June 2018 Popular Woodworking published an article written by Christopher Schwarz on making a small bookstand. It folds up into a neat package about 7″x3″x2″. The PW article shows the stand folded and unfolded, but doesn’t really show how it works. Several people including me, complained to PW about the lack of detail. PW responded by posting the entire article along with a short video of the bookstand folding and unfolding on their web log. Schwarz covers the construction well in the article. I will not repeat his details here but will write about the methods and tools I used, plus some minor changes in the design.

I had four slabs of walnut that used to be engraved commemorative plaques. They are 10″x14″ and about 11/16″ thick after I planed off all the text. There is a 3/8″ cove on all four edges and keyhole hanger slots cut in the back.

Rescued Commemorative plaque

Rescued Commemorative plaque

Could I salvage enough wood from one of these to make a bookstand? Of course! Could I salvage enough to make two bookstands? Probably. Could I stretch it to three?  Maybe. The first plaque I cut up did yield three bookstands but I had to glue cutoff scraps together in several places. Nevertheless, it worked and I gained a lot of understanding of what needed to be done. I proceeded to cut up a second slab after thinking through a more detailed cut plan. So if you have a 10×14 slab of walnut maybe you can use this:

Cut Plan for the Plaque

Cut Plan for the Plaque

Most of the PW project is based on sticks 7/8″ wide and 3/16″ thick. The article specifies 7″ length, mine have to be a little bit shorter, 6 5/8″ because of the cove. My table saw is currently equipped with a Diablo 7 1/4″ finish blade that makes a very thin kerf, just over a sixteenth.  I can cut a 7/8″ strip from the plaque then resaw that into two 3/16″ sticks with a little bit left over, or into a 3/8″ thick piece plus one 3/16″ stick. The back has some kind of finish that I planed off after the board was sliced up.

One section of the my cut plan produced a 3 1/2″ wide slab that I resawed into a 3/8″ and a 3/16″ section. The 3/8″ thick component was cut into six 1 1/8″ ledge parts, while the 3/16″ part made eight of the outside rail/stile sticks. For three bookstands I needed six ledges and 18 rail/stile sticks. Six shorter rail sticks form the foot and prop parts. The center frames consumed six 3/8″x7/8″x1″ blocks and six 3/8″x7/16″x6 5/8″ pieces for the frame stiles. I had to glue plugs and patches into some of the keyhole slots but I made it.

Three Bookstand Kits

Three Bookstand Kits

Initially, I made the inner frame slightly wide. I cut the two inside stiles oversize then set the final dimension by laying down two of the 7/8″ wide sticks with a thin coffee stirrer in between, marking the glued up frame to that width. The approximately 1/16″ space down the center assures room for the stand to fold completely. Gluing up the center frame was difficult. I could not keep the one inch stiles from sliding around when I applied clamps. The wads of rubber bands you can see in the above photo helped, allowing me to position the four components, then apply larger clamps when the glue began to set up.

Constructing the first group of bookstands pointed out issues with the bottom rails. Schwarz shapes the bottom of the center frame as a half circle with a full 7/8″ radius. This brings the trimmed edge very close to the lower rivet counterbores and I had a couple of those break out while setting a rivet. My second batch of bookstands has a 7/16″ radius on each bottom corner, leaving more meat in that area.

Also I decided that bottom rails don’t need full half circle rounding. They are glued to the flat surface of the ledge, so these rails only need a radius on the top inside corner.

Bookstand Glued Assemblies

Bookstand Glued Assemblies

While finishing the first batch of stands the glue joint broke between a bottom rail and ledge on three occasions. The problem is if one of the bottom rails is rotated past it’s normal open position, the ledge will contact the inner frame and put a lot of stress on the glue joint. So on the first three I redid the glue and put nails through the bottom rail into the ledge to reinforce that point. My revised design with the bottom rails only half rounded will hopefully reduce or eliminate that weak point.

Danger With Only One Side Unfolded

Danger With Only One Side Unfolded

All the rails and stiles need counterbored holes for the rivets. Accuracy of these holes, centered, and 7/16″ from the end is important to the finished stand folding smoothly. I built the specified fixture but not wanting to spend $20 on the counterbore bit Schwarz had, I dusted off a technique used in previous projects. Some router bits will make a flat bottomed hole. I used the 3/8″ keyhole bit seen in the middle of this photo. A spiral upcut bit would probably work as well. Some of the counterbores came out slightly off center when I used the router bit alone so I think the best procedure is:

  1. Start all holes with a 1/16″ pilot bit
  2. Mark all roundovers with a compass. Compass point fits nicely in the pilot hole
  3. Start all the counterbores about 1/16″ deep with a 3/8″ Forstner bit
  4. Change to the router bit and flatten the counterbore bottom
  5. Drill the pilot hole out to 9/64″

The Forstner hole will guide the pilotless router bit. Note that the top rail has holes on both ends, and its counterbores are on opposite sides. You only need to counterbore to about half the 3/16″ thickness to hide the rivets.

Fixture for Drilling Outside Rails and Stiles

Fixture for Drilling Outside Rails and Stiles

Once the round overs are marked, they can be cut out. I used a disc sander for the first batch of bookstands, but the second set of three I pared to the line with a sharp chisel and refined with a sanding block. It was just as fast as the disc sander. This picture shows some of the marked round overs. Note – top and bottom pairs here are for bottom rails and have only one corner marked.

Ends Marked for Rounding

Ends Marked for Rounding

You have to glue the ledge to the bottom rail. Note – the counterbore goes on the back of the rail, and the whole thing has to be kept square. I used leftover 7/8″ bits of wood to support the front of the ledge while fussing the bottom rail flat against the ledge while gradually tightening the clamps. I’m using Old Brown LHG so it will be easier to fix if I mess up. Here are two glue ups in progress.

Ledge and Bottom Rail Glue Up

Ledge and Bottom Rail Glue Up

While the bottom rail glue was setting up, I drilled rivet holes in the center frames. To mark the positions I fitted a 9/64″ transfer punch into one of the rails. Then holding the frame and the rail tight to a square, tapped the punch down. I then used the drill press to make 3/8″ counterbores with a Forstner bit and ran a 9/64″ bit through for the rivets. Note – on the center frame the counterbores are on the front at bottom and on the rear at the top.  Second note – If you screw this up you can make a patch from one of the thin scraps using a 3/8″ plug cutter DAMHIKT.

This photo also shows the center foot pieces in which I have pre drilled pockets based on spacing learned from the first batch of stands, 1 inch, two inches and three inches up from the bottom.

Marking for Frame Drilling

Marking for Frame Drilling

Hinges for the foot and prop that support the unfolded bookstands need to be created.  I used 4 penny finishing nails instead of the 6 penny Schwarz specified in the article. This gives a little more leeway when drilling through the pivoting part. First the holes have to be laid out. I have a gauge set to exactly half the foot thickness, and scratch the pin locations from the face on both sides of the frame. Drilling halfway from each side reduces the chance of a misalignment. Mark for drilling with an awl in the gauge scratch 3/16″ from the inside edge of the center frame rail.

The prop and foot must be firmly held in position while drilling for the pins. The foot goes on the rear of the frame against the bottom frame rail. The prop is hinged on the front of the frame against the top rail. I put a spacer cut from a playing card between the parts and the frame rails which gives some clearance for the part to swing open.

Tape the whole thing together.

Holding Foot and Prop Prior to Drilling for Hinge Pin

Holding Foot and Prop Prior to Drilling for Hinge Pin

I carefully checked that the drill press table was square to the quill. Then mounted the taped up frame in a vise and pushed a 1/16″ hole halfway through the foot and prop from both sides of the frame.

Drilling for Hinge Pins

Drilling for Hinge Pins

Next removed the 1/16″ pilot bit and replace with a 7/64″. Made 1/8″ deep counterbores on one frame stile only. This allows for the finish nail head to be sunk below the surface.

Hinge Pin Counterbore

Hinge Pin Counterbore

The final hinge step is to cut the head off one of the 4 penny nails and chuck that up in the drill press. Remove the foot and prop from the center frame and use the cut off nail to ream the hole made by the pilot bit. Also ream the two holes in the counterbored side of the frame.

Cut the taper in the prop stick. I just hogged off the wood with a chisel. Dry fit the foot and prop in the frame but don’t drive the nails in until satisfied with how they unfold. I had to chamfer the foot and prop edges above the pins to get satisfactory unfolding.

With all the parts drilled I could do a dry fit checking for interference between the moving parts. A few spots needed tuning with sandpaper or a block plane.

Successful Dry Fit

Successful Dry Fit

Each bookstand will get two layers of Watco Natural before assembly. After the rivets are installed, I will apply one more coat of Watco and finally paste wax.

Three Stands Drying

Three Stands Drying

 

Rivets. I had no experience with copper rivets prior to this project. Schwarz says they are easy and they were for the most part. I bought 75 Tandy rivets on Amazon, the PW article listed a source for a pound which would make a hundred bookstands but I only need about four for next Christmas. I think it looks better, by the way, if all the rivets face the same direction.

Now I watched my father set rivets in sickle bar mower blades a hundred times but I could never do it right. They are normally swedged with the round end of a ball pein hammer, but because in this project the rivets are recessed, you need a tool. Schwarz used a type of nail set which I’ve never seen to reach into the counterbores. I made a punch tool from the sawed off end of an auger bit by hollowing the flat end slightly with a Dremel grinder. The hollow helps to keep the punch from sliding off.

Homemade Rivet Setting Tool

Homemade Rivet Setting Tool

 

First you have to drive the burr washer down on the rivet shank. I tried two methods, both worked. The first, as shown in the article, is drilling a 9/64″ hole up the center of a hardwood dowel rod to make a setting tool. The second method uses the drill press quill to force the washer down. In the photo below left, a short piece of tubing supports the head of the rivet. The chuck is adjusted to slide loosely on the #12 rivet shank. It takes quite a bit of force to get the burr started. Note – there are lots of Youtube videos on setting copper rivets.

Set Burr With Drill Press or Dowel

Set Burr With Drill Press or Dowel

 

When the burr is firmly seated, I cut off the excess rivet shank above the surface of the wood with a pair of tile nippers left over from a long ago bathroom project. Biting the copper part way from two or three directions distorts the shank less.

Cut Rivet to Length

Cut Rivet to Length

 

I flatten the cut off shank flush with the wood surface with a rotary file bit.

Trim Rivet Flush With Surface

Trim Rivet Flush With Surface

 

The PW article shows the parts being joined lying on a steel plate while the rivet is swedged.  I don’t like that because the rivet head sits loosely in a counterbore, and just using a flat plate as an anvil will make the joint loose.  I made an anvil from a steel rod that fits inside the counterbore, clamped that in my bench vise with the bottom end resting on one of the big guide rods. Then I support the other end of the assembly at the appropriate height with a wood block clamped in a small vise.

Swedging First Rivet

Swedging First Rivet

 

I tap the concave punch holding it at a slight angle, then move the tool to a different spot. I’m trying not to hit the rivet directly in line with the shank as that may swell the whole shank. This isn’t leather, it will split the wood DAMHIKT. Just gently form the sides until the burr washer is evenly captured and the mushroomed over part is below the surface of the wood.

Swedged Copper Rivets

Swedged Copper Rivets

I fastened first the top rails to the outside stiles. Next attached the top rails to the center frame. Finally attached the bottom rail and ledge to the frame,  constantly checking that the parts didn’t interfere when folded and unfolded. It’s much easier to remove a bit of wood before the rivets are set. And the pre-applied finish needs to be completely cured or the parts may stick together – another DAMHIKT.

Swedging Last Rivet

Swedging Last Rivet

 

Six rivets done and time to test the unfolded bookstand.

Assembled Bookstand Unfolded

Assembled Bookstand Unfolded

 

A final coat of oil is optional, but paste wax protects the finish and shines it up. Merry Christmas to my three sisters, hope they don’t see this before December 25.

 

Update July 11, 2018

One of the stands in this final batch somehow got the foot and the prop reversed i.e. prop was hinged on the rear face of the frame and the foot hinged on the front face. In this condition you can’t unfold the foot to the rear as it is longer than the prop. I redrilled for the hinge pins at the correct position and in the process broke the glue joint on one of the ledges. Maybe OBG isn’t all it is advertised to be.

So I am now nailing the ledges to the bottom stiles. Thats nailing into the edge of a 3/16″ thick bit of hardwood with a very small wire nail. You must pilot drill for it. A cut off brad was not long enough to act as a pilot so I used a wire cut off a stiff paper clip as a drill bit which worked well in the drill press. I sunk only one nail near the stress point by the rivet. A number 2 screw would be better but I couldn’t find any long enough.

Here is a family photo of the final three bookstands.

Three Folding Bookstands

Three Folding Bookstands

 

Update November 8, 2018

Here is a stand made by Al Jones using a laser cutter. Perfectly radiused!

Bookstand made by Al Jones

Bookstand made by Al Jones – Laser Cut Components

 

 

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    • Ralph J Boumenot
    • July 8th, 2018

    Great write up and especially like the jigs. I made a book stand for my daughter and she likes but it is a bulky and hard to stow. I like the folded up footprint on this a lot. This is on my bucket list for a maybe xmas present and you just made the making easier.

  1. Thanks Ralph. This required more precision than I thought from just reading the article. Spend a couple of rivets practicing then plan on making more than one and keeping the best. Have you done the Roubo bookstand yet?

    • Al Jones
    • November 6th, 2018

    Being a member of a local Maker’s Lab with access to a laser, I couldn’t resist building this. I re-drew the plans using Corel Draw which can control the laser to cut the pieces and drill the holes. I did the first draft with 1/4″ Baltic Birch plywood and machine screws. Once I had my plans dialed in, I did another plywood version that i finished nicely and used the copper rivets. Pleased with the results, I did the third one with 3/16″ Butternut. This one turned out nice enough to give away. Even using the laser you still have a lot of hand work. You just can’t beat the laser when you need multiple identical parts.

    • How did you do the foot and prop hinges? Send me a jpeg and I’ll add it to my page.

        • Al Jones
        • November 7th, 2018

        I used the laser to make pilot holes. For the rivet holes I used a drill press for the through holes and counter bores. I taped the prop and foot in place and then used the drill press to carefully drill the tiny hinge holes. I cut the head off of ring shank drywall nails for the hinge pins.

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