Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Folding Book Stand Revisited

One of the very first posts on this blog was about a folding book stand I made for my wife. In The Woodwright's Workbook, Roy Underhill writes about this stand, which he calls a reading stand. It's in the Domestic Devices chapter of that book, which is a must read if you are interested in hand tool woodworking - as are ALL his books.

As I stated in the original post, it was the first true hand tools only project I attempted. I also helped my nephew James create his own version (which you can read about here, here 2 and here 3). I think it is a fun, and challenging project with some "wow" factor as it is made out of one piece of wood.

A while back a blog reader, who has made some awesome book stands of his own, asked if I could post some more detailed pictures of the hinge layout that I used. This post is the belated (sorry Craig) response to his request.

The first step is to lay out a square on the edge of the stock. Then, divide this in half both vertically and horizontally. Finally, connect the four mid-line points to make a diamond shape (okay, okay - so it's really just a rotated square - sheesh, Shape Police!). This then gets transferred across to the other edge and replicated. Lay out an odd number of hinges and start chopping and paring. If you work on the hinges closest to the edges, you can use the side layout to help guide both your angle and depth. Use these as guides for making the rest of the cuts. Then it's just a matter of sawing down and up to the hinges - look for the sawdust falling out from the hinge openings. If you worked carefully, the only thing holding the stand together at this point is the thin web of wood between each hinge. Use a very thin knife blade to cut these free and the stand will pop open. Fun!

Here's a close-up of the closed joint and layout lines. As you can see, I was not particularly careful with the rip sawing coming in from the left. I over-cut into the edge hinge. Doh! But it all came out okay - just be careful on the last couple of saw strokes.

After that, it's just deciding what shape to use for the legs and decorative top. The one in Roy's book, from Andre Roubo's Art of the Cabinetmaker, has a kind of double ogee top. I decided to base mine on the shape of old tombstones I used to see back east.

One last note - Roy mentions that Roubo describes creating a circular joint for this stand. I can see how that would work, but I've never tried it. Maybe on my next one...


  1. Okay, comments seem to be working again...

  2. Revisiting is good!

    While I remember the posts about James' book stand, this one offers the end view of the hinge. Seeing the layout helps.


  3. Very cool, Dan. I love the carving!

  4. Bob - Thanks! Yeah, it's the key to the whole thing - don't know why I didn't include a shot of that in the first post...

    Kari - Thank You! I like the carving too; it was kind of a gamble - I remember thinking "Am I about to kill this thing?" But it all worked out in the end. I'll have to try to be brave more often. Your carving is always an inspiration.

  5. Thanks Dan, that's just what I needed. A shot of the hinge that I figured out is here, and as you can see, it doesn't look nearly as nice.

  6. Craig - Your welcome - glad it was helpful.

  7. Dan,

    yet once again I'm impressed with your Handy Work.

    I'll probably be attempting this when The spring comes in so it will be warm in my shop.

    Appreciate it, Great Rack.


  8. This is awesome!

    A year or two ago I saw in a museum in Germany at an Islamic Art exhibit an ancient (maybe 800 years old? perhaps much older) Koran stand that was made exactly like this. I'll have to dig out some pictures of it I took. I was fascinated because I couldn't figure out how they made it from a single block of wood. Interesting to see the technique used in a completely different culture.

  9. Brian - Very cool! I'm pretty sure this design has been around for a long time. It would be interesting to research the origins...

    I'd love to see those pictures if you find them.

  10. I believe this is the Koran stand in question:


  11. http://mihrabislamicart.com/artOfWoodArtifcats.htm


    Stands like these are indeed made for Qur'an and most Muslims will receive at least one during their lifetimes as a gift.

    In the 55 Muslim countries of the world, in South Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, many countries of Far East and Africa this kind of book stand has been used for hundreds of years and is known as a books stand popularly used to hold religious books in particular the Qur'an.

    I can safely say more than 2 billion people around the world will know this as a Qur'an book stand or at least a book stand which is usually used to hold the Qur'an.

    Unfortunately due to this slip up in properly attributing the back ground of the books stand US woodworkers will know it as Roubo's book stand(though Underhill did say it was not invented by him).

    As Underhill is generally recognized for his historical approach to woodworking this will be another thing the Americans will not know about the world.

    I think the American woodworker deserves better.

    This kind of book stand is still made by hand usually has some carving/intrasia some times inlay work and is widely available even in US.
    Just Google search "Islamic book store" and you will get online address and also physical stores in most major US cites selling this book stand. Even ebay and Amazon should have them.
    Usually you can get one for less than $20.

  12. Hi I just saw your book stand. It's beautiful. I was looking for a Bible stand. Do you sell them. I know the post was 2009! but thought I'd take a chance!

    1. Donum Vitae - Thanks - I'm glad you like it. I would be happy to sell one, but at the speed I'm moving these days it might take a long, long time. If you are not in a hurry, we might be able to work out something. Send me an email (in my profile)if you are interested.

  13. how can i buy one dan.. I want to buy your bookstand... where do u sell them

    1. Well, just now I don't have any for sale. Maybe someday my life will slow down a bit and I can put some up on Etsy or some similar site. Sorry. Why not try to make one yourself - it's fun.

  14. Hey Dan,

    Great blog. Just found it looking for more info on this bookstand. You do nice work man.

    1. Thanks Aaron! I am hoping to get back to posting new content very soon - the new shop is almost ready!


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