I built the table out of rift-sawn white oak, a straight-grain wood with a warm, creamy color, but almost any hardwood or softwood would suffice. Materials for my table cost about $275; your choice of wood will affect the price of yours.
Although this project may look advanced, there's really nothing complex about the construction. You'll cut biscuit grooves (or use dowels), glue and clamp pieces together, use a router, drive screws and apply finish. The only catch is that the assembly can be confusing. Correctly orienting the pieces during assembly is essential so that they radiate in the same direction. (For example, look at the forward corner joints of the horizontal edging pieces G, H1 and H2 in the exploded-view illustration within the PDF. You'll see that all of the joints overlap in the same direction.) Carefully follow the drawings, photos and step-by-step instructions, and you'll be fine. Depending on your skill level, construction should take about 16 hours, plus a few more hours to apply finish.
Building this project requires a table saw, a jigsaw, a biscuit joiner (or doweling jig), a cordless drill/driver, an orbital sander, a trammel-point set for drawing large circles, four 30-in. bar or pipe clamps and a variety of shorter bar clamps. A thickness planer, belt sander and pneumatic nail gun are helpful, too. You'll also need a router with a circle-cutting guide (an accessory to your router or aftermarket purchase), a straight bit, a bottom-bearing flush-trim bit and 1/2-in. and 1/4-in. roundover bits.
To make it easier to keep track of parts during construction, the assemblies are named: the tabletop (which is attached separately), the top assembly, the divider section, the bottom assembly, the lazy Susan bearing and the base.
The divider section is the most complex component. It's basically two interlocking T's. Four subassemblies are constructed first; then pairs of subassemblies are joined to make two T assemblies. Finally, the T's are joined to make the divider assembly. Refer often to the illustration as you make the divider section, and clearly label the parts to make your work easier.
The divider-section plywood (D) is partially seen from both sides. That means both faces of the plywood must be the same species and look good. Although the best grade of hardwood plywood is A1, typically the best you'll find is graded A2, which means good on one side, fair on the other, and both sides are usually the same species. Carefully select your plywood to find the best piece possible. When you assemble the bookcase, orient the divider (D) so that the less attractive side faces inward, opposite the side with the book supports (J), to help conceal its imperfections.
The use of the alignment blocks (E) makes aligning the top and bottom assemblies with the divider section a breeze. Laying out the locations for the screws that join those components is just a matter of tracing the shape of the divider section onto the top and bottom assemblies.
Top and bottom assemblies
Cut the panels (A, B, C) and edging pieces (G, H1, H2) to size (see cutting list within the PDF). Draw layout lines on the top and bottom panels for positioning the alignment blocks (E) later. Use a thickness planer or belt sander to make the edging pieces equal to, or just slightly thicker than, the panels. Don't assume the plywood is all the same thickness. Cut biscuit grooves or use dowels to join the pieces; then attach the edging pieces to the panels (photo 1). Note: The tabletop edging (G) and bottom edging (H2) are attached to the panels (A, C) in a counterclockwise sequence, and the top edging (H1) is attached to the top panel (B) in a clockwise sequence.
Glue and clamp the edging pieces to the plywood panel one at a time. (Here the second piece is being attached.) Make sure the end-to-edge corner joint is tight before you add more clamps along the length.
Use a trammel-point set (beam compass) to draw the circles on the tabletop (29 in. dia.), top assembly (28 and 25 in. dia.) and bottom assembly (28 in. dia.). It's best to draw the circle on the underside of the tabletop so the trammel point doesn't make an indentation in the face of the tabletop. Lay out and drill the countersunk screw holes in the top assembly (on the 25-in.-dia. line) for the screws that attach the top.
Rough cut the outside circle shapes using a jigsaw. Leave about 1/16 in. extra to be removed by the router. Set up your router and circle-cutting guide and rout the shapes (photo 2). Do the routing in two steps, 1/4 in. deep and then 1/2 in. deep, but no more. You don't want to rout all the way through with the circleguide setup. Remove the remaining 1/4 in. with a flush-trim bit (photo 3).
Rout the shapes of the tabletop, top and bottom using a circle-cutting guide. The pivot point of the guide is taped down directly over the center point of the plywood panel. Rout only partway through.
Flip the circle assembly over and use a bottom-bearing flush-trim bit to remove the remaining wood and complete the circle shape.
Cut the dividers, end supports and book supports (D, I, J) to size. The joints where the book supports meet the dividers are called biscuit T-joints. Your biscuit joiner's manual should have instructions for cutting these joints, or you can search the Internet for more information. On the face of each divider, draw lines following the grain 4-1/8 in. from the edges. Use these lines to align the book supports with the dividers for cutting the T-joint biscuit grooves. Cut the biscuit grooves for joining the parts (photos 4 and 5).
Cut the biscuit T-joints where the book support meets the divider. Align the biscuit joiner with the centering marks on the book support and cut the grooves in the edge of the support.
Do not change the setup. Stand the joiner on end, align it with the centering marks and then cut the grooves in the divider.
Cut the biscuit grooves for joining the end supports (I) and dividers. Rout the 1/4-in.-radius roundover on the front edges of the book supports (J) and end supports. Finish sand the book supports and the insides of the dividers and end supports. Glue the biscuits and clamp the end supports to the dividers. Rout the 1/2-in.-radius roundover edges on the end supports. Finish sand the outsides of the book supports and the insides of the dividers. Attach the book supports to the dividers (photo 6).
Join the book supports to the dividers with glue and biscuits. Battens clamped under the joints will help distribute the clamp pressure into the middle, where it's hard to reach with clamps.
Glue the biscuits and clamp pairs of divider subassemblies together to form two T assemblies; then glue the biscuits and clamp the assemblies together to make the divider assembly.
Cut the base components (F, K, L, M) to size. Join the base pieces (K) together with biscuits and glue (photo 7). Rout the 1/2-in.-radius roundover on the base corners. Glue and clamp the cleats (L, M) to the inside of the base. Position them so that a 3/16-in. space remains above the lazy Susan panel (F). I placed temporary spacers under the cleats to set the alignment. Be sure you have the base oriented up with the corner joints radiating counterclockwise.
Assemble the base by joining pairs of base pieces together to form two subassemblies; then join the subassemblies to make the base. Be sure the parts are square.
Lay out the lazy Susan bearing mounting on the panel, and mark and drill the 3/4-in.-dia. screw-access holes. You'll use these holes when you mount the base to the bottom assembly. Screw the lazy Susan panel to the base.
Attach the alignment blocks (E; photo 8). Lay out and drill the holes for the screws that join the top and bottom assemblies to the divider section (photo 9). The screw holes are centered over the end supports (I) and book supports (J) and 1 in. from their ends. Rout the roundover edges on the tabletop, top assembly and bottom assembly. Screw the top and bottom assemblies to the divider section; then screw the tabletop to the top assembly. Screw the lazy Susan bearing to the base; then screw the base and lazy Susan bearing to the bottom assembly. Flip the bookcase over and upright, and test to see that everything works properly.
Glue and nail the alignment blocks to the "good" face of the top and bottom assemblies.
Set the divider assembly over the alignment block on the top assembly and trace around the end supports and book supports; then remove the divider assembly and mark the screw holes.
You'll need to disassemble the table to achieve an even finish. Choose the type of finish based on the amount of protection you want for your table. I applied wipe-on Danish oil — it's fast and easy to apply and looks good, but it offers little protection against water. For more protection, apply a hard finish such as polyurethane, varnish or lacquer. Finally, finish sand what remains to be sanded, sand smooth any exposed sharp edges, complete the finish application, and reassemble the table; then load it with an array of books and take a reading break.
About the author: Handyman Club member Bruce Kieffer is a custom furniture builder, freelance woodworking author and technical illustrator. You can see a collection of his work at www.kcfi.biz.