Open a Little Library at your Home
Photos by Rob Brown; Illustration by Len Churchill
I wasn’t really looking for an idea for a weekend project, but just couldn’t pass up the opportunity when I saw a small wooden box with a glass door in it, on a post, on someone’s front lawn, in a Toronto neighborhood. While driving home, I went through a mental inventory of what I had in the way of materials in the garage that I could turn into a “Little Library” for my own neighbourhood. At home I measured a few books and decided to make one with a double shelf. I made a quick sketch, turned it into a plan and started building. Cedar stands up to the elements very well. I chose to use pine, as that is what I had on hand, but feel free to use whatever you think works best for your situation. A few coats of paint go a long way to protecting whatever wood you end up using.The main structure
|INFO: ||DIFFICULTY – 2/5, LENGTH/TIME – 3/5, COST – 2/5|
I started by rough-cutting to length the sides, back, bottom and roof sections. I then cut them to width on the table saw. I decided to dado the bottom and shelf into the sides. This took some time since I don’t have dado blades for my table saw. I set the fence to guide the sides through one blade width at a time. It took six or seven passes with each with 1/8" adjustments to the fence each pass. Once the sides were done, I cut a 45-degree bevel on the top of each side to mate with the roof pieces.
Angles – Though it’s covered by the painted white vertical trim, the top end of side directly behind it is cut at a 45° angle to mate with the roof boards.
Next, I cut the bottom and shelf to fit in the dado. I dry-fitted them in place and pre-drilled a couple holes in each. I put exterior glue in the dado and onto the shelves and bottom, then fit them together using the screws to secure them in place. Wipe up any glue that seeps out soon after the parts are fitted together and still wet, to make clean-up easier.
Once I had my bottom, sides and shelf assembled, I measured for the back, front gable and roof pieces. I traced the front gable and the back using the assembled structure and cut it on a mitre saw, but you could do this with a jigsaw if you want. The two roof sections differ in length by 3/4" as one roof section will overlap the other. I then glued and nailed the rest together using 18-gauge brad nails.
To keep water out, I caulked all the joints and corners, then painted it inside and out with exterior primer and one coat of exterior paint. I sanded lightly before painting and between coats.
Roof Construction – One side of the roof is 3/4" longer than the other, so they overlap, and get screwed together, at the peak.
Siding All Around – The siding on the sides and back of the library gets cut to fit in between the vertical trim pieces. There is also a small piece of siding on the front of the library, above the door, that is applied over the front gable.
Time for siding
I put the four vertical trim pieces on the front and back of the library, making sure they overhung the outer surfaces of the structure by the thickness of the siding. The upper edge of these four pieces must be cut on 45° angles to mate with the roof. With these four pieces attached I cut pieces of siding to fit in between the vertical trim rails. The hardest part of this aspect was cutting the angles on the front and back siding to mirror the roof angle. Both cuts should be 45°, but some fine-tuning may be in order. I then caulked all the edges. I nailed all these pieces on with short brad nails.
Front Details – Here you can see the front gable (upper, right white piece), the front siding to its left and the wider drip moulding sitting directly above the door.
Many Options – Pedlar ran the horizontal trim piece all the across the front of the library, then rested the vertical trim pieces on top of it, though it can be done the opposite way too. Notice the mitred door construction and how the glass is permanently captured in the doorframe. Another option is to run a rabbet around the door frame and hold the glass in place with a stop.
I put on peel-and-stick waterproof roof membrane over the whole roof. I used “shim shingles” and cut them back so they weren’t too thick, then stapled them on. The ridge cap was glued and installed over top.
Drip Moulding – Mitred and fitted between the roof sections, Pedlar cut a large bevel on the front upper edge of the drip moulding and installed it on the front siding.
I rough-cut the four pieces to length and, using the table saw, cut a 1/2" deep groove in one edge of each piece to receive the glass. I mitred the four ends of the door together, but a tongue-and-groove joint would have also worked nicely. I cut a 20° bevel on the upper edge of the door to help shed water. Another way to make the door frame would be to machine a rabbet in the back of the door, on the inside of the frame, so glass can be installed and replaced easily, if needed.
When the glue was dry I put on the hinges, handle and the magnet closer. I added weatherstripping around the inside of the door to keep any rain out. To keep out water I added a drip moulding to the front of the library, about 3/8" above the upper edge of the door. It helps shed water very nicely. It’s mitred on both ends and has a 45° cut on its upper front edge to shed water.
Meanwhile, I decided to build a base out of some 6 × 6 cedar pieces I had. I originally thought I would just use a metal fence post leg that you pound into the ground with a 4 × 4 post for the library to sit on, but thought that might not be stable enough. You could easily use 4 × 4 material for the base, as it’s cheaper and strong enough. I screwed the base together with the main support post coming up to support the library. I dug up some of the lawn to set the base in the ground and made sure it was level.
I cut and attached two 2 × 4 T-brackets to the bottom of the library, separated by the width of the main support post. I set the library on the center of the post and screwed the 2 × 4s to the 6 × 6 when it was level.
Attach the Library – To fix the library to the base Pedlar attached two 2 × 4 T-brackets to the underside of the library, the exact distance away from each other as the width of the main support post. He then placed the library in place and screwed through the 2 × 4s into the post.
Open for sharing
I put a few books in it to get things going. My daughter and I handed out a flyer to people on our street to introduce them to our tiny library.
I watched during the first heavy rain and wind to see how it would perform. Unfortunately, the door blew open when the wind caught it at the right angle, so I added a hook and eye to keep it closed in bad weather. The base turned out to be a good spot for kids to sit and look through some books before choosing which ones they wanted. It’s now a couple of years old, and the shingles have weathered a bit, but it’s dry inside and there are new books regularly.
|Have You Built a Little Library? Send us a photo and we'll post it here.|
Ron Fabick, from French Creek on Vancouver Vancouver Island made his own cedar shingles and bevel siding to match the look of the neighbourhood around the community library. He placed it by the mailboxes where it should get lots of use by young and old alike.
Mike Turner teaches a construction course at Sir Oliver Mowat C.I.in the Toronto District School Board. He always tries to produce community-based projects with his students. It was great to read not one but two articles related to the Little Library projects, in the Aug/Sep 2016 issue of Canadian Woodworking Magazine.
Accordind to Mike, "The Little Libraries fit perfectly into our curriculum, as they are basically small houses that will hold books that communities can borrow. I have 22 students, and they have paired up to produce 11 very unusual little libraries that they will be responsible for finding a home for. The students used your magazine for guidance on how to produce our Little Libraries. It was very rewarding to see the students design and build, and soon they will be installing them in our community. Thanks for your inspiration!"
When not renovating other people's homes, Mike finds several projects inside and outside the house to get started on... and actually finishes most of them.