Introduction: Italian Chef Bookend

About: I am a self-proclaimed know-it-all. I will tackle any project regardless of my experience, or lack thereof. Always ready to learn something new. With over 25+ years experience in electronic repair and 10+ year…

After putting up new shelves in the kitchen for my girlfriend, I found that she needed a bookend to keep her cookbooks from falling over. I gave her one of my old-fashioned metal 'L' type bookends out of my library, but it just didn't add to the Italian theme that she has going on. All of a sudden, this design popped into my mind. It looked pretty good there, so I figured I'd see what it'd look like in the real world :)

Like most of my projects, this can be built with just about any scrap materials that you have laying around, with none of the dimensions being critical. Bookends normally come in pairs, but since the books are up against the cabinet on one side, I only needed/made one. Your needs may vary. Additionally, my measurements are based on my particular needs, but you can, of course, size this up or down as you see fit.

Materials Used in My Build:

  • 1x6 pine board, 9" long
  • 1/4" oak plywood, 8" square
  • acrylic craft paints, Plaid / Apple Barrel
  • wood glue
  • pencil / notebook

Helpful Tools:

  • scroll saw
  • brad nailer
  • table saw
  • router w/ 1/4" Roman Ogee bit

Step 1: Always Start With a Drawing

I know that, in this age of computers, pencil and paper has become as obsolete today as the abacus, but for me, nothing compares. Every project on which I embark begins with a drawing. My finished product may not always wind up looking like the drawing - I tend to make changes as I go along (in this particular case, I decided that the wine bottle looked better laying down instead) - but at least I have something to go on.

Start by drawing out your design - or find one you like on the net. If you'd like to use my design, I will include links to the pattern you can download. The cutting template is in common JPG format, but the other file (which includes the cutting template, the painting template, and the original sketch) is in gimp's XCF format. From what I understand, Photoshop is unable to open this format, so you'll need to install gimp to use it. I recommend gimp over Photoshop, anyway. I've used Photoshop before and I have yet to find anything that I could do in Photoshop that I cannot do in gimp. So why gimp over Photoshop? Because gimp is free and open-source. Why pay to rent to use a software package that you can own for free?

Anyway, sorry about that... I digress.

Step 2: Liberate the Chef From Your Wood

OK. Here you have two options. In order to attach the chef to the bookend proper, the design will be slid into a slot cut into the center of the bookend. To do that, you need an 'L'. You could just glue the chef directly to the bookend, but I thought this would be a more durable/sturdy design. Now, if you are better at scroll sawing than I am (and I am sure most people are), you may want to cut the 'L' out as a part of the design. I actually recommend this method, but I'm not that good, so I chose to cut the 'L' and the chef out separately and glue them together later. I will lay out the steps I took, but you can choose whichever method works best for you.

First cut an 'L' shape from the 1/4" plywood with each leg measuring about 1/2". This doesn't have to be exact, just round about. I did the cutting on a table saw saw, but that is really dangerous with something this small. I would recommend you use either a miniature (hobby) table saw or, better yet, a hand saw.

Next, cut the template out and transfer the pattern to your 1/4" plywood, making sure you line the back and foot edges up square. I think the design will be stronger if you arrange the pattern so that the grain runs horizontally, but that's just my thought. Using a scroll saw, cut as close to the lines as possible. Sand everything. Clean up the edges and make sure that the front and back are smooth.

Step 3: While You're Working With Sawblades

You'll need two 1" thick blocks - one for the upright and another for the base. For the upright, trim your 1x6 board to 8" tall by 4-1/2" wide (or thereabouts). For the base, trim the rest of the 1x6 down to 5" long by 4-1/2" wide. To cut the 'L' groove, set your table saw blade to the same height as the 'L' you made earlier, using the 'L' as a guide. Set your rip fence to half the width of your bookend. Here, my bookend is 4-1/2" wide, so you'd set the fence to 2-1/4". Run each of the two pieces along the fence, cutting a slot down the center of the board. Flip each piece around and recut the same slot. This ensures that the slot is perfectly centered and also slightly enlarges the slot. Test fit your 'L' into the slot you just cut. If it doesn't fit (and it probably won't on your first cut), tap the fence just a HAIR further from the blade and cut the slot again, remembering to flip the piece and recut the groove each time. Keep doing this unto the 'L' just barely fits into the slot.

Spread a thin layer of glue to the back edge of the bottom piece and butt it up against the upright piece. Make sure the edges are flush and the that the two pieces form a perfect 90° 'L'. Either clamp or fasten with a few brad nails and set aside to dry.

Step 4: Whip It Into Shape

Pick your favorite router bit for this step. Me, personally, I like the Roman Ogee - the 5/32" version in this case. I set the bit just a little bit below normal. This cuts a concave with a rounded edge. Route this profile around all of the outside edges. The side that goes up against the books (as well as the bottom) should retain their original square edges. My particular piece had a gouge on the top edge, so I went ahead and ran the same profile along the inside top edge as well. It looks pretty good, so...

Once you have routed everything, clean up the edges with 100-220 grit sandpaper and run the router around the edges one more time. I have found that this smooths out the profile so very little sanding is necessary. Nevertheless, sand the entire piece smooth.

Whether you have a two-piece chef assembly or a one-piece design, you'll need to temporarily insert the 'L' into the slot so you can sand/shape the corners of the 'L' to match the edge profile of the bookend.

Step 5: Let Your Inner Rembrant Shine Through

Now is when your creativity really gets come out to play. I used acrylic craft paint to paint my chef. Since this bookmark is only going to be seen from the front anyway, I only painted the details on one side. I painted the back solid white. But that's just me. After that has dried (as per the paint's instructions) I sealed it with a couple of light spray coats of Krylon Matte Finish Clear Coat.

I chose a solid gloss black for the upright and gloss white for the base. It took me two or three coats since the wood soaked up the first coat. After those layers had thoroughly dried, I laid out a thin grid of modeling masking tape on the base. I then dry bushed on acrylic craft paint to simulate tile. I used three colors - Nutmeg Brown, Territorial Beige, and Creamy Peach - starting with the darkest color first and finishing with the lightest color last. I found using a relatively stiff, rounded brush worked best for the pattern I was going for. Load the brush with your color, dab that on a paper towel a couple of times to remove most of the paint and dab that, straight up and down, on to the tile. Move on the next color without cleaning the brush and while the previous color is still wet. This allows the colors to blend better on the base. After that dries, pull the masking tape off, and give it a quick hit or two with the clear coat to protect the craft paint.

If you cut the 'L' out as a part of the chef, you can skip ahead to the next step. Otherwise, once everything is dry (drying time is always the longest part of any project), line the chef up with the 'L' and mark where the two touch. Paint the edge of the 'L' to match the rest of the bookend - in my case, the upright black and the bottom leg white - making sure to keep the parts that touch unpainted so that the glue has something to grab on to.

Step 6: No Use Crying Over Spilled Wine

I thought a spilled bottle of wine would add a touch of class and a little bit of levity. I had intended on forming the wine bottle out of modeling clay, but the only clay I had on hand was of the non-hardening type. No problem. Just whip one up on the ol' mini-lathe. Or try to anyway. I am far from an expert on the care and feeding of lathes, so I will leave the particulars to someone else. Suffice it to say, start with a dowel the approximate diameter of the finished wine bottle. Turn that down to create a neck and a slightly wounded edge on the bottom. Cut the bottle from the dowel with a flush cut saw and sand everything smooth. Remember... bottle do not have sharp, 90° angles!

I wanted as realistic a bottle as possible, so I drilled down through the neck with a small diameter drill bit, but this is completely optional. For that matter, this whole step is completely optional! lol

Paint the bottle, keeping in mind that it will be laying on it's side. If you paint an illusion of wine in the bottle, be sure the wine is level across the bottom of the bottle in the horizontal position. We wouldn't want our wine to be defying gravity, now would we? :) For my bottle, I started with a white base coat so that the other colors would be more vibrant. Over that, I painted the bottom half horizontally Metallic Bright Red. Once that dried, I painted the entire bottle with a mixture of Metallic Christmas Green, Hunter Green and a dash of White making sure that the green was thin enough over the red so that the "wine" could still be made out. Paint a white rectangle to simulate a label and decorate it as your own. For mine, I painted a bunch of grapes with a vine going around the perimeter of the label and the word 'vino' - Italian for wine.

The first bottle I made was too small in scale and looked more like a beer bottle up against the much larger chef, so I had to make another, slightly larger version. You can see both in the photos.

Now, this poor chef spilled his wine trying hold up all of those books, so we need a puddle. To make mine, I laid the bottle in place and lightly, with a pencil, freehanded what I thought a puddle would look like. Using a mixture of Metallic Blue Sapphire and Metallic Bright Red, I filled that pattern in with a thick layer of paint. You want a thick layer because, well... it's a puddle.

After the bottle and the puddle are completely dry, shoot them with a light coat or two of clear coat.

Step 7: Put It All Together

At long last we come to the end...

If you cut the chef and 'L' individually, glue the two together now, with the foot flat on the base and the back flat against the wall, and let that dry.

Now, apply a bit of Elmer's white glue to both sides of both edges and lightly tap the chef / 'L' assembly into the center slot. Glue the bottle in place with a small amount of Duco cement.

-=[ OPTIONS ]=-
You may find that it isn't quite heavy enough to hold up more than a few lightweight paperback books or thick hardback books that tend to stand up on their own anyway. For my particular application, this turned out to be the case. What you may want to do is cut a thin piece of aluminum the same size as the base, 1.5x to 2x as long. Adhere that to the base with your choice of adhesives - epoxy, contact cement, liquid nails... what ever works for you - with the metal extending past the upright. With the addition of the aluminum, the weight of the books on the metal will keep the bookend firmly in place the same way that library-style bookends work. In the tradition of using scraps as my preferred material, I cut the aluminum from an old VCR case top.

That's it... la vostra fine del libro è ora completo. Your book end is now complete. I hope you enjoyed this and if you make one, please share it we us!

Woodworking Contest 2017

Participated in the
Woodworking Contest 2017