There are craftsmen like these men who will give their time and talents to help children in low-income families in every community in America


he unsung heroes of every “Bookcase for Every Child” project are the craftsmen who build the bookcases, because these men (usually men, but women could help, too) do most of the physical work. As one lady said, who is a strong supporter, “What I love about this project is that the men are involved. Usually it’s the women who work on literacy projects, but that is not the case here.” There are men in every community who are good craftsmen and who will get involved if invited to do so. Actually, it only takes two or three really good craftsmen who can cut out the parts and then others with only minimal skills because the bookcases are all assembled with glue, and no nails are required.

e only build fifty bookcases each year because this is an “all-volunteer” project and the craftsmen are finished before they become too fatigued and it is no longer fun. Other communities have built more, based on the needs of their community, but fifty each year, over time, will make a difference. There are many places where good craftsmen can be found such as among friends, family, wood working clubs, local chapter of the AARP, and many others. Another source is to talk with your local lumber dealers as they know most every wood worker in the community.

ou will need one craftsman is who also a leader, a good manager and planner, and who can work well with people. He will also be the one who will order the materials and pay the bills. Following is a list of materials to build fifty bookcases:

ToolSolid hardwood; we prefer red oak, approximately two hundred board feet; three quarter inch oak veneer or MDFO, medium density fiberboard with oak overlay; approximately sixteen sheets.
ToolOne-quarter-inch oak plywood for the bookcase backs, nine sheets are required.
ToolYellow glue, high quality, approximately four to five bottles, 16 oz each.
ToolShelf pins, we prefer brown, two hundred required. Power saw, table or cabinet, saw blades, high quality, one each of crosscut and rip.
ToolDado blade set, good quality.
ToolRouter bits, one each, high quality, ¼, round over and cove bits either ¼ or ½ shank to the craftsmen tape.

he craftsmen team should move back from the date of the Awards Ceremony when the bookcases are presented to the children to allow for ample time for construction. This job can be done by three to five craftsmen, but this past year we had eight men involved in the building process. A big part of the rewards of being involved in the project is the fellowship the men enjoy when they spend time together. The parts must be cut out in a wood working shop, but the assembly can take place in most any climate-controlled area, such as a church fellowship hall or other suitable location. All work is performed by volunteers and all woodworkers must declare that if any accidents occur, then the individual is solely responsible and no group is chargeable. Also, remember that clean-up is very important when using the facilities of others.

hat makes the process go much faster is a set of six jigs designed by our master craftsman, Mickey Cox. When the jigs are set up, it’s like an assembly line and eight to ten bookcases can be produced each day after the parts are all cut out. All of this information is contained in a set of plans that are available by contacting Jim Davidson. After the bookcases are assembled, it’s time to stain and varnish them. We are fortunate here to have a man who has a commercial painting company and he lets us use his shop and spray equipment, and just charges us for the supplies we use.

he final step in the process is attaching the personalized name plates to the bookcases, something that makes a child feel very special when they receive their very own bookcase. The Head Start people select the children and furnish the names. The building of quality, oak bookcases for children being reared in disadvantaged homes is like any other project. The more you do it, the better and more proficient you become in the process. One of the things we learned is how to reduce the number of trips required to move fifty bookcases from one location to the other, where they wind up at the location where the Awards Ceremony will be held a few days before it takes place. A good trailer, some furniture pads, and a few strong backs is all that is required.

A personalized name-plate means a lot to a child from a low-income family