Hidden Bookcase Door Hardware

What kind of hardware and construction will support a bookcase full of books as it swings like a door? October 2, 2006

I am planning to build a 14" deep bookcase that will open as a door. I think I will use a Rixson hinge for it. How do you properly construct the bookcase to take the load of the books with no floor to support the latch side? I am very concerned with sagging and racking.

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor F:
You don't mention width. I've not built anything like this, but I would think if the shelves were made fixed, and a 1/2" back were securely fastened to the sides and shelves, it would be okay.

From the original questioner:
Sorry. Total width will be 40". I think the back will need to be at least 3/4".

From contributor L:
Use a wider that normal FF, let's say 3". Then use mortise and tenon construction. Like the poster above said, use fixed shelves glued and screwed to the 3/4" thick back. Books weigh a lot, and you will need to support them. You might think about having a wheel on the bottom of the cabinet, opposite the hinge. If this is going to be swung often, you may not want to do this, as it may mar the floor.

From contributor T:
I had better luck with multiple thick door hinges behind the face frame. They seemed to distribute the load better. I never intended for this "door" to be loaded with books. It usually was more decorative with accessories and some books to blend in, but loaded with books is pushing the limits. At 40" wide, you are at the limit, and 3/4" construction is mandatory.

The biggest concern is to hold back the latch side from the face frame so as to clear the back of your 14" deep cab as it swings out. Double check the door swing, because Rixon hinges and thick door hinges have a different centerline of swing. The thick door hinges have an advantage because the center is at the face of the frame, which will give you more clearance on the other side.

If the floor is tile, then by all means use a wheel (no swivel). You can get a Teflon wheel which will leave no marks. If it's carpet... then?

From the original questioner:
I plan to angle the latch side, realizing with 14" of thickness that it will interfere otherwise. The advantage of the Rixson pivot sets is the load transfers to the floor instead of pulling on hinges. I'm more concerned about the door itself sagging over that 40" width and I'm wondering if anyone out there has built such a monster with books and successfully eliminated sagging of the door structure. I have a hardwood floor and am really trying to avoid wheels, although I know that would solve the sagging challenge.

From contributor T:
I haven't tried this yet, because I have only built about 10 such cases with a self-limited 10" depth, but it would seem to me if you applied the Hafele x-brace to the back of the cabinet, this would eliminate any sag, being this is what the hardware is designed for.

From contributor J:
I think the most important thing is that the back is attached as structurally as you can. Since the hinge will be at the front of the cabinet, the back will be taking all the stress put on the shelves. The face frame will help a little, but it's the back where the weight and torsion really comes into play. I would think about the possibility of using 1" thick ply for the sides and 3/4" for the back. That would allow you to rabbet out 3/4"x3/4" of the back of the sides, top, and bottom to glue and screw the 3/4" back on. Combine with a beefy face frame and I think that would hold a considerable amount of weight. Since you will only need one sheet of 1" ply to do this, the cost would be minimal, the construction simple, and you could leave your shelves adjustable as they really won't help much against the torsion anyway.

From the original questioner:
I plan to locate the Rixson hinge at the back of the cabinet, since the door will be swinging inward. I like your idea of extra thick sides to stiffen the structure. I would like adjustable shelving. However, I would need to make at least one middle shelf fixed. Any other thoughts?

From contributor T:
In FL, code says that this type of door must open out, unless there is an exit on the other side. If there is no inspection, then this could be a moot point. Being the door opens in, if it is just a small (hidden) area, you would have the ability to add a door stabilizer (closer) to the top, which would certainly handle the weight and reduce sag. It is a commercial solution, but some of the stabilizers are quite nice looking, i.e. brass (plated) and adjustable.

From contributor S:
I had good success with a cabinet about 8 feet high x 40" wide x 15 deep" using large, and I mean large, Soss hinges. Cabinet had adjustable glass shelving with can lights at top and midway to light art pieces. Used 1/2" ply sides and back to keep the unit light and used running corner blocking to stiffen the cabinet and face frame. Hardwood blocking the length of the cabinet and wall was solidly attached to hold the hinges. Cabinet was hinged at the back to the wall and fluted casing concealed the "swing space" of the cabinet travel. Plot this space on paper first. The cabinet swung with a gentle push and never sagged.

From the original questioner:
Contributor T, you mentioned Hafele's "x-brace" product. Can you tell me where to find it? I have the Furniture and Hardware Cabinet catalog and can't seem to find it.

From contributor T:
On pages # 841- # 896 should be all of Hafele's pocket doors. There are many sizes to match height and width and depth applications. Many of these apps can be used horizontally also.

A couple of tips, though: Make sure that you realize the *depths* of this hardware and all applications require a *face frame and flush decks for runners* to accommodate the extra gap, swing and guides for this system. Other than that, they are, in my opinion, the best you can buy. And I did not set the prices. So please do not shoot the messenger.

From contributor T:
I didn't realize that you were the original poster. My thinking in my post yesterday was to use the Hafele (x-brace and hinge) parts and just not use the sliding part for your hidden door, which will definitely handle all the weight that you could give it. I was also thinking that you could easily skin the back to conceal the entire mechanism. One other thing - this hardware is sold separately, left and right swing.

From contributor G:

I've done this many times and others have used my drawings (below) for the same design. As others have already said, the box must be built solid with a good back. Wheels rarely work, as floors aren't always perfectly level throughout the travel of a door. Fortunately, wheels aren't necessary if the box is built well.

Hidden Pivot Bookcase Door

From contributor T:
I have used wheels in extreme conditions with very good results. You just have to use the right wheel. American caster have very high-end wheels that have a (vertical) travel via heavy-duty springs that allow for most variances in floor heights. I will not compromise my cabinets just because a client wants a 65" / 500lb TV to pull-out (and swivel). After all, most of the stress occurs on the slides or hinge, which is much more important than a (stabilizing) wheel.