How to Build a Bookcase

Woodworking is fun, no matter what the project is. All it takes is some robust wood material and a circular saw to build a beautiful woodworking project. If you don't want to spend a fortune on bookcases, then building one for yourself is a good idea. If you longed for an oak bookcase but couldn't afford one, you don't need to worry because you can build a classy bookshelf using plywood. Using plywood and a bit of solid oak wood trim can get the same effect in less than half of the cost of a ready-made one. The end piece will be magnificent and worthy of keeping in your library. This post is about how to build a bookcase/bookshelf at a low cost and using quality materials.

how to make bookcase

How to make a simple bookshelf

If your books are placed haphazardly on your table or elsewhere, now is the time to have a bookcase and organize your book collection. If you need a step-by-step illustration of how to build a bookcase, we have made it very easy for you.

The woodworking plans of designing a bookshelf are very simple, as all you have to do is laminate the different short and long pieces of wood together. The number of shelves you want to build depends on your requirements. Using some woodworking skills and patience, you'll be able to build a superb piece of art to place your books in.

Planning your bookcase

oak wood

The first thing to do is to make choices regarding building a bookshelf. Most of the bookshelves are built with solid wood boards, but using hard wood such as lumber or oak could cost thousands. Plywood can be the best choice in this case when you want to save some bucks and want a hardwood too. Oak veneer plywood is used in building such woodworking projects because it is stronger than pine, which is solid softwood. You can also use other woods if you have different preferences. For instance, birch can be used if you want to paint your bookshelf and maple can be used if you want the stains to appear rich and beautiful.

Always use a clean finish so that the polish of the wood shines through. Use the oak plywood for the longest frame and for the sides, double its thickness. This way the rough edges of the plywood will also get hidden by the solid wood trim. The toughest thing to do is to cut the plywood into straight pieces of the same length. For this purpose, using a commercial table saw would be a good choice because a portable table saw can be dangerous.

Measure the width of the room

Measure the height of the ceiling and width of the room, and check if there are any windows there. If there are no windows, you can easily place the bookcase in the center section of the wall. Plan a bookshelf according to the size of the room i.e. don't build a very large bookshelf if the room is congested. If you're making a built-in bookcase, you'll have to build a box that fits the space and then plan and cut the vertical sections.

Make the layout and start cutting

With your dimensions ready, you can now start making the layout and then cut the parts of the bookcase. You can also browse through some wall bookshelf plans on the web to get an idea. Bookshelves are actually closed from five sides and open from the front.

Start making a quick layout by breaking down the pieces of wood you'll need. You'll need two sheets of oak veneered plywood, four sticks of solid oak trim, four sticks of decorative trim, and one sheet of oak veneered plywood. All this would cost you much less than the solid oak hardwood.

Lay down the ¾" plywood on the floor and start cutting. First of all, cut the four sides out, then the top and interior shelves. Use a table saw to cut the pieces to your desired width. After cutting into width, your next step will be to cut the pieces into length. Use a miter saw and cut the side panels, top, and interior shelves into length. Miter saw is a good choice for cutting small pieces of wood because its grip is stronger and more controllable. If you want to stain your wood, do it before assembling. Sand the wood pieces and then stain or prime them and put them to dry.

Mark the sides of the shelves

measuring shelve sides

It depends on your choice whether you want different sized shelves or same sized. Mark the sides of the shelves so that you know which shelve will go where. Also, if you want to add a shelf hanging system, do it before assembling the bookcase. You can use adjustable rails for this purpose; just install them by making ¾" slots on each side of the panel. Set up your trim router to a ¾" bit and cut slots to put the rail inside. Fit the rails and check whether you've cut the slots of the right width and height.

Use a router to rabbet cut the interior shelves into the two side panels of the frame. Rabbeting the interior shelves will make the whole bookcase stronger, and it will be able to carry more weight. Use a T-square to mark the rails and then use a router.



Before you start joining all the sides, you must sand them for a proper finish. Use a palm router with 80-grit and move it over each piece of wood to get rid of the rough spots and any types of pencil marks present. Sanding before assembling has a great benefit because after you set up the whole unit, you won't get access to the inner sides of the bookcase. Move the router slowly and smoothly on the wood surface to avoid any unwanted scratches.

Attach supports to the legs

It is necessary to attach support to the legs so that the whole unit carries the weight properly. Use a circular saw and rip the lowest supports down. Then, glue the supports and nail them to the legs. Continue attaching the supports in this way to the legs. Also, attach a spacer to the bottom so that there is some space left at the bottom. Most of the DIY bookshelf plans are about attaching the supports and assembling the unit because this is the main part of this woodworking project.

Assemble the unit

assemble book shelve

Start from the top by placing the top piece on the two side panels using finishing nails and wood glue. Now, put glue on the rabbet joints and install the shelves by sliding them into the brackets. After you have finished installing the shelves one by one, insert finishing nails from the outer side of the shelves to keep them in place. If you're making a small bookshelf and want to hang it on the wall, make sure that you glue and nail a small strip of wood across the back panel. This will enable you to hang the shelf on the wall if you want. Now mount the vertical sections and make sure that they are square. In the end, attach the back (oak ply) using nails and glue. Make sure you add enough nails to add strength to the whole structure.

Add the face frame

biscuit joiner

After you've assembled the whole unit, now is the turn to add the face frame. Start from the bottom of the bookcase to insert the horizontal frame. Use a biscuit joiner for cutting the slots into the back of the rail and then apply carpenter's glue to fix it. Now install the vertical sides by holding them against the front edge of the bookshelf in the same manner. In all, use nails and glue to attach the framing to the bookcase design. If you want to get more creative, you can use wide stylish molding for the face frame of the shelves.

Hide the ply using a solid oak trim

Now is the time to hide all the rough and unfinished portions of the plywood. Use a ¾" decorative solid trim and cut it in the size of the front of each shelf. Then attach the wood trim to hide the rough edges of the shelf. Also, attach the solid oak trim to the unfinished edges of the side panels of the bookcase. You can also use a decorative trim to add to the style of the unit.

Fill the nail holes

Use a palm sander to fill all the holes on the outside of the shelf. Just add some filler in the holes and sand off the remaining from its sides. This step will give a nice and properly finished look to the bookcase.

Add final touches

finishing of book shelf

Before using the shelf, wait one day for the glue to dry completely. Use a tack cloth if you see any sawdust or debris on the wood. Now your bookshelf is ready to be stained or painted for a professional look. If you want a lighter shade, you can go for one coat of paint, but for a darker shade, you'll have to do two or three coatings. Just make sure that you leave the paint to dry well before you coat it again.

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