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Picture of Louvered Plantation Shutter Bookcase

I really, REALLY needed a new bookcase (all of the books you see in this picture were either in a box, or crammed into shelves sideways on top of other books), but there were two problems. First, the only place I could fit another bookcase was in the spare bedroom, which is so small that I didn't want to overwhelm the space. Second, quality boards that are wide enough to make the sides of a bookcase are expensive. I quickly learned in my college woodworking classes that any boards more than four inches wide tend to get snapped up out of the supply room first. (In fact at one point an eight-inch wide board that I'd carefully planed and sanded was stolen and presumably chopped up for someone else's project. The perpetrator was never caught, NOT THAT I'M BITTER OR ANYTHING.) The paint-grade boards I bought for the shelves set me back more than thirty dollars, and I'd need something a lot nicer for the sides. Then at the Habitat for Humanity Restore I found a set of folding louvered doors, which would be wide enough for a bookcase AND the open design would work much better in a small space. Cost? Ten dollars for the set. And we're off!

Fair warning, this instructable is slightly image-heavy and VERY detail-heavy. I'm going to write this for the benefit of anyone who doesn't have much experience with woodworking, so feel free to skim.

 
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Step 1: Supplies Needed

Picture of Supplies Needed

Plantation doors: 79” tall by 11 ¾” wide (I had to remove the hinges of course, but the holes will be facing the back)

Shelves: 11 ½' x 21 ¾” x ¾” (Six of these were cut from paint-grade pine boards, the other two were cut from poplar boards left over from another project)

Supports: 14 small supports 11” x ¾” x ¾”, two supports for the bottom shelf 11” x 1 ½” x ¾”

Front edge on the bottom support: 11 ¾” x 1 ½” x ½”

I cut all of these with a table saw, but you can get Lowe's or Home Depot to cut the shelves to size if necessary.

Step 2: Hardware Needed

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Power drill

3/8” Drill bit

1/8” Drill bit

At least forty wood screws (1” long, preferably)

Screwdriver

Wood glue

(Not pictured: sandpaper)

Step 3: Round the Front Edges of the Supports

Picture of Round the Front Edges of the Supports

Since the supports are going to be visible, I wanted to make the front ends curved for a neater appearance. It also cuts down on the chances of scraping my knuckles on a sharp corner. I rounded these with a band saw, and then sanded them smooth. Speaking of which...

Step 4: Sand EVERYTHING

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Remember, paint covers over scratches, but wood finish enhances them. A rough patch will be almost invisible on an unfinished board, but hit it with stain and you might as well have outlined the scratches with a pen. If you've got a finishing sander like the one pictured, fantastic. Start with 60 grade paper, and work your way down to 220. For best results do the final sanding by hand, but do yourself a favor: wrap the sanding paper around a block like the one pictured. Your fingers can't give an even enough pressure, and you'd end up sanding irregular grooves into the wood. Obviously the louvered part of the plantation doors will be harder to sand, but even a light sanding there will make a huge difference.

Take your time with this, and step away for a bit whenever you start thinking “Eh, that's good enough.” Sanding is the part that I so often skimp on, and I always regret it. .

Step 5: Mark the Placement for the Shelves

Picture of Mark the Placement for the Shelves

It's completely up to you how much space you want to allow for each shelf. I decided to alternate small spaces with large ones, with an almost thirteen inch space for the second to top shelf to leave lots of room for picture books. Once you've figured out where you want the shelves (make sure to allow ¾” for the thickness of each shelf), draw a line across the doors, marking the bottom of each shelf. Starting from the bottom, here is where I placed each line:

1 ½”

12 ¼”

23”

32 ¾”

45 ½”

55 ¼”

68”

78 ¼”

Step 6: Glue the Supports in Place

Picture of Glue the Supports in Place

The supports will be held in place with screws, but this seemed like the easiest way to get them to stay in position when I drilled the holes. Make sure you position the rounded edges on the side WITHOUT the holes left from the hinges, and DON'T DRIP ANY GLUE. You can try to clean that stuff off of the wood, but nine times out of ten you'll end up with a little patch where the stain won't stay. Use small amounts, and don't smear it.

As you can see here, a carpet remnant makes a handy padding to keep your work from being scratched by the surface of the table saw. A table saw makes a handy work bench when your main work bench is so cluttered you can't do any actual work on it.

Step 7: Drill Holes for the Wood Screws

Picture of Drill Holes for the Wood Screws
Once the glue was dry I used the 3/8” drill bit to make an eighth-inch deep hole for each screw (to make sure the screw head is below the surface of the wood) and then used the 1/8” bit to drill the rest of the way. I also placed a piece of tape on the 1/8" drill bit so I would know when I'd drilled far enough. (If you go too far you'll accidentally punch all the way through and leave an ugly hole in the side of your bookcase, and THAT will make you want to throw the drill across the room.) You COULD just use a power drill to push the screws directly into the wood, but we're working with pine here, and pine splits very easily. It's safer to pre-drill the holes and then put the screws in by hand.

Step 8: Finishing

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Any color you want, sky's the limit. Most of the time pine is painted, but I love the look of wood grain so I went with a Colonial Maple varnish that was perfect for this (“perfect” in this case translates to “I had a can of it left over from another project”). Getting the stain to completely cover the louvered sections is a GREAT BIG PAIN, but worth it. And it's easier to do the finishing NOW, rather than try to do it after you've put everything together.

Step 9: Attach the Top and Bottom Shelves

Picture of Attach the Top and Bottom Shelves

The rest of the shelves can be slotted into place after it's been carried upstairs, but screws and some glue for the top and bottom shelves will make the bookcase rock-steady now. You might notice that I outsmarted myself with the lower supports. Making them 1 ½” wide, the same width as the front edge, looked like a good idea at the time, but it meant that I couldn't use screws to attach the shelf from the bottom. Ah well, I went ahead and screwed in the third-from-the-bottom shelf instead.

Step 10: Slide the Shelves in Place, and You're Done!

Picture of Slide the Shelves in Place, and You're Done!

This design can be customized in a lot of different ways, and I'm already thinking of things I could have done differently. There's not a lot of room on the plantation doors, but maybe I could have cut a dado groove partway through the sides and then slotted the shelves into the grooves instead of having the supports glued underneath. And you could always make a more traditional framed bookcase (like this: http://www.margoshome.com/ProductDetail.asp?ProductID=2788) with a bit more effort. Be sure to post a comment or your own instructable if you try out any variations! I'm curious to see what else can be done with this.

prickly vegan5 months ago

This is great. I appreciate that you put lots of details for every step in there, and made it seem simple for the uninitiated. I am no longer scared of my pile of wood pieces. They shall be tamed into a bookcase! Thanks for the confidence inspiring, and funny, instructable.

Fandragon (author)  prickly vegan5 months ago
You're very welcome, be sure to post pictures of the final piece!
I'm using quarter-round for the supports in mine. I have some left over, and it can be stained the same color as the shelves. I think your bookshelf looks amazing. And I agree with you about stain as opposed to paint. I like color, but when it comes to wood, I want to see the swirls and lines in the grain.
Fandragon (author)  whisperonthewind3 years ago
This is one of the things I love about Instructables; I didn't even THINK of using quarter-round, but that sounds like it would work really well!
For wood glue (and other water-based glue) removal, I searched the internet and found "De-Glue Goo" (http://de-gluegoo.com/) which does a really good job. You squirt on a thick layer (in perspective to the glue line), let it sit for 10 to 30 minutes, then scrape or brush the glue off. Allow it to dry, test a spot with a wet brush (water) to see if the wood is lighter from the glue, and maybe do this again. So far, I've gotten all the dried glue off my projects. And stain does just fine. I did have a couple that were already stained when I found the glue line I missed. I let the stain dry for a few days, then used the De-Glue Goo and removed the glue. A very fine brush with stain filled the resulting 'clean' space.

This project is around $10, and does wonders.
Fandragon (author)  whisperonthewind3 years ago
That's a great suggestion, thanks!
oops, I meant 'This product is around $10..."
Ah, something I can do. And I do need shelves... thank you immensely for making this instructable for those of us with beginner skills. I still don't know what 'paint grade' means, but that's not as important as sizes and supports.
eligriggs4 years ago
I really like to look of this; thanks for sharing!
foobear4 years ago
gorgeous! love it! great idea