In this instructable I'll guide you through how to make a tall wooden bookshelf.

We'll cover the design, the cuts, assembly, and finishing processes used. When I've learned some lessons I'll describe what I might have done differently, and document the mistakes I made, so that you won't have to including the great humbling. There are plenty of pictures and videos throughout this guide including a few lessons learned.

We have a few goals:

- use up some existing lumber, repurposing some old salvaged shelves, using previous leftover cuts, combined with some structural (building) lumber.

- make the shelves capable of storing heavy books, and with the ability to hold Buffy books.

- have a 'rustic' farmhouse feel to it.

Instead of a giant list of all of the materials and tools in this overview, I've broken down the materials, tools, and output within each step.

Step 1: Prepare a Design and Structural Cut List

First, think about any requirements. I had some from my wife that it needed to fit her Buffy comics. Other than that we wanted something that felt rustic, and I personally wanted something as tall and as skinny as possible. I also had some spare wood that I wanted to use (plywood and old cedar shelves waiting to be reclaimed).

Using grid paper, sketch out the bookshelf. I used one square block to represent 2 inches. Sketching it out on paper will give you an idea of the material you'll need as well as whether it would "feel" right. The video in this step shows the rough evolution facing the front and side.

To get the rustic look, we're going to use dimensional lumber (construction lumber) for the four posts of the shelf. Softwood tends to give more of a rustic character.

Once you've got a design, then make a cut-list, which is just a breakdown of the pieces of wood that you'll need. If you're using dimensional lumber like me then be cognizant that when it's pre-milled the dimensions are probably different. For example, my 2x2's were actually 1.5x1.5 when bought milled.

A lesson learned is to label your cut-list with letters, and then reference those letters on your drawing. This will help you remember where the cut pieces will go later on, as well as to keep track of the pieces being cut.

In this case I tend to build a cut list for the 'core', i.e structural pieces, and then build a different cut list later on for the components such as the drawers (the only reason I do this, is I often change my mind by then).

The plywood pieces on the side we're going to oversize by about 0.5", to allow 0.25" of a groove in each size. For example, I want the total depth to be 10", and the posts (1.5"x qty 2 = 3") leave 7" remaining, however the plywood will sit in grooves in the wood, so we'll size it to be 7.5" instead.

Initial cut list (refer to pictures to see where these will end up)


Posts - 1.5" x 88" x qty 4

A -1.5" x1.5" x 27" x qty 8

B- 1.5" x (7"-9") x 27" x qty 5. In the case of 'B' only 1 will be a fixed shelf, the others will be variable. 'B' cuts will be using leftover reclaimed cedar planks. One plank is about 9" deep, the other is just over 7" deep. The thicker one we'll use for the fixed, and the rest will be fine as variable shelves.

C- 1.5" x 1.5" x 7" x qty 6

D - 3.5" x 1.5" x 7" x qty 4

I - Use scrap, either a (1.5" or 3.5") x 1.5" x 6" x either qty 1 or 2 (not sure if it will be just in the front or front and back).


E - 7.5" x 6.5" x qty 2

F-7.5" x 9.5" x qty 2

G - 7.5" x 12.5" x qty 2

H - 7.5" x 48" x qty 2.

The drawers will have their own cut list be later on.


  • Grid Paper


  • Pencil and Ruler


  • Cut list for structural components
  • Design drawings
<p>Thanks for posting, you really know how to work with wood!</p>
<p>Very nice! This would look good in most any decor...once the surface is appropriately chosen. (I, personally, enjoy the one you've settled on). Congratulations on a job well-done!</p>
<p>Thank you, it was definitely a fun project.</p>
Wow! Great build.
<p>Thanks! I enjoyed reading your Dr. Seuss inspired bookshelf as well.</p>

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