Introduction: Built-in Bookcases

About: I'm a Special Education Teacher with 7 kids. I use donated and salvaged tech to teach STEM with my students and kids. Someday I'll get all of my projects posted up. For now, it's nonstop DIY, teaching and doin…

This Instructable will cover some tips on building solid bookcases. The finished bookcases can either be trimmed out as either stand-alone or built-ins.

These bookcases measured 82" x 20" x 12". I had the 3/4" plywood ripped into 12" strips at the home center before brining them home to make my job a little easier.

Step 1: Layout the Sides and Make a Story Stick.

A "story stick" is a great method for reproducing dimensions and measurements without the time consuming work of measuring and marking each piece repeatedly with a tape measure. Once you have carefully marked your story stick with detailed measurements, you can then transfer your measurements to each of the sides.

Step 2: Cut Your Dados and Rabbits.

This step may seem like a lot of work, but its really pretty straight forward. First, rabbits are simply dados (groves) cut at the edge of a board. It is common to avoid this step with a simple butt joint. However, dados are not only a much stronger joint, but they also have the added benefit of making assembly much easier. The shelves will fit tightly into the dados and are easy to keep at 90°. A dado blade set will cost about $100 at a home improvement store. If you are patient enough, you can make the cuts with many passes on a standard blade. Because these shelves are so tall, I used my radial arm saw. These same cuts can be made with a large sled on a table saw.

Step 3: Cut the Shelves and Glue Up.

The shelves were cut to rough lengths and finished up on the table saw. Glue up was pretty easy with the dados. I double checked each corner with a square before clamping and screwing.

Step 4: Adjustable Shelves and Installing the Back.

I used a jig to drill the 524 holes for the adjustable shelves on these six units. If you drill these before installing the back, it will make your work much easier. The backs are 1/4" plywood glued and tacked. I then went around the perimeter with a flush cut bit on my router to get a clean edge.

Step 5: Sand, Prime and Paint.

Once assembled the shelves can be thoroughly sanded before priming and painting them. These units were installed in a basement and trimmed as built-ins. This project was really straight forward with many repeated cuts and drilling. I was asked to build these for a neighbor, so I did not do the install or trim. But it was a really good project to work on some woodworking skills. I have lots of ideas for using these same methods on future projects around my home. Thanks for taking the time to view it!

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