Introduction: Classroom Bookcase

My daughter is an elementary school teacher, and she recently found a bookcase in a store that would be perfect for her classroom.  Unfortunately, it cost around $400, so she asked me if I could build one for her.   She provided me with a picture of one she found on the internet, along with the rough dimensions.  This book case (or book rack) is made like a literature stand, in that the books face outward (on both sides).  According to my daughter, this makes it much easier for younger kids to select a book.

The materials used in this project were:

- 1 sheet of 1/4" plywood (with some left over)
- 1/2 sheet of 1/2" lumber core birch-veneered plywood
- about 12 feet of 1x2 pine lumber
- wood screws, finishing nails, and carpenters glue
- red oil-based enamel and clear satin polyurathane

Tools used in this project were:

- skill saw
- sabre saw
- drill & bits
- hammer
- screwdriver
- paint brush
- and, as usual, bandaids.....

Since a lot of ripping of plywood is required, a table saw or radial arm saw would have been better than the skill saw, but the skill saw is what I had to work with, so I just took my time and tried to make the cuts as straight as possible.

Step 1: Building the Inside Part

For the inside part of the bookcase, you will need to rip the 1/4 inch plywood to provide 8 7"x30" panels, and 2 5"x30" panels.

Basically you are going to assemble these pieces into a pair of stairsteps, with the plywood overlapping the 1/2" lumber at the top of each stairstep.

Once all the pieces are cut, glue and nail the pieces per the photo.  Notice the 2" overlap shown in the photo.  This provides a sort of enclosed "slot" that the books will rest in. 

Since this bookcase will hold books on both sides, you will need to make two of these interior units.

Step 2: Cut Out the Sides

The sides of the bookcase are cut from the 1/2" plywood.  I used birch veneered plywood since I planned on using a natural finish on them.

The dimensions of the sides are 30" tall and "30" wide at the base.  I used the interior pieces made in the previous step to design the outline of these pieces.

Step 3: Test Fit the Components

Next, place the inner pieces back-to-back, and temporarily brace them together from the inside (the interior bracing can be seen in the next step).  Add some cleats to the interior parts (also shown in the next step), and drill the sides to attach them to the interior components.

Then, remove the sides and prepare to sand and paint.

Step 4:

Sand and paint the interior components. 

Then, sand and apply the polyurathane to the sides. 

For all the pieces, I applied one coat, then lightly sanded it after it was dry, then applied a 2nd coat.

Step 5: Final Assembly

Once the finish has cured, simply re-screw the sides back to the interior components and you're just about done.  My final step was to mount four small casters underneath the bookcase to make it easy to move in the classroom.

Step 6: Done!

The photo is from the reading center in my daughter's classroom.  Although there was quite a bit of cutting and assembly involved, it is not a difficult project for anyone who can use a saw and cut in a straight line.  All-in-all I used about $40 worth of supplies in building this bookcase -- roughly 10% of what this bookcase would have cost from a store.

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