Introduction: How to Make Built-In Bookcases

About: Hi I'm Linn and on my Youtube Channel I have lots of great videos about building, construction and fun projects. You can also check out my site @

To make a built in bookcase and cabinet can be a great addition to any space. It's awesome to build something like this yourself, because it enables you to customize something specifically for your space, and to really utilize every nook and cranny, and height! In this Instructable I'm going to go over building the top shelving and the base cabinet frame for the unit I'm building for my office. It's a pretty big piece of furniture measuring 5 x 8 feet in total and it includes drawers underneath, a counter in the middle and shelving above.

Even though everybody's built-in units will be of different sizes, you can use the same principles and techniques that I used to plan your space and build something custom.Let's go over the steps to building the frames and the shelves!

Step 1: Measuring & Planning

I started with getting some precise measurements of my space. Of course, nothing ever quite lines up, especially when you're dealing with an older house! The distance between the windows on the bottom was 55 5/8 and the distance up higher was 55 3/4 inches. So I'm going to go off the smallest distance.

Then I got out my book, and started doing some sketching. Graph paper makes it easy to draw things to scale. This is my preferred way of creating a design and getting my cut list ready. So planning out the general design, accounting for 3/4 inch width of the plywood, changing my mind on some measurements, and calculating what cuts I need.

Step 2: Upper Shelving

So let's start with the upper shelving.

First of all I need to cut up the plywood in smaller pieces, and I'm starting with using the circular saw to get it in more manageable pieces. To make the cut I simply have another piece of wood underneath and the depth of the blade set quite shallow to about 3/4 of an inch.

Next I'm ripping the wood down in 8 inches width which will be the depth of the upper shelves. For the actual shelves I need 15 pieces cut at 17 3/8 inches which I cut on the miter saw.

I'm going to build two sections, and simply connect the two with shelving in between.

Step 3: Securing

For most of the shelves I'm going to use pocket hole joinery, so I'm getting those ready by drilling pocket holes, two on each side of the shelves.

Each section (there will be two) will have one longer and shorter board for the sides and I'm marking out every 12 inches where there will be a shelf.

To connect everything I'm using some corner clamps to give me an extra hand and help line everything up. This makes it really easy to keep everything square and in the right position.

For the end pieces, I'm simply gluing and screwing them together and clamping in place while screwing in.

Now it's time for the middle pieces, and this time I'm taking off the holders of the clamps and just using the corners which I'm clamping down to make sure everything is straight. And these shelves I'm attaching with pocket hole joinery and simply going down the line.

Step 4: Nailing Strip

And there we have two identical sections upside down, one for each side, and then the shelves will attach the two together, creating one section.

I also need to attach some nailing strips so I can connect the unit to the wall. I'm installing two on each section, one on top and one in the middle. And there you have one, completed. Now to carry that same look accross, I'm securing a nailing strip to the individual shelves for the middle section as well, to give the illusion of one seamless upper piece.

Step 5: Building the Base

Now for the base, I'm going to need four sections, connected with four long pieces, two on top and two on the bottom as well as smaller supports in between each section, to create one base unit.

First I'm marking out all the cuts for each of the four sections. So let's say you have a wall, a floor, and a baseboard. Then picture one of the four sections. I have to cut out space for the baseboard, for a support piece in the back. For another support piece in the front, and for space on the bottom so you can get your feet underneath.

Cutting out the sections on the bandsaw.

Step 6: Assembly

Here are all the pieces for the base frame. Then it's simply a matter of assembly.

So first I'm arranging where the four pieces need to go, and spacing them out accurately with the support pieces in between, securing the long support to connect everything.

Then marking out the next piece, securing that one and so forth.

To make sure everything is lining up right, I like to clamp the pieces in place and then secure, cause you want the rails to be connected evenly on both the top and the bottom, so everything is straight for the drawers later on.

Then turning it over and securing the rails on the other side.

Once the long pieces were in, I secured the in between support with pocket screws

I also left the long support pieces a touch too long, so I'm cutting them off now. Sometimes I find it easier to do some of the final cutting once everything is put together, just so nothing is accidentally a touch too short.

Step 7: ​Dry Fitting

Before we go any further, I want to bring everything inside, test it out and see how it fits and how it looks. Since nothing is glued together it's easy enough to change something at this point if I didn't like something. However it all looks good.

Step 8: ​Conclusion - Watch the Video!

This is the second video in the built-in cabinet series. Make sure to watch it to get a much better perspective on all the steps in building this project!

Also, there is a previous Instructable (and video!) about planning and preparing for such a project, and there will be a few more coming up soon which will go over building a counter and working with rough-sawn lumber, building drawers & finishing and installation.