Introduction: Simple Book Shelf

A book shelf is about the most useful, yet simple thing in the whole world to build. It is essentially a box without a side and a shelf slapped in the middle for literature. If you can cut a right angle (yes, you can), you can build a book shelf.

More importantly, this is a great project to get your kids in on. You know that they have toy creep and need a place to keep things, why not take 'em down to the lumber yard and get some 1x10's and build a book shelf. It will be better quality and better looking than anything that you can get at Ikea and it will be 1/2 the price. Plus, you still get to put it together!!!

Step 1: Get Wood

No, not like that gutter mind, you need to get down to the lumber yard to buy some wood.

Here is what I got for my shelf which ended up being about 29" high and about 40" long:

1 - 1 x 12 x 48 - This is for the top, decorative piece.
5 - 1 x 10 x 48 - This is for the sides, top, bottom and shelf.
1 - 4' x 4' x 3/4 plywood - This is for the back. It is overkill. You can get a 1/2" thick piece and not have a bullet proof book shelf that weighs about 80 pounds. I think that it was on sale or maybe I got it free. I don't recall
4' of 1 x 1's - These are used as support for the shelves
1 - 6' piece of baseboard trim - Baseboard is important. Crown molding looks a bit prettier, but it is a hassle to cut the corners right, plus you have to futz with the way that it is cut at an angle and all that stuff. Stick with something simple.

You probably need some tools. Here is what I used:
1 - Table Router - If you have this, you can find another Instructable now. I assume if you have a table router, you don't need this.
1 - Circular saw - You can use a hand saw, but I prefer the circular for ripping things quickly. If you have a hand saw, you might want to think about Ikea. Another option, if you are really hard up for tools is to draw it out and have the lumber yard make the cuts for you. Mine does it for a dollar a cut. Then you can just assemble
1 - Miter Saw - See my description of a router. You can buy the box and a saw for about $20. Having a miter saw is always something good to have and you can get a decent one for about $150.
1 - Power Drill with screw bit attachment
1 - Counter sink drill bit - This isn't necessary, but it makes the holes pretty clean and provides for good pilots.
Some wood glue
Some fake wood for the spaces where the wood was warped or mis-cut
A square with a bubble level would be nice to have to make sure that your cuts are straight and that your shelves are level.

MacGyver could probably break out of San Quentin with all that stuff. Me, I can build a pretty decent book shelf. And you are off.

Step 2: Cut the Pieces to Length

I'm a big fan of cutting all my lumber before I start putting things together. It helps me to envision what the project is going to look like, but more importantly, it is a lot easier to fix your mistakes.

1.) Figure out how long you want your shelf to be and how high you want it.
2.) Remember, that your wood is 3/4 inches thick. If you are using a top, decorative piece, cut your sides 1 1/2 inches shorter than you want the shelf to be. In other words, if you want your shelf to be 30" tall, cut the side pieces to be 28 1/2 inches tall.
3.) Cut your top piece however long you want your shelf to be.
4.) Cut your decorative piece to be about 1 1/2 inches longer than your top piece. This will give a nice little 3/4 inch overhang on each side. Pretty huh?
5.) Cut your shelf supports to be about 9" so that they fit snug as a bug
6.) Despite what I said above about cutting everything first, wait until you are about to put the trim on to cut that. It requires a bit more precision.

Step 3: Route the Top

This is your 1 x 12. It gives the top of your shelf some extra thickness and makes it look pretty.

Like I said in the 'Get Wood' step - if you have a router, you probably don't need this.

But let's say that you don't have a router, what do you do? I'd ask a neighbor or ask at the lumber yard. For a buck or two, they will probably cut your board to length and give it a nice edge.

The other option would be to simple use a sander and give yourself a nice rounded edge. I used to do that before I got my router. It still looks cool.

Routing the top gives it a bit of a classic, antique-y look.

Step 4: Attach the Side Support Do-Hickeys

The side support do-hickeys (patent pending, all rights reserved and made from a space age polymer) hold your shelves up against gravity. I could probably have routed some nice grooves into the side boards, but this is a simple book shelf, not the complex version.

If you put your side boards next to one another, you can add your shelf supports inline nicely. The most important part of this is that they are level. You don't want all your books and gizmos rolling down to one side. Level is good.

Your sides are complete, get ready to add the top.

Step 5: Intermission - Countersink Drill Bit

This is probably a good time to step in to sing the praises of a drill bit that not only drills a pilot hole for you, but also provides a counter sink at the same time.

First, you can buy a set of four of these for about $10. They have different sized heads for different sized screws (isn't that always the case).

Second, you always want to drill pilot holes as it keeps your wood from splitting.

Third, countersinking your screws just makes things look a little bit nicer.

Use these when assembling anything wooden.

Step 6: Add the Top and Bottom

Now you want to add your top and bottom. This isn't as easy to do as it sounds as gravity will be your friend (keeps you on the planet) and enemy (makes your pieces fall down) at the same time.

If you have a friend, small child or well trained dog, you want them to hold one of the sides while you insert screws through the top piece and into one of the side boards (you did remember to drill pilot holes, right? - Do them in advance next time.)

Once you've experienced having the sides fall down while you are drilling a few times and you've finally gotten the top connected to one side, carefully turn around and do the other side.

You could also lay the whole thing on the ground and have an easier time doing it that way.

The next step is to put your bottom shelf onto the bottom shelf side support. Gravity will be your enemy here too as you are going to want to drill through the support and into the shelf so that you don't see any screws in the finished product (Ikea and their visible hex screws of death have nothing on you).

Bam! Now it is starting to look like something.

Step 7: Baby Got Back

Lay your big ole piece of plywood on the floor and put your soon to be awesome shelves on top of it.

Just like in grade school, you simply want to trace the outline of the box. Since cutting plywood is kind of gangly, you want to position the shelf in a way that will require the fewest number of cuts.

Cut that baby out, drill yourself some pilot holes and drop it like it's hot on the back of your shelf. You might want to use a little wood glue for measure, but that is just me.

Wow, this is looking like it might be able to go in the basement to hold old paint cans.

But wait, there's more!!!

Step 8: Top and Shelf

That decorative top piece that you made in step 3, now would be a good time to put that on.

You don't want to put the middle shelf on first because it is a bugger to get a drill in there.

Line your top piece up to be flush to the back of the shelf and you should have about a 1" overhang on the front and about 3/4" on the sides. Screw it and glue it on there real good.

Now insert the center shelf. This process is exactly the same as adding the bottom shelf. If you've made it this far without cutting of a digit, I'm guessing your doing alright.

You know what? This might come out of the basement and end up in the in-laws room for a place to keep their fake teeth at night.

Step 9: Adding the Trim

This part was a little bit tricky. Trim always is tricky and while I've done baseboard before, this was my first attempt at doing it on a bookshelf. I'm happy with the way that it turned out, but there was some trial and error involved.

I cut the sides first and then the front. I don't know why, it just seemed like the right thing to do. I felt that if I could get the sides to work, I would have some flexibility in the front to shim it in there. It wasn't that bad, you just need to be careful how you cut. A power saw might rip a bit too much and leave you with a gap, just drop some fake wood and sand it down and you are in good shape.

Sorry for the bad angle in the photo.

Step 10: Paint and Populate

To heck with the in-laws, this baby is going in the living room where you can show it off and brag to all of your friends how you built this book shelf by hand in about a weekend (I think that I calculated about 4 total hours not counting paint drying time).

Like everyone else these days, I like the look of the distressed furniture. I used a simple can (2 cans actually) of black Rustoleum. A lot of people suggest using chains to get the furniture to look beat up. Since I don't own a dungeon, I don't have any chain just laying around.

I did distress a bit using a rubber mallet and a handsaw. It beat the wood up a bit. Mostly, though, I find that some creative use of paint and a sander gives the best look. I've been using this method for years and I don't look loony to neighbors beating my shelves with chains.

Good luck with your shelf!

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