Introduction: Wooden Bookcase

About: I like making things without spending very much money. I try to get my materials free (pallets), if possible. If at all possible, I'd rather fix something myself than pay someone else to fix it. If I don't …

I built this bookcase for my wife to organize her growing book, DVD, record and game collections. It is made from red oak plywood and hickory trim. All of the shelves are adjustable except the center ones. It measures at about 4 feet wide and just under 8 feet tall and is 16 inches deep.

Step 1: Design, Materials & Supplies

I worked up a design on SketchUp, the ladder will be done later. Whether you do your design by paper or computer, it will help you determine the materials you'll need for your project.

From my design, I knew I needed the following materials & supplies:

3 - 4 x 8 sheets of 3/4 inch plywood

1 - 4 x 8 sheet of 1/4 inch plywood

4 - 1 x 4 x 8 hickory boards

1 1/2 inch coarse thread Pocket hole screws

Wood Glue

Sandpaper, 120 - 220 grit

Masking tape

1 dow rod, 1 5/8 inch x 4 ft

Shelf pins, 4 for each adjustable shelf

Step 2: Tools

I used the following tools to assemble my bookcase:

Circular saw with Kreg Rip Cut (or a straight edge with clamps)

Circular saw with Kreg Accu Cut (or a straight edge with clamps)

Table saw

Orbital sander / power sander / sanding blocks

Drill/driver with Square bit (for pocket hole screws)

Kreg Pocket Hole Jig

Kreg Shelf Pin Jig

Miter Saw

Band Saw

Drill Press

Drill Bits / 1 5/8 inch forstner bit

Flush trim hand saw


Clamps (medium to large size)

Brad nailer / nails plus an air compressor

Trim router with flush trim bit

Step 3: Divide & Conquer

Lay out your plywood sheets and mark them to cut them down to size. This can be accomplished with the circular saw or table saw, whichever you are more comfortable using. The circular saw with a Kreg Rip Cut guide makes good work of this and is less hassle than trying to move a full sheet of plywood across a table saw.

You will need the following cuts from your 3/4 inch plywood:

2 - 16 inch x 88 inch (sides)

1 - 16 inch x 86.5 inch (middle partition)

2 - 16 inch x 48 inch (top & bottom)

2 - 16 inch x 22 7/8 inch (middle shelves)

8 - 16 inch x 22 7/8 inch (adjustable shelves)

The 1/4 inch plywood will get trimmed after it is attached to the back of the bookcase.

The hickory boards need to be ripped down to 1 1/2 inches wide for the trim pieces. Save about 36-40 inches of one 1 x 4 x 8 board for the mounting blocks for the ladder support. The length cuts will be made during assemble to ensure each board fits tightly.

Step 4: Start Assembly

I began assembly by finding the center on the top and bottom pieces, then attaching the middle support with glue and screws. These I just attached with butt joints and screwed from the back side since they will not be seen once assembled.

Next I could add the sides. These can be attached with butt joints or by using pocket holes. If using pocket holes, make sure to orient the holes on the top or bottom where they will not be seen.

Now for the center shelves. Find the center of the sides (from top to bottom), this is where the center shelves will reside. Using the pocket hole jig, put 4 pocket holes in each side of the shelf to attach them to the uprights of the bookcase. Make sure to use glue and orient the pocket holes on the bottom of the shelves. Use the square to insure the shelves will be square. You can also use scrap pieces of wood to help hold the shelves in place while screwing in the pocket holes. The pocket holes will not be noticeable once the bookcase is in place and full of items.

It was at this point that I moved the project to the floor because it was too big for my work table.

Step 5: Adjustable Shelves

What makes these shelves adjustable is the use of a Kreg Adjustable Shelf Pin Jig and some shelf pins. This is an easy to use product and comes with the proper size drill bit & instructions.

First, determine how much you want your shelves to adjust, small or large increments. I probable overdid the amount of holes as I drilled them in each available slot of the jig. You could choose to only drill holes for every other one if you like. Just remember how you start out each set of holes, as you will need to replicate it for each side of the shelf cavity, times four. This will insure that you have even shelves.

Step 6: Put a Back on It

With your carcass on the floor, ensure it is facing front down. Square up your bookcase and apply glue to all of the edges of the 3/4 inch plywood. Then carefully place the 1/4 inch plywood down on the glue and use brad nails to attach the plywood while the glue dries.

Measure and mark carefully to attach the center pieces with brad nails, drawing guide lines on the 1/4 inch plywood if necessary.

Once the glue dries, you can trim the 1/4 inch plywood with a trim router and a flush trim router bit. This will ensure the plywood gets a good fit without having to measure exactly.

Now you can flip over the bookcase for the next step, attaching the trim.

Step 7: Trim

I began with the trim by gluing and brad nailing the two outer vertical pieces first. I chose to center my trim pieces over top of my outer pieces of plywood, leaving a slight overhang on each side. You could do the same or install your trim flush with the outer edges of the bookcase. I did not trim them until after I installed them in order to get a precise measurement. I used a flush trim hand saw to make these cuts. You could also measure and cut with a miter saw.

Then I measured and trimmed for the horizontal pieces, gluing and brad nailing them in place. I did the same for each of the 8 adjustable shelves, using clamps to help hold the trim onto the shelf. Be sure to orient the shelf properly before attaching the trim.

On the shelves, make sure to apply the trim flush with the shelf surface if you want to be able to slide items off of the shelves easily.

Step 8: Ladder Support

This step could be skipped if you don't intend to make a ladder for your bookcase.

Using the 1 x 4 x 8 hickory board that is approximately 36-40 inches long, cut it in half and glue the two pieces together.

Once dry, cut the blocks down to 4 inches long. You will need 3 blocks total that are 1 1/2 inches thick by 3 inches by 4 inches long.

On each block, mark the center and 2 1/2 inches in from one end to drill the holes into. Using a drill press, if available, one block gets drilled completely through with the 1 5/8 forstner bit, the other two get drilled about half way.

Then using a circular object (paint can, roll of tape, etc.) mark a rounded edge on then end of the blocks closest to the holes that you just drilled. Using the band saw, cut the excess material off and sand the edges.

Slip the center support onto the dow rod, and the other two blocks onto the ends of the dow. Test fit the ladder support on the bookcase and trim the dow rod if necessary. Once a good fit has been established on the bookcase, glue the ends onto the dow rod and clamp and glue the mounting blocks to the bookcase. Make sure to use clamps to get a good, tight joint and adhesion to join the two together.

Step 9: Finish / Stain / Paint

Sand the bookcase with 120 grit sandpaper, then again with 180-220 grit sandpaper. Clean the surfaces to prepare for finishing.

Decide on the finish you want on your bookcase. I tried some samples on scrap plywood and trim to see what worked best. My wife decided on one and off we went, following the directions for the finish we used.

Make sure to do this step in a well ventilated area that is free from dirt and other contaminates and then allow the proper amount of drying time as necessary.

Clean up following the directions as well.

Step 10: Finished

Put your shelves in, adjust them if necessary, and fill with your favorite books, games, DVD's, photo albums, records, etc.

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