Introduction: Bookcase

This is a simple bookcase with adjustable shelves. The bookcase is constructed from 3/4" plywood. I recommend pre-finished maple plywood for the cae and 3/4" unfinished Blatic birch plywood for the shelves and the separate top.

The overall size of the bookcase with the top is 38" wide, 36 3/4" tall and 12" deep. The top overhangs the sides and front by 1".

The bookcase is comprised of 2 sides, a top and bottom piece, a back and a seperate oversized top. There are three separate shelves.

In order to build this project the following tools and supplies are required.

Table saw
Hand helf power drill
Plate joiner or router with slot cutting bit
Clothes iron
3/4" plywood (4' x 8' sheet)
1/4" plywood (half of a 4' x 8'sheet)
#20 biscuits
 Wood glue
3/4" brads
#8 wood screws: qty 6.

Step 1: Cutting Plywood to Size

The first step is to cut the boards for the bookcase. The sides of the bookcase are 12" wide x 36" long. The top and bottom are 11 3/4" wide and 34 1/2" long.

There is a separate top that overhangs the bookcase 1" on the sides and front. The back edge of the top is flush with the back of the bookcase. The top measures 38" long by 13" wide and is made from 3/4" Baltic birch plywood.

The is a toe kick that also needs to be cut at 3" wide by 34 1/2" long.

Cut the boards with the wood grain running along the length of the boards. A table saw will provide the safest and most accurate cuts but a hand held power saw with a straight edge will also work. Cuts must be precise or the component parts will not fit correctly.

Step 2: Joinery

The bookcase is constructed with #20 biscuits. You will need either a biscuit cutter (plate joiner) or a router bit slot cutter to make the grooves for the biscuits. Photo of a DeWalt plate joiner.

Biscuits are football shaped wafers that are glued into one surface of the sides or top/bottom. Biscuits are equally spaced 3/8" (half the thickness of the plywood which is 3/4")  from the end of edge of the boards. 3 biscuits are sufficient for connecting the sides to the top and bottom of the bookcase. Biscuits spaced 5" apart are sufficient for connecting the toe kick to the underside of the bottom.

The photos show the placement of the biscuits on the sides and bottom pieces of the bookcase. Also shown is a DeWalt plate joiner and the biscuit wafers.

NOTE: The biscuit slots are placed 3/8" from the outside ends of the side boards and the bottom for the toe kick. THE EXCEPTION is for the slots where the bottom attaches to the sides. The bottom shelf is placed 3 3/4" from the end of the side pieces. Therefore the biscuits need to be placed 3 3/8" of an inch from the bottom edge of the side pieces. The biscuits slots are centered in the thickness of the boards, which is 3/4", that is why the slots are cut at half the thickness of the stock, 3/8".

In the first photo, notice the positioning of the biscuits for the bottom shelf.

Step 3: Drill Holes for Shelf Pins

The shelves are adjustable by drilling 1/4" holes space 1" apart on the sides of the bookcase. The holes should be place 1 1/2" from the edges of the sides. The bottom hole should be 9" up from the bottom of the side. The top hole should be 8" from the top of the side. This will provide a wide range of shelf placement. Hole placement is determined by the size of books or items placed on the shelves.

The holes should ONLY be drilled 1/2" deep. Be careful not to drill through the side!

The shelf supports are 1/4" metal pins that can be obtained through hardware stores or online wood product suppliers.

In order to secure the separate top to the bookcase, you will need to drill holes for the screws. NOTE: Drill from the underneath of the top. Drill 6 countersunk holes into the top of the bookcase. Place the outside holes 3" from each end of the top and 2" from the edges of the top. Drill the middle holes centered in the top 2" from the edges.

Step 4: Joinery for the Back Panel

The back of the bookcase is a 1/4" piece of pre-finished plywood. It fits inside a groove or "rabbet" that is cut on the inside edge of the sides. The reason the groove is cut on the inside edge is to conceal the edge of the plywood from view from the outside.

This groove is 1/4" deep and 1/2" wide. The groove can be cut with a router with a 1/2" straight bit or on the table saw in two passes. If cutting on the table saw, set the fence at 3/8" and set the blade height at 1/4". Run the two side boards with the inside face down on the table saw bed. This is assuming that your blade kerf is 1/8". If the blade kerf is wider, adjust accordingly.

After the first cut, adjust the fence to 1/8" and the blade height to 3/8". Run the boards through the saw on edge with the inside face of the boards facing the table saw fence. The waste material will fall off.

NOTE : It is always best to do a test cut before cutting the groove on the actual wood used for the bookcase. Use a scrap piece of wood of the same thickness and do several test cuts, adjusting to ensure an accurate cut.

NOTE:You should either use a router table or an edge guide with a hand held router to ensure a straight cut.
If using a router with a 1/2" straigth cutting bit to make the groove cut, set the depth of the router bit at 1/16" and make the first pass. The make subsequent passe until the depth equals 1/4". Making shallow cuts helps avoids tearouts.

The photos shows the two sides with the groove on the back inside edges.

Step 5: Edge Banding

Plywood has an unattractive edge. In order to provide a more finished look, a thin iron-on edge banding is adhered to the outside edge of the sides, top and bottom.

If you decide to use Baltic Birch as the shelving, you can choose to edge band these as well. Baltic birch plywood is made from uniform plys of wood and does have an industrial look that does not have to be banded.

A regular clothes iron is used to apply pressure and heat to the edge banding. Edge banding can be obtained from a well equiped hardware store or an online woodworking supplies store. Set the iron to high heat (cotton setting).

Cut the edge banding a few inches longer that the piece it is being attached to. Carefully tack the edge banding at one end of the board and then continue along the edge with the hot iron.

The edge banding will be slightly wider than the plywood. Use a sharp knife or razor to trim the excess width. Cut the ends flush with the board.

Step 6: Toe Kick Attached

After the biscuit slots are cut into the bottom of the bottom shelf and the slots are cut into the edge of the toe kick, it is time to glue the two pieces together.

Position the toe kick flush with the ends fo the bottom shelf are critical. There should be no overhang of the toe kick.

Step 7: Gluing the Bookcase

The shelf holes have been drilled, the groove for the back has been cut, the edge banding has been attached and the toe kick has been glued to the bottom.

You are not ready to glue the sides to the top and bottom.

Insert wood glue into the slots at the ends of the top and bottom. Use bar clamps to secure the 4 pieces together.

Step 8: Attaching the Back Panel

The back panel is 1/4" pre-finished maple plywood. You can use any high quality 1/4" plywood. Cut the back panel to size. It should be 37" wide (it fits in the 1/2"  wide groove cut into the sides), 35 1/2" tall (it fits flush to the top and 1/2" shy of the bottom. It doesn't have to be flush with the bottom of the sides).

Glue can be used but it is not necessary. Secure the back with 3/4" nails, placed every 6 inches all around the parameter of the back.

Step 9: Top and Shelves

The top and shelves are made from 3/4" unfinished Baltic birch plywood (an eleven ply quality plywood)). The top is 38" long and 13" wide. The top is secure with 1' long screws from the underside of the bookcase top.

The shelves are 34 3/8" long and 11 3/4" wide. The length is slightly shorter than the inside dimensions of the bookcase to allow for easy movement.

It is advisable to apply a clear poly urethan finish to the top and shelves if you use Baltic birch plywood.

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    2 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    NICE! looks shop bought!, ( do you make these often?) very well planned aswell.
    looking forward to future instructables !! :D