Rustic Tall Wood Bookshelf (with Blunders)




Introduction: Rustic Tall Wood Bookshelf (with Blunders)

In this instructable I'll guide you through how to make a tall wooden bookshelf.

We'll cover the design, the cuts, assembly, and finishing processes used. When I've learned some lessons I'll describe what I might have done differently, and document the mistakes I made, so that you won't have to including the great humbling. There are plenty of pictures and videos throughout this guide including a few lessons learned.

We have a few goals:

- use up some existing lumber, repurposing some old salvaged shelves, using previous leftover cuts, combined with some structural (building) lumber.

- make the shelves capable of storing heavy books, and with the ability to hold Buffy books.

- have a 'rustic' farmhouse feel to it.

Instead of a giant list of all of the materials and tools in this overview, I've broken down the materials, tools, and output within each step.

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Step 1: Prepare a Design and Structural Cut List

First, think about any requirements. I had some from my wife that it needed to fit her Buffy comics. Other than that we wanted something that felt rustic, and I personally wanted something as tall and as skinny as possible. I also had some spare wood that I wanted to use (plywood and old cedar shelves waiting to be reclaimed).

Using grid paper, sketch out the bookshelf. I used one square block to represent 2 inches. Sketching it out on paper will give you an idea of the material you'll need as well as whether it would "feel" right. The video in this step shows the rough evolution facing the front and side.

To get the rustic look, we're going to use dimensional lumber (construction lumber) for the four posts of the shelf. Softwood tends to give more of a rustic character.

Once you've got a design, then make a cut-list, which is just a breakdown of the pieces of wood that you'll need. If you're using dimensional lumber like me then be cognizant that when it's pre-milled the dimensions are probably different. For example, my 2x2's were actually 1.5x1.5 when bought milled.

A lesson learned is to label your cut-list with letters, and then reference those letters on your drawing. This will help you remember where the cut pieces will go later on, as well as to keep track of the pieces being cut.

In this case I tend to build a cut list for the 'core', i.e structural pieces, and then build a different cut list later on for the components such as the drawers (the only reason I do this, is I often change my mind by then).

The plywood pieces on the side we're going to oversize by about 0.5", to allow 0.25" of a groove in each size. For example, I want the total depth to be 10", and the posts (1.5"x qty 2 = 3") leave 7" remaining, however the plywood will sit in grooves in the wood, so we'll size it to be 7.5" instead.

Initial cut list (refer to pictures to see where these will end up)


Posts - 1.5" x 88" x qty 4

A -1.5" x1.5" x 27" x qty 8

B- 1.5" x (7"-9") x 27" x qty 5. In the case of 'B' only 1 will be a fixed shelf, the others will be variable. 'B' cuts will be using leftover reclaimed cedar planks. One plank is about 9" deep, the other is just over 7" deep. The thicker one we'll use for the fixed, and the rest will be fine as variable shelves.

C- 1.5" x 1.5" x 7" x qty 6

D - 3.5" x 1.5" x 7" x qty 4

I - Use scrap, either a (1.5" or 3.5") x 1.5" x 6" x either qty 1 or 2 (not sure if it will be just in the front or front and back).


E - 7.5" x 6.5" x qty 2

F-7.5" x 9.5" x qty 2

G - 7.5" x 12.5" x qty 2

H - 7.5" x 48" x qty 2.

The drawers will have their own cut list be later on.


  • Grid Paper


  • Pencil and Ruler


  • Cut list for structural components
  • Design drawings

Step 2: Cut the Four Corner Posts, and Other Low Dimension Lumber.

With the dimensional lumber (an effective 1.5x1.5), measure out the length (which will end up being the height of the bookshelf). Using a square, mark out a nice straight line, and then cut it with your saw of choice. This wood is small and easy to cut straight with a handsaw. I'm a bit fan of using dozuki pull-saws for this scenario, the blades are thin, it's very easy to cut squares, and it's very quick.

Here we cut the corner posts as well as 'A','C' of the 1.5"x1.5


  • 2x2 dimensional lumber (effective 1.5"x1.5")


  • Dozuki pull saw
  • Measure tape.
  • A square


  • 'A' cuts of wood
  • 'C' cuts of wood

Step 3: Cut Remaining Dimensional Structural Components

Now that we have the four posts, let's cut the other pieces of wood that contribute the core structure, everything left over from the prior steps cut lists (see the design step). Use a table saw and make sure your blade is square, and that the guide is square. The pictures attempt to show how I'm lining up a square with the blade and the guide to accomplish this.

Always wear safety glasses, be aware of the height of the blade, and for smaller pieces have a piece of scrap wood or a push block to push your work through.

My shelving lumber for the 'B' cuts are from reclaimed wood.


  • 2x4 dimensional lumber (effective 1.5" x 3.5")
  • shelving lumber (mixed heights and depths)


  • Table-saw or circular saw


  • 'B' cuts of wood
  • 'D' cuts of wood
  • 'I' cuts of wood

Step 4: Cut the Curves in the Middle.

These are the curves for the pieces labelled 'D' in the cut list, it is also not necessary to cut the curves so if you choose to leave them as just squares then make sure to size the plywood appropriately.

To get a curve shape, I just found a roundish object about the right size, which in my case turned out to be a wall clock, other ideas would be an ice cream lid, or large honey container. I then used a jigsaw to cut the curve itself.

In the pictures and videos you'll see that I cut the dados (future step) before the curves. This was a mistake, as it was difficult to hold onto the small pieces of wood while using the jigsaw (which you might notice in the video). In retrospect I would have probably cut the curves while the wood was still part of it's original 2x4 (1.5" x 3.5" effective), then cut into it's components, and then the dados.


  • 'D' cuts of wood.


  • Jigsaw
  • A circular object to draw the curve on the wood

Lessons Learned:

  • Cut the curves on the original plank before the individual pieces


  • 'D' pieces get altered to have curves

Step 5: Cut Plywood Insert Pieces for Side Assembly

Next, it's time to measure and cut the plywood pieces for the sies.

This is probably the easiest part, start with the largest pieces first (in our case 'H'), and then move down to the smaller pieces.

I used a circular saw to cut the plywood in fairly straight lines, and because there is some flexibility for how the plywood will be put in the dado grooves then we don't need to be worried about the blade width. This gives us the freedom to measure everything at once, cut it all at once, and not need to worry about 1/16" or 1/8" issues later.


  • 1/4" plywood sheet.


  • Circular saw


  • 'H','E','F' and 'G' cuts of plywood

Step 6: Cut Dados (grooves) for the Side Pieces

We'll use the table-saw again to cut dados (grooves) for the plywood pieces to fit in.

You could be fancy and do a partial cut with a table saw, but I prefer safety, I just cut the entire length. I figure the grooves will be facing inside, and will only be visible on the bottom few inches of feet.

The posts only need the dados on one side, however the other pieces will need dados on the top and bottom.

To setup the table-saw to cut the dado, make the blade only a slight height above the 0.25" minimum (0.5" of 'extra' height from the cut-list / 2, plus a tiny bit extra to allow for glue and wood expansion). The only exception to this is the the 3.5" tall piece, because of the curve that will be much taller.).

Find the middle of the piece of wood, find the width of the plywood (just take a small piece and line it on top of the middle), and then line up the edge of the table-saw blade to match the outer end. Then, when running the table-saw just run it twice on each side, flipping it.

When cutting the longer pieces it's a good idea to have an out-feed table. An out feed table basically just holds up your wood so that it doesn't fall on the ground or shift the wood against the blade incorrectly.


  • The 4 long posts
  • 'C' and 'D' labelled wood cuts


  • Table-saw


  • Dadoes in the posts, and 'C', and 'D' cuts of wood

Step 7: Dry Fit of the Side Pieces

We are going to assemble our box by building the side first, then the cross sections. Before we assemble our sides we'll do a dry fit.

A dry fit let's you put together the pieces without glue, screws, or nails and gives you the opportunity to find and correct mistakes. Attached are step by step pictures of a dry fit assembly that will hopefully give an idea of where the dados come into play, and how the plywood fits in.

Before we do this, we'll take our design drawing, measuring tape, and mark where we expect the pieces to fit. The video shows me doing this with all four corner posts at once. When doing a dry fit we can see if we cut our pieces correctly, and if something is off tolerance if it will fit in the 'wiggle' room of the dado grooves.

When performing the dry fit (and the wet fit), notice that your plywood will typically tend to have one better side than the other, make sure to choose a 'best' side to face outwards (towards the people), and keep the lower quality side facing inwards (towards the books).


  • Cuts from previous steps. ( 4 posts, 'C's and 'D's )


  • None


  • None, just a quality check / re-assurance that the wet fit will work

Step 8: Do a Wet Fit (with Glue) and Clamp

After the dry fit, and any minor corrections, we'll get ready to glue and clamp the two side pieces.

You'll notice in the video that the wet fit is basically the dry fit, except that you're putting glue in the grooves as you go (and you've got the self confidence that everything will fit).

Once the sides are on start clamping it together, starting at one side and working towards another. In this video I did it vertically just to get a better angle for the camera, however it will be easier to assemble and clamp horizontally (because the largest flat piece can stay against the floor).

I did these side pieces one at a time and left them overnight, only because I didn't have enough room to clamp both side pieces at the same time.


  • Glue
  • The same cuts of wood used in the previous dry fit step.


  • Clamps


  • Two assembled side structural pieces

Step 9: Sanding and Finishing the Shelves

While the sides are being clamped, we can get started with the shelves. In this case, the bookcase will be white except for the shelves, which my wife wants to have finished with polyurethane. There will be one fixed shelf (one of the 'B' pieces) that will need to be finished prior to assembly of the bookshelf. Keeping with the whole rustic thought, she wants me to keep some of the pain, nicks, and stains that are on the reclaimed wood. Consequently, we'll only do a light sanding, and finish with polyurethane to protect the wood further.


  • start with a rough sand (I used 100 grit)
  • do a finer sand (I used a hand sander for this, 150 grit).
  • clean the wood with mineral spirits.
  • apply polyurethane (make sure you are wearing gloves, and in a well ventilated area).
  • and lightly again ( with 220 grit ), and clean again.
  • apply a second coat of polyurethane


  • 100 grit sandpaper
  • 150 grit sandpaper
  • 220 grit sandpaper
  • Polyurethane
  • Mineral spirits
  • The 'B' cuts.


  • Brush
  • Hand foam block for sanding


  • Finished shelves

Step 10: Dry Fit the Bookshelf Structure

Similar to the side assembly, it's time to dry fit the bookshelf structure.

A twist is that we have a 3rd dimension, so all I really do is place the 'front' pieces on top of the 'back' pieces and make sure I have the dimensions and piece count correct.

It's at this point I realized that I forgot a piece of plywood for the top, so I ended up cutting another piece of plywood 7.5" x 27". It's only 27" because it will not go into grooves on the side (ideally they would, however I didn't want to risk the side pieces).


  • Structural cuts from previous steps


  • None


  • None, just a quality check/re-assurance that the wet fit will work.

Step 11: Glue and Assemble the Structure

At this point we have assembled sides, and we have the cross pieces for the middle, and we've dry fit them.

Similar to the sides, we work our way down. However, this time we're using screws (nails would also work), so while we're still gluing, the screws will hold the wood together eliminating the need for clamps. You'll notice in the video that I still sometimes use a clamp just to hold the wood together more easily while screwing.

In my case I just screwed in directly with no countersink, if you'd like a cleaner look you could drill a countersink first, then screw, and then cover up the screw with a dowel (which I did not do).


  • The two previously assembled sides from previous steps.
  • Remaining structural cuts from previous steps
  • 2.5" brass wood screws x qty 16.
  • Glue


  • Drill with a screw bit


  • Assembled structural carcass

Step 12: Milk Paint the Structure (first Couple of Coats)

We're using milk paint for this. Milk paint comes in a dry form, which you need to mix with water. I advise using very warm water, as it will mix easier. You can make milk paint as thin or as thick as you'd like, I went a bit on the thinner side to get used to this.

Before you paint, make sure to sand. I used a hand sander again at 220 grit to accomplish this.

Milk paint is pretty easy to use, so the only tricky bit with this step was to cover the one polyurethane fixed shelf, while the rest of the structure would get paint. You'll see in the photos that I did this with tin foil and painters tape.

This pictures show after a first coat. The paint adhered differently on all pieces of wood, so some only had 1 coat, most had 2, and some troublesome pieces later on had 3 coats.

At this step we're not doing the final coats or the polyurethane covering,we're just getting the parts we do have to a consistent level of white. We'll do the final coats later once the drawer fronts are ready.


  • Milk paint
  • Milk paint binder
  • Paint Tape
  • Tin Foil ( to cover bottom finished shelf)


  • Brush


  • First coats of paint on structure

Step 13: Build Drawer Fronts: Measuring, Cutting Lengths, and Clamping.

At this point we needed to decide on drawers, so we decided for some simple bevels in structural wood.

To do this I used some spare 2x8 and 2x6 leftovers from previous projects.

The heights of the pieces needed to be slightly less than the inner height, to allow room for the wood to expand and contract with the humidity changes in the year, and to give a reasonable 'give' for opening/closing.

With the exception of the smaller shelf, the middle and bottom drawer needed to have multiple pieces of wood clamped together to achieve the desired height, so to do this I only cut the lengths to size in this step, and then glued and clamped them.

A nice side effect with the dimensional lumber is there will be a smooth line where the wood is joined, since the dimensional lumber has slightly rounded edges.

I decided to only cut the heights in the next step after clamping (overnight), to get a closer cut (as opposed to pre-cutting and then hoping the heights would align correctly after clamping).

The bottom shelf will be 2 lengths of 2x8's put together, the middle 2 lengths of 2x6s together, and the top just cut down 2x8s.

(Remember, with dimension lumber a 2x8 is really going to be smaller, in my case 1.5x7.5 and 1.5 x 5.5 ).


  • 2"x8" boards
  • Glue


  • Measure tape
  • Circular saw
  • Clamps


  • Rough sized drawer faces.

Step 14: Building Drawer Fronts: Cutting Height and Adding Bevels

After overnight clamping we're reading to cut to the appropriate heights, and add some bevels.

The missing cut for the heights are pretty simple, just measure again, mark, and cut with the table-saw.

The bevels are a bit different. We're still using a table-saw, however we're going to angle the blade, as demonstrated in the pictures above. For the angle and the entry point, I eyeballed it to what looked good to me. Since we haven't yet build the drawers themselves, we've got flexibility with how deep they are at the edges. I wanted a slight angle, but really long.

Run the pieces through the table saw on all four sides of the best looking face of each of the four drawer fronts.

Use the scrap pieces as little wooden spaceships for the kids.

Once that's done do a quick dry fit of the fronts in their destination book case, to make sure it still fits. Mine fit, but were very snug, and considering that they will be even more snug once they have paint means I need to trim the heights down very slightly (which I will do with a power sander and an 80 grit paper).


  • 80 grit sandpaper


  • Table-saw
  • Power sander to trim the heights slightly.


  • Unfinished, bevelled, drawer face fronts

Step 15: Go Back in Time / the Great Humbling / Hunny

It was at this point that I wondered if it would be too tall to go around the corner, in it's journey to reach the great upstairs. With trepidation I decide to test this fear, and lift the half finished carcass around the bend, and confirm the dread building within.

This beast will not go around the corner.


Well, better find this out now than after it's closer to finish.

Time for a honey beer and a deep Winnie-the-pooh think.

My options seem to be:

1) Disassemble the frame, and reassemble upstairs.

2) Chop off the legs, and reassemble the legs elsewhere.

3) Shorten the height by a minimum of 7".

4) Chop off in the middle, and have a separate top/bottom piece.

5) Keep it downstairs forever.

6) Fit through a basement window and bring up through the doors.

None of these are great options, so let's use elimination to figure out the best choice:

"1", disassembling isn't great in this case as I already glued the pieces, and the glue has set. There is a high probability that this would cause tears in the wood. If I hadn't glued, or if the glue hadn't yet set, then this would have been the easiest option.

"2" won't work it turns out after measuring in more detail. Removing the legs will only give me 5" of additional clearance, but I need a minimum of 7" of reduction. This turns out not to be an option.

"3" defeats the point of having a tall book case. A technical option, but let's leave it as a last resort, as having a smaller bookshelf negates it's point to exist.

"4" this will leave an odd looking scar even if I cut the lines perfectly, but this would work.

"5" nope, no room for it downstairs, and we need shelves upstairs.

"6" unfortunately no windows wide enough.

Don't do what I did, and instead consider the dimensions of your finished book case and how you will move it from your assembling location to it's final location.

And I choose option.....


  • Beer


  • Optimism

Lessons Learned:

  • Consider dimensions of the pathway to it's final destination


  • A plan to have this bookshelf available upstairs

Step 16: ... 'chop It in Half'

Time to suck up my pride and chop the thing in half. Worst case scenario: if it ends up looking terrible then I can chop it into firewood. Best case scenario: it becomes a good humbling story over beer.

We're going to need to saw with a thin kerf, and some careful measuring.

Our point of dissection will be just underneath the fixed shelf.

First we measure very carefully and make sure that it's the exact same height on both sides of the bookshelf to the bottom of the drawer.

After that we use a flush cut saw to cut through all four posts, leaving the plywood at first. We need to very carefully turn the bookshelf over as we're cutting to avoid putting the weight stress on the plywood (lest it crack and be another thing to fix).

After the four posts are cut we slowly cut through the plywood on the first side, extremely carefully turn it over, and cut through the plywood on the second side.

There are a few consequences to this choice (other than the scar):

- the top drawers will need to be sanded down further to compensate for the height of the saw blade.

- the structural stability is now compromised in the top portion. When it was previously connected to the bottom it had the support of the other horizontal pieces, without it this is only a simple box with no supports. Consequently we'll need to add supports of some type, maybe a full rigid back, or perhaps just triangles.

If you're building alongside: please, skip this step and measure your pathway first.


  • None


  • Measuring tape
  • Very thin kerf saws


  • Converted assembly of the structure into two pieces from one.

Step 17: More Consequence Handling: Make a Top for the Drawers Portion

Although we're going to re-join the top and bottom in it's final destination, we'll still need something to join them together with. Doing dowels in just the posts unfortunately is not an option since we already put wood screws close to the cut.

Instead we're going to try making a flat top. This will serve a dual purpose, it will give us a stable platform to put the top on and later bolt it together, and secondly it will give us a future option to make this a dresser only and separate out the bookshelf.

We have an old cupboard door that is just slightly bigger than what we need, so we'll cut that down to 30" x 10".

After the cut we'll screw it into the posts, and the middle attachments. Unlike the sides, where I just drilled directly in, on the top I pre-drilled a guide hold for the screw, and then also drilled a countersink, I did this so that the the bookshelf top would fit as flat as possible along the top. I then used 2 1/2" brass screws, and glue where the wood met.

If you don't make the same mistake that I did, this is obviously an optional step:

Cut List:

  • 1" x 30" x 10"


  • Available plank for the cut list
  • 2.5" x qty 6 brass wood screws


  • Drill + drill bit.
  • Screwdriver


  • A flat piece of wood to sit on top of the drawers portion.

Step 18: Making Drawer Boxes: Choosing a Box Type and Initial Design

Ok, we should be done cleaning up that mess, back to the goal of making a bookshelf, and we're at the step where we need to make drawer boxes.

There are a lot of ways to make drawers, but since I'm in the mood for using the table-saw, we'll come up with a quick design that will leverage dado grooves and work with our thick drawer fronts. Since our front is so thick we're not going to make a false front, and instead have the drawer front join directly with the rest of the box.

I'm going to use 3/4" plywood only because I have a few off-cuts available from a previous project. Otherwise, a smaller thickness would be fine ( 1/2" is more typical). The plywood I'm using is also pre-finished, which is unnecessary for the boxes (since they're never seen except when pulled out you can use rough cuts). I need the space back in the garage though that these sheets are taking, so off to the table-saw they go.

For the small drawers at the top I'm going to have the sides and the back almost the same height as the drawer front.

The middle and bottom drawers I want the sides and back to be smaller, and for simplicity I'll have the sides and bottom of the middle and bottom be the same (even though the fronts are different sizes).

For the bottom of the drawers we'll use a much thinner plywood, where the choice was made solely based on "what is the thinnest plywood I already have, and is enough for all 4 drawers".

Resulting cut list:

  • 9.5"x5.5" x qty 4 (sides for the two top drawers)
  • 9.5" x 8.5" x qty 4 (middle and bottom sides)
  • (12.5" (overall width)- 3/4" (thickness of plywood) ) x 5.5" x qty 2 (top drawer backs)
  • (12.5" (overall width)- 3/4" (thickness of plywood) ) x (approximately 8.5" height is flexible) x qty 2 (top drawer backs)


  • Pencil, paper
  • Brain


  • Tape measure (re-measure everything)


  • Cut list
  • Reference drawings for drawer assembly

Step 19: Making Drawer Boxes: Cutting the Basic Shapes.

Before using the table-saw, make sure your blade is back at a 90' angle. I didn't re-check this time, the blade had shifted slightly, and I didn't notice until I was assembling the drawers. It wasn't enough to cause an issue but it made the boxes slightly less perfect square cuts than they could have been. If I weren't making a 'rustic' style I probably would have redone the cuts.

The pictures demonstrate progression of just the shapes, following the cut list on the previous step.

When finding wood in the scrap pile, I organized it such that the top drawers would have the same height for the sides and back. However, when I got to the middle and bottom there wasn't exactly enough wood to have the same height in the back and the sides. Since the back is rarely seen, and it won't cause a structural issue I decided to just split the wood that I did have in half. You'll see in the later videos this size discrepancy.


  • 3/4" plywood (can be substituted with 1/2" plywood)
  • 1/4" plywood (can be substituted with any size as long as twice the thickness of this wood is less than or equal to the size of the thicker wood).
  • Cut list from previous page
  • Design shape spec from previous page


  • Table-saw


  • Rough cuts of wood used for assembling drawer boxes

Step 20: Making Drawer Boxes: Cutting the Dados

Before you start cutting, label each piece. In my case I had 4 different cut styles to worry about, so I made a visual aid of what the cuts would look like (see the blue sticky notes in the previous steps), and then labelled each piece so that while cutting on the table-saw I would have more assurance that I was doing the right cuts.

For example, since I was using dados where the thickness was half the thickness of the plywood, I could keep the same table-saw guide setup while cutting different pieces.

To get the dado's the right size, each groove would take three passes in the table-saw (3 blade kerf widths = 1/2 the thickness of the thick plywood ), so cut all slots on all pieces of wood at once, then move the guide, and repeat.

An alternative would be to get a dado blade, or use a router.

The pictures should show the progression of cuts that I took.


  • Rough wood cuts from previous step


  • Table-saw


  • Dados (grooves) in the cut wood for the drawers

Step 21: Making Drawer Boxes: Sanding the Fronts.

Sand the front of the drawers, moving up in grit size. I followed 100,150,200.

In between the grits brush off the dust with a brush, otherwise the next higher level of sanding will be less effective.

There isn't much excitement in this step, the sanding took about as much time as the cutting of the grooves.

It is however, very, very chilly (-18 degrees Celsius) and has started to snow heavily. Luckily because it's so cold the snow isn't melting, and not causing damage to the wood.


  • 100 grit sandpaper
  • 150 grit sandpaper
  • 200 grit sandpaper


  • Palm sander


  • Sanded fronts of drawer faces

Step 22: Making Drawer Boxes: Dry Fit and Wet (gluing) Fit.

Allright, time for a dry fit and then a wet assembly.

Fit all the pieces together, and discover now (before you glue) if you need to sand something smoother, and if the cuts are correct.

The first video demonstrates how I dry fit my pieces together. The last side is a little tricky.

Once all the drawer boxes have been dry fit, test them out in the drawer carcass and make sure they fit.

If everything checks out, then let's glue them together. In this style the pieces fit together pretty snugly, and consequently I'm not going to bother clamping them. The second video shows the gluing process on a larger drawer.

In retrospect I would have clamped them together.


  • Glue


  • Optionally clamps


  • Assembled drawers

Step 23: Making Drawer Boxes: Paint Their Faces

Let's head back to our milk paint. We're going to bring the drawer fronts up to the same whiteness as the existing painted structure. In this case, two coats of paint.

Caution: I had a little milk paint leftover, after having it sit for two days. It clumped over quite a bit, even with aggressive shaking and stirring. While I decided to use it anyways, the consequence of this choice is that I'll need to sand the clumps out later.


  • Milk paint


  • Brush


  • First layers of milk paint on drawers

Step 24: Final Coats of Milk Paint, and Polyurethane.

Now that we've got a fairly consistent level of white across the drawers and the structure we're going to do the finish coats together.

First, dry fit the pieces, but the drawers in the frame, and put the top on the bottom. Inspect if it's a good enough consistency. In all there are 3 coats of polyurethane.


  • 220 grit sandpaper
  • 400 grit sandpaper
  • 600 grit sandpaper
  • Water based polyurethane


  • Brush


  • Sand all surfaces with 220 grit
  • Vacuum, and wipe clean with a damp cloth.
  • Put a final coat of milk paint on, let it dry (about an hour). This time I made a fresh small batch.
  • Once the milk paint has dried, sand all surfaces again with 400 grit.
  • Vacuum, and again wipe clean with a damp cloth.
  • Apply a coat of polyurethane, ( I'm using water based ). The video shows how I do it, but basically I use short brush strokes to get coverage, and then long strokes to help it settle evenly. I find this helps reduce the tiny bubbles.
  • Wait until dry (about 4 hours)
  • Sand with 400 grit
  • Apply another coat of polyurethane.
  • Wait until dry again (another 4 hours)
  • Do a sand with 600 grit
  • And a final coat.


  • "finish" on the drawers and structure.

Step 25: Drawer Guides

It's time to make some drawer guides. I was never a fan of having rails on the drawers themselves, especially when solid wood is involved that expands and contracts with the weather, they always seem to get stuck. Instead I put in smooth wood on the bottom and on the sides. I used leftover hardwood flooring because it was already finished, if that's not available look for other smooth sliding material such as pre-finished plywood, or old melamine boards. We will also use screws to hold these in, as I find they are more future friendly for providing adjustments (if needed) if the wood decides to shrink or wear slightly.

Re-measuring the depth is crucial, because as items are clamped together, or as wood expands/contracts, or if we were slightly off when assembling then it may not be the exact 7" that we expect. Sure enough, we are just shy of 7", measuring at 6" 15/16.

With the sides we want minimal wood touching to reduce friction, and we only have 0.5" of thickness, so we're going to cut the tongues off of spare hardwood for the inside placement. The height doesn't matter. We'll simply glue these in, with mine there was enough friction on the sides to hold the pieces in without clamping, but you may want to consider clamps if yours do not friction fit. The specific placement doesn't really matter so long as they will touch the sides of the drawer box.

With the bottom, it will need to support the weight of the drawer contents. Consequently we'll need to have thicker wood, I opted for just the remaining width of the scrap floor slats after cutting off the tongues. We'll also have two supports each for the middle and lower drawers. We'll be using angle braces to hold these in. When screwing the bottom pieces in the placement doesn't really matter; aim for 'middle-ish' for the top two drawers, and roughly equidistant spacing for the middle and bottom drawer cavities. A small 'trick' to avoid wood catching on the drawers is to put the front facing piece just slightly below ( like 1/32" -ish) the top, and the back just slightly above the top; this way the drawer won't 'catch' as it's being pushed in or pulled out.

Cut List:

  • 0.5" x 6 15/16" x (height doesn't matter) x qty 6 ( 2 for bottom, 2 for middle, 1 each for the top )
  • 6 15/16" x ( width and height don't matter ) x qty 6 ( 2 for bottom, 2 for middle, 1 each for the top )

Steps Summary:

  • Re-measure the depth, and line that depth up with the table-saw guide.
  • Make the cuts
  • Drill pilot holes for angle braces in the bottom pieces
  • Screw the angle braces into the bottom cuts
  • Screw the bottom cuts into the frame itself,
  • Glue the side guides into the side cavities


  • Leftover flooring material or smooth plywood scraps
  • Angle braces x qty 24 (4 each per bottom support x 6 supports ).
  • 3/4" screws x qty 48 ( 24 braces x 2 screws per brace)
  • Glue


  • Table-saw
  • Drill
  • Screw-driver


  • Pieces of wood to assist with guiding the drawers assembled in the frame.

Step 26: Shelf Support System

Time to cut some ends for the bookshelf. Since our shelves were measured between the frames, there is a gap of 0.5" between the inner plywood and the bookshelf itself (not outward facing). We're going to use this area to support the shelves, and do to that we'll build little shelf extenders. In real-life I cut these at the same time as the previous drawer guide step.

The extenders we'll both screw and glue in place. We're going to drill pilot holes for these and with a small countersink so that these can sit flush (since they will be rubbing against the wood).

Once we have the extenders we'll measure the spacing for the shelves, keeping in mind that we want the top of the corner brace to be 3/4" taller than the inner height that we want (because the brace is 3/4" hidden ), and screw our shelf brackets. After all of that's done we'll do a test layout to make sure it's all good.

Cut List:

  • 1/2" x 3/4" x 6 15/16" x qty 8 (2 for each bookshelf)


  • 1 3/4" brass screws x qty 16 ( 2 for each extender for each bookshelf ).
  • 3/4" screws x qty 16 ( 2 for each side, for each bookshelf ).
  • 0.5" deep shelf brackets x qty 16 ( these are the same corner braces from the previous step).
  • leftover wood for the extenders


  • table-saw
  • drill with counter-sink bit for the pilot holes

Step Summary:

  • Cut the extenders
  • Measure the placement from the front.
  • Drill pilot holes in the extenders and shelves.
  • Screw and drill the extenders into the side.
  • Measure shelf placement considering the height of the extender.
  • Drill pilot holes on the inside of the frame.
  • Screw corner supports on the inside of the frame.
  • Test fit.


  • Extenders and shelf support system complete

Step 27: Adding Drawer Pulls

Time for the drawer pulls. I decided on half moons for fun, and hope to roughly align the pulls for the top drawers with the bottom. To do this, I first measure the placement for the top drawers first with the templating tool and used those measurements as guides for the middle and bottom drawers, measuring from the side.

Because our drawer faces are so thick, we also needed to get 1 3/4" machine screws that matched the threading.

Lesson learned: if I could do this step again I would have drilled the pilot holes before I did the bevels, and the reason for this is to get better alignment, especially with the large bottom drawer. A secondary reason would be to get perfectly 90' angles for the holes by enabling the usage of a drill press instead.


  • Drawer pulls x qty 6
  • 1 3/4" machine screws x qty 12 (matching threading with the pulls)


  • templating tool (or piece of paper with pull template marked out on it.)
  • drill and drill bit wide enough for the screws.


  • Measure placement for guides.
  • Drill holes
  • Screw in the pulls


  • The drawers will have pulls

Lessons Learned:

  • Drill the pilot holes before the bevels.

Step 28: Final Assembly

This is the final step in this instructable. We put the top back onto the bottom, screw it together, anchor to the wall.


  • All pieces from previous steps.
  • 1 3/4" screws x qty 6


  • Screwdriver


  • Put the top on the bottom.
  • Screw the top piece into the bottom piece (using pre-drilled holes)
  • Add the drawers and shelves.
  • Test fit with the Buffy books.
  • Anchor to the wall


  • Satisfaction

Please always remember to anchor bookshelves or other tall furniture to the wall, this will help reduce the likelihood of accidents such as children climbing and pulling it on themselves.

Happy building, learn from my mistakes and make a better one for yourself.

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    5 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Thanks for posting, you really know how to work with wood!


    3 years ago

    Very nice! This would look good in most any decor...once the surface is appropriately chosen. (I, personally, enjoy the one you've settled on). Congratulations on a job well-done!


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thank you, it was definitely a fun project.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks! I enjoyed reading your Dr. Seuss inspired bookshelf as well.