A bookshelf looks simple enough. It' basically just planks of wood put together in a gridlike pattern, right? It's just a rectangle! So shouldn’t be easy to make a bookshelf?
Making a bookshelf is considerably simpler than making a chest of drawers, but this project still takes time and care. You want to end up with a bookshelf that's structurally sound, pretty to look at, and most of all, capable of supporting weight.
Step by Step Bookshelf Building Guide
Even if you're not an experienced carpenter, you can build a strong, good-looking shelf. All it takes is patience and a little bit of work. And wood.
To start the process, pick and gather your materials.
Step 1 - Plan
Measure the area where you want to build the bookshelf. Measure at least twice and figure out the exact size of your bookshelf. Write down clear measurements for the width, height, and depth of the shelf.
Choose the wood you're going to use. Plywood is affordable and easy to work with. Birch and oak are both sturdy woods that are harder and more durable than pine.
You might also want to pick the stain or paint you want to use for the wood before you begin.
Step 2 - Cut and Sand
Cut and sand the wood. To build a standard bookshelf, you will need boards for two sides, three or more shelves (depending on height), one top board to run the length of the bookshelf, a bottom board to run the length of the bottom, two face frame sides, two face frames, a backer board, and a toe kickboard.
Check the boards against your measurements to get precise cuts.
Step 3 - Drill
Pre-drill the shelves. Go ahead and drill pocket holes in all the shelves. Holes should be 3/4 inches deep. Drill them in the four corners of each shelf.
Step 4 - Connect Top Shelf
Attach the top board of the shelf to one of the side boards. Using a carpenter's square to get everything perfectly flush and square. Use wood glue first, then secure the wood with a clamp.
Place screws through the wood to secure the top board to each side board. Repeat this exact process for the bottom board of the shelf.
Step 5 - Connect Interior Shelf
Add the interior shelves. Put the shelves in place inside the bookcase. Make sure they're right where you want them before you drill through your pocket holes to secure the shelves to the sides of the bookcase.
Check that each shelf is straight down the entire length using a level.
Step 6 - Connect the Other Side
Attach the other side board. Use a clamp and a level to check that everything is square and level as you attach the side board and use screws to secure it to the shelves, top board and bottom board.
Step 7 - Add the Toe Kick
Drill pocket holes into each side of the toe kick. Tap it into place with a rubber mallet and then screw it into the position. The toe kick should be about three inches behind the front end of the bookshelf.
Step 8 - Attach the Face Frame
Secure the frame. Attach the face frame to the bookshelf using clamps. Use finishing nails to secure the frame. The outer edges will be flush with the top and sides of the bookshelf and fall a little short of the bottom board.
If desired, you can use a different type of wood for the face frame to give your bookshelf a more expensive look.
Take it to the next level by finishing the bookshelf with molding, if desired. Molding all around the top can give the shelf a beautiful finished look.
Step 9 - Finish
Sand any rough areas of the shelf. Plug your pocket holes with wood plugs or wood filler. Apply stain or paint as desired and allow it to dry completely.
Step 10 - Attach the Back Panel
First, stain or paint the back panel as desired. You can make it match the rest of the shelf or choose a contrasting or complementary color. Put the board in place and make sure all the edges are flush before you secure it with finishing nails.