Building Simple Bookshelves

Plans for building a large bookcase that will last for years. Vary the size to suit your own needs.

Bookshelves make a simple, practical beginner's carpentry project. The first step to making your own bookcase is to determine the size you wish to make. How big is the space you want to fill? Perhaps more importantly, how many books do you need to store?

The materials required for useful bookshelves are 1x10 boards along with a piece of 3/8-inch plywood for the back. You will need two 1x10's the height of the bookcase and one for each shelf desired. You will also need some metal right angle brackets, short wood screws to attach them, and some longer wood screws. These screws should be fairly thin. Each shelf will require 4 brackets with 4 screws each and 2 screws for each end, along with some for attaching the back. Tools required are a circular saw and a drill with a screwdriver bit and a regular bit the size of the screw heads. This will be used to countersink the screw heads.

Here are specific directions for building a set of bookshelves about 4 feet wide by 5-1/2 feet tall. This makes a roomy bookcase for serious book collectors which is very sturdy. Cut six 46-inch long 1x10 board for shelves. These can be cut from three 8-foot boards. For the sides, cut two 1x10 boards to 5 feet 6 inches. Chances are the good folks at the lumberyard would be willing to cut these boards for you at no extra charge when you buy the lumber. Wait on cutting the plywood for the back until you have the shelves assembled so you can get an accurate measurement.

To assemble the shelves, first take the two sides and one of the shelves. Placing the shelf inside the two sides at the bottom, mark on the outside of the side with a pencil where the edge of the board will come to. Place a screw through the side into the end of the shelf about three inches from the front edge and another about 3 inches from the back. Do the same for the other side. You should have the shelf at the bottom attached to the side boards by two screws on each end. The bookcase will rest on this board. For each of the screws that screw into the outside of the bookcase, drill out a shallow hole for countersinking the screw heads.

Next, do the same for the top of the bookcase. You will now have an open box. The next step will be to cut the plywood for the back. Make an accurate measurement of the box and cut plywood to extend to the edge all around. The example here should be 47-3/4 inches wide by 5 feet, 6 inches tall.

Attach the plywood to the back of the box with the wood screws. To do this, place a screw at each corner, two equally spaced along each side, and two equally spaced along the top and the bottom.

Now it is time to attach the 4 inside shelves. Measure up from the bottom shelf for the placement of the lowest inside shelf. At 11-1/2 inches, draw a line inside and outside all around. Draw another line the width of the board above the previous line. Screws will be placed equally between these lines. Place two on each end about 3 inches from the front and back, and two more equally spaced along the back of the shelf. Now attach two brackets underneath the shelf at each end. Place one about 2 inches from the front edge and attach by small wood screws to the side and to the shelf. Do the same about 2 inches from the back and repeat on the other end.

Repeat the above directions for each of the remaining inside shelves. Having shelves 11-1/2 inches apart is ample enough for oversizeed paperback books. If you have larger or smaller books, you can vary the distances between the shelves.

When the bookcase is constructed, sand and paint as desired. Since this is such a large bookcase, it is a good idea to use a few long wood screws to attach it to the wall. Make sure you screw them into a stud.

Using these same basic instructions, you can vary the size of the bookshelves by simply changing the measurements to suit your own needs. The generous use of wood screws and brackets results in sturdy bookshelves that will last for years.

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