How to Make a Wooden Bookshelf


When it comes to designing and organizing the interior of your home or office, wooden bookshelves provide flexible functionality and visual appeal. For many people their first instinct is to buy a ready-made bookshelf, however when it comes to customization and price you can't beat the value of building your own wooden bookshelf. At first, the task of building a quality wooden bookshelf can be intimidating; but with the right materials, a little instruction, and patience the process becomes fun and rewarding.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape Measure Pencil Blank sheet of paper Wood Table saw (optional) Sandpaper Power Screwdriver Screws Wood Glue Safety Glasses Safety Gloves

Prepare for the Project

  • Determine the space where your bookshelf will be placed and what height, width, and depth you desire for your bookshelf. Using a tape measure confirm the measurements of the area as well as your desired measurements for the bookshelf. Write these measurements down with a pencil on a blank sheet of paper.

  • Draw a sketch of the bookshelf you want to create and specify how many total shelves you desire within the bookshelf unit. Consider what and how many items will be placed on the completed bookshelf. Note whether you will need a heavier wood for more support if you plan to shelve heavy or many items.

  • Prepare a list of how much wood you will need and in what sizes. Use the height, width, and depth measurements you took in Step 1 to determine the size of each piece. Keep in mind that you will want to buy wood that is all the same type and thickness. For a standard bookshelf you will need 2 side pieces (your desired height x depth), 1 top & 1 bottom piece (your desired width x depth), and how ever many shelves you want (your desired width x depth). You will also need 1 back piece. If your pieces are thick, you will need to factor in the thickness by making it your desired height + thickness x width + thickness.

  • Select your desired wood, keeping in mind that the wood should be sturdy and without visible defects. Also remember that most home improvement stores and lumbar yards will be happy to cut your wood pieces to size for you.

  • Use a table saw, while wearing safety glasses, cut your wood to size, if you didn't already have them cut to size at the lumbar yard. Be aware that this step should only be done on your own if you have prior experience cutting wood using a table saw.

  • Smooth the edges of your wood pieces using a sheet of sandpaper.

  • Using a pencil make small defined markings on one of the side pieces to show where you want each shelf to sit.

Let the Building Begin

  • Take the side piece that you made the pencil markings on and lay it down on the floor standing up on its side. Do the same with one of your shelves, making sure to align it up against the side piece where you made your first marking for shelf placement. Apply a small amount of wood glue along the area where the two pieces will attach. Using a power screw driver screw the two pieces together from the outer facing side of the side piece into the center of the shelf's thickness. Do this 2-3 times spaced evenly apart, depending on the size of your pieces. The size screws you will use depend on the thickness of wood you choose. Usually the thickness of the side piece multiplied by two equals the length of the screw.

  • Repeat Step 1, making sure to align each shelf with the placement markings you made, until you have attached all of the shelves to the first side piece.

  • Attach the top and bottom pieces in the same manner you attached each shelf using wood glue and a power screwdriver. Make sure that the top and bottom pieces are each lined up evenly with the top or bottom of the side piece to prevent tilting.

  • Grab the second side piece and lay it down standing up on its side like the rest of the pieces. Align it evenly with the top and bottom pieces on the open side of the bookshelf. Proceed to attach the second side piece to the top and bottom pieces as well as the shelves by applying wood glue and using a power screwdriver in the same manner as the previous steps. Make sure the shelves are all straight and even before you add screws.

  • Lay the back piece on top of the completed bookshelf skeleton you just finished. Line the back piece up evenly with all of the edges of the bookshelf, making sure that the bottom especially is even to avoid tilting. Using the power screwdriver attach the back piece at all 4 corners of the bookshelf and in other evenly spaced spots around the entire edge of the bookshelf.

  • Stand your completed bookshelf up and place it in its new spot. Smooth any rough edges with sandpaper.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can further customize your new bookshelf with paint or wood stain. If you desire you can buy stickers at your local home improvement store that will match your color of wood and cover up the screws, or you can cover them up with paint. Most lumbar yards will cut your wood pieces to size for you. There can be an extra charge for this service. Having a friend help you hold the pieces together as you operate the power screwdriver makes things easier.
  • Wearing safety glasses is very important when working with power tools and wood. Safety wood working gloves help prevent splinters and other painful accidents. Take your time and don't rush, it is very important that you align everything correctly for the bookshelf to be worthwhile.

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