How to Build Library Shelves


Are you planning to build a library in your home, or do you manage a local library that needs more shelf space? Here are step-by-step instructions for building a simple single-shelf unit that is 10 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Build multiple units if you need a large amount of space. All that you need are a few carpentry tools, plywood, wood stain or paint of your choice and hardware.

Things You'll Need

  • 4 or 5 sheets of 3/4-inch high-quality smooth-finish plywood, 10 feet long by 5 feet wide
  • 3 5-foot-long 4-by-4 boards
  • Measuring tape
  • Circular saw
  • Sander
  • Wood stain or paint of your choice
  • 1 1/2-inch wood screws
  • Screwdriver

Cutting the Pieces for Your Library Shelf Unit

  • Cut 2 pieces out of a sheet of plywood with the circular saw that are each 9 feet 10 1/4 inches long and 2 feet wide for the sides of your shelf unit.

  • Cut out a piece measuring 5 feet long and 2 feet wide for the top of the unit.

  • Cut out 8 pieces from 2 sheets of plywood that are all 4 feet 10 1/2 inches long and 2 feet wide for the shelves.

  • Cut 3 sections of 4-by-4 board that are all 4 feet 10 1/2 inches long. These make up the support system under the bottom shelf that adds strength to the sides preventing wobble.

  • Sand all rough edges off the cut pieces. Apply wood stain or paint of your choice to them and allow to dry.

Assembling Your Library Shelf Unit

  • Place the 2 side pieces of your shelf on the floor with the 9 feet 10 1/4 inch long edges down parallel to each other 5 feet apart. Attach the top piece on one end by driving five 1 1/2-inch screws through both ends of the top into the sides. You now have 3 sides of a 10 feet long and 5 feet wide and 2 feet deep rectangle.

  • Screw the 3 sections of 4-by-4 board in between the sides on the open end to complete the rectangle. Position them so they are equally spaced between the front and back of the sides. Drive 4 screws through the sides into each end of all 4-by-4 boards.

  • Stand the completed portion of your shelf unit up so the 4-by-4 sections are on the floor. Lay a shelf on top of these 3 sections and drive 6 screws through the sides of your unit into both ends of the shelf.

  • Drive 5 screws through the bottom shelf into each 4-by-4 board running underneath. The sides will be sturdy now.

  • Attach the remaining shelves inside your library shelf unit in the positions you want. Drive 5 screws through the sides into both ends of each shelf.

  • Your new library shelf unit is now ready to use.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you want a back on your shelf unit, attach an entire 10-foot-long and 5-foot-wide sheet of plywood on the back with screws.
  • Be cautious when using power tools.

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