How to Build a Bookcase Bench

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Bookcase benches can be used to create a reading alcove, to store and display hobby or seasonal items or as a place to store and enjoy children's books and collectibles. Bookcase benches can also serve as footboards or replace standard dressers and bedside tables. These steps will make an 18-inch-tall by 18-inch-deep by 48-inch-long bookcase bench.

Things You'll Need

  • Carpenter's Square
  • Table Saw with Miter Fence
  • Jointer/Planer
  • One 1/2-inch by 19-inch by 48-inch Piece of Plywood Bench-Back
  • One 1/2-inch by 17-inch by 47-inch Piece of Plywood Shelf
  • Two 1/2-inch by 18-inch by 48-inch Pieces of Plywood Top and Bottom
  • Two 1/2-inch by 18-inch by 18-inch Pieces of Plywood End Pieces
  • Three 2-inch by 2-inch by 18-inch Stock Lumber Bench Feet
  • Carpenter's Glue
  • Four L-shaped Wall Mounts
  • Power Drill, 1/8-inch Diameter Bit
  • Countersink Bit
  • Box of 1-inch Long, 1/4-inch Diameter Brass Wood Screws
  • Coarse, Medium, Fine and Extra-Fine Sanding Belts
  • Belt Sander
  • Clear Acrylic Wood Treatment
  • Check all your boards using a carpenter's square to ensure that they are cut at a 90-degree angle. If they are not, you will need to use the table saw to trim them to the correct angle. Check your miter fence to ensure it is set to 90 degrees. Use the table saw with miter fence to square the ends of any boards that need it. This ensures that subsequent cuts will be made at the correct angle.

  • Place each board against the miter fence and check for true. If there are gaps between the board and the fence, the board is warped out of true and requires planing on at least one side. Plane your boards one full pass at a time, using a jointer/planer. Check for true before each subsequent pass by placing the planed edge of the board against the miter fence again to look for gaps. Stop planing when the board rests against the fence with no gaps.

  • Place the two 18-inch by 18-inch pieces of plywood between the two 18-inch by 48-inch pieces. Mark screw holes along the 18-inch sides, 1/4 inch from the outer edge of the top, every four inches, beginning at the left-front corner.

  • Drill 1/8-inch diameter pilot holes for one side. Countersink all the holes and attach one side to the top using 3/4-inch-long, 1/4-inch-diameter brass wood screws. Repeat for the other side. Turn bench over and attach the bottom to the sides using the same procedure.

  • Place the 19-inch by 48-inch sheet of plywood against the back, flush with the top, bottom and ends. Beginning at the top-left corner, drill 1/8-inch diameter pilot holes every four inches. Attach it to the back using 3/4-inch-long, 1/4-inch-diameter brass wood screws.

  • Attach the 17-inch by 47-inch shelf at the desired height inside the bookcase bench, using L-shaped wall mounts in each corner.

  • Lay bench feet flush with each side along the bottom of your bookcase bench and lay one at the midpoint between the two side feet. Drill 1/8-inch pilot holes every four inches along each foot. Countersink all holes. Attach bench using 3/4-inch-long, 1/4-inch-diameter brass wood screws.

  • Sand entire bookcase bench using coarse, medium, fine and extra-fine sanding disks---in that order---on your disk sander until the bench is smooth to the touch. Apply several coats of clear acrylic wood treatment, allowing the acrylic to dry completely between coats.

Tips & Warnings

  • The link to Andy's EZ Woodshop Design Center is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement to buy the products. Each of the products listed has one to three parts that are available as free samples for download and use. Measure all boards after planing to be sure that they are still within 1/16-inch of their original measurements. If not, plane all boards until they are the same measurement and adjust the steps in this article to reflect the changes in dimension. Add a tufted seat cushion and a set of cotton curtains on a wire rod for a more finished look.
  • Wear short sleeves when using the table saw or the jointer/planer. Use push blocks or sandpaper block grips to push material over the planer or along the miter fence on the table saw. Keep fingers, arms and hands well outside the cutting zone of any piece of spinning cutting equipment. Wear wrap-around eye protection when cutting, sanding or planing wood. If an accidental amputation occurs while working with the jointer/planer, call 911 immediately. Pack the amputated flesh in a cooler filled with ice and transport it to the hospital with the victim for the best chance at reattachment.

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