How to Build Plywood Shelving


To build plywood shelving, you need to cut dados into the side jambs. By cutting the dados first, it aids in the assembly and structural integrity of the shelving because of the way the shelves fit into the dados. This method of shelving construction also ensures the shelving unit is built square. In addition, the shelving unit can be free-standing or screwed to the wall.

Things You'll Need

  • 4 pieces fir plywood, 12-by-48-by-3/4 inch
  • 3 pieces fir plywood, 12-by-47 1/4-by-3/4 inch
  • 1 piece fir plywood, 24-by-48-by-1/4 inch
  • Table saw
  • Dado blade, 3/4 inch
  • Wood glue
  • Hammer
  • 48 finish nails, 1 1/2 inch
  • Put the dado blade on the table saw and raise the blade to 3/8 inch. Set the table saw fence at 12 inches.

  • Put the sliding miter gauge into miter gauge slot. Lay one piece of the 12-by-48-inch plywood on the table saw. Turn on the saw and run it through the saw, cutting a 3/8-inch-deep dado across the end. Spin the plywood piece around, and cut another dado across the other end. Do both pieces.

  • Set the table saw fence at 24 inches to the center of the blade. Run both pieces of the 12-by-48-inch plywood through at this setting. You should have three dados evenly spaced across both pieces of plywood.

  • Lay the 12-by-48-inch pieces out on a flat surface with the dados facing up. Run a bead of glue inside all the dados.

  • Stand the pieces up. Insert the three 12-by-47 1/4-inch pieces into the dados, coordinating and matching them side-to-side, creating a frame. Use the hammer to tap the dados onto the shelves until the glue oozes out.

  • Run a bead of glue along the top edge. Place one of the 12-by-48-inch pieces on for the top. Nail it on to the frame using the 1 1/2-inch finish nails.

  • Spin the frame around and run a bead of glue along the bottom edge. Nail the other 12-by-48-inch piece to the frame where you put the glue.

  • Stand the box on its side. Nail through the jambs into each one of the shelves. Turn the box over and nail through the jamb into the shelves on that side.

  • Lay the box on its face. Run a bead of glue all along the shelves, and the side of the jambs. Lay the 24-by-48-by-1/4-inch piece of plywood on the glued edge and nail it on.

  • Stand up the shelves. They can now be screwed to the wall or left free-standing.

Tips & Warnings

  • Check the dados for width by dry fitting one end of the shelves into the dado. If too tight, sand the end of the shelves so they slide easily into the dados.
  • The height and width of the shelves can be changed to fit the shelves into any available space.
  • Always wear safety glasses when working with wood or power equipment of any kind.

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  • Photo Credit Yellow and green shelves image by Charlie Rosenberg from
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