Tools Needed to Make a Bookcase

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One of the easier do-it-yourself projects is building a bookcase. Only basic woodworking knowledge is needed, as well as some basic woodworking tools that most any "do-it-yourselfer" should have.


This is a great first project for anyone getting into woodworking---and can also be a terrific father/daughter or son project that features a lot of hands-on woodworking time, can be completed in only a few hours, yet will give years of service and will allow anyone to take pride in what was accomplished.

Safety First

  • When working with tools of any sort, one should think of safety first. To that end, here is a short list of safety items to have before any project begins.

    Working with wood means slivers, and a good pair of gloves for handling raw and unfinished wood will keep slivers to a minimum.

    Safety glasses or goggles are always a good idea---in fact, wearing them is a "must"---especially around power tools. All sorts of dust, chips, or debris can fly up without warning, and a good pair of goggles or glasses will prevent any kind of injury to your eyes.

    Long-sleeve shirts and wearing pants, not shorts, are the best protection for your body. They will resist wood chips and other flying debris, keeping them away from harming your skin.

    In dusty environments, like during power-sanding, an inexpensive dust mask is always a good idea. Although wood particles are mostly organic, when sanding finished or treated wood, the dust can be irritating to your nose and lungs when breathing it in. Add to that any other health issues caused by dust inhalation, and a simple little dust mask becomes a very good idea..

Hand Tools

  • For cutting length, getting the correct heights, and making sure everything aligns symmetrically, you are going to need some type of measuring device like a tape measure or a ruler. Add to that a good carpenter pencil, a straight edge for precise lines, and you'll be able to measure anything and mark it down correctly.

    A hand saw and/or a miter saw will allow you to make cuts that are needed, and the miter saw will allow angles to be cut, specifically 45-degree angles, where the tops and bottoms of the project meet.

    Also include sandpaper and a sanding block for sanding edges and finishing the sanding of your bookcase.

    If you are using nails to hold your bookshelf together, you'll need both a hammer and a nail set to sink the heads of the nails slightly, and then fill the indentations in with some wood filler. Screws are a different matter, and we will cover that in the next section.

Power Tools

  • A lot of the hand tools listed above can be replaced by power tools, if so desired.

    If screws are going to be used to hold the bookcase together, a drill---whether it's cordless or wall-powered---should be used to both drill pilot holes and screw in the holding screws. This action can either be used in conjunction with, or can completely replace, the hammer and nails.

    A power hand saw or miter saw will be just as effective and faster when cutting wood pieces to size, or cutting the correct angle of the top and bottom boards. A router can also be used to cut board angles, or if you are using plans that call for the shelving to rest inside dado indentations, a router will come in very handy making dado joints.

    A belt sander can replace a sanding block and sandpaper for basic sanding chores. For the actual finish-sanding process, using a sanding block and sanding it by hand using a high grit of sandpaper, like 400 or 600 grit, will give you the smoothest surface possible.

Finishing Touches

  • Depending on how you want to finish your bookcase, there are a couple of different tools to use.

    A high-quality paintbrush can be used to brush on any premium finish, from varnish to different colored stains or polyurethane. If you decide to paint your bookshelf, a paintbrush or roller kit works effectively.

    Leaving it "natural looking" can be done by giving it a linseed-oil finish. This is best applied by a foam type of paintbrush, which will soak up a lot of oil that can then be transferred onto the wooden surface itself.

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