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Build and Install Built-In Bookshelves

In This Article:

Page 1

When you consider that bookshelves can hold artwork, bric-a-brac, or even records or books, who doesn't need more of them? You could buy units made of glued-up sawdust sandwiched between white plastic, but they are, well, kinda boring and predictable. Instead, you can build bookshelves from 34", veneered plywood. Sure, it costs a bit more than melamine-coated particle board, but when you build right, veneer plywood looks as good as solid wood, and it's much cheaper and a lot less likely to warp. Oak and birch plywood are commonly available.

Step 1: Before You Start

You can make this project your own by adapting it to your situation and your tastes. Consider these options:

  • Choose a veneer material and stain to match your décor.

  • Select different moldings.

  • Make the top of solid wood, or tile it.

  • Change the overall size.

  • Change the shelf spacing. If you make shelves with varying heights, taller shelves generally look best at the bottom.

Step 2: A Matter of Size

The location and use of your bookshelf will determine the dimensions of the shelves. For paperbacks, 9" of height may be sufficient in shelves that are 8" or 9" deep. For hardbound books, 12" height by 10" depth are good starting points, although art books may need even more room.

The materials listed in the table will make a bookcase 29 14" high × 54 12" wide (plus twice the width of the edge molding, 1 14" in this example), with two 12" high × 11" deep shelves.

Name Dimensions Number Used Notes
Side 12" x 28 34" 2 Grain should be vertical.
Shelf 11" x 47 12" 2 Grain should run horizontal.
Top 14" x 54 12" 1 Grain runs side to side.
Shelf Support 12" high x 9" deep 1 Make after cutting dadoes in sides.
Foot 3" x 47 12" 1
Spacer 3" x 9 14" 1 Any scrap will do.
Base Cap Molding 58" x 34" 32' needed
Cove Molding 34" 16' needed

Depending on what you will be putting on the shelves, shelves longer than about 24" need the shelf support. The support looks better if it's recessed slightly behind the shelves, which are, in turn, recessed behind the sides.

Once you've determined the size of all parts, prepare a plywood cutting layout. The bookshelf shown needed considerably less than one 4' × 8' sheet of plywood.



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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Simple Home Improvements © 2004 by David J. Tenenbaum. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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