How do I build good bookshelves?
June 4, 2006 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Can any of you folks point me to a good, simple plan for built-in bookshelves? Our book collection has way outgrown the capacity of the bookcases we have, and I'd like to build some bookshelves that are attached to the walls of our house. But the plans I have found in home-improvement books seem too complicated for my (nonexistent) carpentry skills. Here are the tools I've got: a hand-held circular saw, an electric drill, screwdrivers and a hammer. I want something nice-looking and presentable for the public areas of the house; i.e., not a cinderblock solution.
posted by jayder to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You can buy pre-cut laminated veneer particle board shelves at the home improvement stores. They come in standard lengths and widths and have a handful of finishes to choose from. Then just buy some shelving hardware (the kind that is a long vertical rail with adjustable slots to hold the hangar pieces) and you're pretty much done. You don't have to cut anything, this only requires a drill.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:19 PM on June 4, 2006

My friends bought some Ikea bookcases ($100) and then some Home Depot mouldings to frame them. Pretty inexpensive and it looks good.
posted by acoutu at 1:34 PM on June 4, 2006

So long as the bookcases are going to be full (and so hide the hardware), I further Rhomboid's suggestion.

Except that you're going to want a level and straightedge/chalkline, or a laser level, in addition to a drill.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:47 PM on June 4, 2006

i found this over at Instructables a while back. The plans look easy enough to follow but i have no idea how easy it would be to build.
posted by tnai at 1:57 PM on June 4, 2006

We did the same thing as acoutu's friend, and it looks great. We had someone else do the moldings, since we're both spacial-relations impaired. Try it!
posted by pomegranate at 2:01 PM on June 4, 2006

Best answer: Particle board shelves invariably sag over time. Real wood is better, and plywood the best. Plywood is tough with just a hand saw, but is theoretically possible with an edge guide to rip boards to width. The crosscuts can be done by eye just cutting to the line. Shelves are installed between the side and held up with molding screwed into the the side. Fancier joints or shelf standards would be nice but are probably a bit elaborate given your tools. Just make sure you use a substantial piece of molding for strength. Add fascia at the bottom (between bottom shelf and floor) and at the top. Decorative moldings can be added to taste. If you use plywood get something with a fine surface such as a birch veneer. Birch takes stain nicely, but practice on the scraps. Treat the edges with an iron or glue on veneer strip. If you use plain wood lumber, such as oak (very strong), you can just use the board width that comes and cut the material to length. Screw them into the walls (studs) with brass L-brackets.
posted by caddis at 2:31 PM on June 4, 2006

Nearly any decent hardware store will cut wood you purchase from them using their table saw. Lacking such equipment, I've started using their services tho at first it seems like a lot of money ($.25- $.75/cut). Not only do the cut edges look a lot smoother, the wood is a whole lot easier to get home than a 4' x 8' sheet.
posted by carterk at 4:03 PM on June 4, 2006

Best answer: I built these based on the plans in the June 2005 This Old House magazine.
Pretty simple to build, even for someone who failed woodshop in middle school.
If you can though, I recommend renting a table saw rather than using a circular saw (though, they say it can be done that way), it'll make the project go so much smoother.

posted by madajb at 4:43 PM on June 4, 2006


invisible shelf?
posted by porpoise at 5:01 PM on June 4, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions. I'm going to order the back issue of This Old House suggested by madajb. From the photo, that's pretty much what I am looking for and sounds like I may be able to make it.
posted by jayder at 6:00 PM on June 4, 2006

Good luck. If you have questions during construction you know AskMe is a great resource. (You can email me too if you would like, but I check it about once a week or so and there are many better carpenters here than me. Although I doubt there are too many other people here who had six years of shop in school (shop started in 7th grade for us).
posted by caddis at 6:38 PM on June 4, 2006

Agghhh, "than I", sorry.
posted by caddis at 6:40 PM on June 4, 2006

Also, your local library is your friend on things like this. They will have half a dozen books or more with shelving plans plus detailed instructions on how to deal with all the little subtle construction issues along the way. In all probability, for effort expended you will do much better at the library than on the net for this issue.
posted by caddis at 7:23 PM on June 4, 2006

The big advantage of Rhomboid's suggestion is that the shelves are adjustable. You can get that with cased shelves, too, using those little L-shaped brackets with a peg sticking out the back. Drill two rows of evenly-spaced 1/4-inch holes in each of the case sides, and you can move the shelves up and down by whatever increment you spaced the holes at. Careful measurement and layout of the hole arrays and length of the shelves is critical. If you have adjustable-height shelves, you can put paperbacks or short items on closely-spaced shelves, and tall items or books on widely-spaced shelves.

I have had some really sloppy saw cuts from Home Depot. Now I do it myself.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:01 PM on June 4, 2006

odinsdream -
That's a wild Teddy, not one of those game-farm ones.
posted by madajb at 11:48 PM on June 4, 2006

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