How to Build a Wood Book Shelf

Free Woodworking Plans from Lee's Wood Projects

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This beautiful bookshelf would provide a warm and rich feeling for any room it was placed. I could be permanently attached to a wall in your office or den to provide the extra valuable space for storage and shelving needed. The shelving is adjustable for maximum versatility. This is a great way to organize and display books, trophies, photos, pictures, and other personal items.

Click On Image to See Larger Scalable Drawing

Technical Information for Building a Wooden Book Shelf

A. Materials List:

1 A Top Frame 3/4" x 2 1/2" x 71 3/8" Oak
1 B Bottom Frame 3/4" x 2 1/2" x 71 3/8" Oak
2 C Side Frames 3/4" x 1 3/4" x 25" Oak
2 D Center Frames 3/4" x 2" x 25" Oak
1 E Back Panel 1/2" x 71 3/8" x 27 1/4" Oak Plywood
2 F Side Panels 1/2" x11" x 27 1/4" Oak Plywood
2 G Center Panels 1/2" x 11" x 26 3/4" Oak Plywood
1 H Top Panel 1/2" x 11" x 71 3/8" Oak Plywood
1 I Bottom Shelf 1/2" x 11" x 70 3/8" Oak Plywood
1 J Center Shelf 1/2" x 10 1/4" x 25 3/4" Oak Plywood
2 K Side shelves 1/2" x 10 1/4" x 21" Oak Plywood
1 L Center Shelf Trim 3/4" x 1 1/2" x 25 3/4" Oak
2 M Side Shelve Trim 3/4" x 1 1/2" x 25 3/4" Oak
1 N Quarter Round Molding 3/4" x 70 3/8" Oak
2 O Quarter Round Molding 3/4" x 10 1/4" Oak
1 P Crown Molding 2 3/4 x 71 3/8"   Oak
16 Q Dowel Pins 3/8" Diamenter x 2" Birch
12 R Shelve Supports   Metal


Red Oak

B. Cutting Procedures:

  1. From 3/4" thick red oak lumber, use a table saw to rip the frame material (A), (B), (C), and (D) to the widths shown in the materials list.
  2. Rip the shelf trim material (L) and (M) to 1 1/2" widths.
  3. Us a radial arm saw to cut the frame material and the shelf trim material to the proper lengths.
  4. Use a jointer to remove the saw marks on the edges of the frames and shelve trim.
  5. Use a framing square to layout the frame material on a flat surface according to the dimensions on the drawing. Use a try square and pencil to mark the centers for the dowel pin holes. Two dowel pin holes should be marked for each joint. They should be approximately 1" apart on center.
  6. Use a horizontal boring machine with a 3/8" diameter drill bit to drill the holes 1 1/16" deep. If a boring machine is not available, a dowel jig and a portable hand drill can be used.
  7. From a 1/2" x 48" x 96" oak plywood board use a panel saw to cut two boards for the back panel (E). One should be 48" x 27 1/4" and the other should be 23 3/8" x 27 1/4". From the same board cut the side panels (F), center panels (G), in addition to the center shelf (J) and the side shelves (K).
  8. From another oak plywood board cut the top panel (H) and the bottom shelf (I).
  9. Use a power miter saw, set a 45 degrees, to cut the quarter round molding (N) at both ends. Cut the two quarter round moldings (O), 90 degrees on one end and 45 degrees on the other end.
  10. Use a radial arm saw to cut the crown molding (P) to length.
  11. Use a router and a 1" Roman Ogee bit to route the top/outer edges of the shelve trim (L) and (M). Also route the bottom edge of the bottom frame (B), and the interior edges of the complete frame assembly after it has been assembled.
  12. Use a drill press and 1/4" Foerstner Bit to drill 3/8" deep holes for the shelve supports (R) on the inner sides of the side panels (F). These holes should be drilled 2" apart: 9", 11", 13" and 15" on center from the bottom, and 1 1/2" in from each edge.
  13. Repeat the drilling procedure in step #12, for the center panels (G), except drill the holes 8 1/2", 10 1/2" 12 1/2" and 14 1/2" from the bottom. Also drill these holes completely through the panels.

C. Wood Book Shelf Sanding Procedures:

  1. Rough sand all parts with an orbital sander and 80 grit sandpaper.
  2. Intermediate sand all parts with an orbital sander and 120 grit sandpaper.
  3. Finish sand all parts with an orbital sander and 220 grit sandpaper after the assembly procedure.
  4. Hand sand all edges, details, with 220 grit sandpaper.

D. Assembly Procedures:

  1. Assemble the frame by placing a few drops of wood glue in the dowel holes of the top frame (A) and the bottom frame (B). Use a wooden mallet to tap the dowel pins (Q) into the holes. Place glue on the exposed ends of the dowel pins and tap the top and bottom frames onto the side frames (C) and the center frames (D). Use four bar clamps to secure the frame assembly. Use a framing square to assure that frame assembly is perfectly square.
  2. Allow the glue to dry over night.
  3. Use a nail gun, with 1 3/4" nails, to nail the back panel (E) to the wall.
  4. Position the top panel (H) and the bottom shelf (I) on edge and spread wood glue on the exposed edges. Place the frame assembly in position and nail it to the top panel and bottom shelf.
  5. Spread wood glue on the front edges and ends of the side panels (F) and the center panels (G) and nail the frame assembly to them. The side panels should be flush with the side frames (C) and centered with the center frames (D).
  6. Nail the top panel (H) and the bottom shelf (I) to the side panels (F) and the center panels (G).
  7. Position the bookcase assembly to the wall and secure it with nails in the side panels (F) and the top panel (H).
  8. Glue and nail the quarter round moldings (N) and (O) to the walls beneath the bottom shelf (I).
  9. Glue and nail the crown molding (P) to the top frame (A) and the ceiling.
  10. Glue and nail the center shelf trim (L) and the side shelve trim (M) to the front edges of their respective shelves. Be sure that each shelf trim is flush with the top surface of each shelf.
  11. Insert the shelve supports (R) into the holes at the desired levels, and place the shelves on them.
NOTE: Step #11 should be done after the completion of the finish procedures.

E. Finish Procedures:

  1. Use plastic wood dough to fill all nail holes, cracks and imperfections.
  2. Use an orbital hand sander and 220 grit sandpaper to finish sand the entire wood book shelf.
  3. Hand sand all edges with 220 grit sandpaper.
  4. If stain is desired, apply with a brush and allow to penetrate for 5-10 minutes, and then remove with a clean rag.
  5. Allow stain to dry 6 hours and then repeat with a second coat.
  6. Apply a clear finish coat such as Varathane, Polyurethane, lacquer, etc. using a pure-bristle brush. Allow to dry 12 hours.
  7. Lightly hand sand with 220 grit sandpaper.
  8. Apply second coat of clear finish.
  9. If additional finish coats are desired, repeat steps #6 & 7.
  10. Allow to dry 24 hours before using your wooden book shelf.

Notes: 1. Be sure to match the color of the wood dough to the stain color.
2. Use a tack rag after each sanding procedure to remove the dust.
3.Be sure to complete the finish procedures before installing the three shelves.

Note: This book shelf was designed the fit a 71 3/8" wide opening. If your available space is different, you will have to adjust the widths accordingly.

Congratulations, your wood book shelf is finished and ready to put up!

Related Projects:

  • Wood Wall Shelf
  • How to Build a Bookcase