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A simple Bookcase

by Lorenz Prem
published on April 19 2009 10:46 pm

The Design

The carcass of this bookcase is made from 3/4" plywood. This is a common and economical way of constructing bookcases. The back is 1/2" plywood. The face frame is 3/4" solid stock. For decoration an elaborate crown molding tops off the bookcase.

Build the Carcass

Begin by cutting the two sides of the bookcase and the shelves at the table saw. Nothing but straight cuts here. You can adjust the dimensions of the bookcase to your liking. If you plan on storing heavy things on the shelves, plan on adding a solid edge to all shelves for stability. Without this support the shelves might sag. Otherwise add edge banding on each shelve. Let the glue dry.

The back of the case sits in rabbets cut into the case sides. You can cut these on the table saw with a dado blade and a sacrificial fence. Take care to cut the rabbet on the correct side of the work piece. Once you add the rabbets for the shelves or the back, the case sides will have an inside and outside.

The shelves sit in rabbets cut into the sides to the bookcase. It's easiest to cut the rabbets with a handheld router and a guide. Clamp the two rails down next to each other and cut two rabbets at a time. This technique will also ensure that the shelves line up horizontally.


Assemble the carcass using glue and brad nails. Drive the nails into the ends of the shelves and into the sides of the bookcase. Take care not to let the nails puncture the face side of the bookcase. Working with such a large carcass is awkward. You may want to bring in an extra pair of hands. Make sure the whole assembly is square and clamp it down.

Cut the back from a sheet of plywood. Glue and nail it into place. Drive nails from through the back into each shelve. This will create a very sturdy base.

Top and Bottom

Now it time to add the decoration. The bottom is easier to complete. Wrap a band of solid wood around the base. The joints are mitered. The long piece needs support in the middle. When the bookcase is dragged across the floor, a lot of force acts on the base. Generous glue blocks, nails, and maybe even corner supports, create a sturdy assembly. Add a molding for decoration, if you wish.

The top begins exactly the same way the bottom does. Wrap a band of solid wood around the top. Create an overhang with a horizontal layer of solid wood. Miter the joints and add a decorative detail along the outer edge. You can do this before the part is added the bookcase. When it is time for assembly, glue and nails hold the parts in place.

The resulting L shape is now ready to accept the crown molding. Source your favorite crown molding at the lumber yard or make your own. Installation of crown molding can be a bit tricky at first. To create an outside 45 degree miter place the crown molding in your chop saw upside down. Place the molding against the fence and base of the saw in such a way that the molding appears to be "installed" right there. The resulting cut will be a perfect 45 degree miter.

This concept is a bit hard to grasp at first. Practice on cutoffs first. Once you understand it is easy to cut and install the molding. Use glue and nails hold it in place. The miter joint can be reinforced with a biscuit.

Complete the Face Frame

The only thing missing are the vertical rails on each side of the bookcase. Size them at the table saw and the chop saw. Install them using glue and nails. Alternatively you can use biscuits. Add any decoration you like. The plan contains a stopped chamfer.

You are done.

About the Author
"Lorenz is the founder of Hingmy. When he is not reviewing power tools or improving the site, he is building things in his workshop or playing hockey."