Wall of Bookcases: plans and how-to

I made some 3-D models in Second Life to show the construction details.


* Three things would have made these far easier to do: General Finishes gel stain, wipe-on finish AND pockethole screws and a jig.

* The left-hand unit is 8 feet tall, using a full sheet of plywood for the backing.

*The plywood backing for the upper part of the taller bookcases butts against the bottom sheet, but they are not connected. The seam is hidden by the shelf, and it's eight feet off the floor.

* 3-inch wood screws through the backing into a stud near the top stabilize the sections.

* Sides and shelves are 1x8 whitewood (actually a bit over 7 inches) which is deep enough for hardcover fiction and CD/DVDs.

* If all you want to store are paperbacks, you can use 1x6 boards.

* The wall is about 17 feet long, so 4-foot units worked well. If you have something that doesn't divide by 4, equal sized units are easier to build and look better. For example, a 9-foot wall would look stupid as 4-4-1 but 3-3-3 or 2.5-4-2.5 would look balanced.

* Shelf spacing: from the bottom of one shelf to the bottom of next RECOMMENDED 13" for hardcovers, 8 3/4 for paperbacks, and 6 3/4 for CDs or DVDs.

* You will have to figure out your own spacing based on what you want to put on the shelves. My liv-in math whiz calculated how to give us maximum storage, but in retrospect, we should have made another line of CD/DVD shelves and more hardcover book space. 

* Pieces were stained and varnished after drilling and a test assembly in the garage, but before the final assembly in the dining room. It is easier.

* Final assembly was done on an area rug to prevent scuffing the finish.

* The backing is just BC (paint grade) plywood, but it looks pretty good stained, and the books cover most of it. The grain is very obvious up close.

* Because the ceiling is slanted, we could raise the sections and then slide them into position without hitting the ceiling. If you do not have a vaulted ceiling, make the units about an inch shorter than the ceiling height and they can be tipped up without hitting the ceiling. Hide the gap with molding if it bothers you.

* Total material cost was about $400 (6 sheets of plywood, 30 1x8x8, plus the uprights) for over 200 feet of shelving. We have some scraps left, but not many.

    Three of four units:


    Pieces overview:

    We cut one shelf the right length and used it as the template. The plywood was 1/4 inch. If you want to use pocket screws to stabilize the middle of the shelves, the backing has to be thick enough to accept the screw (minimum 1/2 inch?)



    OPTIONAL: We cut the bottom couple of inches off the plywood so the case would be flush to the wall.



    Top detail, showing how I would do it with pocket holes. For these bookcases, we drilled and countersunk wood screws into the ends of the shelf pieces. We had a jig to keep the holes lined up. But pocketholes would have been far easier!  Two screws per side would be enough.


    Bottom detail. We assembled the sides loosely, then attached the back to square it up.


    The side view:  The side pieces were pre-drilled, using a jig to keep the holes aligned. The shelf ends were pre-drilled, also using a jig.

    If we had known about pocket holes, we could have drilled pocketholes into all the shelves and screwed them into the sides in much less time.



    The hard part: Screwing blindly through the back into the shelves for extra support. The shelves are almost 4 feet long, and will have a load of books. To prevent sagging, we drilled through the back into each shelf


    Sun, 11/21/2010 - 07:24

    Wow!  Looks like you put a lot of work into those shelves, but they make a statement in the room.  With all the extra effort you put in, you should not have any sagging shelves!  Good work.


    Sun, 11/21/2010 - 20:14

    Tsu Dho

    Thank you SO MUCH for following up on this.  This is amazing and I can not wait to ge

    started.  It looks fantastic and the directions are fantastic too!



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