How Do I Build A Handmade Bookshelf?

Have you been wondering how you can build your own book shelf at home? Do you have books scattered all over your desk or stacked around your living room, then it might be time to consider building your own bookshelf.

A bookshelf is a practical piece of furniture that provides multiple storage spaces without requiring a larger footprint. Building your own bookshelf requires little skill and some basic tools.

What Should I Do First?

The first thing you’ll need to do is determine preferred dimensions. First, choose a prime location for your bookcase and determine the size that best fits that space and your needs.

Take out your measuring tape and note down dimensions for each part – it may help to draw a simple diagram of desired frame then jot down measured dimensions.

How Do I Select My Wood?

Next step is to decide on the type of wood to use, do you prefer stained or painted wood? You can build your bookcase using either solid lumber or plywood – either Softwood or Hardwoord. Select boards that are straight and ones that have minimal open knots.

If you intend to stain your shelf, then be careful when choosing grain as this has a profound impact on the finished product. If you want a light colored shelf, then opt for ash, poplar or pine; for a darker bookcase, try walnut, cherry or oak.

For staining, hardwood plywood works best – look out for boards and plywood that are 3/ 4 inches thick as they provide a sturdy frame that will support books in a shelf up to 3 feet wide.

How Do I Mark Parts and Cut?

If you want a bookcase that can store larger hardback books, then ensure your shelf panels are 10 to 12 inches thick. For paperback storage, shelves that are 6-8 inches thick will clutch just fine.

Measure and cut your panels to width first, do note that both shelves and side panels are typically same widths. With your measurements in hand, it’s time to start marking and cutting.


Use a table-saw, miter-saw, or a circular saw to hack your boards. Keep in mind that cutting through plywood can be challenging and dangerous. A miter-saw makes cleaner and more accurate cuts than a table saw and it’s a better option for small pieces of lumber.

If your measurements are large, use a table saw but take your time and ensure you make cuts as clean as possible. Using a router, rabbet cut your interior shelf-panels into two side panels of your frame, this will make your book shelf much stronger and allow shelves to support more weight.

To ensure that your router these rabbet grooves at the same position, lay these two panels side by side and screw a piece of scrap wood across both ends, this will effectively turn them into one wide board.

Using a T-square, draw a ¾’’ strip across both side panels simultaneously – this will be the position of your first shelf. Draw another ¾’’ strip at the location of each shelf you aim to put into your unit.

Now that grooves have been marked down, it is time to cut Rabbet Joints. Clamp a level along your marked shelf lines to use as a guide upon which to drive your router.

Rabbet Joints


Start Assembling Your Unit.

The first thing you’ll need to do is build a base of your bookshelf first. Next, join sides, top, and bottom panels to create a rectangular box. Next, attach a back panel made from 1/ 4-inch plywood.

Install your shelves by putting glue in rabbet joints and sliding shelf-panels into joints, one shelf at a time. Continue this method until all shelf-panels are installed into their designated locations.

Add finish nails through the outside of your bookcase to hold the shelves in place. Insert trim at top and bottom to provide a decorative and architectural detail. You can also option to cover the complete unit’s rough edges using beautifully finished piece of 1-1/4’’ poplar.

Using a miter-saw cut poplar to measurements that match exterior panels. For a smooth and tailored look, angles need to be joined by 45-degree angle cuts. Use wood glue and nails to attach completed framing to your bookshelf.

You can decorate the face of bookcase by using a 1’’ wide decorative molding.

Finishing Touches.

Allow 24 hours for wood glue to thoroughly dry before Sanding Your Bookscase. Sand your bookshelf well before applying any finish. For best results, start off using 100-grit abrasive and then use a 120-grit for a second pass.

Make a third pass using a 150-grit abrasive. When sanded to desired results, use cloths to wipe off any debris created by sanding and then paint your unit using your preferred color.