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Home > Projects & DIY Toolkit > How-To Articles > Building Bookshelves

Building Bookshelves

Reading and woodworking are both pleasant, relaxing pastimes. Though most people don't associate the two, there is a way to link them together. Use your woodworking skills to build a set of bookshelves to house your favorite books. Lowe's is happy to provide this information as a service to you.

Tools & Materials


  • Goggles
  • Dust mask
  • Hearing protection
  • Table saw
  • Tape measure
  • Router
  • Round over bit
  • Drill/driver
  • Drill bit/s
  • Palm sander
  • Jig saw
  • Hammer
  • Nail set
  • Clamps
  • Square
  • Level


  • 1 piece of 1x12x12'
  • 1 piece of 1x12x8'
  • 1 piece of 1x4x8'
  • Screws
  • Wood glue
  • Tack cloth
  • Peg board at least 1'x2' (Optional)
  • Sandpaper
  • 1/4" AC or faced plywood
  • Shelf pins
  • Base moulding 8' stick
  • Finish nails

Cut the Pieces

Take the time to double-check all measurements. Remember to measure twice so you only have to cut once.

  1. Rip cut the 12' 1x12 to 11" wide.
  2. Cut two pieces from the 11" board, each 48" long. These are the sides.
  3. Cut one piece from the 11" board 30" long. This is the top.
  4. Rip cut the 8' 1x12 to 10 3/4" wide.
  5. Cut three pieces from the 10 3/4" board, each 28 1/2" long. These are the bottom and the two shelves.
  6. Rip cut the 1x4 to match the height of the base moulding.
  7. Cut two pieces of 1x4 28 1/2" long. These are the front and back rails.
  8. Cut the plywood 29 1/2"x48 1/4". This is the back of the bookshelf.

Lay Out and Mill the Pieces

Lay out the pieces as you would to assemble them. Choose the sides of the boards that will face out from the bookshelf. Use a pencil to lightly mark the interior faces. The "A" or faced side of the plywood should be visible from the front of the bookshelf.

  1. Square the edge of a piece of pegboard to the edge of one of the sides, 12" up from the bottom. The pegboard should be on the inside face of the side board. Use the pegboard as a template to drill holes to receive the shelf pins. The holes should fall between 1 1/2" and 2 1/2" in from each edge of the board and stop approximately 10" from the top of the board. Drill matching holes in the other side board.
  2. Route a 1/4"x1/2" rabbet in the rear of each side and the top. Rout the top so the rabbet stops 1/4" from each end of the board. When the bookshelf is assembled, the rabbet will receive the 1/4" plywood and hide the edge grain. Round over the front edges of the two shelves. On the top piece, round over the outside of the front edge and the outside of the ends. On the bottom shelf, round over the top of the front edge. Measure up from the bottom of each side 1/4" higher than the height of the base moulding and mark the outside of the front edge. Measure 1/4" down from the top of each side and mark the outside of the front edge. Round over each side between the marks.

Sand the Pieces

Depending on the smoothness of the lumber, you may be able to start with fine sandpaper. Use your best judgement to determine what to start with.

  1. Use coarse, 80-grit paper for initial rough sanding. Use a tack cloth to remove sanding dust.
  2. When you're satisfied with the rough sanding, use medium, 150-grit paper to smooth the stock. Use a tack cloth to remove sanding dust.
  3. Use fine, 220-grit paper to remove the light scratches left by the medium sandpaper. Use a tack cloth to remove sanding dust
  4. Rub the wood surface lightly with a damp cloth. When the water penetrates the wood surface some of the grain will swell.
  5. Allow the wood to dry.
  6. Lightly sand with 400- or higher- grit sandpaper until smooth.
  7. Remove any sanding dust with a tack cloth.

Assemble the Pieces

Dry fit the pieces to make sure they fit properly. Make any adjustments necessary before beginning final assembly. Keep the pieces oriented correctly during assembly. When gluing, use just enough glue to bond the pieces. Squeeze outcauses stain to blotch and ruins your finish.

  1. Predrill the plywood back for nailing/screwing to the top, sides, bottom shelf and back rail. Lay the plywood back "face up" on a flat, level work surface.
  2. Predrill holes in the top for fastening to the sides. Predrill holes in the sides for fastening to the front rail, back rail and bottom shelf. Predrill holes in the bottom shelf for fastening to the front and back rails.
  3. Glue and fasten the sides and top together. Position the pieces over the plywood back to help maintain square.
  4. Glue and fasten the front and back rails to the sides.
  5. Clamp the assembly and allow the glue to cure. Leave the assembly positioned over the plywood back to help maintain square while the glue cures.
  6. After the glue cures, remove the clamps.
  7. Glue and fasten the bottom shelf to the front and back rail.
  8. Turn the assembly face down on the worktable. Glue and fasten the back to the top, sides, bottom shelf and back rail.
  9. Stand the assembly on the worktable and ensure that it's level and square. Adjust as needed. Clamp the back to the rest of the assembly. Place weights on the bottom shelf to press it into the front and back rails. Allow the glue to cure.
  10. Scrape off any dried glue. Set all fasteners and putty the holes.
  11. Cut and install the base moulding.
  12. Stain or paint the assembly and shelves.
  13. Install the pins and shelves at the desired height.
  14. Paint or stain the bookshelf.

Good idea: Allow the finish to cure for at least seven days before putting books on the shelves.

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Tools, products, materials, techniques, building codes and local regulations change; therefore, Lowe's assumes no liability for omissions, errors or the outcome of any project. The reader must always exercise reasonable caution, follow current codes and regulations that may apply, and is urged to consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures. Please visit our terms of use.

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