Building a Book Case - An Overview Building a Book Case - An Overview

Project Introduction

Everyone enjoys the look and feel of fine wood furniture. It has a warmth and elegance that enhances every home. With the prices of quality wood furniture increasing, many do-it-yourselfers are making their own custom pieces. In this article, we are going to show you the correct way to build a lovely bookcase in your own workshop. We will take you through step by step, from initial planning to the finished product. As you build this project, remember, every new skill and technique you learn building this bookcase can be carried over into other woodworking projects.


Review this article thoroughly before proceeding with this project. Go through the tools and materials checklist and study your plans carefully. Know the safety standards for the project. Before you begin, plan to gather the items that you will be using, and place them where you will build the bookcase.

You will find an extensive list of tools and materials necessary to build your bookcase in the tools and materials checklist, but let's simplify things a little and look at the basic components you will be working with to build your bookcase.

Basic Bookcase Components

  • Ultra-Veneer Plywood with an Oak Finish
  • Movable shelves
  • Crown molding
  • Door
  • Oak face framing

In addition to your regular tools, we used a Mark V Table Saw in the following positions:

  • Table Saw
  • Drill Press
  • Horizontal Boring
  • Disc Sander
    Plus the following accessories:
  • Shaper
  • Dado Set/Hand-held Router
  • Finish Sander
  • Bar Clamps

It really is a simple project, when you divide it into manageable components!


Before you begin your project, you will want to become familiar with the woodworking terms shown below.

Miter Cut - Angle cut across the width or thickness of the board
Rabbet - L-shaped cut
Dado - Channel cut across the board, into which a second piece of wood is fitted
Kerf - Width of the blade
Countersink - To set a screw head at or below the surface
Dowel - Wooden pin used to provide strength and alignment
Chamfer - Corner of a board beveled at a 45 degree angle
AA Lumber - Lumber which has a wood finish on both sides


Because of the size of the lumber involved in this project, you need an extra person to help with cutting some of the wood. Plan ahead so your "Assistant" is available at the appropriate times.

Wood Selection

Before you purchase your wood and select a finish for your book case, you should ask yourself some simple questions about how you plan to use and display it in your home. Where will the bookcase be located? Do the dimensions of the bookcase fit properly in the space you have allowed for it? What will be placed on the shelves; does the shelving require a water-resistant finish? *Note: Because this bookcase will be pushed flush with the wall, this bookcase has no back, allowing the natural surface of the wood behind it to show through. You may decide to add the back depending on how you intend to use your bookcase.

The two basic categories of wood used most often in woodworking projects are hardwood and softwood. Hardwood is more durable and less prone to dents and scratches. It is also more expensive but will finish to a better advantage. Softwoods, like pine, are more prone to dents and scratches and do not have the durability of hardwood. Softwoods are much less expensive and easier to find. Ask your lumber supplier to show you "Class 1" or "Select Grade" lumber. Make sure it is properly dried, straight, and free of knots and defects. (It may be impossible to be completely free of defects but be sure you understand how to cut around these.)

The selection of wood we used for demonstration purposes is AA Ultra Veneer Plywood with thin layers of solid oak on its surface. This type of wood was selected because it holds its shape, is strong and durable, and has an easy to work with flat surface (free of knots). The solid oak surface on both sides provides for a lovely wood look. Face frames of solid oak will be used to cover the plywood when necessary. Plywood is recommended in this project as individual boards would have considerable movement depending on climate conditions for this size of a bookcase.

Ask your lumber supplier for assistance when purchasing your wood. Similar to laying a pattern out on a piece of cloth, often you can cut several different pieces of the same thickness of wood out of a single piece. It is a good idea to add up the total number, of board feet, being careful to make sure you group short pieces in a board with long pieces to minimize waste.

Note: Developing a good relationship with your lumber suppliers is important. They can help guide you in making material selections as well as making special orders for a type of wood you may desire for a project.

Now that you have reviewed safety hints, learned the mistakes to avoid, reviewed the basic components and gathered your tools and materials for your bookcase you are ready to BEGIN!

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