“Hello, my name is Jeff, and I’m a bibliophile.”  “{Hi Jeff!}”

Friend of the blog and all around good guy David Knights often says that he is a librarian who also builds models.  I can relate.  From my perspective, research, collecting books, and building models are all just extensions of the same hobby.  They all flow together and you can’t have one without the others.  If you’ve browsed around this blog at all (and it’s all David’s fault, he encouraged this) you will see it’s all about modeling, history, and books.  And modeling research, historical books, and historical modeling museum references … and so on.

Well today we’ll be going off on a tangent, just a bit.  Friday posts are usually modeling works in progress.  This one will be about book-related works in progress.  For the last couple of weeks the project has been constructing bookcases.  Ten new bookcases, to be exact.  Surprisingly, not my idea either.  She Who Must Be Obeyed (SWMBO) made the observation that I had acquired books in excess of my shelving capacity, and books shouldn’t be stacked on the floor, and we should get new flooring.  To put the bookcases on, of course.  See how that works?

This is not the first time I have built bookcases.  The first bookcases were built when we were expecting.  I had purchased a few bookcases from the department store, ready to assemble, made of pressed wood fiber and laminated paper.  Adequate, but not very robust.  In a rare fit of foresight I observed that bookcases resemble ladders, kids like to climb, and the mass of a falling bookcase full of books greatly exceeds the mass of a small (formerly climbing) child.  So I set out to construct a means of protecting both books and offspring.  The design proved to be sturdy, stable, and relatively easy to produce.

The final product is a bookcase with three fixed and five positionable shelves.  Dimensions are 8′ 3/4″ height, 33″ width, and 12 3/4″ depth.  I will apologize for not also stating dimensions in the much more sensible SI units.  The English system is still used here in the US, so all our lumber is sold in feet and inches.  All of the dimensions for the pieces I cut were determined by what could be made efficiently from the lumber available.


One 4′ x 8′ sheet 3/4″ Oak laminate plywood

One 4′ x 8′ sheet 1/4″ Oak laminate plywood

Two 1″ x 6″ x 8′ Oak boards

One 1″ x 4″ x 8′ Oak board

Twenty shelf pins

Wood glue, nails, filler, finishes of your choosing

Note: This will leave you two shelves short.  Depending on how many cases are being built at once there are several options to efficiently buy the remaining material needed to complete the job.

First, a general view of the garage, set up as a wood shop.  A good table saw is a must.  A router is also handy.  The first step is to rip the 3/4″ plywood into two 12″ wide strips for the vertical sides, a 12″ strip for the top and bottom fixed shelves, and another 10 1/2″ wide strip for the other shelves.
These are the sides being worked.  The grooves are for setting the central fixed shelf.  This shelf helps stabilize the width of the case and makes everything more solid.  The grooves are inset 1/4″ and are 36″ from the base.  Holes are drilled for shelf pins for the movable shelves.  You can drill as many of these as you want to accommodate the various heights of books in your collection and to allow the shelves to be adjusted.
The bottom shelf will be supported by the small blocks of plywood scrap.  These are 4 3/4″ in height.  The backs of each side board have been grooved to accept the 1/4″ laminated backing board.  There is also a section routered out at the bottoms to fit around the baseboard.
A general view of some of the components cut down and ready to go.  Many of the 1″ x 6″ boards have been cut into 1 1/4″ wide strips to serve as trim and backing on the front of the cases and on shelves.  The actual dimensions of the original boards are 3/4″ x 5 1/2″ , not the nominal  1″ x 6″.  The difference is lost to finishing at the mill.  Each 3/4″ x 5 1/2″ board will yield four 1 1/4″ strips.
The major components of the case frame which determine the width of the case are ready to assemble.  The piece in the center is plywood scrap 4 3/4″ wide and 31 1/2″ long, it sets the width at the bottom and helps support the lowest shelf.  The fixed shelf in the middle is 32″ wide and 10 1/2″ deep.  It has a section of 1 1/4″ wide trim strip on the front and the back  31 1/2″ in length.  The top strip is 3 1/2″ wide and 32″ long and is inset into 1/4″ deep grooves on each side.
This is an end view of the fixed shelf, the movable shelves are similar in construction.  The trim strips on either side add a considerable amount of strength and keep the shelf from bending under the weight of the books.  Each strip is notched 1/4″ deep.  The front strip is rounded off with the router.  There are five positionable shelves and three fixed shelves in each bookcase, for a total of eight.  Depending on ceiling height the tops may not be usable in every room.
Each of the three center pieces is clamped in place and checked for width.  The width must be 33″ at each point for the movable shelves to fit properly.  When everything has been trimmed the components are glued and nailed in place.  The square on the side is used to help locate the alignment for nailing the center shelf.
The top strip is set 1/4″ lower to allow clearance for the backing plywood.  This strip is important for the stability of the bookcase.  Screws are drilled through this piece into the wall studs, this anchors the case and prevents it from toppling over.  Note the row of completed cases against the wall in the background.
The bottom and top shelf are added in this view.  The top shelf is 33″ wide, the bottom is 31 1/2″.  Both of these start at 12″ in depth, but the bottom shelf has another 1/4″ removed to allow for the backing.  All the other shelves are 11 1/2″ deep with the trim boards added.
The 1/4″ Oak laminate backing has been added.  The case is aligned with the edges of the work table to ensure that it is square.  The backing is glued and nailed in place with small wire brads.  Once the back is in place the case becomes very rigid.
Here the case has been flipped and the front trim is being added.  The lower piece is 5 1/2″ wide, the other pieces are 1 1/4″.  The side pieces have been pre-routered along most of their length, if you wait to do this until after they are added to the case the center shelf will interfere with the router guide.
With the top and bottom trim pieces routered the case can be sanded and finished.  The trim pieces overlap the ends of the movable shelves which prevents them from being pulled out.

Bookcase installation here: