Hardwood Bookshelf

I currently have a massive bookshelf in my room. It is from IKEA and it is grossly overloaded. The particleboard structure is buckling and the makeshift plywood back only serves as a stop-gap measure from the entire piece from falling apart, and scattering my collection of reference books.

I knew I’d want to build my own bookshelf to replace it. I spent a great deal of time scanning the internet for varying designs to try and find the right style for my room. I opened up Sketchup and began designing the structure and style of the new bookshelf.

I liked the idea of having a few drawers to hide clutter and nick-knacks and cabinet doors to hide my less appealing textbooks and larger reference books. It would be a two-piece structure. The top bookcase has most of the shelves reinforced by dado’d shelves, likely reinforced with small finish nails.

I decided I was going to paint the piece in the end, to go with the white furniture in the room already. That simplified my wood choice to using poplar, which is great for paint and considerably cheaper than other hardwoods.


The Lower Cabinet

I first set up the aprons for the lower cabinet with some poplar scrap. These would be hidden from view anyway, but need to serve a strong support for the whole structure.

The next portion of the project was making an large number of wide boards. I had purchased 1×6 boards and 1×4 boards to edge-join together for the 12-14″ boards I needed for the project. I only have so many good clamps, so this process took a couple weeks before each board I needed was put together.

Eventually, I have a growing stack of wide boards for the bookcase.


After some trial and error, I created a large cross-cut sled for my tablesaw to cut the wide boards with perfect 90-degree ends.

The sled was also perfect for helping me cut the dados required to fit all the pieces together.

Drawers and Doors

With the frame of the lower cabinet assembled, I attached the tabletop and started fitting the drawers.

The drawer fronts were a but trickier. I had to add some cock-beading to the edges to give it a fancier look. I used my 3/16″ cove bit on a piece of scrap poplar. I’d run it through the router to form the edge, then cut it off with the bandsaw. After doing that about 12 times, I had enough cock-beading for the edges of all the drawers. I made a small miter-box jig for the tiny pieces and cut them with my Japanese handsaw with perfect 45-degree miters. A little glue held them on.

In the end, the cock-beading looks great on the edges of the drawer fronts.

The bottom portion was starting to look good when all put together.


Top Shelves

The top of the bookshelf was pretty straight forward, as it was just a large box with some dados to hold some center shelves for extra stability. It came together easily. I added the decorative top face, which was cut easily with my bandsaw. The arcs were traces from an old paint can, giving me nice circular shapes.



The painting for this project was pure chaos and frustration. This was because my HVLP pressure sprayer I had bought last year was not working properly. It could not get enough material out and seemed like it would just take forever. I ended up using a mini paint roller on the whole thing combined with a standard paint brush for the tricky parts. I did two coats on most parts, sanding with 220 grit sandpaper between coats, then ending with a 1000 grit steel wool pad to get a smooth finished surface.



It was a bit tricky getting both pieces into the final space and stacking the top to the bottom. But in the end, it came out looking beautiful and elegant.

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