Thursday, August 19, 2010

How to Build a Quick and Easy Pine Bookcase

When we got to Hawaii we learned from our neighbors that particle board doesn't last here. If you don't want it to warp and fall apart in the humidity, it has to be solid wood. We were glad we'd left our particle board bookcases in Nevada, but we were going to have to replace them with something else. With real wood.

I'd always wanted to build my own bookcase!

We designed a bookcase six feet high and nine feet long. Here's the materials we used:

16 boards of pine shelving, 1inx10inx6ft
10 pieces of wood trim, 1inx2inx6ft
a large pack of 1 5/8" wood screws
about 30 2.5 inch wood screws
1 large bottle of wood glue
a carpenter's square
a circular saw
a power drill
1 quart wood stain
assorted rags
disposable gloves

First, I picked the four nicest boards, straight ones without any flaws. Those became the vertical parts of the book case. I decided how tall I wanted the shelf spaces to be and marked each board with lines where the shelves would go. With the amount of wood I bought, I could make up to 24 shelves.I ended up using 22 shelves and having two extras.

Next, I marked the rest of the boards for cutting them in half into three foot pieces. These I cut with the circular saw.

Then I took the pieces of trim and cut 6 pieces that were 3 feet long, 12 pieces that were 9 inches long, and then 72 pieces that were 2 inches long. These pieces are for holding up the shelves. I could have saved myself a lot of cutting and sanding by buying a little more wood trim and cutting 36 pieces that were 9 inches long instead of the 72 little 2 inch blocks. Oh well.

With all the pieces cut, my next task was to sand the edges. That was the most time-consuming part of the process. But I had help. I went out in the front yard to work on it, and before long the neighbor boys had come over to see what I was doing. I handed them each a piece of sand paper and put them to work.

When all the pieces were sanded, it was time for assembly. I glued the long blocks directly under where the top and bottom shelves would go, leaving a space at the back edge so that I could fit one of the three-foot-long trim pieces running across the back under each top or bottom shelf. The short blocks went two each under the rest of the shelves. I glued them in place, then for extra security I used a short wood screw in each block.

set sides upright, three feet apart
put back trim piece in place
glue shelf on top, then secure with wood screws
After letting the glue dry overnight, I assembled the first of three ranks of shelves. For this part I needed someone to help me hold everything in place. We stood the sides of the shelves up, set one of the three-foot-long trim pieces on the floor at the back of the case, and set the bottom shelf on top. Once I had everything square (checked with the carpenter's square), I put some glue on the top edge of the trim pieces, then replaced the shelf and screwed it in place from the side with the long screws. Last of all, I used a couple of short screws to fasten down the shelf to the back trim piece. I did the same with the top shelf, except that I put the back trim piece in place after the shelf was glued and screwed down to the side trim pieces. The back trim pieces are important to keep the corners of the bookcase squared up.

I assembled the left-hand rank of shelves first, and then the right-hand rank. Last of all, I set the two ranks three feet apart and put in the top and bottom shelves of the middle rank. I couldn't screw these in from the side, so I added another permanent shelf to the middle rank and screwed it in place.
I slid all the shelves into the left-hand rank to see if the design was working. So far so good!

After that I stained everything, using rags and disposable gloves. I did the shelves outside, but when I did the case I made the mistake of doing it just before dinner. The smell was so bad we decided to go out for tacos instead of eating at home with all the wood stain fumes.

Two days later, I used three small L-brackets to attach the bookcase to studs in the wall in back, slid all the shelves into place, and there you have it! It's no great work of art, but it doesn't look too bad, and it will hold all the books.
the finished product


Hermana Maw said...

They look amazing! Thanks for the post!

Kathy said...

I think they look great, too! And how fun to watch the creative process as you decided what you wanted then went through the steps of creating it. Nicely done.

Anonymous said...

I should be dadoed not cleats. If you use cleats use a full cleat.

Rebecca J. Carlson said...

Using full cleats would have saved me some time, but I would have needed to buy more wood. We've been using it nearly five years now, hasn't had any problems.