How to Build Furniture

The bookcase stands 54 3/4 inches high and 30 inches wide, with three shelves; molding covers the cut edges.

How to Build a Bookcase

Are books and magazines scattered all over your home or office? Has it been weeks since you saw the surface of your desk or kitchen table? Correct this mess quickly by following these


  • measuring rule
  • pencil
  • square
  • straightedge
  • power saw
  • hammer
  • miter box
  • handsaw
  • nail set


  • 3/4-inch grade A-B interior plywood
  • carpenters' glue
  • 6-penny finishing nails
  • 1/8-inch tempered hardboard
  • 5/8-inch brads
  • 1-inch brads
  • shelf-edge molding
  • wood filler
  • sandpaper
  • stain or paint

The overall outside dimensions of this bookcase will be 30 inches wide, 12 1/2-inches deep, and 54 3/4-inches high. The bottom shelf will be 15 inches high; and the other two shelves will be 12 inches high.

Cut two 12x54-inch pieces of 3/4-inch plywood for the bookcase sides. Cut a 12x30-inch piece of 3/4-inch plywood for the top. Cut a 12x28 1/2-inch piece of 3/4-inch plywood for the bottom. Cut all pieces so that the face grain of the plywood runs lengthwise.

Set the four cut pieces on edge on a flat working surface in the form of a rectangle, with the bottom piece between the sides and the top piece on top of the sides. Apply a bead of carpenter's glue along all butt joints and align the joints carefully so that all faces are flush. Drive three 6-penny finishing nails into each joint.

Cut a 30x54 3/4-inch piece of 1/8-inch tempered hardboard for the back; make sure that the piece is perfectly square. Set the back on the bookcase frame and adjust it until the frame is square and flush with all edges of the back piece. Apply a bead of glue all along the edge of the bookcase frame and set the back piece into place with its smooth side facing the inside of the bookcase. Secure the back with 5/8-inch brads, about 12 inches apart and 3/4-inch in from the edges.

Set the bookcase up on its side and measure off 15 inches along that side from the face of the bottom piece. With a square and a pencil, make a light line across the side from front to back to mark the edge of the shelf. From that line, measure out 3/4-inch and draw another light line. Measure up another 12 inches and draw a line, then up another 3/4-inch and draw another line. Measure up another 12 inches and 3/4-inch, and draw lines marking the top shelf. Turn the bookcase over onto its other side and repeat to mark the shelves on that side. These guidelines mark the levels where the shelves will be set.

Cut three 11 1/2x28 1/2-inch pieces of 3/4-inch plywood for shelves; make sure that the face grain runs lengthwise. Apply a bead of glue to each end and the back edge of each shelf. Slip each shelf into position, carefully aligned on the guidelines. Nail it in place by driving four 6-penny finishing nails through the bookcase sides from the outside and into the shelf ends at each joint.

Lay the bookcase face down. Measure up from the bottom at each side a distance of 16 1/8 inches, and make a mark at each point. Line the marks up with a straightedge and draw a pencil line between them. Similarly, measure up 12 inches from that line and draw another line, then measure up another 12 inches and make another line. Nail the back piece to the rear shelf edges along these guidelines, using 1-inch brads spaced every 6 inches.

Lay the bookcase face up. Cut two 54 3/4-inch lengths of shelf-edge molding. Miter each end to a 45-degree angle. Apply a bead of glue to the edges of the sides. Set the moldings in place and align them carefully. Secure the molding with 1-inch brads spaced every 10 to 12 inches.

Cut two 30-inch lengths of molding. Miter each end to a 45-degree angle. Apply a bead of glue along the edges of the top and bottom pieces. Set the molding into place and align the pieces carefully. Secure the molding with 1-inch brads spaced every 10 to 12 inches.

Cut three 28 1/2-inch lengths of molding. Apply glue to the leading edges of the shelves. Set the molding in place and secure the strips with 1-inch brads.

With a nail set and hammer, sink all of the nailheads--except those on the back panel--slightly below the surface of the wood. Fill the nailhead holes with wood filler. Sand the bookcase smooth. Finally, stain or paint as desired.

For more ideas related to creating your own furniture, see:
  • How to Repair Wooden Furniture: You don't have to start from scratch and make new furniture. Learn how to repair the wooden pieces you already have.
  • How to Stain Wooden Furniture: Staining wooden furniture adds protection as well as beautiful color, and when you do it yourself, you can get just the shade you want. Follow this link for instructions on staining pieces you've purchased or handmade.
  • A Guide to Decorating Wooden Furniture: Wooden furniture can be decorated to fit any design scheme or color palette. Use this guide to transform simple items into elegant, finished pieces that will accent your home.