Friday, August 16, 2013

"Library" Organization: Build Your Own Bookcase

So, in my last blog post I mentioned the great bookcase my dad built me, and that in building the 2.0 version, I took some pictures, and will now proceed to explain in detail how he did it. It's simple enough that I think I could manage to build one on my own, now that I've seen him do it (twice!) and helped to build this time. Building your own bookcase doesn't have to be incredibly complicated, and it's probably easier than you think!

- Support beams, 1X4 inches and desired height of bookcase. We got them 6ft tall. We bought 5, but if you wanted to put more support beams on the back, you could easily do more. Make sure to select boards that are relatively free from compromising defects, and as straight as possible.

5 support beams, 2 for each side, and one for the center back.
- Shelf boards, 1X12, and desired length of bookcase. I wanted the bookcase to be 3 ft wide, so we got three 6ft boards and Daddy sawed them in half. Again, check for straight boards, and avoid serious defects.

Shelf boards already sawed in half.
 - L-brackets to attach each shelf to the support beams. This requires math: number of shelves times the number of support beams. We needed 30. (Forgot to take pictures of the hardware, sorry...)

- Screws to attach L-brackets. Our brackets each took two screws, so we needed 60 screws, and we got the 1 inch wood screws in the size recommended on the packaging for our brackets. 

- Drill
- Screwdriver
- Saw (optional)

First step, do any sawing that may be needed:

Our shelf boards weren't exactly 6ft, so first Daddy made them precise, and then he sawed them in half.

The next step is to decide how you want your shelves spaced. On the original bookcase, I asked for 12 inches between each shelf. Daddy made the lowest shelf as close to the floor as possible, allowing for the L-bracket. After 10+ years of vacuuming around that bookcase, I decided it would be better if it was high enough off the floor to fit a vacuum wand underneath easily, so 2.0 the lowest shelf is 2 1/2 inches off the floor. Since the bookcases are right next to each other, we kept all the other shelves at the original places so they would match. 

Once you've decided your spacing, it's time to measure and mark on your support beams where your L-brackets will be anchored. Mark the spots, drill holes (be sure not to drill all the way through the wood!) and screw in the brackets.

All the L-brackets attached to the support beams!
 Due to the irregular nature of the wood (some of the beams were a tiny bit bowed), Daddy decided each shelf had to be marked specifically for the brackets it would be anchored to, so the first thing we did was line up our 5 support beams the way we wanted, placed the the shelf onto the supports, and traced the hole for the screw. Then the shelf was removed, and Daddy drilled the holes, and we put the shelf back and screwed the shelf in place.

Attaching the bottom shelf with beams supported by cinder blocks and books.
 After the top and bottom shelf were attached using the above pictured method, the bookcase was able to stand up (with some support) and the rest of the shelves were more easily finished in the same manner as before: insert shelf on brackets, trace holes, remove shelf, drill holes, re-insert shelf and screw into place.

Ta-da! Cheers and excitement abound, the bookcase is completed! I estimate it took about 4-5 hours total, shopping and all the work included, and it cost somewhere around $82 for materials. For a real wood bookcase, built exactly the way you want, that is a great deal! And version number one of this book case (with 4-foot long shelves) is proof that it holds up well to loads of books and years of service.

Completed bookcase built in the living room.
Here it is, occupying its spot in the hallway. For security and stability, the center back support is anchored to the wall with one dry-wall anchor and a long screw (not included in the list of materials needed). It could also be stained, coated with poly-urethane or painted, but I like it just as it is.

Just installed, ready to go!
I'd been shopping thrift stores, online and looking everywhere since January for a bookcase to go there, and then I finally realized nothing would ever be better than the first bookcase Daddy built me. It was my favorite bookcase, and now the new bookcase has just displaced it as my favorite! I'm so excited, and I've been happily loading it with books and continuing my organization whenever I get the chance. This is a wonderful bookcase, relatively simple to build, easy to customize and perfect for loading with any kind of books a book-lover could wish.

If you have any questions, or decide to build one yourself, let me know in the comments!

Hopefully an "after" post will be coming soon, once I've completed my organizing!


  1. Looking, good, Lizzie. Will be on the lookout for that "after" post once the organizing is done - believe me, I know what a chore THAT can be. Still working on it around my house. ;)

    1. Thanks, Rissi! It can be a chore, but I do sort of like it! Here's hoping it won't take me forever. ;)

  2. It looks adorable after you put the book on there :)
    Your dad look awesome and talented as he worked on the bookcase, lcky daughter :)
    My dad is used to be like carpenter too but he doesn't do it as job, so your dad reminds me of him.


    1. Thanks, Delvalina!
      I know, I think he's great! I am definitely a lucky daughter.
      Oh, that's neat! It's not my dad's professional line of work either, but he's pretty good at it!

  3. Okay, this is amazing! If I end up not finding shelves for my tubfuls of books soon, I will probably follow these guidelines and make my own. Thank you so much!

    1. BTW, I'm giving you the Elegant Blogger Award. Read this for more details.

    2. Let me know how it goes and what you think if you do end up making your own! I hope your books are happily shelved soon! ;)

      Oh, thanks! That's so fun, I'm honored!

    3. I will definitely post about them if I do make some -- right now I have a bunch of other projects going, so they'll have to wait a bit. And I still have hopes of finding used ones, but we shall see ;-)

    4. Yes, some nice used ones would definitely be easier. Best of luck in your progress!

  4. LOVE, LOVE these!! I've been wanting to do something very similar in my family room, now I can show this to hubby so he can see what I want! Recently I am plan to build a backyard shed and would love storage like your gorgeous shelves.

    Backyard Shed Plan

    1. Thanks, Jenny! Best of luck with your bookshelves and backyard shed!