More than I can chew... Custom Book Shelves #1: What to use as a counter top?

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Blog entry by C.J. posted 01-27-2012 06:06 AM 5179 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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So I have always wanted to work in wood, but never wanted to bite the bullet and start buying tools. Recently, my old college roomate and preacher at my wedding, came into the possesion of an industrial drill press and therefore had no need for his old Ryobi 10” drill press. So he gave it to me for Christmas, I thought he was a pretty good friend untill I realized that he opened up pandora’s box. I now have a table saw thanks to my father-in-law, and a router, a palm sander, various cordless drills, a circular saw, and “joint custody” of a mitter saw. Not the greatest assortment of tools, but its a start.

My wife and I have been searching for a book shelf that would fit on the wall in our den, between two windows and I have not found anything that I like. Finally together, we set down and drew up something that I think we can both enjoy.

I have decided I will tackle this project in pieces. Starting with the base.
The base of the entire thing I think can be made in 3 sections out of 3/4” birch cabinet grade plywood and some dado joints. (choose plywood cause I have no planer)

So I can bring three sections together and then face them in so that I cant see the plywood edge.
One of the three sections in the photo below is shown in green, in front of the wall that this book shelf will be against. I added the photograph that we have framed that will go in middle of this book shelf

The entire thing will be roughly 115.5 inches from framed end to framed end along the base of the wall… My question is, what should I make the counter top of the base section out of? Plywood (I think) only comes in 8’ X 4’ sheets, which wont be long enough.

I had thought about using a framed in method and making a recessed rabbet shelf that I can put plywood pieces in the top. That may not make since, but I can model it up tomorrow.

Any suggestions? Mind you I do not have access to a planer

4 comments so far

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 2309 days

#1 posted 01-27-2012 11:05 AM

Nothing wrong with plywood, and an easy topper for it to dress it up is to veneer it. Use a solid edge piece and then veneer it to match the edges. Finish as desired, then get a piece of tempered glass to protect it.


-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View JoeyG's profile


1275 posts in 2046 days

#2 posted 01-27-2012 01:42 PM

You can buy 10 ft sheets of plywood. The price goes up considerably. You will not be able to find it at a box store, you will have to go somewhere like Wood Wurth Group or some where else that supplies cabinet shops. I am about to do some bookcases myself and plan to use plywood for the top. I will use a a build up of particle board or MDF (depends on what I have around the shop) on the bottom of the plywood making the top 1 1/2 inches thick. After the build up is done I use 3/4 lumber to edge the top. Works great, stays flat, and last for years.

-- JoeyG ~~~

View Gpops's profile


247 posts in 2865 days

#3 posted 01-28-2012 11:07 PM

How deep are your pockets? A nice 9.5’ counter top could be ordered, when I made the cabinets for my bathroom I built the base and ordered a Corian type solid surface top. Another idea I have done is make a top yourself MDF and Formica. You also could make up some sort of pattern to break up the length and just build it out of plywood.Think of squares within squares. Plywood surrounded with edging. How about extending the side bookshelves all the way down and full depth? Then you would have a smaller piece to fill. Never too much space for books. Just ideas, Don

View C.J.'s profile


2 posts in 1733 days

#4 posted 01-29-2012 04:20 PM

Thanks for the info guys. I was unaware that you could buy larger sheets of plywood, so I will have to check into that today. I also will be looking into the idea of edging in smaller squares of plywood, I think that might create an interesting look. JoeyG, when you lay 3/4 lumber on top of your MDF or Particle board base do you not have to do alot of secondary operation to ensure a smooth and level top?

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