Designing and building bookshelves

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Forum topic by RichardB posted 09-13-2009 10:18 PM 1489 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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70 posts in 3455 days

09-13-2009 10:18 PM

I’m in escrow for a house.

We have lots of books. Lots and lots.

My wife’s dream would be a whole wall floor-to-ceiling with one of those trolley ladders, but that’s a bit much for now. We do have a wall about ten feet wide, with a ceiling that slopes from about 9’ to 12’ where some shelves will go nicely.

I found some panels. Plywood, with nice veneers. Predrilled for shelf pegs one side only, through, or not at all.

So my thought was to pull off the baseboard moldings (There’s some leftovers in the garage rafters). Build some shelf units and tilt them up. They will have about a 4” kickplate to attach new baseboards when all is done. Leave the bottom shelf loose and shim the verticle members to level it, then put angle brackets from the top to the studs in the wall. No one will be able to see them, 8 feet up and all the way in the corner. I’d probably also use some brackets at the bottom against the wall, under the bottom shelf. This is earthquake country after all.

Does it sound feasible? I’m still wondering if I should put a back on the thing. Has anyone built anything similar?

5 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3543 days

#1 posted 09-13-2009 10:31 PM

Many times you just build a base out of 2×4s and add trim if your going to use the pre made panels. It’s seem just buying Ikea shelves would work just as well and may be even cost less.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5621 posts in 3679 days

#2 posted 09-13-2009 11:07 PM

My wife and I were both academics and had more boxes of books than household items on our last move (and I hope it is our LAST move :-). The movers hated us by time they were done loading and unloading all that heavy paper. We found that a lot of the stock bookshelves you buy cannot properly store a whole variety of different book sizes, they are meant more for an ‘average’ book. I’m a geographer and have numerous atlases none of which fit nicely on the ‘average’ book shelf. I would look carefully at what books you have and then design your shelves around those.

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

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117063 posts in 3543 days

#3 posted 09-13-2009 11:16 PM

Normally I would agree with Mark but I have perhaps 400 books of all sizes on a shelf given to me by my in-laws made my Ikea about 7’ tall and each of the two units 4’ wide. Much to my surprise it has held up well for more than 10 years,

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View RichardB's profile


70 posts in 3455 days

#4 posted 09-14-2009 02:07 AM

We went to IKEA and looked at the various units they have. We actually like the closet wardrobe frames shelves best; they are almost 8’ tall, so there’s none of that splicing two units together.

However, some of the other ones designed as wall units also have nice drawers available. They would be handy along the bottom edge for tossing loose crap like extension cords. The closet organizer drawers are not that type. And of course, the two product families are not compatible size-wise.

I’d sort of prefer the plywood ones that I posted initially. I think they’d be stronger than particle board.The IKEA ones would be a lot faster, though. And if I did what I did with some other IKEA stuff and gorilla glue the thing together instead of relying solely on their twist-lock things, it would be really solid. I can always add some trim or get some iron-on veneer from Rockler to camoflage the joints, too.

Still looking for input. I have another month and a half until closing, and a few weeks of more pressing projects before shelving

View Jeff's profile


428 posts in 3160 days

#5 posted 09-14-2009 07:59 PM

My only advice based on experience is make the shelves as deep as you want but don’t go over 3 feet wide, even with plywood. I have 4 foot wide solid pine shelves that bend noticeably with a full load of hardcovers. Paperbacks are lighter and it doesn’t seem to affect the shelves. Whatever you do anchor it to the studs.

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