Need some help with shelves on a bookcase - First project

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Forum topic by Throc posted 12-31-2009 04:06 PM 2055 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 3240 days

12-31-2009 04:06 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question joining bookcase

Hello everyone. I’ve been lurking on here for some time using information I’ve gathered to plan my first big woodworking project. It’s going to be a bookcase for my wife, modeled after a pottery barn bookcase. I’m having a problem figuring out the shelf joints though. I was going to use dados but looking at the model bookcase, it looks like the dados would show through. The bookcase is going to be 74” tall and 36” wide and painted white. I’m thinking of using pine and poplar because of the cheaper price and because its going to be painted.

Here’s a picture of the model case.

-- Eric -- Montgomery, AL

9 replies so far

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Rick Dennington

6234 posts in 3366 days

#1 posted 12-31-2009 05:06 PM

Greetings Throc: If you plan on using dados, and don’t want the edges to show, you need to use stopped dados. You’ll have to cut these with a hand held router. You stop just shy of exiting the side panel so no dado will show. I call this a blind dado. Others may call it something else. This is if the shelves are going to be in a “fixed” position, and not adjustable. If you decide to have adjustable shelves(for different heighth books,etc.), then you use shelf pins with 1/4”, or 5mm holes drilled into the sides. Another option is to cut the dados all the way through, and use wood edging to hide the dados. It will also dress up the look of the bookcase…...

-- " It's a rat race out there, and the rats are winning....!!"

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3 posts in 3240 days

#2 posted 12-31-2009 05:48 PM

Thanks, can’t believe I didn’t think of that. The shelves will be fixed into place and I don’t have a dado table saw set so I’ll be cutting them with a router any way. Thanks for the heads up though.

-- Eric -- Montgomery, AL

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1730 posts in 3240 days

#3 posted 12-31-2009 08:35 PM

Stopped dados would work, but you could also make the sides and shelves ~1/4” narrower then add a 1/4” thick piece of edge banding to hide the joints – sorta like a faceframe.

Do you really want all of the shelves to be fixed? Most of my customers want the flexibility of adjustable shelves – even if they rarely actually adjust them. – lol

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

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Jeff Heath

67 posts in 3240 days

#4 posted 12-31-2009 08:56 PM

You might want to consider an adjustable shelf system. I’ve been building shelving systems for customers for years, and I have never made one with fixed shelves. The adjustable shelf pin system is easy as pie to create if you have a drill, and you just never know when you might want to have a book or vase that’s just 1/2” taller than the space at hand.

Just for your consideration.

-- Jeff Heath

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292 posts in 3876 days

#5 posted 12-31-2009 08:59 PM

If you make two of the shelves sliding dove tails, it kinda makes it self clamping. This is what I did for my first book shelf
Click for details

-- Jimmy, Oklahoma "It's a dog-eat-dog world, and I'm wearing milkbone underwear!"

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392 posts in 3752 days

#6 posted 12-31-2009 09:14 PM

Looks like you’ve got plenty of advice on how to do your shelves. As far as the choice of wood goes, I’d opt for poplar. Pine has knots that over time can bleed through the paint. Also with a book case your size, you may want to use birch plywood for the carcass Just my 2.

-- Rick

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3 posts in 3240 days

#7 posted 12-31-2009 09:18 PM

I thought about adjustable shelves too. The wife thought it would look nicer if the shelves were fixed. The bookcase is replacing a cheap adjustable bookcase from walmart so I just measured those shelves since everything is already on it and it’s set how she likes it. I might ask again and see if she’ll “budge” on this issue.

I like the idea of dovetails making it self clamping too since I don’t have any clamps large enough for this project. That would save me some money on clamps, but it never hurts to add to the clamp collection either :)

-- Eric -- Montgomery, AL

View russv's profile


262 posts in 3340 days

#8 posted 01-01-2010 12:59 AM

if you’re painting anyway, you can pocket screw everything. they can be much faster and stronger. use pocket fillers to fill holes (only on the middle shelf) and quick sanding. a single guide, drill bit, & #2 bit is under $30 and makes quick work of assembly.


-- where to go because you don't want no stinking plastic!

View RKW's profile


328 posts in 3618 days

#9 posted 01-01-2010 06:29 PM

a book case that size you could probably get out of a single sheet of 3/4 ply. This might be a cheaper route. The book case i recently built i used fixed shelfs that fit into dadoes. I did this with a hand held router. I covered the joints with a face frame. I suggest laying out your dadoes across a single sheet of ply and then rip the ply in two for your sides. This way the dadoes will match on both sides. I also wrote a forum recently on pipe clamps. This might help you get a clamp collection going at minimal cost. The book case i built is on my project page if you want to see it.

-- RKWoods

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