bookshelf spacing help needed

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Forum topic by Albert posted 01-19-2016 05:11 PM 590 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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508 posts in 3552 days

01-19-2016 05:11 PM

I want to build some bookshelves from 3/4 ply with hardwood strips to cover the endgrain. Is there a rule of thumb as to how wide I can make each shelf to keep it from sagging under the weight of the books? would 40 inches be too long?
thanks for any advice.

9 replies so far

View hotbyte's profile


991 posts in 2938 days

#1 posted 01-19-2016 05:17 PM

I built New Yankee Workshop tall bookcase (one with green interior) that is about 35” wide in the early 90’s and no sag. My daughter used it for several years to store her DVD/BlueRay collection on. She had it packed with two deep movies and no sag at all. The fronts do have an 1-1/4 (or maybe 1-1/2) wide trim which probably helps, too.

View ChrisK's profile


1942 posts in 3044 days

#2 posted 01-19-2016 05:40 PM

I have gone to 40” with 1-1/4” wide by 3/4” thick hardwood fronts. I usually rabbet the hardwood to help locate it and give a little more glue surface.

-- Chris K

View lew's profile


12015 posts in 3717 days

#3 posted 01-19-2016 05:51 PM

I think a lot would depend on what you are planning to place on the shelves. DVD’s and CD’s aren’t very heavy. Books, on the other hand, well you know.

I’ve gone 36” using 3/4” pine without any sag after about 15 years- books on the shelf.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Jbay's profile (online now)


2221 posts in 861 days

#4 posted 01-19-2016 06:22 PM

My rule of thumb is 32” (keeping within 3 crosscuts to a rip)
Just for Alaska Guy: that is if the sheet is oversized otherwise you have to deduct for the kerf. (Happy?)

Otherwise, some kind of build up on the shelf edge, as mentioned above, and sometimes if I have to go long I will put the same build up on the back edge of the shelf as well.

View Lifesaver2000's profile


551 posts in 3074 days

#5 posted 01-20-2016 01:39 AM

Here is a site that will help you figure out what you need:

You can try different combinations of materials and design to get just what you want.

View sras's profile


4790 posts in 3091 days

#6 posted 01-20-2016 01:59 AM

I have 48” shelves with 1.5”tall by 3/4” thick oak strips in front. Glued and nailed to a 1/4” thick plywood back. Built them over 20 years ago. Have filled them with 10” tall books. If they sag, I haven’t noticed…

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View Jbay's profile (online now)


2221 posts in 861 days

#7 posted 01-20-2016 02:12 AM

In my mind I was thinking they were adjustable shelves,
but fixed shelves, should be no problem as sras says^

View BurlyBob's profile


5395 posts in 2228 days

#8 posted 01-20-2016 02:22 AM

Paul, I’ve got some bookcases I built a few years ago. They’re 36”x60”. The shelves are fixed in 1/4” dados, both sides and the back. They’re extremely sturdy. I used 3/4” oak plywood and did cover the raw edges with thin strips of oak. I’m probably going to build 2 more later this summer.

View Albert's profile


508 posts in 3552 days

#9 posted 01-20-2016 04:05 PM

Thank you all, very good info and reassuring to me.
Sagulator? who would have guessed….. very good website.

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