Bookshelf ideas - suggestions appreciated

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Forum topic by BHolcombe posted 06-15-2013 06:36 PM 1438 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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180 posts in 2098 days

06-15-2013 06:36 PM

Just wanted to bounce a few ideas off of you guys.

In my interest in creating an integral bookcase that is easily attached a wall I’m kicking around a few ideas.

I’m planning to build a somewhat modular bookcase, 90” wide, 60” tall. I plan to hang it on the wall.

The shelves will be 4/4 walnut finished to 3/4” and the back will be baltic birch ply installed with a rabbet joint, so the back will be integral. It will also be pinned to shelves, likely with dowels.

So, I’ve been kicking around a few ideas on how to hang this with some success, since books can get pretty heavy. Would hanging this on the wall by going through the back be strong enough, or should I build a cleat system to hang it?

In any case, cleat or through the plywood, I’ll be attaching it with 3.5” cabinet screws.

6 replies so far

View Mark Kornell's profile

Mark Kornell

1169 posts in 2553 days

#1 posted 06-15-2013 08:31 PM

That sucker will be heavy. Have you considered building it as 3 separate 30” wide units?

Pinning the shelves to the back is a good idea to prevent sagging, particularly if you really want 90” long shelves. No need to use dowels, simply screw through the back into the shelves with 1 1/2” to 2” screws.

A cleat system won’t buy you anything in terms of holding strength. A cleat allows you to hide the attachment mechanism and makes the install an easier task for something that large. Assuming you’re making your own cleat from wood, you need to factor in the extra space the cleat will take behind the back panel. Also, a long cleat usually requires some shimming – most walls aren’t nearly as straight as the back of your bookcase will be.

Structurally, screwing directly through the back of your case into studs is just as good as using a cleat. Maybe even better as there are fewer possible failure points.

-- Mark Kornell, Kornell Wood Design

View BHolcombe's profile


180 posts in 2098 days

#2 posted 06-17-2013 04:51 PM

I could certainly do 3 30” units and it sounds like going right through the back would be better.

I forgot to put in my original post; I plan to break this up into 15” squares. So the lengths will be broken up at 30” with upright supports and the 30” lengths will be supported in the middle or split into individual 30”w x 60” tall units, which will have supports in the center.

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180 posts in 2098 days

#3 posted 09-30-2013 12:29 PM

I ended up doing this as 3 separate units, all hung on one very sturdy cleat. I made each unit into six 15”x15” squares.

Building this as 3 separate units helped it to be a bit more manageable and also allowed me a few other flexibilities.

View bigblockyeti's profile


5137 posts in 1743 days

#4 posted 09-30-2013 01:13 PM

How thick was the Baltic birch back you used? With 1/2” you’d have been pushing it, 3/4” would be safer assuming you hit every stud with at least a #10 3” wood screw. It sounds like the three units you settled on would be a lot easier on your back with the initial installation too. I know I get carried away sometimes and make something that weighs over 300lbs by the time I’m done, and while once in place makes for a nice sturdy piece, but getting whatever I’ve made into place can be a real test of will sometimes.

View bondogaposis's profile


4755 posts in 2374 days

#5 posted 09-30-2013 03:01 PM

45” span for 3/4 walnut will bit a bit much and you have will shelf sag. I would go w/ 3 30” units or go to 5/4 shelf thickness. I’m not sure why you want to attach it to the wall. Freestanding bookshelves are pretty common and work well for most applications and they are movable.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View BHolcombe's profile


180 posts in 2098 days

#6 posted 09-30-2013 03:23 PM

I updated this post because I completed the project and thought it would be nice to note that, as I think most of these types of questions are left open ended as to how it resulted.

This is hung a wall cleat, not on the plywood. The cleat is 5/4 ash on the back of the shelf and 5/4 walnut on the wall, it captures a total of 7 studs. Each stud has two mounting points as the wall cleat is about 8” tall. The back is 5/8” birch ply, rabbeted into the sides (it is integral).

There are no 45” spans on this that are unsupported. The longest span that is unsupported is 15”, which using the ‘sagulator’ suggests I will have next to nothing in the way of sag.

Each unit is 75 lbs and I expect no more than 150lbs of books on each unit when it is fully stacked with books.

I weigh 150lbs and can do pull-ups on this bookcase without even a creaking sound. Which, when doing so puts the weight even further out than it would be with the books on the shelves.

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