Bookcase Design With Kreg Pocket Holes

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Forum topic by DavidNJ posted 07-19-2013 06:04 PM 19666 views 1 time favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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389 posts in 2192 days

07-19-2013 06:04 PM

My hand has been forced…two 25 year old cheap kd bookcases collapsed in the basement.

I was thinking of just using the Arauco pine plywood, 23/32nds, from HD. Is sanded 220 on one-side, 150 on the other, generally looks good, and has a waterproof glue. From Chile, it has generally good reviews. At $35/sheet, it is 30% cheaper than Birch/Oak/Maple and seems to be a bit flatter.

I was going to use Kreg pocket holes for joinery. However, I noticed that the Kreg plans for a bookcase used a full 3/4” plywood piece for the back. I was thinking of using 1/8” plywood or hardboard. In the Kreg design, the back is a full structural member.

Would 3 strips, 2” to 4” tall (10” total) be enough lateral stability or is the full 78” tall back a better idea?

Cost isn’t that much different since each 4×8 sheet used for the back would also generate 4 shelves. 3 78” tall, 32” wide bookcases with 3 fixed and 4 adjustable shelves would require 5 4×8 sheets with 2 boards yielding 6 sides and 8 shelves and 3 boards yielding 3 backs and 12 or 15 shelves. Using a 1/4” plywood or 1/8” hardboard for the back would require 2 boards for 6 sides and 8 shelves, 1 board for 12 shelves, and 3 thinner boards for the back.

The all 3/4” using pine is only about $20 more. I’m not sure there is a reason to use a hardwood for bookcases in an unfinished basement otherwise divided between storage, a gym, a woodworking shop, golf club assembly area, etc.

7 replies so far

View kdc68's profile


2691 posts in 2475 days

#1 posted 07-19-2013 07:21 PM

In my opinion because there isn’t a face frame (which provides lateral stability) the Kreg plans substituted that for a thicker 3/4” back. The thicker back would not only keep the bookcase from racking, but the shelves could be affixed to it and prevent them from sagging. I think a thinner back (and/or cleats optional) would work if you add a faceframe. If I were building a bookcase, I would either go with a thicker back without a faceframe or add a faceframe and have a thinner back (and/or cleats optional)

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View pintodeluxe's profile


5798 posts in 3012 days

#2 posted 07-19-2013 07:28 PM

I think you could make a cleaner look by using dados to receive the shelves. One big benefit of dados is they are self-squaring when it comes time to assemble the project. Adding a face frame will make the case look more substantial. You could assemble the face frame with pocket holes, as they will be hidden.

I usually use 1/2” backs for case goods. You can set it in a rabbet, and it offers good strength.
It can be screwed straight in from the back, no need for pocket holes there.

Good luck with whatever you choose.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View DavidNJ's profile


389 posts in 2192 days

#3 posted 07-19-2013 07:39 PM

The design included a face frame. I figured I could add it later. Right now I have the books stacked on the basement floor.

This isn’t necessarily unplanned…I just had a lot of other things going on right now. I needed the new bookcases to create the final space for my dust collector. The cyclone with the huge filters and muffler is one big and tall unit and my initially planned location is a bit tight on the height.

View kdc68's profile


2691 posts in 2475 days

#4 posted 07-19-2013 07:54 PM

Then I think using a thinner back would be fine as the face frame will give the stability. IMO having a 3/4” back and a face frame would be redundant. I am like pintodeluxe in opinion about dados and rabbets. I have only used pocket screws for assembling face frames and not an entire carcass. But they are quick and easy…Good luck and congrats on having a new cyclone

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View DavidNJ's profile


389 posts in 2192 days

#5 posted 07-19-2013 08:04 PM

pintodeluxe, are the dados really self centering? I could do it that way…even cutting the dados while 3 sides are still together. In either case I would clamp it.

I was going to nail the back rather than screw. I’m always in constant fear of splitting the wood when attaching the back. If the top shelf, bottom shelf, and sides were rabbeted, it would force it square. I was thinking of having the back slip between the top, bottom, and sides and screw into all 4 from the back. Then I would also add some screws from the middle shelf.

My own drawings aren’t complete (lots of real work), but I was figuring on putting a 2” piece under the bottom shelf at the front. For the facia I was just going to rip 3/4” strips off a 1×12 board, round, glue, and pin nail. On the front of the shelves a 1”x2” strip pocket screwed and glued would add strength for the weight of the books.

I was planning on 3 34” wide bookcases (getting 3 32” long shelves from an 8’ board.) Would it be better to make 2 48” bookcases? I thought the 3/4” plywood or pine wouldn’t be strong enough for the weight of the books.

View PurpLev's profile


8547 posts in 3847 days

#6 posted 07-19-2013 08:10 PM

dado would help align everything -....
since this is using pocket screws – remember that the pocket screw design is based on the full 3/4” thickness of the side materials. if you use plywood that is thinner, plus you remove material from it for the dadoes – you won’t have much left for the screws to grab onto – unless you omit the pocket screws and glue everything in place , or screw it from the outside.

As for the back – the 3/4” material from Kreg designs is probably again due to the use of pocket screws that is based on the 3/4” material thickness for the screws to hold properly and not penetrate through the sides. if you route a 1/4” slot in the sides and back you can use 1/4” plywood as the back and forgo the screws all together for similar support. I would use a full size back as in this case it is an integral part of the structural stability of the bookcase.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View David Dean's profile

David Dean

608 posts in 3098 days

#7 posted 07-19-2013 08:53 PM

good looking project everything I build is with pocket hole jig and when your done with you just take the scerws out and thow away the old wood.

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