Ok To Attach Bookcase Back With Screws Instead Of Glue?

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Forum topic by Targa posted 01-24-2014 12:09 AM 3109 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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118 posts in 1937 days

01-24-2014 12:09 AM

Is there any reason I cannot or should not attach the 1/4” thick back to the bookcase I’m building using small wood screws around the perimeter rather than gluing it in place?

The case is 3/4” thick oak plywood and there’s a 1/4” wide by 1/4” deep rabbit routed in the sides for the back. I would use #4×3/4” or 1” long flat head wood screws.

Thank you

-- Dom

15 replies so far

View cabmaker's profile


1740 posts in 3006 days

#1 posted 01-24-2014 12:14 AM

No reason not to that i can see other than you didn’t leave yourself much rebate to accommodate screws. Proceed with caution. JB

View eltee's profile


18 posts in 1786 days

#2 posted 01-24-2014 12:19 AM

Anything against brads? I’d just be afraid of splitting or bulging the ply with only 1/4 in to play with, and then there’s the pilot holes… I’d most likely go with a little glue and a lot of brads.

View madts's profile


1873 posts in 2537 days

#3 posted 01-24-2014 01:11 AM

Why use anything?

-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

View kdc68's profile


2691 posts in 2474 days

#4 posted 01-24-2014 02:15 AM

By the dimensions of your rabbet I will assume the back is 1/4” material. If you intend to use screws, IMO you should drill pilots so you don’t split or bulge the plywood case and use 1/2” screws. IMO 3/4” or 1” screws are overkill for a 1/4” back and increase you chances of splitting or bulging the plywood

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 4093 days

#5 posted 01-24-2014 02:18 AM

I vote brads and a touch of glue. Screws in that small of a rebate could easily split. While a brad could also cause a split i think its less likely especially since you can get brads in a very small size. The only downside of either screws or brads that small is holding on to the little buggers while installing them.

Good luck.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View NiteWalker's profile


2738 posts in 2774 days

#6 posted 01-24-2014 08:50 AM

Glue and small brads along the edges, if the shelves are fixed, nailed along the backs of those too.

In the future, if you want to use screws, I’d make the rabbets wider, to about 1/2”.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View woodbilder's profile


9 posts in 2721 days

#7 posted 01-24-2014 09:13 AM

As others have said, widen the rabbit to ⅜” on ¾” stock, and as not mentioned by anyone, consider ¼” crown staples x 1” length if you have such a puematic stapler, or else brads.

View mds4752's profile


48 posts in 1907 days

#8 posted 01-24-2014 10:37 AM

I recently built a bookcase from cherry with nearly identical dimensions as your project. Back of my case was rail & stiles so the portion being screwed into the case side was 3/4”.

As others have mentioned, a slightly wider rabbet may be something to consider.

I used screws (mine may have been even larger than what you’re considering, like #8×1 1/4) in mine without issue. I placed 6 along each side and another 2 thru the back, directly into the rear of each fixed shelf, the bottom and the top pieces. I don’t believe I used any glue for this portion.

Good luck!


-- "Live each day as if it were your last; one day you're sure to be right." -- Lt Harry "Breaker" Morant

View Vincent Nocito's profile

Vincent Nocito

485 posts in 3561 days

#9 posted 01-24-2014 02:39 PM

What do you have against glue? Gluing the back along with some type of mechanical fastener (nails, staples or screws) add resistance to racking and can help square up the case. Unless you plan to knock down the case at some point ,then I really think you should reconsider and add the glue. In any event, the rabbet on the back should be increase to at least 3/8”.

View Targa's profile


118 posts in 1937 days

#10 posted 01-24-2014 02:53 PM

Based on the comments and suggestions received, I’ll increase the rabbet on the back to 3/8” and use glue along with some mechanical fasteners. I’m just trying to be cautious since this is my first project.

Thanks everyone for your input.

-- Dom

View dbhost's profile


5767 posts in 3429 days

#11 posted 01-24-2014 02:57 PM

I would personally go with glue and brads. Screws would work, but can be ackward in a rabbet situation…

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View Underdog's profile


1223 posts in 2233 days

#12 posted 01-24-2014 02:59 PM

Another user of crown staples in a 3/8” wide x 1/4” deep rabbet here.

-- Jim, Georgia, USA

View mnguy's profile


201 posts in 3596 days

#13 posted 01-24-2014 03:17 PM

I have a little different perspecitive on this. I agree the rabbet should be widened to 3/8”. But, I think screws are a perfectly viable alternative to glue. Drop in your back and square up the carcass. Predrill and countersink for a #4 or #6 screws. Put in the screws, either with a driver with the torque dialed back or by hand. Screw around the perimeter and into any fixed shelves. I think you actually have slightly less chance of blowing out the plywood sides with this method. I also think glue and staples/brads/screws is a great approach too.

While it is less obvious why one would want a removable back on a bookcase, I have used screws on backs of kitchen cabinets both for access for installing drawer slides etc., and when I had to fit some components that needed the case to be squared up, but then I wanted the back off for subsequent steps. The screws will fix the back in three dimensions and keep the case square, just like glue and nails.

View GregD's profile


788 posts in 3334 days

#14 posted 01-24-2014 03:45 PM

Even more important, IMHO, is do as much sanding and even finishing prior to assembly as you can. It is much easier to sand and finish flat pieces. For sure you want to avoid having to sand in corners as much as you can; that is a real PITA.

I would widen the rabbits to 1/2” or even 5/8” to provide plenty of space for the fasteners and/or glue. It seems to me that the only purpose of the rabbit is to hide the edges of the back panel, so what is left after rabbiting does not need to be beefy.

I would complete the finishing before adding the back. Brads spaced somewhere between 6” (if you are an optimist) or 3” (if you are a pessimist) seem to work. This goes quick with a hammer and lightning fast with a nailer. Usually I mark a line indicating the center of the rabbit and place the fasteners along that. When using a hammer I use pliers to hold the brad square to the back – because I’m not very good with a hammer, actually. I see no problem using small screws, but I would pre-drill and drive them by hand, so I would need significant motivation for screws to spend that much more time to install them.

If the finish is water resistant adding glue is simple – just clean any squeeze out with a wet rag once the fasteners are installed. If you want to be super careful, prior to finishing use tape to mask off the edges of the back panel so there is bare wood for the glue to grab. To be safe plan for the finish to extend 1/16” or more into the rabbit – don’t want any unfinished wood peeking out when you are done!

-- Greg D.

View a1Jim's profile


117328 posts in 3775 days

#15 posted 01-24-2014 04:06 PM

I prefer brads or screws and no glue,I’ve had occasions when I had to remove the back and if you glue it, it’s a formula for disaster

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

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