DIY Bookshelf Ideas

If you’re looking for a fun, easy to do woodworking project, then this guide on DIY bookshelf ideas is right up your alley. For the book lover, a bookshelf is a staple in the home, but these shelves can be pretty pricey, especially if you’re searching for one that’s unique and will really make an unused corner of a room pop. Before you run out and spend too much on a new bookshelf, consider all of the unused materials you have around the home. You can make a bookshelf out of pretty much anything and get really creative, giving your room a custom feel and a unique look at a price you can afford. The bookshelves in this guide can work for different rooms of the home, including the study, the kitchen, or your bedroom.

Location, Location, Location

vintage book shelf

The first step to making your own bookshelf is choosing where it’s going to go. This will help you determine the dimensions of your new bookshelf and the size that will fit your needs. It can help to draw up a simple diagram and note the dimensions of each part.

Basic Bookshelf Design

Below, you’ll find a plan for a basic bookshelf. You can get really creative when it comes time to finish or paint the shelves. This project is a great choice for a beginner, although an advanced woodworker will also appreciate the simplicity of this project, and the low cost.

Measuring and Cutting the Frame

Keeping the dimensions handy, you’re now ready to make the first cuts for your new bookshelf. You’ll cut the shelves, sides, and top using a table saw to rip the lumber to the desired width. Don’t worry about cutting the wood to the proper length or height just yet.

Cutting to Length

To cut the side panels, interior shelves and the top, use a miter saw, cutting the wood to the precise length. The saw will make a more controlled and cleaner cut compared to a table saw and it’s a better choice if you’re cutting up smaller pieces of wood. If the dimensions are too big to cut using a miter saw, then you can still use a table saw, just be extra careful and try to make the cuts as clean as possible.

Marking the Sides

When you’re working on the interior shelves, they must be rabbet cut into both side panels using a router. Rabbeting the shelves into the frame will improve the strength of the shelves and will also allow them to support more weight. To ensure these panels are rabbeted at the same position on both panels, take both the panels and lay them flat, side by side on a flat surface. Next, screw some scrap wood across the ends of the panels, making them into a single board. This will guarantee that the lines you make are even and perfectly straight. Next, you’ll find the location of the first shelf using a T-square. Draw a strip across both of the panels at once, then draw another strip at the location for each shelf you want. The shelves should be spaced approximately sixteen inches apart.

Cutting the Joints

After you’ve marked the grooves on the shelves, you’ll need to router them out. This will create the rabbet joints I mentioned earlier. For this step, you’ll clamp a straight edge or level along the newly marked lines for the shelves and use it as a guide to drive the router.

Since a router is considered a high velocity tool, one that can easily get away from you, be sure you make a straight edge guide in order to ensure you achieve straight joints.

Attach the Frame

attaching the frame

To attach the wooden frame together, use a nail gun to finish the construction of the shelves. Begin by affixing the two side panels and top using finish nails and wood glue. Next, install the shelves by adding glue in the rabbet joints, then slide the shelves into the joints, doing a single shelf at a time. Once the shelves are in place, you can add the finish nails. This should be done through the outside of the frame to hold each shelf securely in place. If you want to hang the shelves on the wall, you need to glue and nail a two-inch strip of wood on the back edge. This will be used as a cleat. Be sure that the cleat you create rests flush with the back surface of the shelves so that when you hang it, it’ll stay flush with the wall.

Finishing the Face

With the shelves built, you can finish it off by covering the rough wood edges with a finished piece of wood. Cut the wood to the same dimensions as the exterior panels. For this job, you’ll need to use your miter saw again. For a tailored, smooth look, the angles must be joined with forty-five-degree angle cuts.

Next, use finish nails and wood glue to attach the finish framing to the shelves. You can get more creative for the face of the shelves and use some decorative molding.

Final Touches

Wait for at least twenty-four hours, giving the wood glue time to fully dry, then sand everything smooth, filling the nail holes with stainable or paintable wood putty. You can use some tack cloth to remove any sawdust or debris that was created when sanding, then stain or paint the shelves for a custom look.

Choosing the Right Materials

It’s easy to make bookshelves on a budget, even if you don’t have much woodworking experience. If you’ve decided you want to make a bookshelf from scratch, then once you have the plans available, the next step is choosing the right type of material, based on the size of the shelves, personal preference, and budget. If you’re not sure what type of material you want to make the shelves out of, then ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you going for a rustic look?
  • Do you want to leave the shelves natural?
  • Do you want to paint the shelves to match a room?

The answers to these questions can help you decide on the right material to use.

Common materials chosen for bookshelves include the following:

  • Oak
  • Birch
  • Plywood
  • Clear pine
  • Maple
  • Oak plywood
  • Fir plywood
  • Particle board

Pine is easy to assemble and cut and can take paint very well. When left natural, it also offers a beautiful rustic look.

Maple, birch, and oak are all attractive woods that are usually stained or used for a beautiful natural finish. Maple and birch take paint well. However, each of these woods can be difficult to nail and cut.

Oak plywood is attractive, easy to nail and cut and can accept stain well, but it takes paint poorly. Additionally, the exposed edges will need to be covered for a finished look.

Fir plywood is easy to nail and cut and accepts both stain and paint fairly well. The rougher grades are more affordable, but they finish poorly. Additionally, the exposed edges will need to be covered.

Particle board isn’t usually recommended. It’s affordable, but much weaker than plywood or solid wood and it’s difficult to screw together or nail, deteriorates rapidly when exposed to moisture and can be difficult to paint. If you’re on a tight budget, then it can be a better way to go, but it’s not going to offer the same type of durability, strength, or overall quality that the other woods listed here will.

More Bookshelf Ideas

bookshelf concept

If you’re looking for a simple, affordable way to display your books, then check out the fun and easy to do ideas below.

Revamping that Old Bookshelf

If you have a beloved old bookshelf that you don’t want to throw out, but it’s in desperate need of a makeover, then instead of donating it or tossing it, try your hand at refurbishing. You can sand it, strip it, add a layer of fresh paint or a new stain and that old bookshelf will be as good as new.

Pipe Bookshelf

You can use some old boards and plumbing pipe to create a unique bookshelf with an industrial look and impressive durability. The materials are affordable, and an electric drill is the only real tool you’ll need to rely on for this project.

Suspended Shelf

If you have any rope lying around the workshop, use it to create a suspended bookshelf. Using a sturdy length of knotted rope, you can suspend a shelf and give a room some nautical charm.

Flexible Bookshelf

Using some rope and cuts of wood, you can form a flexible bookshelf. Remove or add some wood blocks to create the perfect sized bookshelf for any type of space. This type of shelf has a nice modern feel to it. You can add a coat of paint and paint a few of the blocks for a more custom feel.

Ladder Shelf

Those old wooden ladders that everyone seems to have lying around have now been replaced by lightweight fiberglass or aluminum ladders. Use your old wooden ladder and create your own bookshelf by simply mounting the ladder to the wall sideways.

Pallet Shelf

Using some old pallets as your primary materials for your bookshelf. You can attach horizontal shelves to the slats and mount the pallet itself using drywall anchors for maximum stability.

Classic Cinder Block Shelf

Wood planks and cinder blocks will form an affordable shelving project that’s so easy the kids can do it. Before you insert the boards into the cinder blocks, paint them to match the room’s existing décor, or use a bold color to make it really stand out.

Gilded Bookshelf

You can use a basic bookshelf and turn it into a beautiful piece using some gold spray paint and marble contact paper, for a gilded finish.

Crate Bookshelf

Try fusing some wood crates together to make a small standing bookshelf for the playroom or your child’s room. You can paint each crate a different color, for a more unique look.

Final Thoughts

This guide on DIY bookshelf ideas shows you just how easy it is to make a bookshelf from scratch, or by using materials around the home. These shelf ideas are budget-friendly, beginner friendly, and can be completed in just a few hours. And the best part? You can learn some important cutting and joinery skills, and you can get really creative and come up with shelf ideas of your own that showcase your style and match the existing décor in the home.