How To Build a Classic Floor-To-Ceiling Bookcase The Family Handyman

How To Build a Classic Floor-To-Ceiling Bookcase The Family Handyman

Ornate styling, but simple to build

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About this project

The classic Greek Revival styling of our library is reminiscent of traditional bookcases built more than a hundred years ago. The bookcases look ornate but are relatively simple to build. There’s no complex joinery like mortise-and-tenon, or even doweling, so if you’ve hung a new door or trimmed a room with new molding, you have the expertise to handle this project.

We sized the bookcases to fit into a typical room with an 8-ft. ceiling and at least 8 ft. of wall space, something like a typical bedroom you may want to convert to a library or home office. It can also be expanded by adding standards (the upright partitions; see Fig. B).

We’ve engineered this project to work even if your room is a bit out of kilter. The moldings are applied after the main standards are installed to cover any gaps resulting from uneven floors or walls.

At the end of this article, in Additional Information, you’ll find lists of the tools and materials you’ll need to complete this project.

Even though this project isn’t complicated, it’s still going to take you at least 40 hours to build.

Planning ahead

Photo 1: Measure your location

Measure the height and width of your wall. Note the locations of all receptacles, switches and vents. They may require you to modify our design.

» class=»step2enlargePic enlargePic» href=»http://hostedmedia.reimanpub.com/TFH/Step-By-Step/FH98DJA_CLSBKC_02.JPG»> Photo 1: Measure your location

Measure the height and width of your wall. Note the locations of all receptacles, switches and vents. They may require you to modify our design.

» class=»step2enlargeButton enlargeButton» href=»http://hostedmedia.reimanpub.com/TFH/Step-By-Step/FH98DJA_CLSBKC_02.JPG»>

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Photo 1: Measure your location

Measure the height and width of your wall. Note the locations of all receptacles, switches and vents. They may require you to modify our design.

As you can see, the center section of our bookcases is 6 in. wider than the two outer sections. This establishes a focal point, and the two side sections provide symmetry. However, this exact design may not work for your room. To check, carefully measure your selected site (Photo 1). Take into consideration the height, width and any obstructions unique to your room. You may find you need to alter our plans a bit. Keep in mind, you can move the standards (Fig. B and Photo 12) closer together or add another standard or two to fit a longer wall.

As you plan, note the location of your electrical receptacles and heating ducts. They may dictate where you place the standards. Your only other absolute is that the ladder support rod (Photo 17) should not span more than 36 in. between brackets. Use a level to check for irregularities like a sloping floor or an uneven wall. If your walls and floor aren’t exactly straight or level, you’ll be able to scribe the standards on the backside and bottom, and then cut along your scribe for a perfect fit (see How to Scribe for a Perfect Fit for more on scribing).

If you decide to include the ladder in your design, be aware that it could take several weeks for delivery. This shouldn’t slow you downyou can get started with the project and install the ladder when it arrives.

Our bookcases were built onto a wood floor. If you have carpeting, you’ll need to pull back the carpet and pad and reinstall them later around the base of the bookcases. And yes, the ladder will roll on carpeting as well.

At the Lumberyard

With the exception of the rolling ladder, the maple fluted casing and the plinth blocks, all the materials are available at lumberyards and well-equipped home centers (see Shopping List in Additional Information, below). We made the four vertical standards and shelves from birch-veneer plywood sandwiched around ordinary 2x4s. The only hitch is finding really straight and dry 2x4s. They must not have any bow, but they can have a slight crook or crown. And since the 2x4s will be completely hidden, some rough edges are acceptable. Even if your 2x4s feel dry to the touch, let them dry inside the house for at least a week. Too much moisture will cause problems because the wood shrinks as it dries.

We used birch-veneer plywood and maple trim for our project because it complemented the existing maple woodwork. Whatever wood you choose, be sure it has a plain-sawnveneer, which has a straighter, less wild grain pattern. Plain-sawn hardwood plywood is available at woodworking stores and cabinet suppliers, but may have to be special ordered at lumberyards and home centers.

Getting started

Photo 2: Cut the plywood strips

Rip the 3/4-in. plywood into the 13-3/4 in. strips you’ll later use to construct each of the four standards. You’ll need to rip eight identical pieces (see Fig. B) for the standards and one for the top (C).

» class=»step3enlargePic enlargePic» href=»http://hostedmedia.reimanpub.com/TFH/Step-By-Step/FH98DJA_CLSBKC_04.JPG»> Photo 2: Cut the plywood strips

Rip the 3/4-in. plywood into the 13-3/4 in. strips you’ll later use to construct each of the four standards. You’ll need to rip eight identical pieces (see Fig. B) for the standards and one for the top (C).

» class=»step3enlargeButton enlargeButton» href=»http://hostedmedia.reimanpub.com/TFH/Step-By-Step/FH98DJA_CLSBKC_04.JPG»>

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Photo 2: Cut the plywood strips

Rip the 3/4-in. plywood into the 13-3/4 in. strips you’ll later use to construct each of the four standards. You’ll need to rip eight identical pieces (see Fig. B) for the standards and one for the top (C).

Photo 3: Cut the plywood ends

Score the 3/4-in. plywood with a sharp utility knife at a height 1 in. shorter than your floor-to-ceiling measurement in Photo 1. Crosscut along the edge of the scored line to get a splinter-free cut.

» class=»step3enlargePic enlargePic» href=»http://hostedmedia.reimanpub.com/TFH/Step-By-Step/FH98DJA_CLSBKC_06.JPG»> Photo 3: Cut the plywood ends

Score the 3/4-in. plywood with a sharp utility knife at a height 1 in. shorter than your floor-to-ceiling measurement in Photo 1. Crosscut along the edge of the scored line to get a splinter-free cut.

» class=»step3enlargeButton enlargeButton» href=»http://hostedmedia.reimanpub.com/TFH/Step-By-Step/FH98DJA_CLSBKC_06.JPG»>

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How To Build a Classic Floor-To-Ceiling Bookcase The Family Handyman

Photo 3: Cut the plywood ends

Score the 3/4-in. plywood with a sharp utility knife at a height 1 in. shorter than your floor-to-ceiling measurement in Photo 1. Crosscut along the edge of the scored line to get a splinter-free cut.

Photo 4: Make a jig for shelf holes

Make a jig to drill accurate holes for the shelf-support hardware. Drill 1/4-in. dia. holes 2 in. apart and centered 3/4 in. from the edge into a 1-1/4 in. x 1/8-in. x 6-ft. piece of mild steel.

» class=»step3enlargePic enlargePic» href=»http://hostedmedia.reimanpub.com/TFH/Step-By-Step/FH98DJA_CLSBKC_07.JPG»> Photo 4: Make a jig for shelf holes

Make a jig to drill accurate holes for the shelf-support hardware. Drill 1/4-in. dia. holes 2 in. apart and centered 3/4 in. from the edge into a 1-1/4 in. x 1/8-in. x 6-ft. piece of mild steel.

» class=»step3enlargeButton enlargeButton» href=»http://hostedmedia.reimanpub.com/TFH/Step-By-Step/FH98DJA_CLSBKC_07.JPG»>

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Photo 4: Make a jig for shelf holes

Make a jig to drill accurate holes for the shelf-support hardware. Drill 1/4-in. dia. holes 2 in. apart and centered 3/4 in. from the edge into a 1-1/4 in. x 1/8-in. x 6-ft. piece of mild steel.

Photo 5: Drill the shelf support holes

Nail the jig (use 3/4-in. nails) to the plywood pieces (A and A1) you’ve already cut. The jig needs four 1/16-in. holes along its length for the small 3/4-in. nails that attach it to the plywood (see Fig. B). Once the jig is secure to the plywood piece, drill 1/4-in. holes 1/2 in. deep through each of the jig holes into the plywood.

NOTE. The two outside end panels (A2) do not have holes drilled into them.

» class=»step3enlargePic enlargePic» href=»http://hostedmedia.reimanpub.com/TFH/Step-By-Step/FH98DJA_CLSBKC_08.JPG»> Photo 5: Drill the shelf support holes

Nail the jig (use 3/4-in. nails) to the plywood pieces (A and A1) you’ve already cut. The jig needs four 1/16-in. holes along its length for the small 3/4-in. nails that attach it to the plywood (see Fig. B). Once the jig is secure to the plywood piece, drill 1/4-in. holes 1/2 in. deep through each of the jig holes into the plywood.

NOTE. The two outside end panels (A2) do not have holes drilled into them.

» class=»step3enlargeButton enlargeButton» href=»http://hostedmedia.reimanpub.com/TFH/Step-By-Step/FH98DJA_CLSBKC_08.JPG»>

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Photo 5: Drill the shelf support holes

Nail the jig (use 3/4-in. nails) to the plywood pieces (A and A1) you’ve already cut. The jig needs four 1/16-in. holes along its length for the small 3/4-in. nails that attach it to the plywood (see Fig. B). Once the jig is secure to the plywood piece, drill 1/4-in. holes 1/2 in. deep through each of the jig holes into the plywood.

NOTE. The two outside end panels (A2) do not have holes drilled into them.


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