Short of storage and cash? Then why not make your own bookshelf? This design can be made to fit in an alcove or beside of a chimney breast, as well as free-standing or wall-mounted – it’s your choice.
You will need…
- Hand saw
- Set square
- Tape measure
- Drill bits – 3mm and 8mm
- Hand plane
- Masking tape
- Wood (oak or similar) – 5m of 275 x 25mm, 1m of 300 x 25mm, 1.5m of 25 x 50mm
- 8mm dowel
- 45mm screws
- Wood glue
- Chop or rotary saw
- Double-edged flush cutting saw
- Stanley knife
- Danish oil
Mark out and cut two 1m lengths to use as the upright sides of your bookshelf. We used a chop saw for accuracy and a neat cut, but this could be done by hand, or you could ask staff at the timber yard where you’re buying the wood to cut it for you.
Use a tape measure on one of the uprights to mark the intervals where you want your shelves to go. Measure the height of your largest book – if it’s 290mm, for example, make the gaps between your shelves 300mm for clearance. Measure the thickness of your shelves (we suggest using 25mm-thick wood) and use your set square to mark where each of the shelves will go. Transfer these lines onto the other upright.
Now make the dado joints. These are really strong woodworking joints made by creating a channel cut across the grain of one piece of wood (the upright) that a second piece (the shelf) slots into. Take time to make these accurate, so that each shelf piece fits nice and tight. Lay your set square on the lines you just marked and score along them with a Stanley knife or similar implement. The knife mark should help you create a more accurate cut with the saw.
Draw two lines 10mm deep on the side of the upright to show the depth of each shelf slot. Do this on both uprights. Using your handsaw, cut along the lines until you reach the 10mm depth marks.
Take your chisel and make small notches inside the two lines you just sawed along. With the bevel of your chisel facing up, start chiselling between these notches. Once the channel is chiselled out, flip your chisel over so the bevel is down and clean out the channel – using the chisel bevel-edge down will prevent chiselling too deep into your wood. When you’ve finished making the dado cuts on both of your uprights, grab your shelf pieces and push everything together to test the fit. Make adjustments where needed, until everything fits tightly.
Carefully take everything apart and lay your two uprights down. Draw a line in the middle of each dado cut on the outside of the uprights, then mark where you’re going to drill your holes. We made two holes about 45mm in from either edge.
Begin by using the 8mm drill bit. Wrap masking tape around the drill bit at about 5mm from the tip, to give you an accurate guide. Drill holes at the points you marked in step 6, stopping when you reach the masking tape. Then change to a smaller 3mm drill bit and drill right through the uprights into the slots where the shelves will go. Screw and glue all the shelves into one upright, then do the same on the other side.
For a neat look, add dowels to all your screw holes. Just pop a little glue in each hole and push or lightly hammer the dowels into the holes, then cut them flush with a handsaw. If there’s any of the dowel left hanging out after cutting, you can grab a sharp chisel and, keeping it nice and flat against the side, push it across the dowel to shave off thin amounts. This is called ‘paring’.
Measure the top of the bookshelf, then using your remaining piece of timber, mark out the length to cut. We added a little overhang on either side of the top to keep the top and bottom of the unit balanced.
Place the cut top piece where you want it to go and mark where you need to add screws. Use the same drilling technique in Step 7 to drill holes and screw the top on. You can add dowels as you did before.
Sand down the whole bookshelf unit to make sure it’s smooth and snag-free. You can paint yours if you like but we decided to give our bookshelf a coat of Danish oil to really make the wood grain stand out. Just follow the steps on the back of the tin to ensure you get the best results.
For more inspiring DIY ideas like this, check out Maker.Home – 15 Step-by-Step Projects to Transform Your Home. Inside you’ll find out how to cut your own chopping boards, construct a clothes rack, make a magnetic knife holder and much more…