The One-weekend Bookcase

Begin by cutting the big 1-1/4" x 1/2" back rabbet on the back edge of the sides. The most accurate way to make this rabbet is by using a dado stack in your table saw. Make a couple passes and be sure to keep even downward pressure.

Begin by cutting the big 1-1/4" x 1/2" back rabbet on the back edge of the sides. The most accurate way to make this rabbet is by using a dado stack in your table saw. Make a couple passes and be sure to keep even downward pressure.

When I build a project for my family, I’ll come up from the shop and the first words out of their mouths are usually something like: “Aren’t you done making my (corner cabinet, entertainment center, Morris chair, carved weasel) yet?”

Well this time the joke was really on them. I went down to the shop at 8 a.m. one morning and by 5 p.m., this bookcase was sanded, assembled and ready for finishing. They were shocked.

There’s nothing fancy about this basic bookcase unit, but it does hold a ton of stuff, is inexpensive to build (about $70 in materials) and goes together as fast as a highboy on “The New Yankee Workshop.” Well, OK, it’s not quite that fast.

Follow the photos and drawings to build your own. But be forewarned. Once you build something this fast, your family is going to think you spend most of your time in the shop just goofing off. If you work in a small shop (like I do) the No. 1 challenge with a piece of furniture like this is cutting down the plywood into manageable sizes for my table saw.

To lay out the location of your shelves, clamp the two sides together and use a framing square to mark the shelf locations. Use the drawing to lay out the locations of the fixed shelves, top and bottom pieces.

To lay out the location of your shelves, clamp the two sides together and use a framing square to mark the shelf locations. Use the drawing to lay out the locations of the fixed shelves, top and bottom pieces.

Luckily, Nick Engler showed me how to do it quickly and accurately. Engler made a simple platform from 2 x 4s that you place on two sawhorses in your driveway. Using a special shop-made fence and a circular saw you can make perfect cuts in sheet goods. You can read the article titled “Sawing Plywood and Particleboard” here.

I’ve built many cabinets using this simple jig and highly recommend it.

Screws or Biscuits?
I built this project using biscuits and a ?”-thick back, which makes the case quite rigid. Another possible approach is to screw the fixed shelves in place through the side pieces using #8 x 2″ screws.

If the sides of your bookcase aren’t going to show (or you don’t mind the look of plugs) this is a solid way to make a bookcase.

All the permanent shelves are attached to the sides using biscuit joints. Clamp the shelves at the location where they will join the sides. I then made a simple template to lay out the locations of my biscuit slots. This saves a lot of measuring.

All the permanent shelves are attached to the sides using biscuit joints. Clamp the shelves at the location where they will join the sides. I then made a simple template to lay out the locations of my biscuit slots. This saves a lot of measuring.

One final option I’m fond of with large cabinets is to use both biscuits and pocket screws together. This hybrid system is about the fastest and most accurate way I know to build a case.

First cut the biscuit slots, then cut the pocket holes on the underside of the shelves. Glue up the case and then drive the screws home. The biscuits line up all your joints perfectly, and the screws allow you to do this all without any clamps at all. PW

Click here to download the PDF for this article.

Christopher Schwarz is a senior editor at Popular Woodworking.

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