Most of our readers have long since moved on from built-ins, and I have started to move on too, but it never hurts to circle back to some basics. If you’re like a lot of woodworkers, you got inspired to build fine furniture by first learning how to build a library and other built-in cabinetry. Please offer your encouragement and tips, for both built-ins and furniture, in the comments section below!
Tips on How to Build a Library (the Wood Kind)
1. Draw an elevation of the wall you’re going to use. An elevation is simply a scaled floor-to-ceiling view. It will look like a blank box on a piece of paper. Fill that box with the basic outline of the bookcase, then the sub-sections of the case. Your shelf spans (length of each shelf) should be no more than about 36 inches, so this measurement will dictate how many individual cases fill the entire span of the wall.
2. Decide how deep you want the shelves. This measurement will range from 7 to 12 (or more) inches, depending on the size of your largest books.
3. Write a cut list (a list of boards and sizes) for all parts of your bookcases except the case backs and the trim pieces. Just focus on the parts outlined above – the sides, tops, bottoms and shelves. You’ll be cutting these parts out of 4×8-foot sheets of ¾-inch plywood. So the last part of this step is to draw several scaled boxes on a sheet of paper to represent 4×8 sheets, then draw lines to show how you’re going to cut all the boards out of that material.
4. Add the case backs and trim pieces (for the front of the case) to your cut list. You’ll cut the case backs from ½-inch plywood or other inexpensive sheet-sized material. For trim pieces, you can choose from a variety of options at the home center or local lumberyard. You may want to use a decorative moulding for the top and bottom of the case.
5. You’re ready to buy material and start cutting and building. Obviously, this is the most involved step of the process, so my tip here is to find a good book or free online resource for how to build a library. Don’t try to go it alone! Click here for a nice line-up of paid resources in our store.
How to Build a Library (the Paper Kind)
I guess this step is pretty self-explanatory. Go buy books you like! We are releasing a nice collection of woodworking books we like right now. It is a discounted set of classic volumes from Toolemera Press. Buy it today and jumpstart your woodworking library!