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A bookcase to hold your treasured reading materials or favorite collectibles is always a lovely addition to any home. If you would like a bookcase but feel that they are too expensive for your budget right now, there are several inexpensive ways that you can construct your own. If you have power tools, 3\4 inch cabinet grade plywood can be turned into a bookcase with a veneer that blends with your furniture. With hand tools you can turn pine shelving into a lovely bookcase and even bricks or concrete blocks with pine shelving makes an attractive case for your books.
Begin by deciding where your bookcase will be located and measuring the wall where you want it to fit. With pine shelving you will have specific dimensions to work with since most are 5\8 inch thick and 9 1\2 to 11 1\4 inches in width. That is if you are working with 10 inch to 12 inch boards. If you plan for your bookcase to sit against a wall you will need to have a rectangular base. This can be made out of 1 X 4 stock to insure the bookcase will clear the baseboards on your wall. If you prefer a more permanent bookcase such as one that will hang on the wall, you will need to add a 1 X 3 or 4 inch hanging 1 X 1 inch strips of wood, which are also called cleats, beneath the top shelve that is the same length as the shelf. Paperback books will need a shelf allowance of 6 to 8 inches, while hardback books need 8 to 12 inches. Records and most collectibles need about 13 inches between the shelves. If you have graph paper it is wise to draw the bookcase to scale so you can see exactly what you will be working with. When you purchase your wood many of the local hardware stores or lumber companies will cut the pieces into the size you need for a nominal fee. If you do not have power tools but prefer your bookcase to be a furniture addition to your home, you may desire to have it done this way. Simply make a list of all the parts and their dimensions and give it to them when you purchase your wood. You will also need a good quality wood glue, wood putty, a putty knife, sand paper, cleats or adjustable shelf rest, finishing nails and wood nails to complete your bookcase. If you plan to stain the case to match your furniture you will need stain and brushes.
If you prefer to do all the work on your bookcase you will need to measure and mark the pieces yourself. Once all the dimensions are marked you can use a hand saw or power saw to cut each piece out. To ensure that the finished edges are identical lay each like piece on top of each other and also check that to ensure that the lengths match perfectly. To save yourself confusion you can also mark each piece or label it to simplify the building process. After you have checked all the cuts for squareness, sand or plane the pieces to insure they are even. Next, mark the side pieces and divider. if you plan to have one, so you will know where to place the cleats. Using finishing nails, attach the cleats and fill in the nail head holes with wood putty. If you are using the adjustable shelf rest, drill the holes using a piece of peg board as a hole guide but, wait to attach them to the inside of the side pieces until you have finished nailing the pieces together. If you have decided you will hang your bookcase on the wall you will need to nail the hanging cleat to the underside of the top piece at this time as well.
To join the outside pieces of the bookcase you should hammer the nails through the sides until the tips of the points barely protrude on the opposite side. Using your wood glue, squeeze a small bead onto the bottom, ends of the top and the sides where the top and bottom will be joined to them. Find a level surface where you can rest the back edges of these four pieces and tap the nails in about 1\8 inch. If there is any excess glue wipe it off with a damp cloth and then measure from corner to corner to be sure the diagonals are the same and insure that the bookcase is square. If it is not square you can nudge it into square with a rubber mallet. Allow the glue to dry over night before attempting to work on it again. When the glue is thoroughly dry, hammer in the nails and fill the nail head holes with wood putty. Attach the back of the bookcase. When cutting the back you will want to be sure that it is slightly smaller than the square of the outer edges. Using a medium to fine sandpaper, sand the bookcase and clean away all the dust. You are now ready to stain or paint your bookcase. If you choose to paint you will want to use a primer sealer before painting.
If you are making your bookcase from cabinet grade plywood you will need to cut the top and bottom 1\2 inch longer than the shelves to allow for tongue and groove joints. Cut a 1\4 inch tongues on the ends of the top and bottom. Then cut 1\4 X 1\4 inch grooves on the sides so the tongues will fit into them. You will also need to screw the cleats to the sides before you nail and glue the pieces together. When using plywood the pieces should be secured with a clamp before you measure to check for squareness. In case you are using a veneer that will match your furniture, you can use a veneer tape to cover the visible edges. This should be applied with contact cement or in some cases can be purchased with an adhesive back. After the tape is secured, use a single edge razor to trim away any protruding edges. If you have chosen to make a low bookcase using bricks or cement blocks for the sides, you will need bricks with holes through them so that metal rods can be run through them to support the pine shelves. If the bricks or cement blocks do not have holes, you will need to drill them. Then simply attach the rods lengthwise and lay the shelves on top.