For the strongest frame, we used oak plywood and doubled its thickness for the bookcase sides, or legs, by gluing and nailing plywood shelf supports onto longer boards. (Cutting grooves in a single board would compromise its strength.) The rough ply edges are hidden by solid-wood finish trim.
The tricky part of working with plywood is ripping down the 4-foot-wide boards to the widths needed for the frame and shelves. Making a straight cut along an entire 8-foot sheet with a circular saw is difficult, and running plywood through a portable table saw is dangerous. Your best bet is to find out if your lumberyard has a commercial table saw to make clean, straight rips. Most yards will make the cuts for a dollar or so each. Calculate how deep you want the bookcase frame and the shelves to be, subtract 11/16 inches to account for the added depth of the 5/4 solid-wood trim, then have the lumberyard rip all your sheets into boards of that width. Once you get home, you can use a circular saw to cut these narrower pieces to length.
More in Interior
to guide circular saw as you cut support pieces
for transferring irregularities of the wall onto the trim so you can cut it to fit snugly
to coax tight-fitting shelves into slots
to find where to attach bookcase to wall
to cut scribed trim pieces
Calculate how many 8-foot-long boards you can get from one sheet and use that to figure out how many sheets you will need to get enough board feet. (A plywood sheet is 4 feet wide, but keep in mind that a saw blade takes off 1/8 inch per rip.) You’ll need at least 3 sheets for a 4-by-8-foot bookcase.
2. 5/4x4 TRIM
for masking plywood edges around the perimeter of the bookcase front. Measure the length of the two legs, plus the width of the case, then add 10 percent for waste.
3. 1x TRIM
to make nosing for the front of the shelves. For more support, use thicker stock. Take the length of one shelf and multiply it by the number of shelves (including the bottom shelf). Add 10 percent for waste.
4. YELLOW WOOD GLUE
5. 1-INCH DISPOSABLE BRISTLE BRUSH
for applying glue neatly to plywood edges
6. 1 1/4-INCH (3D) FINISH NAILS
for nailing the supports in place
7. 2-INCH (6D) FINISH NAILS
for nailing trim in place
8. 1 5/8 and 2 1/2-INCH WOOD SCREWS
or leveling the bookcase
10. WOOD PUTTY OR WAX PENCIL
in a color to match the wood, to fill nail holes
11. STAIN OR PAINT
12. BUTCHER'S WAX OR POLYURETHANE