Step 5: Plumb the bookcase

plumbing the bookcase
Photo: Kolin Smith
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Hold a level vertically to check the bookcase for plumb. Add shims, as needed. Once the whole piece is plumb and level, tap shims around the bookcase anywhere there is a gap against the wall to make sure the entire frame is tight in the opening. Score the shims with a utility knife, then snap them off flush with the bookcase edge.

Use a stud finder to locate and mark where the wall studs fall just under the hanging strip.

Using a combination bit, drill a screw-shank clearance hole and counterbore hole in the hanging strip at each stud mark. Securely fasten the bookcase to the wall through the pilot holes with 2½-inch screws.
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    Tools List

    • circular saw
      Circular Saw
    • speed square
      Speed square,
      to guide circular saw as you cut support pieces
    • scribe
      Scribe,
      for transferring irregularities of the wall onto the trim so you can cut it to fit snugly
    • mallet
      Mallet,
      to coax tight-fitting shelves into slots
    • studfinder
      Stud sensor,
      to find where to attach bookcase to wall
    • jigsaw
      Jigsaw,
      to cut scribed trim pieces
    • 16-foot tape measure
      Measuring tape
    • hammer
      Hammer
    • nailset
      Nailset
    • four-foot level
      Level
    • drill
      Cordless drill
    • utility knife
      Utility knife

    Shopping List

    1. 3/4-INCH VENEER PLYWOOD

    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

    9. SHIMS

    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