• In this video, This Old House general contractor Tom Silva shows how to construct a simple, yet elegant plywood bookcase.

    1. Use a portable circular saw and straightedge guide to rip the two ¾-inch plywood sides to width.
    2. Rout a ¼-inch-wide x -inch-deep rabbet into each side using a router fitted with ball-bearing pilot rabbetting bit.
    3. Use a circular saw and straightedge guide to rip the bookcase top and bottom, and two adjustable shelves to width.
    4. Cut all the parts length using circular saw and large layout square.
    5. Scribe a gentle curve onto the toekick using a bent piece of ¼-inch hardboard.
    6. Cut the curve in the toekick using a jigsaw.
    7. Rip the toekick to width using a circular saw.
    8. Use the ¼-inch hardboard to mark a curve in the bottom of one side, then clamp the two sides together.
    9. Use a jigsaw to cut the curves in both sides at the same time.
    10. Make a routing jig out of ¾-inch plywood for routing shelf-peg holes in the sides. Bore a series of -inch-diameter holes spaced 1 inch apart through the jig.
    11. Use a plunge router fitted with a -inch-diameter guide bushing and ¼-inch straight bit to rout shelf-peg holes in each side.
    12. Use a pocket-hole jig to drill pocket-screw holes in the toekick, then screw the toekick to the sides.
    13. Fasten the bottom to the sides with pocket screws.
    14. Flip the bookcase upside down and use pocket screws to attach the top to the sides.
    15. Attach the ¼-inch plywood back to the side rabbets with 1-inch wire nails.
    16. Use a clothes iron set to the cotton setting (no steam) to adhere 13/16-inch plywood veneer to three edges of the bookcase top.
    17. Trim the veneer flush with the top using a single-cut mill bastard file.
    18. Cut small crown molding to fit around the underside of the overhanging top. Secure the molding with 1½-inch (4d) finishing nails.
    19. Sand and finish all surfaces.
    20. Push metal shelf pegs into the holes bored in the bookcase sides, then set the adjustable shelves down onto the pegs.
    • Difficulty: Moderate
      requires only basic woodworking skills, but you must be comfortable using a portable circular saw and router
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      Video Directory

      Selected Topic/Section

      Tools List

      • circular saw
        Portable circular saw, used to cut plywood parts to size
      • router
        Router, for cutting rabbet and boring shelf-peg holes
      • drill
        Drill/driver, for drilling holes and driving screws
      • pocket hole jig
        Pocket-hole jig, used to bore pocket-screw holes
      • jigsaw
        Jigsaw, for cutting curve in toekick and sides
      • random orbit sander
        Random-orbit sander, for smoothing wood surfaces
      • iron
        Clothes iron, used to adhere iron-on veneer to the edges of the bookcase top
      • single cut file
        Single-cut mill bastard file, used to trim the veneer flush
      • adjustable clamp
        Clamps, for holding down straightedge
      • nailset
        Hammer and nail set, used to tap in finishing nails

      Shopping List

      1. ¾-inch birch plywood, for building the bookcase cabinet and shelves

      2. ¼-inch birch plywood, used for the back of the bookcase

      3. 13/16-inch-wide iron-on birch veneer, for adhering to the edges of the plywood top

      4. ¼-inch-thick x 3-inch-wide hardboard, used to scribe arch onto toekick and sides5. Small crown molding, used to trim around bookcase top

      6. 1½-inch (4d) finishing nails, used to attach crown molding

      7. Eight metal shelf pegs, four needed per adjustable shelf

      8. Wood stain and/or polyurethane varnish, or primer and paint, used to finish the bookcase