building a bookshelf

how I built a large bookshelf

My logcabin has a large basement and I have many books in piles around the living areas – time for a large bookshelf.  The Atlanta house we bought 20 years ago had a built in bookshelf in a couple of rooms (that’s what attracted us) and in the attic was surplus wood shelves of varied lengths – 36″, 33″ and 32″.

I cleared a wall and corner in the basement, polyfilled the holes in the sheetrock, painted the wall with the color I will use for the rest of the room and began construction of the bookshelf.  The shelves are 11″ wide so I purchased two lengths of  16 ft by 12″ wide wood and had them cut into manageable 8 ft lengths at the store (although described as 12″ wide the wood is actuall 11″ wide).  I selected the wood carefully avoiding bowing, splits and disfigurations.  I also bought 3 10ft lengths of 2″ by 4″ wood.

I will not go into too many details since the design is simple and evident from the photographs.

completed bookshelf 0805
the completed bookshelf

The bookshelf is 8 ft high and the 3 sections are respectively 36″ wide, 33″ wide and 32″ wide.  The shelves for two of the sections are aligned.  The furthest section has extra height at the lower shelves for very large books.  To prevent toppling, the four vertical lengths are screwed into horizontal 2-4’s  at the top and also to a 10′ 2-4 at the base where the wall meets the floor.  A 3rd 10′ 2-4 in the front secures the front edge of the verticals and provides extra footprint stability.

securing the vertical to the top of the wall
securing the vertical to the top of the wall

The horizontal 2-4’s at the top have two functions – to keep the vertical the right distance apart and to secure the verticals to the wall to prevent toppling.  As shown, a scrap piece of wood is all I used to secure the vertical to the horizontal 2-4.

flashing at base of vertical
I used flashing at the base of the vertical

Since the vertical rests directly on the concrete floor I decided to place some flashing between the base of the vertical and the concrete floor, lest the vertical wick moisture from the concrete.

securing the base of the vertical
securing the base of the vertical

I also secured the base of the vertical to the rear 2-4 using scrap wood and screws, and a single screw to the 2-4 in front of the vertical.

For the horizontal ledges for the shelves, I cut 10.5″ lengths 1.5″ wide from scrap wood and plywood.  I predrilled the ledges  for 2 screws to reduce splitting and effort of screwing them into the verticals.

horizontal ledges for shelves
horizontal ledges for shelves

The procedure is to place the lowest shelf, then measure the height for the next shelf and draw a horizontal line with a square, screw the ledge into place, then rest the shelf on the ledge and with a spirit level ensure it is level, pencil in the line on the other vertical.  This ensures each shelf is level each time.

Now the bookshelf is done I will begin populating the shelves.





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