Canadian Woodworking

Office bookcase

Author: Danny Proulx
Published: December January 2002

There’s always a need for extra book storage in the home or office. Although most of us depend heavily on the computer, we still require those invaluable reference books.


I made this project with 3/4” thick oak veneer plywood and 1/4” thick veneer plywood for the back board. The trim at the top and base, as well as the stiles  and rail, are all solid wood. The shelves are oak veneer plywood and the support strip on the front edge of each is solid oak. That front wood edge isn’t just decorative, it acts as a rib to increase the shelf load capacity.

The shelves are all adjustable and I’ve used a little different technique for the supports in place of the usual holes. These metal shelf standards are installed in a groove and are capable of handling heavy loads. They are available in a number of finishes including gold, silver, black, and white. I used the white finish on mine so it would be easier to see in the photographs. However, the gold colored standards might be more suitable with the natural clear polyurethane that I’ve applied.

I suggest you purchase your shelf standards before cutting the grooves. There are size variations depending on the manufacturer and you’ll want to be sure the cut is correct. My standards are available in 8’ lengths and have been cut to size. You should be able to find them in any large hardware store.

There are many ways to join wood and I’ve illustrated a few styles in this project. Those that I’ve suggested, from simple to complicated, are offered with one goal in mind – the construction of a sturdy book storage case.



Step 1

Each side A requires a rabbet on the rear inside face that’s 3/8” wide by 1/4” deep. They also need two grooves, 1″ in from the edges, for the shelf standards. Verify the width and depth of each groove by measuring your standards.

Step 2

The shelf standards should be cut 78” long. Install them in the grooves and use the small nails provided to secure the standards.

Step 3

Attach the two sides to the top board with glue and 2” screws. It should be flush with the upper ends of the sides. Drive the screws through the outside face on the side panels, as they will be covered with trim. Attach the bottom board in the same way aligning its top surface 3” above the bottom ends of the sides. These screw heads will be covered with the base trim. The top and bottom boards should be flush with side boards front edges.

Step 4

Use glue and brad nails to attach the back board. Take a little extra time to cut the back accurately because a squarely cut back will properly align the bookcase carcass.

Step 5

Attach the stiles flush with the outside face of each side board. There are a number of methods you can use to attach the stiles. Glue and clamps, glue with biscuits, or simply glue and face nailing with finishing nails are all acceptable. I used the glue and face nail method and filling the nails holes with colored wood filler to match my final finish.

Install one stile at this time. The other side will be attached after the upper rail is secured.

Step 6

The upper rail is installed with biscuits into the side of each stile. Additionally, apply glue to the edge of the carcase top board and face-nail the rail. After the rail is secured, install the remaining stile.

Step 7

Attach the hardwood strip F to the front edge of the bottom shelf. This will extend the bottom shelf making it flush with the stile faces. Glue and nail the strip in place and don’t be concerned about filling the nail head holes as they will be covered by the base trim.

Step 8

The base trim measurements in the materials list are taken at the longest point of the 45-degree angle cuts. The top edge of the trim is decorated with a cove bit in a router. There are dozens of router bits that can be used to add visual interest to these large flat boards, which adds a little flair to your project. Attach the baseboards with glue and 1 1/4” screws on the backside. These trim boards should be installed flush with the top surface of the bottom board.

TIP: You can add a little interest and change the appearance of your bookcase by cutting flutes in the stile faces. A “V” bit installed in a router can create an interesting pattern. The cut depth controls flute width.

Step 9

Before installing the top trim, round over the inside edges of the two stiles and top rail with a 3/8” round over bit. The router base plate will be stopped by the base trim and determines the point at which the round over stops on each stile.

Step 10

Cut the three pieces of top trim molding at 45-degrees. Use the dimensions in the materials list as a guide – verify the measurements on your bookcase before cutting the trim to size. Use glue and nails to attach the molding.

Step 11

Before standing the bookcase upright, round over the outside edges of both stiles. Use a 3/8” round over bit in a router. The upper and lower trim boards will stop the router travel and determine the cut length.

Step 12

Cut the four shelf boards K. The front trim pieces L for the shelves will make them appear thicker and add a great deal of strength to the boards. Use glue and nails or biscuits to attach the edges. Round over the top and bottom with a 3/8” round over bit.


I’ve finished my bookcase with three coats of semi-gloss polyurethane. The first coat was cut with 10 per cent mineral spirits and sanded with 320 grit papers. The final full strength coat was rubbed with paste wax and extra fine steel wool. The design options for this project are numerous. I’ve mentioned a few with regards to trim style. But, there are the more common changes such as width and height variations to suit your needs. If you plan on loading the shelves with extra heavy items, add a hardwood strip on the back edge.

Veneer plywood is an excellent choice for this project because of its strength. Medium Density Fiberboard and solid wood panels are also worth considering. This bookcase is a simple project but it will be one of the most appreciated in your home or office.

TIP: The top molding can be purchased or made with a router bit. There are dozens of possible patterns. If you make a lot of trim molding for your projects, a molding head cutter for the table saw, such as the Magic Molder from LRH Enterprises Inc., is a worthwhile investment.

TIP: You’ll get “cleaner” looking corners on trim boards, with decorative router cuts, by routing the design patterns before mitering the corners. This technique prevents routing mistakes when trying to cut a pattern near a mitered end.

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