In these times of Global inflation, finding furniture for our beautiful homes at the right price gets very hectic. Everyone needs a bookshelf but how about we make one instead of buying one without breaking the bank in under 150$?
You’ve reached the right place. In this broad guide, we’ll talk you through how to build a bookshelf with the right measurements, the quantity of materials, and desired surface finish so that you and your family can use the money saved for a tasty dinner!! So let’s get going and dive right into our article
Material and Cost List For Buiding Bookshelf
|Material||Quantity||Unit cost ($)||Total cost ($)|
|5/16” wood dowels||1||5||5|
|1 ½” furniture screws||30 pack||5||5|
|2 1/2” Wood screws||100 pack||5||10|
|Wood glue or|
Not inc tax
Tools Required to Build This Bookshelf
- Circular saw or a table saw (I have been using a Rigid for many years, but I want this model Bosch).
- Measuring tape
- Framing or speed square (don’t worry if you don’t have one, I share a method below that does not require a square).
- Straight edge (I usually use one of my 3’ or 4’ levels)
- Drill or impact gun (I prefer an impact gun as they are smaller, lighter, and faster)
- Drill bit (⅛” – ⅜”)
- Countersink or a large drill bit
Plywood Cut Sheet (measurements) For Bookshelf
|Material and Parts||Measurements|
L x W in inches
|Plywood Sides||64 x 12||2|
|Face Trim||48 x 4||2|
|Face Trim Pine||56 x 1||2|
Steps to Build a Bookshelf
Build the Sides
- Obtain the materials. This requires a truck or van for the large plywood. There are two options if you don’t have a truck or a van
- 1. Rent a truck from Home Depot and
- 2. Ask the staff at the hardware or lumberyard store to cut the plywood lengthwise (two pieces 24” wide) and then cut these again so there are two pieces 24” x 64”. Or have the staff make all the cuts so they fit in your vehicle and you won’t need to cut the plywood at home.
- Cut the plywood using the measurements in the Plywood Cut Sheet section above.
- Place the two side boards on the floor or workbench. These should be side by side with the Not-Good-Side facing up (the hardwood veneer is facing down as that is the finished side on the shelf outside.
- Place the tape measure on the bottom of one plywood and mark 4”, 16”, 28”, 40”, and 52”.
- Use a square to continue the marks across both pieces of plywood. Ensure both plywood sides are flush at the bottom so the marks are the same on each piece.
- Install the 2” x 12” pine boards so the top of the board is flush with the marks. This step is much easier at this stage rather than trying to do when the bookshelf frame is assembled.
- Mark the pine boards 2” from each end and 1” from the top and pre-drill the holes.
- Use wood glue or construction adhesive (like PL Premium 8X) and fasten with two 1 1/2” MDF washer-style furniture screws.
Build the Top Support Bracket
- Cut a piece of plywood 46 ½” x 4”.
- Cut four wood dowels 1 ¼” long.
- Drill four holes into each end of the bracket 1” from the top and the bottom. Drill to about 1” into the support bracket. You can mark the drill bit depth with a marker or a piece of tape to drill accurately to a depth of one inch.
- Apply wood glue to four ends of four wood dowels and tap them into the bracket ends.
- Mark and drill the holes for the dowels into the top of the two side panels.
- Now cut seven more wood dowels at 1.25”. This is for the top of the bracket (with the good side of the plywood facing the front of the bookshelf).
- Measure and drill holes 1” deep into the top edge of the bracket at 2”, 9”, 16”, 23”, 30”, 37”, and 44”.
Cut the Shelves
- Cut 6 pieces of plywood at 46 ½” x 12”
- Drill three 5/16” holes one inch into the ends of each shelf on each side for the dowels. Drill the holes in the ends of the plywood at 2”, 6”, and 10”.
I recommend that you measure these accurately and use a nail or punch to start the hole at the exact measurement. This helps to reduce the chance of the drill bit moving away from the measurement once the drilling starts. You will thank me later!
- Drill holes in the back edge of the top shelf on the bottom to receive the dowels at the top of the support bracket. Mark and drill at the same measurements as the top support bracket: 2”, 9”, 16”, 23”, 30”, 37”, and 44”.
- Cut 36 dowels 1 ¼” long and glue and install in each shelf end hole.
- Measure and mark the matching hole locations in the two side panels on the previous marks at 4”, 16”, 28, 40”, and 52”. Always measure from the same side as you did for the shelves so the holes line up from the front of the bookshelf at 2”, 6”, and 10”.
Assemble the Bookshelf
- Install the top support bracket with glue on the two dowels. Make sure that the veneer (good side) of the plywood is facing the front of the bookshelf. Apply glue to the top of the dowels and along the top edge of the support bracket. Tap the top shelf into place until flush. This design adds strength and also a location for adding screws through the bracket and into the wall studs with 2 ½” wood screws. This is incredibly strong and safe.
- You are going to need extra hands for this step. Apply glue to three dowels on the top shelf (make sure you glue the end that allows the finished side of the top shelf to face up as this will be visible once complete).
- Use a hammer or crap piece of plywood to tap the opposite end of the shelf so the dowels penetrate the three holes on the side panel until the shelf is flush. The dowels should hold the shelf in place, but be careful not to bump it as that could break the dowels.
- Repeat the process for the remaining shelves.
- Set the second side panel on top and start at the top and position the three shelf dowels into the side panel.
- Repeat for the next shelf and to the bottom shelf.
Cut the Face Trims
The trims cover the plywood ends for a nice finish that you can add character to if you have a router and router bits. I will describe the instructions for the simple design below.
- Cut a piece of pine board 48” x 4 ¾” for the top trim across the top.
- Mark dowel locations along the top and ends on the backside. These holes tie the sides and top together for strength with two dowels in each side panel and seven in the top shelf. Dowel hole locations:
- ⅜” down from the top the backside of trim at 3”, 10”, 17”, 24”, 31”, 38”, and 45”. These holes are only ⅜” – ½” deep.
- ⅜” in from the left and right ends at 1 ½” from the top and bottom.
- Make the matching marks on the side panel and shelf and drill the holes to a depth of 1”.
- Do the same for the bottom trim. The bottom edge of the bottom trim provides strength and distributes the weight onto the floor across the entire width of the bookshelf. You can raise or cut the bottom trim slightly narrower if your floor is uneven or carpet so it doesn’t touch the floor.
- Cut the two 1 x 2 x 8” boards to 56” lengths.
- Drills holes for dowels and attach them to the side panels
TIP: Install a dowel into each shelf edge for a much stronger design.
Paint or Stain the Bookshelf
I recommend using a stain as it produces a beautiful surface finish.
- Use a damp lint-free rag or towel to wipe and clean the dust and dirt from the plywood and pine boards.
- Use a clean lint-free rag or paint brush to apply two coats of stain.
TIP: Make sure to open the windows to ventilate the fumes.
- Purchase decorative wood trims from Home Depot or any other lumber supply store. This can really make your DIY bookshelf beautiful and they are not too expensive.
- Add a backer board that is attached to the entire back of the unit with small nails attaching it to the shelves and the side panels. This makes it much stronger and is a good option if you are not going to fasten it to a wall.
- Use a Brad Nailer or finish nails rather than dowels. This reduces the difficulty of the construction and saves a substantial amount of time. Simply add wood glue to fill the nail holes before staining or painting.
I built five of these bookshelves when I had an online bookstore. They were 10’ long with 2”x10” lumber for the shelves. I used 8” x 8” x 16” concrete cinder blocks on their ends for the sides and legs. This design is incredibly strong and easy to assemble. Yes, assemble not build. No tools are required, not even a screwdriver.
Is it pretty? No, It is quite ugly and best suited for the basement or garage. This design can become more attractive with a can of spray paint for the concrete cinder blocks and stain or paint for the lumber. I placed the concrete blocks on each end with the lumber extending beyond the block by 12” and one in the center to support the weakest area.
Cost to Build a Bookshelf Without Tools
The prices below are averages in the US. You can get an exact cost by checking online at your local lumberyard or by calling as asking for the cost of the two materials.
Table 1: Materials and cost: Less than $80 for four shelves with the top shelf at 70” (5’ 10”)
|Materials||Quantity||Unit Cost ($)||Total Cost ($)|
|2″ x 18″||4||15||60|
|Cocncrete Sinder Block||12||1.50||18|
|Total Per Shelf||–||–||19.50|
DIY Bookshelf – Simple Wood Projects
In Conclusion, constructing a bookshelf under $150 presents an affordable and rewarding opportunity for individuals seeking both economical and aesthetically pleasing furniture options. By adhering to the comprehensive guidelines outlined in this article, one can successfully create a durable and visually appealing bookshelf using easily accessible materials and basic tools. Whether opting for the conventional plywood design or the unconventional yet sturdy cinder block alternative, both approaches offer practical solutions tailored to different preferences and requirements. With a touch of ingenuity and personalization, the bookshelf can be customized to seamlessly blend with the existing home decor. Embrace the satisfaction of embarking on this budget-friendly DIY project and relish the sense of accomplishment that comes with crafting a functional bookshelf.