So i got my first router and after few plays with making garage shelfs i
want to make a real bookcase.
I was thinking of starting with pine, but am afraid that it may be to soft
to last as a nice bookcase.
Is douglas fir a reasonable compromise? or maybe i can make it with pine and
make surface harder by
finishing. Or shall i take it all in stride and make it from oak: oak
plywood with oak boards for walls and shelf edges. Any advice is welcome.
What do you intend to do to your bookcase that softness matters?
If it's used for the reference books in a public library abrasion form
putting books in and taking them out might be an issue, but on more
ordinary usage frequency (per book) you wont damage the shelves.
Right after I got married, I made 8 pine bookcases to house the many
hundreds of books that we both brought along. Not knowing better, they were
made of lumber-store (nowadays it would be Home Depot) pine shelving, all
butt-joined and screwed together (no glue) with drywall screws and no finish
of any kind, just a couple of passes with 100-grit sandpaper. I figured
that when they got loose and fell apart, I'd have the tools and knowledge to
Took me an afternoon to make all 8, mostly 5 feet high, 2-1/2 feet wide,
shelves spaced every 12 inches with a 1x2 support along the back of each
shelf, very simple. A couple from 1x8s, a couple 1x10s, a couple 1x12s.
Not at all what you'd call fine furniture.
Four houses, three moves, three kids, many thousands of books in and out,
absolutely no maintenance or care... and 23 years... later they still are as
tight as can be, with no sagging to the shelves. I've made much nicer
looking bookcases since, but these have been in rough and constant use for
that long... and hold up the books just fine.
Yeah, I'd say that pine works just fine for bookshelves.
Michael Latcha - at home in Redford, MI
If it is to be a houshold item I would consider what finish your other
You can stain the pine but in my opinion it just looks like stained
Oak would be nice but much more expensive.
I have made a number of shelving units from melamine board. I also
have several bookshelves made for storing paperbacks using building
store pine. Pick through the stack of lower grade timber for some
fairly clear boards.
I've got a couple walls and a half in the den of cherry-faced basswood
shelves myself. Since they are bookshelves, not display shelves, you have
to pull books to see the bass.
I also have true poplar shelves, stained. But they can show open spaces
like the pine shelves for my quarto size stuff, because they are consistent.
If you're worried about the shelves sagging, you might put a thin strip
of wood under the front of each shelf to help support the load. As far
as plywood, (and I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong here) I
don't think Home-Depot-quality oak plywood would support any more
weight than decent pine plywood (excluding chipboard, particleboard,
etc.). I have some cheap assemble-it-yourself MDF bookshelves from
target or dumpsters or wherever, and they're only sagging a bit after
being fully loaded for several years. For the price, not bad.
My advice - try it with pine (start cheap), and if that really doesn't
hold your books, use it for attic shelving and go look for oak or
thicker pine for your next attempt. Have fun with it if you're doing
it for fun, or do it as quick and cheap as you can if you just want
something to set books on. Experiment with finishes on scrap pieces -
try sanding to different grits, sealer coats before stain, etc.
8" wide by 48" long with a back of 1/4" plywood
(nailed into the back of the shelves) will not
sag. I made a bookcase like that with 3 shelves
about 1975, and for more than 20 years has has
held 8x11" magazines squeezed tight. There is no
evidence of sagging. Three similar shelf units
for my wife, but with shelves 12" deep, have been
loaded more normally for several years and show
no evidence of sag. BTW these are made of
Ponderosa pine which is pretty soft.
I would pick solid pine boards over fir plywood
(never heard of pine plywood) for a book case just
I have some made from pine. They are stating to deteriorate after 40 years
and at the rate they are going, they may be completely shot in another 500
years or so. With a coat of urethane maybe I can get ti to 700 years.
Oak is nice, Oak plywood with solid wood trim is nice too. Make what you
can afford and afford to screw up on the first try. Build a little
confidence before spending big bucks on wood. There is nothing wrong with
pine and don't let a few wood snobs tell you different.
The question with pine is just what you mean by "pine". I've got plenty
of 100+ year old pine (as furniture and as recycled stock) that would
make a fine bookcase. I'd be hard pressed though to go out and buy any
new pine timber that wasn't coarse rubbish with huge growth rings. If
you _can_ get good, tight pine, then there's no reason you shouldn't use
it. Douglas fir is much more likely though, in terms of what's commonly
available today, at a reasonable price.
My first router project was pine bookshelves, too. They've been in use for
sixteen years now, with books stacked two layers deep, and they were
patterned after the ones my wife's grandfather made mabe thirty plus years
ago. Both sets are still fine, if not better than when they were first
made. The only time you need to worry about them lasting is when you move
them. Take care at those few times it happens and they'll effectively last
I agree with marks542004 about stained pine. I stained mine and I wouldn't
do it again. Oak is heavy. When you move you've got all those books to
move, and they're heavy enough. Moving a pine bookshelf is a one person
job. Oak? I dunno, but after moving a lot of books you might want help
with the shelves. Personally I don't like the look of plywood because of
the way the grain looks, but that's just me.
- Owen -
I too have a 20+ year old pine bookcase I made with my first saw and
router. I used 1 x 12 no. 2 grade from a lumber yard. I used a beading
bit to put two grooves in the facing trim, a Roman ogee bit on the
shelves for accent and used v groove birch 1/4 inch plywood for the
back. It has been holding books for over 20 years and has endured
through several interstate moves and some abuse from the movers. About
all I had to do to firm it up after moving was to tap the facing back
down in 2 or 3 spots. Pine is fine.
If you use 1 bys buy as long a pieces as you can haul. They are
typically straighter than the shorter ones from shorter trees or tree
sections. You can sort through what is available at the lumber yard or
home center to get the straightest ones.
On my last pine project I found some pretty good 10 and 12 footers of 1
x 12 at Home Depot.
Good luck and enjoy it! You will probably have the book case for the
rest of your life.
If you are wanting to do this project as a first project in "fine
woodworking", my advice would be to avoid the tempation to "save" money by
using pine since it is relatively cheaper than other woods.
That was my thought process upon my first foray into fine woodworking
with the idea that as a novice, I didn't want to screw up really expensive
wood, so I'd use pine. I went to a reputable hardwood dealer and bought
furniture grade pine, so moisture content wasn't an issue. What I listed
on my lessons learned was that a) It is too easily damaged, just looking at
this material puts dings and dents into it. b) The pine available is so
unstable it is difficult to get any kind of accurate cut. Even beginning
with an accurate cut, the wood will later bow and throw later machining out
of line. This especially affected the ability to produce quality mortise
and tenon joints. The wood that started out parallel, moved sufficiently
to preclude the ability to permint gap-less joints.
Two reasonably inexpensive hardwoods to start working with are Poplar and
Ash. Ash is nice because, although fairly non-descript, you can get a
fairly nice finish on the wood and it will look nice. Poplar has too much
green color in it to want to leave it unpainted. In my area, Ash is
actually cheaper than Poplar at about $2.25 / BF. You should be able to
make a bookshelf from for pretty close to what pine would cost and you will
save yourself a lot of aggravation.
If you're gonna be dumb, you better be tough
The first thing I cobbled together was a bookcase of yellow pine 2x10's.
Stained it with Minwax double walnut and spayed it with lacquer. 25 years
later it is still holding up a mountain of books (7 feet tall) with no
complaint. Worked for me. If you can afford oak, go for it. If not pine
is perfectly serviceable and a relatively inexpensive way to build
4 years ago my son make some bookcases for the waiting room of a public
pediatric clinic for his Eagle project. Used pine, they still look good.
(I am rather embarressed to see them now, as they were from before I started
woodworking and are pretty crude.)
Consider a little better product.
Use the white pine as a "prototype" and learn
how to make a "basic" bookcase.
I would then use a oak or birch plywood and I would
assemble them with glue and pocket hole screws.
If you don't have a Kreg jig, this would be a
excellent reason to buy one.(for Christmas)
Don't have a table saw ??? Don't really need one...
Use a jig and a circular saw....
A simple bookcase can be done with very basic tools.
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