I am getting ready to build some built-in bookcases in one of my
bedrooms. I was going to use purpleheart, which would go well with the
green paint, but I can't seem to find purpleheart that is not random
width (and smooth finish on all sides). So I need to find another type
of wood as a replacement. I wanted something different, instead of the
standard red oak or walnut. I was thinking mahogany, but that may be a
bit too dark. I prefer a medium to medium-dark tone.
I suspect you are going to want to use hardwood plywood
instead of all solid woood for a bookshelf. While it sounds
great to have a solid wood bookshelf, the cost and the weight
would be out of sight.
Consider cherry plywood or even walnut, both of which are
expensive but a great deal cheaper than their hardwood
replacements. Both can be had for $100 per sheet. Mahogany
is also available in plywood but the price goes up for that.
Thes folks have a WIDE selection of plywoods...
Be prepared to pay but they have the good stuff.
I've heard the weight thing given before as a reason to use plywood, but my
research (ok, two different websites) indicates that something like walnut
has a density of ~610kg/cubic meter, and plywood has an approximate weight
of 75lbs per 3/4" sheet. Doing some very rough math indicates that the
plywood weighs about 596kg/cubic meter.
So the weight thing shouldn't really be a factor, no? Unless you have to
use thicker solid wood instead of plywood?
Now cost, that's a whole nuther story...
Is that the general opinion when building built-in bookcases? Use
vaneered plywood for the structure, then, I'm guessing, use the solid
wood for the face trim pieces.
I was really hoping to use solid wood to construct the shelves - there
is just something about plywood that really rubs me the wrong way. It
seems like cheating. If I could just find good, high quality
purpleheart, I'd use that. The place near me carries it for
$4.98/board ft, which is cheaper than the $5.95/board ft for the
purpleheart plywood at Boulter Plywood. Of course, it would be random
widths, so it's of no real help to me.
As far as the width issue, if I am building a 12" (or 11-1/2") deep
shelf unit, and I get a lot of 8" wide pieces, or a lot of 5" wide
pieces, then there is a lot of extra cutting, and waste wood. And if
the wood isn't smooth finished on all sides, then I have a lot of
sanding to do.
If you want speed/convience of assembling and minimal waste, then
plywood is the way to go.
I make the face frame out of solid wood, and glue a piece of solid wood
to the exposed side of the shelves.
You could make the entire thing out of solid wood, but it's going to be
VERY much more labor intensive. Also, consider that once books are on
the shelves, most of the wood is going to be covered up anyhow :)
You aren't going to find any wood (other than pine) not solid in random
widths (as far as I know).. or if you do find it, you'll be charged a
One other question. If the bookshelves are for books, why should they
be 12". Most of my books are significantly narrower than 12". Many are
around 9" and the ton of paperbacks I have do nicely on a 5" shelf.
Have you given thought to making a double shelf (the front one
sliding) to fit more books into a given wall space?
I'll be doing a 16' wall in my den as bookshelves this summer and will
use a veneered plywood, probably maple, and solid for the trim. I want
to keep the cost down and have some bucks left so I can complete it in a
Nautical motif. I can't justify the cost of expensive solid wood that
is completely covered by books so one can't see it. Thats uncivilized! :-)
There isn't anything wrong with using solid wood
for shelves. The problem is "most" bookcases are
at "least" 11 3/4" deep and that's goona be a pain
in the wazoo to glue up a bunch of shelves. I assume
you will "never" find enough 12" solid stock to make
the shelves from.
You will be very hard pressed to find a solid wood
That's the major reason most bookcases are built
using plywood. It's your project and your money,
so feel free to do it any way you wish.
If you go the solid wood route, please post some
pictures for us to see over at A.B.P.W.
And on top of that, who cares what a book shelf weighs? Unless you are the
type that moves every couple of months, I would think that a heavy bookshelf
would be preferable. And, you were talking about a built in. So, who cares
what it weighs?
Joe in Denver
my woodworking website:
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