How to Build a Custom Bookcase

Creating this DIY bookcase is as simple as knowing how to build a basic box. Follow these easy steps to fashion a bookcase as high and as wide as you need to fit your space.

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For a bookcase that's as unique as the treasures stored in it, create your own. A compilation of built-to-size boxes makes up this eye-catching storage space. The trick is to find baskets, bins, bowls, and other accessories before you build, then plan the boxes to fit around each item.

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What You Need

  • Collection of salvaged storage pieces
  • Measuring tape
  • Medium-density fiberboard (MDF)
  • Table saw
  • Jigsaw
  • Drill
  • Wood glue
  • Clamps
  • Screws
  • Wood filler
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer and paint, paintbrush

Step 1: Find Storage

Search thrift stores and flea markets for baskets, bins, bowls, drawers, boxes, and even suitcases. You'll use your finds to determine the size of boxes to build. Assemble pairs or trios that are the same or similar in height so all boxes across one level line up.

Tips for Navigating Flea Markets

Step 2: Make Plans

Measure each storage piece to determine a box size that allows it to easily fit inside. Considering your storage pieces and the space for the finished bookcase, plan the number of boxes you'll need to create your storage unit. Include some boxes without storage inserts in the plan. A variety of box shapes will create an interesting bookcase, and a little space between some boxes can give the finished bookcase visual appeal. Plan to make each box the same depth so the bookcase sits flush against the wall and the front edges align.

Step 3: Cut and Measure

To build one box, use a table saw to cut MDF to the dimensions of your desired box sides. Opposite sides should have the same measurements.

Step 4: Cut Grooves

Using a jigsaw, cut a groove or dado joint into each vertical side for a better fit. See illustration for reference. 

Step 5: Fit and Clamp

Fit the sides together, cover the joints with wood glue, and clamp together. When the glue is dry, remove the clamps and insert screws along the length of the joints. Cover screw heads with wood filler. Sand to remove excess; prime and paint.

Step 6: Repeat and Stack

Repeat the process to make the desired number of boxes in sizes to match the collection of salvaged storage pieces, plus the extra boxes to complete your bookcase plan. When the boxes are finished, stack them together to form your bookcase. Add the salvaged storage pieces and the items you want to store or display. The cohesiveness of the painted boxes will blend the mishmash of storage items into a stylish unit.

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