How to Build a Ladder Bookcase

This sleek DIY bookcase leans against the wall like a ladder and can be customized to fit nearly any small space. In just a few hours, you can turn stock lumber into a functional piece of furniture. Here's how to make it happen.

This slim, modern bookcase leans against a wall like a ladder and provides vertical storage for books, baskets, and home decor. While the bookcase has a beautiful handcrafted look, it is fairly simple to construct. While you're at it, consider building more than one bookcase to make a storage-packed statement wall.

Related: See how to make concrete bookends.

We built our bookcase from pine, however, most in-stock wood available at your local hardware store will also work. If you want to stain the bookcase, maple and poplar are ideal since they take stain evenly. If you'd like, you can finish the shelf with a few coats of polyurethane to allow the natural beauty of the wood to shine through.

You'll need an afternoon or evening to build the bookcase, plus an hour or so to finish with stain or paint. Make sure you're comfortable sawing, gluing, and clamping, as all three skills are needed for this project.

  • Working Time 6 Hours
  • Start to Finish 1 Day
  • Difficulty         Projects Kind of Easy
  • Involves Sawing, Power tools

What you need


  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Table saw with rip guide
  • Power miter saw or circular saw with crosscutting jig
  • Clamps
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Kreg pocket hole jig
  • Sander
  • Tack cloth


  • 1-inch x 8-inch x 8-foot wood boards, we used pine (x4)
  • Sandpaper
  • Wood glue
  • #8 x 1-1/2-inch pocket-hole screws (x20)
  • Kreg plugs


  • Ladder sides (x2)
    6-3/4 inches x 72 inches
  • Shelves (x5)
    7 inches x 20 inches

How to do it

Step 1 Make Ladder Sides

To make the sides of the ladder bookshelf, use a table saw to rip two 8-foot boards on your table saw to 6-3/4 inches wide. Cut the boards 72 inches long with a 10-degree angle on the ends so that it sits flush to the floor when leaning upright.

Step 2 Crosscut Back Corners

Crosscut the top back corner of each side of the ladder at an angle to allow the ladder to sit flat when leaned against a wall. Lean the sides against a wall to determine how steep you want the angle to be. To make this easier, you can use a scrap piece of wood to test your cut, then transfer the angle to the ladder pieces. This will prevent your ladder from wobbling and make sure any items you display are secure.

Step 3 Measure and Mark Location of Steps

Next, measure and mark the desired locations of the steps along your side boards. The shelves should be installed at 11 degrees. To help with this process, we used a piece of scrap wood, cut to 11 degrees on each end, to create a guide. This will ensure even spacing between each shelf and a consistent angle. Mark the top and bottom of where each board will go by spacing the guide one inch apart as you draw your marks.

Step 4 Crosscut Steps

Crosscut five steps 20-inches long on your miter saw and rip steps to 7 inches wide. Cut beveled edges on the long sides. Use the marks you made earlier on the ladder sides to find the right angle. Ours were 11 degrees.

Step 5 Drill Pocket Holes

A pocket-hole jig allows you to easily screw through a piece of wood at an angle for a strong joint. We used a Kreg jig to create pocket holes 1-1/2-inches from the front and back edges on the underside of each step. (You should have four holes in total, two on each side.) Even though they are out of sight on the bottom of the steps, you’ll go back in later to add wood plugs that disguise these holes.

Step 6 Sand Everything

Sand the sides of all the project pieces and slightly round all the edges so you don't have any sharp corners. Wipe free of dust with a tack cloth.

Step 7 Assemble Ladder

Run a bead of wood glue along the spots where you marked the steps. Drill 1-1/4-inch pocket screws under each step into the holes you made earlier to attach the step to the ladder sides. Again, there will be four screws on the bottom of each step. Attach the first line of steps along one side, then add the other side of the ladder.

Step 8 Sand and Finish

Sand a final time to remove any marks on the outside of the rails and wipe free of sawdust. Fill in the pocket holes with wood plugs. If desired, apply two or three coats of finish or stain, and your bookshelf is ready for duty.

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