How to Make Bookshelves – 15 Free Easy Budget Plans

by craftmin | December 24, 2017

If you’re looking to make a bookshelf on a budget, without breaking your back or consuming too much of your time? Take a look at this easy step-by-step DIY and the several free plans we found below.

From the rustic to the classic, these “how to make bookshelves” plans have everything.  You need 7-foot bookshelves but have a tiny budget? No problem. What about a modern one for an urban retro home? Or a cute cubby hole for a children’s room? We have these here and more, including a classic Arts and Crafts cabinet design and plan.

These are all wood-working bookshelf plans and diagrams, so of course you’ll need the tools and the wood.  Some of the plans make allowances for repurposed wood while some are use straight-up hardware supplies. 

Basic Tools for How to Make Bookshelves

  1. Level
  2. T-square or square measure
  3. Pocket hole jig
  4. Tape measure
  5. Miter saw
  6. Table saw
  7. Router
  8. Power jointer
  9. Raspssmoothing planes
  10. Workmate and puttering bench
  11. Finish nailer
  12. Finishing nails
  13. Safety glasses
  14. Hearing protection
  15. Pencil

Basic steps for how to make bookshelves

diy bookshelves

(1) Dimensions

how to make bookshelves

The first thing to work out is where you plan to put your bookshelf and the shelf’s dimensions. Measure them, making sure you keep a  proper written record.

(2) Determine your cutting list

A cutting list is a list of wood supplies that needs to be used for woodworking projects. Some of the pieces will be cut from a larger wooden board so having a cutting list helps you plan how you will cut them all. With a cutting list, you can also calculate exactly how how many wooden planks and beams you will need to buy. 

(3) Buying your supplies

Go local if you an when it comes to buying supplies for your homemade furniture. Don’t only check your Lowe’s local store but also the mom n’ pop hardware stores. Not only will you be supporting local industry, you will also be able to meet more people to give you a pointer or two for your diy projects – just mention that you plan on making some fine shelves for the first time.

(4) Measure, mark and cut your wood

how to make bookshelves

Don’t go cutting immediately once you have bought your wood. Mark it up with your pencil and refer to your cutting list. If this is your first time, make a checklist to help you keep track of these things. You  should use the miter saw rather than your table saw, because it makes cleaner and more controlled cuts than a table saw and is prefered when working with smaller wood pieces. If you are working with bigger planks and measurements, use the table saw.

(5) The finer cuts

how to make bookshelves

Cut the interior shelves into rabbet cut pieces, using a router.  Rabbeting will make the shelf stronger, allowing the racks to bear a greater weight. To make the bookshelves have the same rabbet grooves when you are cutting, put the panels you will be cutting side by side. Screwing a wooden piece across the panels will give the effect of it being one big board which will make the edges more even and straight.

(6) Assemble the pieces

how to make bookshelves

Start with the top rack and join the bookshelf side panels. For this, bring out your finishing nails and wood glue then start installing the racks or shelves by applying glue along the rabbet joints and slipping each shelf in one at a time. If the bookshelf is going to be hanging, glue and nail a 2′ wooden strip at the back as a cleat.

(7) How to make bookshelves – the finishing touches

how to make bookshelves

diy bookshelves

You have now been building your bookshelf and assembled it.  Iit’s time to add the finishing touches and make it more aesthetic. This is the time to put in the finished framing, most of which you can buy ready-made, or you can use decorative molding  If you are just starting with making bookshelves, begin by buying them ready-made then expand to doing them by hand after you have gained more experience.

Leave the bookshelves so the glue can dry. Make sure your workspace is secure and is clean and dry. Before painting or staining your bookshelves, wipe them completely with a tack cloth making sure to pay attention to the corners and undersides too. Leave to dry.

Source: How to Make Bookshelves

Easy-to-follow plans on how to make bookshelves

(1) How to make bookshelves – from $1,900 to $275

how to make bookshelves

When Jamison, our woodworking enthusiast, saw this amazing industrial-style gavin wood library bookcase in Pottery Barn, he knew that he could it make for less than the $1,900 selling price. And he did make his own wood and metal bookcase for a fraction of the cost – at $275. What drove the price down?  The metal rods that you see at the corners.

Though the Pottery Barn design uses reclaimed pine and metal bars, Jamiron’s plans make bookshelves of a similar quality and with the same kind of leeway. You can also scour online for sites that sell planks for repurposing. To reduce the time spent on the project, buy ready-made trim instead of making your own.

Source: How to Make Bookshelves for Less by Jamison

(2) Cutely Cubby

how to make bookshelves

Adjustable shelves and a cute cubby hole go well together in this children’s room with this simple design from intrepid woodworking designer and diyer Ana White, that can be adapted and tweaked to your needs.

The bookcase could also be perfect for your kitchen or utility room. Estimated cost of materials? $100 to $150. You can even use the top shelving as a countertop for the cubby hole that has everything.

Source: How to Make Bookshelves: Large Cubby Hole

(3) Budget Bookshelf – Really Rustic

how to make bookshelves

Solid pine boards give the authentic rustic touch to this farmhouse-style furniture which has adjustable racks that would help you to fit small books or big craft baskets – whatever you need. It is great for storage and can easily fit your den as well as the kitchen or the children’s room.

One tip to cut costs is to cut tongues and grooves into the back for that authentic rustic feel.  Though you can use 1x4s, you can also add planking instead. An added bonus – the estimated cost is from $50 to $100.

Source: How to Make Bookshelves – Kentwood


(4) Seven-foot bookcases for $60

how to make bookshelves

Rebecca is an admirer of well-known furniture diyer Ana White, who we feature above. It’s this admiration that has made her use the plans for the Kentwood bookshelves, Rebecca built these tall custom-made bookcases for a friend’s living room. And how she built them!

She spent $60 for wood and screws on each bookcase which are really tall, measuring 2′ x 7′. If there’s one tip Rebecca wants to share, it’s that beginning woodworkers should invest in a Kreg Jig – the most basic costs $100 or so.

First, she stained the bookshelves with English Breakfast Tea, then she soaked several steel wool balls with white vinegar overnight.  Rebecca then used the vinegar/steel wool combo concoction to come up with the beautiful aged look shown here.

Source: How to Make Bookshelves – Tall Bookcases for $60 each

(5) Contemporary American Woodworking

how to make bookshelves

A beautiful modern and very American take on the bookshelf with fresh, clean lines and spaces. Moreover, and this is the reason why the design is a personal favorite, the shelves can be adjusted. Anyone who has lived in a really small apartment knows how important it is to have expanding cabinetry.

How beautifully simple is this bookshelf? Check the joinery in this amazing plan you can download for free. Long rods are inserted inside to put the bookshelf together. The finish is easy because all the panels and pieces are separately finished before assembling them together. Best of all, all hardware and wood should be available in most hardware stores. Get inspired too with entertainment centers you can also make on your own.

Source: How to Make Bookshelves: Modern American Woodworking

(6) Modern Arts and Crafts Style

There is real beauty in the simplicity of Arts and Crafts. This bookcase includes a modern update – floating-tenon joinery. How to make bookshelves this beautiful? Check out these very detailed plans and schematics of this free-standing elegant bookshelf that deserves leather-bound volumes.

Source: How to Make Bookshelves: Arts and Crafts


Trying Traditional

how to make bookshelves

Think New England, Ivy League university libraries and formal studies complete with a pipe-smoking, tweed-wearing professor and you would probably picture this classic walnut bookcase with mahogany stain. Made from solid walnut lumber, there is nothing like the feel of hardwood.

Because of the weight of the material, its a bit harder to construct. Make a series of cutting and assembly – first the side panels, then the shelving and finally the bottom assembly. Put together the top and back later to help make this a workable project despite the very traditional design. Even the joinery is traditional!

Source: How to Make Bookshelves: Walnut Bookcase

(8)  How to Make Bookshelves: Building Built-ins

how to make bookshelves

If you have an odd nook or just a recessed niche somewhere in your living room or bedroom, what do you do with it? Well, our plans will teach you how to make bookshelves that can easily accomodate this very awkward cranny.

This is best for fast-paced woodworking when a bookshelf becomes a must for falling boxes or sudden house visitors.  With a circular saw and a sturdy piece of plywood, veneered if possible, this built-in bookshelf is easy as a snap. If you want the appearance of thickness, laminating is an option, as is using ready-made molding and trim.

Source: How to Make Bookshelves: Building Built-ins

(9) Outstanding Oak

how to make bookshelves

Matt Berger and Asa Christiana will guide you in a series of eight videos for how to make this simple but riveting oak bookcase. The wide open shelves and sturdy build are meant to last for a few decades, or mmaybe even more.

Source: How to Make Bookshelves : Oak is Okay!

(10) Handy Craftsman

Looking like something from the Stickley catalogue, this simple but modern take on the Craftsman style bookshelf is quite elegant. Though the plans require moderate woodworking skills, it’s truly worth it even if need to devote a weekend to the project. If you decide to use hardwood, your expenses may go from $100 to $500.

Regardless of the wood you decide to use, the style is a complete looker. Also check some more creative diy woodworking.

Source:  How to Make Bookshelves Craftsman Style

(11) Unbelievably Portable Yet Unique

how to make bookshelves

A book rack that would be totally at home in a school library, this very portable bookshelf makes for an interesting piece of furniture with slanted shelving and wide spaces. Make no mistake about it, this is definitely a shelf made for lots and lts of books. It is something that you can easily move around so the book rack would be perfect for a children’s playroom or bedroom. Maybe, give the kids a quiet corner to enjoy their book’s magical moments.

Be mindful that this is a classic Arts and Crafts style, with a little tweak because the design uses simple through-tenons instead of wedged tenons. To make the bookshelf more functional, an additional trough was adde right through the middle of the shelve. Finally, the end panels were also narrowed for a tapered look.

Source: How to Make Bookshelves with Unique Designs

(12) Freely Small

how to make bookshelves

The great thing about this freestanding bookshelf is that it’s so small and snug that you can put it in any corner. Wht’s best is that, this small bookshelf is not only compact, but the shelves are also adjustable. When you have a very small living space, that quality in furniture is a godsend.

Source:  How to Make Small Bookshelves

(13) Simply Grand

how to make bookshelves small bookcase

This is a very basic bookshelf with a great touch of class. Made of traditional mahogany, the sturdiness just emanates from it. How to make bookshelves of such quality without breaking your back? Go for quality materials and solid biscuit-joints.

Source:  How to Make Bookshelves Sturdy and Traditional

(14) Building Barrister

how to make bookshelves

Go traditional and classy with these barrister bookcases that turn-of- the-century lawyers used in their offices and studies.  Of course, no self-respecting professional of the early 20th century showcased his professional reference books in glassless bookcases – that’s how precious books were held in those days. Lastly, light up your study with these creative diy lamp ideas.

Source:  How to Make Barrister Bookshelves

(15) Solid and Sturdy

how to make bookshelves

A very apt place to for your keepsakes – from your favorite books to photo albums. This custom-made bookcase is sturdy enough to go from your study to your bedroom and look right at hoe.

Source:  How to Make Sturdy Bookshelves