Built-in Bookcases

A Mission Oak classic—engineered for easy construction

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This built-in Mission Oak bookcase features loads of shelf space, vertical grain wood, solid oak construction and a design that can be easily altered to fit your room.

Tools Required

  • Air compressor
  • Air hose
  • Belt sander
  • Brad nail gun
  • Circular saw
  • Clamps
  • Combination square
  • Cordless drill
  • Countersink drill bit
  • Dust mask
  • Level
  • Miter saw
  • Orbital sander
  • Pocket hole jig
  • Safety glasses
  • Self-centering drill bit
  • Table saw

This solid oak built-in bookcase has plenty of room for displaying your favorite books and collectibles plus lots of hidden cabinet space below. And it’s easy to build. Just cut the 2×4 framework from standard lumber and screw it together. Then cut oak plywood and solid oak trim and nail them to the framework. You make the paneled cabinet doors with an ordinary table saw and join the face frames with an easy-to-use pocket hole jig.

Another plus is that you can pick up wherever you left off at any time. You can prebuild most of it in your garage or shop and assemble the pieces as you go.

Project step-by-step (21)

Step 1

Create the Arches

  • Bend a piece of clear cedar siding to form an arch.
  • Trace the curves as shown onto the two 1×10 x 12-ft. upper arch pieces of the frame.
  • Cut these pieces 3/8 in. shorter than the width of your room so you’ll be able to maneuver it into position.

Step 2

Assemble the Arched Aprons

  • Carry the two arched aprons into your room and screw 1x4s between them as shown with 1-5/8 in. wood screws.
  • Drill pilot and countersink holes to avoid splitting the wood.
  • Be sure to complete the layout lines on the wall.

Step 3

Install the Arched Top

  • Lift the apron assembly to the ceiling and build a temporary stand for each end to keep it tight to the ceiling as you screw it to the framing.
    • Note: If framing is difficult to find in key areas, use wall anchors to fasten it to the ceiling and side walls.

Step 4

Build the Base

  • Build the 2×4 base as shown in Detail 2, below, and screw it to the floor with 1-1/2 in. x 1-1/2 in. steel angles.
  • Space the 2×4 blocks so the vertical uprights marked on the walls will stand directly over them later.

Step 5

Attach the Plywood Top

  • Cut two 3/4-in. x 5-in. blocks 11-7/8 in. long (E) and screw them to the underside of the aprons 11-3/4 in. from each side wall.
    • Note: These blocks will catch the edge of the 1/4-in. plywood top and hold it in place.
  • Rip the 1/4-in. oak plywood to 11-7/8 in. and hold it tight to the apron while you mark the length.
  • Install it so the splice will be hidden under the column as shown.
  • Do the same to cover the base assembly as well.
  • Use 1-in. finish nails in your nail gun to secure the plywood to each assembly.

Step 6

Attach 2×4 Supports

  • Fasten the 2x4s to the wall as shown.
    • Pro tip: Use screw-in type anchors if wall framing isn’t available behind the 2x4s.
  • Scribe the 2×4 supports to fit under the curve.
    • Note: The 2×4 supports on each side wall are set back 3/4 in. behind the 11-7/8 in. mark.

Step 7

Build the Sides

  • Rip 3/4-in. oak plywood to 11-7/8 in. and then drill 1/4-in. holes for standard shelf clips.
  • Use a strip of 1/4-in. pegboard as a template for the shelf clip holes.
  • Drill the holes, positioning the template to the bottom of each piece to ensure the shelves will be level when installed.

Step 8

Rip Moldings

  • Set your saw to 20 degrees and taper the upper capital molding and the top shelf face molding.
  • Make the front shelf molding in the same manner, only cut it from 1-1/2 in. strips.

Step 9

Make the Face Frame

  • Build the face frames using the pocket hole jig.
    • Note: The jig drills holes at sharp angles to connect the stiles and rails tightly without glue. If you have a doweling jig, this will work as well.

Step 10

Cut Slots for the Plywood Panels

  • Groove the inside edges of stiles and rails for each door using a table saw.
  • Cut the 1/2-in. deep grooves in the center of the edge.
  • Run the piece through on one side, then flip it end-for-end and run it through on the other side to ensure the groove is centered.
    • Note: Because we had a wide throat plate space next to our saw blade, we measured to our fence first, lowered the blade, then installed a 1/2-in. piece of plywood on the saw table and raised the blade. This gave us a safe, stable, flat surface to cut the grooves.

Step 11

Cut the Tenons

  • Cut tenons on each end of the door rails using your table saw fence as a guide.
    • Note: The tongues should be 1/2 in. long and must fit snugly into the grooves of the stiles. Cut a test piece first to get the right setting.

Step 12

Assemble the Doors

  • Glue the tenons of the top rail into the grooves of the stiles, then slip the plywood panel in place.
    • Note: No need to glue the plywood; just let it float in the grooves. The plywood should be 1/8 in. narrower and shorter than the distance from groove to groove to ensure a foolproof assembly.
  • Clamp the doors, making sure they lie flat.
    • Note: Clamps can pull the frames and warp them if you’re not careful.

Step 13

Install Hinges

  • Install no-mortise hinges on the stiles and the door edges before installing the face frames in the bookcase.
    • Pro tip: Make sure to leave 1/16-in. clearance between the doors and the face frame. If necessary, use a belt sander to fit the doors precisely in the face frame openings.
  • Attach the knobs to the doors, hang them on the hinges and nail the assembly to 3/4-in. x 3/4-in. pine strips set back and glued into the cabinets.

Step 14

Cut the Columns

  • Glue and clamp two pieces of 1×6 x 87-in. oak together and then rip them to 10 in. wide, keeping the glue joint at the center.
  • Square both ends.
  • Cut tapers on each side of each of the blanks using the homemade taper jig shown.
  • Set the fence 12 in. from the blade, then rip a piece of plywood and cut it to 87 in. long.
  • Cut a 2-in. taper on one side of each blank as shown, aligning the backside of the blank with the inner edge of the plywood and letting the side to be tapered hang over 2 in. as shown.
  • Clamp the board with the jig levers over the board and run it through the saw.

Step 15

Finish Cutting the Tapers

  • Reposition the block in your jig and cut the opposite side of each blank.
    • Pro tip: Always have the top of the blank at the tapered end of the jig and the wide base end even with the inner edge of the jig. Move the workpiece through, making sure the plywood is tight to the fence and have an outfeed stand to support the jig as it leaves the saw.
  • Glue and finish-nail 3/4-in. x 1-1/4 in. strips (Q2) to the sides of each column to give the columns a heavier and deeper look.
  • Once the glue is dry, sand them with 100-grit sandpaper followed by 150-grit sandpaper.

Step 16

Assemble the Base

  • Rip 2×6 and 1×6 pine to 4-in. widths and nail them to the base assembly at the center of each 2×4 vertical support.
    • Note: These pieces will support the base cap.
  • Wrap these supports with 3/4-in. x 4-in. oak base pieces and continue installing these base pieces between the column bases.

Step 17

Cut and Place the Columns

  • Set the columns onto the base caps and mark each side of the column where it meets the upper arch.
  • Mark a square cut for the side columns by taping the discarded strip from your taper cut to the side of your column.
  • Use your square to mark a straight line.
  • Build up the upper face of the 2×4 supports with 1-1/4 in. deep strips to ensure the column lies 1-1/4 in. in front of the oak arch.
  • Nail the columns to these strips and to the face of the 2×4 and face frame below with 10d finish nails.

Step 18

Attach the Capital Moldings

  • Fit the capital moldings around the tops of the columns.
  • Use a double layer at the top to build out the surface and notch these layers around the lower edge of the curve.
  • Place the 3/4-in. x 1-3/4 in. tapered molding directly below and nail it in place with the brad nailer.

Step 19

Construct the Cornice Assembly

  • Cut cornice blocks from 3/4-in. oak, then stack them in layers and glue them to achieve the 2-1/4 in. thickness.
  • Make the tapered keystone center block in the same manner.
  • Predrill, glue and hand-nail the cornice blocks to the curved apron with 10d finish nails.
  • Cut the cornice strips on the table saw and nail them in layers between the blocks with your finish nailer.

Step 20

Attach the Extension Assembly

  • Fasten the front cabinet top extensions with your pocket hole jig.
  • Nail a 3/4-in. x 3/4-in. strip to the top of the face frame and glue the extension to this for added support.

Step 21

Attach the Shelf Edge Molding

  • Glue and nail the top shelf edge molding to the top shelf, extending it 1-1/2 in. onto each column.
  • Make the shelves to fit between the vertical bookcase sides.
  • Sand your bookcase with 100-grit sandpaper followed by 150-grit.
  • Stain, then finish it with two coats of satin urethane or your choice of varnish.

Additional Information