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DIY Built In Craft Room Bookcase

I love to build things. My dream is to have a workshop someday with a compound mitre saw, a table saw, and all the other cool tools needed to create whatever my heart desires. But, right now that’s still in the dream stage so I do what I can with what I have.

When I posted my craft room makeover at the beginning of December I said I would show you how I built my bookcase unit all by myself.  Me and my power tools that is. Two power drills, one electric and one battery powered, went kaputski during this project. But that was OK by me because I seriously needed a new one and I find it hard to replace anything that works. We gave them both to a guy we know who likes to tinker with stuff like that.

This isn’t the first bookcase unit I’ve built (I built a five unit one for John’s home office) but it’s been about ten years and I forgot how much patience is required. I swear I only swore a couple of times. Honest!

So, here’s my finished bookcase. It’s made of two units that are attached together.


DIY Built In Bookcase

I used 1/2″ MDF and the good folks at the RONA Building Centre cut the pieces to my specifications from two 4′ x 8′ sheets. I got four 1′ x 8′ lengths for the sides from one sheet, and sixteen 1′ x 2′ shelves from the other sheet. If I was making the shelves any wider than 2′ I would have used 3/4″ MDF instead for more strength.


DIY Built In Bookcase

Here are my supplies. My battery powered drill, screws, a measuring tape, a level, two drill bits, a screwdriver bit, a compass, a pencil, and gorilla tape.


DIY Built In Bookcase

The first thing I did was decide where I wanted my shelves to go. To do this I laid each side length on the floor and ran the measuring tape along the whole length. Then I marked where I wanted my shelves with pencil.

My first shelf is 3″ from the bottom, and above that each shelf is 11″ above the other. So I marked my second shelf at 14″, the third one at 25″ and so on. I did this on both sides of all four side pieces. I decided to leave one larger section in each bookcase so I could store taller things.


DIY Built In Bookcase

Then I laid two of the side pieces side by side (because I only had room to work with two pieces at a time) and I drew lines with pencil using the marks as a guide. I did this on both sides of all four pieces because I needed lines on the inside to line up the shelves, and on the outside to know where to place my screws. When screwing into 1/2″ MDF there is no margin for error.


DIY Built In Bookcase

So here’s one unit with a few shelves already screwed in. My battery powered drill was no longer working at this point so now I was using just my 20 year old electric one (which I’ve never really liked). To screw into the MDF I had to pre-drill the holes before I could use the screws. This is because MDF will sometimes split if you don’t do this.

I used gorilla tape to hold the shelves in place while I pre-drilled and screwed through the sides and into the shelves (sorry but I don’t have a pic of that). I attached the top and bottom shelves first and then worked my way up from the bottom.

Being down to one drill was a bit of a pain because I had to use one bit to pre-drill the holes, then remove that bit, and put in the screwdriver bit for the screws. I did two shelves on one side at once, then went to the other side and did the two same shelves. I worked along like that until I was done.


DIY Built In Bookcase

Here’s a view of the sides. I used three screws on each side of each shelf. I don’t own a countersink bit, so I used a large bit the size of the screw head to make each hole larger, but just to a 1/4″ depth. This allowed the screw heads to sink a little into the MDF. I didn’t want them sticking out.


DIY Built In Bookcase

When both bookcase units were complete it was time to make them flush with the wall. When lifting each unit off of the floor to put it in place I had to be careful because they don’t have backs on them, which makes them a little unstable. I didn’t want backs because I wanted the green to show through.

I live in a house built in 1890 and my craft room has baseboard moldings that are 15″ high. There’s no way I would ever touch these moldings, so I had to make the bookcases fit. Out comes the old compass that only gets used every blue moon, but at times like this it’s invaluable.

I started at the top of the molding and lined up the compass with the gap between the wall and the bookcase. The pencil is on the bookcase side. I held the compass steady as I ran the pointed side along the molding, following its contours as I went, and making sure my pencil was marking these contours onto the MDF.

This wasn’t as easy as it sounds…when I looked at my first try it didn’t look that great , so I just tried again. The outside line was the better one. If there was a better one.


DIY Built In Bookcase

Once this was done to both sides of each unit it was time to get out the saw and the jigsaw.


DIY Built In Bookcase

I cut out the contours using my pencil lines as a guide. Then I had to also cut the back of the shelf to match the depth of the sides so it would sit flush against the molding as well. I used my jigsaw for this, with my regular saw helping out here and there in some tough spots.


DIY Built In Bookcase

Here’s a close up of the outside unit in place. The cut wasn’t perfect, but who cares, it was nothing a little poly filla couldn’t fix.


DIY Built In Bookcase

Here’s a close up of both units in place.


DIY Built In Bookcase

And here are my two finished bookcase units.


DIY Built In Bookcase

I decided to paint them white using some latex paint that I found at the Re-Store. A whole gallon for $10. A great deal! I pulled the units out from the wall for easier painting.

Here they are after one coat of primer and three coats of paint. When the paint was dry I put the units back into place and screwed them together, locating the screws so they wouldn’t be seen. I filled in the spaces where needed with poly filla, sanded, and touched it up with paint.

Then I covered the tops of the shelves with the same self-adhesive contact paper that I used on my craft room desk. This was so easy and saved me a lot of time because I didn’t bother painting them first. I didn’t see the point of painting the shelves and then covering them up.

DIY Built In Bookcase

I decided to dress the bookcase up a bit with some molding. I used door case molding at the bottom and the top of the unit, and some decorative molding on the front at both sides and the middle where the two units meet.


DIY Built In Bookcase

To add the molding to the bottom I simple laid it alongside the front of the bookcase and marked the length with a pencil.


DIY Built In Bookcase

When working with mitre cuts I always mark which way I want the cut to go with a pencil.


DIY Built In Bookcase

This way I don’t get confused when I get to the mitre box. And believe me that can easily happen.


DIY Built In Bookcase

Then I did the molding for the side the same way. I repeated this for the top of the unit. I nailed the molding in place with 1″ finishing nails using poly filla where needed.


DIY Built In Bookcase

Here’s a view of the bottom of the bookcase with the molding installed and before I painted over the poly filla at the back of the bookcase. You can also see the decorative molding that trims out the fronts of the bookcase. (I forgot to take this picture before the bookcase was filled.)

To install the decorative molding I just measured the length from the bottom molding to the top molding, cut the pieces to length using my mitre box, and nailed them in place with 1″ finishing nails.


DIY Built In Bookcase

Here’s a view of the top of my bookcase after the molding was installed and before the decorative molding was in place.


DIY Built In Bookcase

To give my bookcase more stability I attached it to the wall with small L brackets. I screwed two brackets on each of the two top shelves so they wouldn’t be seen.


DIY Built In Bookcase

This is where my electric drill suddenly stopped working. We made a trip to Home Depot and I bought a Ridgid Lithium Ion Drill and Impact Driver set that was on sale and I just love the drill. It has a light that comes on automatically when you use it. This is an awesome feature that I never knew I was missing. I’m not sure what I’ll use the impact driver for, but we’ll see.


DIY Built In Bookcase

And here’s my finished built in bookcase. I added some hooks to the side so I could hang a 3 piece set of thrifted metal containers.


DIY Built In Bookcase

This is one of the longest posts I’ve written for just one project. When I was building it I didn’t realize how many steps were actually involved because I was just busy doing it.

I should definitely add that I’m no expert when it comes to carpentry, and any expert who reads this post would agree with that I’m sure. I just learn things by doing, and because I don’t always have the proper tools I just figure things out as I go. I’m one of those people who finds it difficult to pay someone to do something that I think I can do myself… and I like the feeling of accomplishment that DIY brings.

I never worry about projects being perfect. It’s so easy to touch up an ooops. If I worried too much about it, I’d probably be afraid to try anything. I think perfection is highly over rated.

To me a bookcase is just a box with two sides and a top and a bottom. It’s quite easy to add some shelves for storage to the box, and then why not add some moldings to decorate the box. It’s really that simple when you think about it. All that’s required is a little patience, OK… a lot of patience. But it’s sooo worth it… to me anyway. I love knowing that I built it myself.

Thanks so much for reading!


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  1. WOW. That looks great. I am really impressed with your skills. I can't believe how beautifully you coped the book case to fit with the baseboard. It looks perfect. You really are skilled.

    1. Thanks so much Amy! It was a challenge, but I'm very happy with the results. It's amazing what can be accomplished with a few tools and a lot of patience. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I am certainly impressed!

    I have never tried to do this from scratch, but we did build in some TEchline ones that we had had for a long time, attaching them to the wall and trimming them out. The new owners of that house loved them!

    1. Thanks very much! There's something about built in pieces that I've always loved… they just have a different feel than their freestanding counterparts. Thanks so much for stopping by!

    1. Thanks so much Audra! I hope at least some of the tutorial made sense. lol. Sometimes it's easier to do the building than it is to do the explaining. I appreciate you stopping by!

  3. I have been wanting thoses book shelfs in my home for so long. Do you make house calls.

    1. I wish I could Trish! But you don't have to build them yourself to get a built in look… you could just trim out any bookshelf with moldings to make it look built in. That could look great!

    1. Thanks Danni! I couldn't do without my power tools, but I have to admit I'm still irrationally afraid of our circular saw. It freaks me out a little.

  4. Tuula, you did a GREAT job! A project like that is something I look at and freak out about! LOL You give me hope… πŸ™‚

  5. Oh that is fantastic!! Seriously – you've got to have some major crafty genes in you to make that. It looks so great! I need something like that in our office asap. Maybe I'll try to DIY it.

    1. Thanks so much Rachel! If you do decide to DIY it, don't hesitate to ask me any questions. I'm not an expert, but I'm happy to help any way I can. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Wow, Tuula! This looks really good. I just love built ins, now you have me thinking. Hubby might not be so happy about it…LOL

    I'm having a GOOGLE + Social hop. I'd love for you to hop on over, grab a button and link up your Google +. If you don't have Google + it's ok, come link up your blog or favorite post.


    I'm also looking for Pinterest Pinners to feature every week beginning in January. If you are on Pinterest and are interested in being featured come link up! Who knows you might meet some other great pinners and gain a few great ideas.


  7. You did a great job! I see so many projects where people create built ins from cheap, premade shelves. How many times do you see people doing it from scratch? I'm really impressed!

    1. Thank you so much! It was a big project, but I'm very happy that I did it myself. Power tools can be a girl's best friend. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  8. It looks wonderful! I would love to learn to build but haven't had the time yet to pursue it. It's definitely on my list though.

    1. Thanks so much Rose! I'm not able to build things as much as I'd like, but I do enjoy it. Power tools can be a girl's best friend.

  9. Tuula, You did an awesome job on the built in bookcase for your craft room! Thanks so much for sharing at Simple & Sweet Fridays. So Creative!


  10. Beautiful! I love seeing projects like this – makes me want to get out the power tools and tackle it myself. (Stopping by from Kathe with an E blog hop!)

  11. What a gorgeous bookcase and I am so impressed that you built it yourself–well done, Tuula! The moulding on it is a pretty touch, and I love how you dealt with the bookcase fitting in properly with your baseboards. It's hard to make all those curved lines and cuts, but yours turned out beautifully!

  12. Wow, your bookcase looks amazing! You put a lot of hard work into it and it was worth of every minute of it. It looks perfect. Thank you so much for sharing at A Bouquet of Talent this week. So thrilled to have you share. Have a wonderful weekend. πŸ™‚


  13. All I can say is WoW! That is amazing. Thank you for sharing this at the Make it Pretty Monday party at The Dedicated House. Hope to see your prettiness again on Monday. Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

    1. Thanks very much Sharon! It was a big project for me, but I have to admit that I'm pretty happy with the finished bookcase. Thanks for stopping by!

  14. You've been busy and your space is really shaping up!

    Thank you for partying with the Wildly Original Crowd.
    <3 Christina at I Gotta Create!

  15. wow! you don't give yourself enough credit! great project!!!
    catching you!

  16. Thank you SO MUCH for doing the step by step tutorial. I too have a 1890 home (old Victorian farm house) and we are working on a number of projects. This tutorial will be a big help. I am currently trying to solve a problem with a DIY solution but struggling with visualizing & designing it. At one time the original front door of our 1890 home was boarded over (have no idea why) and they cut out a new door from one of the windows in the kitchen… The door is still there (we can open it). I want to take the door out and create some kind of built in cabinet…(something like your bookcase here) with some shelves to hold cookbooks & dishtowels, with a broader about waist high desk-like surface where it goes deeper where the door was, among other things. (it is in a short hallway between kitchen & dining room) and it faces a set of stairs to our "in process" master bedroom.. Picturing something like a tall bakers rack…can go 8 feet up. would be great if the bottom could be open and hold snow boots…but putting a "bottom" would stablize it better…It will be 8 feet tall, and just 2 inches shy of 5 feet wide (after 8'x1"x 8" put on the sides…so it would be 8" deep on the edges and deeper (where the door was) by 4-6 inches depending on how thick the insulation I use. (it's 7" deep right now). Your tutorial helped me visualize a lot better. Thanks!

  17. Apart from the open shelf concept, I like the idea that he provided some form of storage on the sides, to make the entire shelving unit look unique and interesting. I think the storage solutions on the sides just blended well with the color of the wall of the room. It provided some brightness to it and it just blended in well.

  18. Tuula, your bookcases came out so great!! I just tackled my first bookcase project using Ikea bookcases and building them in, but now that I have a little more courage I think next time I want to build them from scratch like you did. Thanks so much for your very detailed tutorial, I will bookmark this post for next time!

  19. I am so impressed! You did them from scratch! Is the MDF easier to work with that regular wood lumber?
    Thank you for the detail tutorial.

    1. For me working with wood and MDF is pretty much the same. The main difference is that when working with MDF you definitely have to pre-drill the holes for the screws so it doesn't split, but I always do that with wood too just to be on the safe side. I chose to work with MDF for this bookcase because it was less expensive. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.

  20. Just to let you know your webpage appears a little bit unusual in Safari on my laptop using Linux

    1. Thanks for letting me know. I just recently moved my blog from blogger to wordpress so some techy things will take a little time to work out. Thanks for the heads up.