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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone, this is my first post here! I'm a college student going for a cheap book shelf (free standing), but I don't want to buy one of the cheap ones at Walmart / target. So, I figured I'd get a sheet of plywood, cut it, and nail it together. I sketched out a plan on paper and ran into a question, that only the sages could answer. Is 4 foot too wide for a book shelf? College text books (any books) get pretty heavy really quick. I was planning on using 1/2" plywood (pine) I was going to make it 11" deep, the shelves 4' wide (that makes the overall width 49"). And the height overall 47". I was going to put a backing on the back, like 1/4 something cheap, maybe brackets as well. I'll do an actual Google sketch up after I get my rough draft down. Just as an FYI, I do have some woodworking experience as a hobbyist, but I'm not nearly as knowledgeable as you guys. I appreciate any advise.
 

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I would use only ¾" plywood.

I would keep my shelf length 31⅞" or less (in between ends).

I would make the shelf depth 11⅞" or less. This allows getting 8 pieces from 96" (including the ⅛" kerf).

Draw out a rectangle on a piece of paper representing a 4x8, and lay out your pieces to be cut. You could get all the parts from one sheet.









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I would do as C man said. Use 3/4 Ply and look at the number of pieces you can cut that are a little less tan 12 inches. Either 4 or 8 depending if you want it tall or short. Then design you bookcase accordingly. You should end up using most of the sheet.

4 foot is way too long for shelves. You might be better making two separate side by side cases if you want it to be short.

Consider another method to fasten other than nails. I have built some sturdy bookcases using a kreg pocket hole jig and screws.

You might want to consider a face frame on the front to cover your exposed plywood edges. Not only does this improve the appearance but will also help structurally (racking) as does the back. 1/4 ply on the back is sufficient.

You don't mention what tools you have but if cutting the ply with a circular saw then make a simple jig to cut straight lines. Don't try to freehand it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks guys! So, I can't build it tall, I have some guitars hanging on the wall over the spot where the shelves are supposed to go. I like the idea of the front face frame, with a divider in the middle. I may go that route, still keeping the dimensions I originally mentioned. Maybe front frame with 1 x 3's ? 1x4? Tools I have: almost nothing. Drill, hammer, small Ryobi circ saw, some bar clamps. I was planning on getting a jig saw. That jig master looks awesome! But WAY too much money than what I'm willing to invest. I wanted to use 1/2 inch plywood instead of 3/4 to save on weight, and cost. What about 5/8", @ 4 foot wide with a divider in the middle? Strong enough? BTW, no table saw; so the selves will be supported by runners. I'm really not so concerned about the aesthetics. Cost, and functionality is a much bigger concern.
 

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If you want to dado for the shelves, it's not hard with only one more tool than you have. Use the circular saw to cut edges for the dados, and use a cheap chisel to remove the waste between them. Plywood will demolish the edge of your chisel, so you probably don't want to bother with a really good one. Remember that 3/4" plywood isn't actually 3/4" anymore; it's anywhere from 1/64 to 1/16" less. So I'd use a half-inch chisel, so the dados aren't too wide.

The cost savings from half-inch over three-quarter inch ply are pretty minimal, compared to the added strength you get from the thicker stuff. I'd really stick with 3/4" if you can.
 

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I would stick with the 3/4 plywood.

You can use 1x2 for the face frame.

I don't see any need for the jig saw for this project.
I would rather spend the money on a kreg jig kit as shown below.
A good system for beginner joinery.

If you make a simple jig to cut the ply straight, all you need is your circular saw. Or when you buy the plywood you can have them cut it into the widths you need. ie: 11 7/8. Then when you get home you just cut them to length. Or they may cut to length also.

http://www.rockler.com/product.cfm?page=17193&site=ROCKLER
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Ya, I was going to have the store cut as many pieces to size as I could. I don't think I can fit a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood in my scion xB :) After reading up on how to make a circular saw jig, that seems pretty easy. I'll go that route for small cuts the store can't do. So, I was going to put a good amount of weight on the bottom shelf. >60 lbs. probably closer to 70+. I was thinking of making a bottom frame of 2x3, with the 3 side on the ground, and the 2 side facing outwards. The sides of the shelf extending down the sides of the frame, and the bottom shelf laying on top of the frame. Would that add strength / rigidity to the over all structure and bottom shelf? or overkill, just have a board on the bottom.
 

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I was thinking of making a bottom frame of 2x3, with the 3 side on the ground, and the 2 side facing outwards. The sides of the shelf extending down the sides of the frame, and the bottom shelf laying on top of the frame. Would that add strength / rigidity to the over all structure and bottom shelf? or overkill, just have a board on the bottom.
The sides can extend to the floor, and you could just use the ¾" plywood on edge to connect to the ends. You could add one just a bit forward of the rear also, those two would give the bottom shelf all the support you would need. If you want thew look of a recessed toe kick, cut the area out of the bottom front of the end to match up with the amount the front support is recessed.

Or just make a 3" high box from the ¾" plywood, smaller than the size of the floor, so it would be recessed on the ends and the front, and attach to the bottom of the cabinet.






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You might consieder using a Kreg pocket hole plan. If you don't care how it looks a Kreg is an easy way to build something like that. Just make sure you use glue along with the screws.

 

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I was in a similar predicament as you. I was shopping bedroom furniture for my daughter and my wife and I couldn't find anything that looked like it would last that we liked. I decided to make a shoe rack for her for starters. Before the project was done I had a sawstop table saw, mitre saw, 2 routers, router table, PC dovetail jig, dowelmaster jig, clamps, clamps, clamps, chisels, planes, it just gets worse and worse....I guess I'm warning you. The more I learned the deeper I dove in, and I'm glad because I am realizing that the right tool for the right job makes the job quicker, easier and more precise. Every time I would try to "wing" it, I wound up frustrated and wasting wood. This community is an unbelievable resource with so many good talented people that are willing to share secrets and tips, it's been invaluable to me so far and I hope you take advantage of the advice so many people give on here.


So far it has been a satisfying investment and fun when you actually use something you build. Have fun!
 
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