A Better Bookcase Design


I wanted to design a bookshelf that met my needs for space to keep different sizes and types of media in one cabinet. I decided on a design that emulates the style of a Charles Limbert piece from the early 20th century. That unit has a main case of standard bookshelf depth and two shallower case sections, one on either side.

The appeal is the ability to store my larger, hardcover books in the main section and my paperbacks, CDs and DVDs, along with a few knickknacks, on the side shelves. A common problem with standard bookshelves is that paperbacks and small books sink too far into the shelf and are easily overlooked.

T360 drawing style_OKhis design is cost-effective, easy to build and attractive. It employs the use of plywood wrapped with a solid face frame and solid shelf edges. The cost of the birch plywood was $65 for a single 3/4″-thick sheet, and $35 for a sheet of 1/4″-thick  plywood used for the back. I bought about 20 board feet of soft maple “shorts”, which are about 6′ long, for $2.38 per board foot. The longest pieces in the case fit within those measurements, so there was  no need to buy excess wood that would not be used.

The loose shelves of this design have a solid wood edge that is 3/8″  thick. The plywood edges at the front are covered by a solid wood face frame. This design is a plywood box with solid wood covering the exposed edges. By minimizing the solid wood used, the final product is lighter and less expensive than if were made entirely out of solid wood.

The bottom and fixed shelf of the bookcase fit into dados, and the back wings of the small side sections are rabbeted to fit on the back edge of the main case sides. There’s also enough space to attach the 1/4″ back. The adjustable shelves rest on pegs in 1/4″-diameter holes.

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16 thoughts on “A Better Bookcase Design

  1. Very nicely conceived, executed and presented. Enjoyed it very much.
    Thanks Don

  2. A very neat design. And this time a very handsome young man to watch, too.

    As for the finished project: I would have loved to stay more with the original wood color and not hide it below this dark brown finish. But that’s probably just my – European – taste.

    °-° °-° Happy Holidays everyone. °-° °-°

    – Margy

    PS: I hope you will take the time to properly introduce this good looking young man. Everyone knows the founders Chuck and Robert and Glen (Did I get your names right? I hope so! 🙂 ).
    But… Hunter Lang? I’ve not read this name before. Do an interview with him. I want to know which kind of furniture he likes the most, if he loves doing finishing, hand tools versus power tools, bees wax versus spray lacquer – and all that jazz. What kind of projects and articles and presentations to expect in future. Woodworking, after all, is all about the people! Their tastes, their skills, their circumstances.

    PPS: Can you already tell about your audience? Steve Ramsey, I am sure you know his name, recently anounced only 39% of his viewers reside in the US. That’s why he will release all of his plans in both inches and millimetres. For some parts in the world inches are just plain wei… I mean uncommon! I can’t read your sheet list! That’s a pity. I sure won’t subscribe to an inch-only-magazine, sorry!

    One last thing: The PDF version seems good enough. But the font in the pictures that show the plans is hardly readable in the browser. Looks ugly and blurry when viewing in the browser. I think you used the same font in the PDF version and it looked just fine there.

    1. One should learn to read inches and feet. The metric system is cumbersome and impractical,
      not suited to real world woodworking.

      1. This is an american publication….We use inches and feet!!!,,,Well,WEI,Mr.Marge.

    2. While this is an American publication, the rest of the world uses the metric system. While it is true that these plans are done in imperial there are easy conversion calculators online. I personally love this design and will be looking at either making one as the plans are drawn or make some alterations.

  3. Dad, you have to be proud…

    1. For sure. Form following function; nice. Well written.

  4. Safety glasses and ear protection when using power tools?

    1. I agree. There’s no excuse for that on a website that is supposed to be educating it’s readers.

  5. I am so tired of the the safety trolls. Can you just go and ruin someone else’s coming out party?

    1. Amen, if folks have to constantly be told about safety, they should neither drive a car, walk outside, be in a woodshop.

  6. I enjoy learning. I do not mind if a print is in inches or millimeters. How often do you make something to the exact measurements? It is not American or European, it is about building. Buy a calculator and convert it to what ever you want. 1 inch is 25.4 millimeters.

  7. Very nice case. I haven’t seen this design before and it has really captured my interest. Looking for a place to put it in my house right now.

    Great presentation and interesting techniques. Thank you.

    As for the safety police…life is dangerous…worry about yourself

  8. I love the design of this bookcase and it’s on my short list of designs I may try for myself. One dilemma I have is how to modify it if I’m going to set two or more cases side by side. I have a couple ideas but was wondering if the 360 staff could comment. Thanks guys!

    1. Ryan,

      We’re having a bit of a disagreement about what you’re asking. One of us thinks you are talking about having two (or more) bookcases in the same room but want to differentiate the look, while the other thinks you mean abutting two (or more) bookcases together. Depending on which you actually mean, the advice will be different.

  9. Any Limbert interpretation I am bound to like, and this is no exception. I am impressed with the rich finish for a plywood case. Breaking out the brad nailer must really speed up the assembly process.
    Nicely done.

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