How to Build a Ladder Bookcase

Assembling the Parts Step 1

Edge-glue together the same-size pairs of stock (B, C, D, E) to make the shelves. Be sure the pieces are flush on the ends, then clamp them together with bar clamps. Let the glue squeeze-out dry, then pare it off with a sharp chisel.

Step 2

When the glue is dry, remove the clamps. Sand the faces of all the parts. Attach the back to each shelf with glue and 4d finishing nails into predrilled holes. Then attach the sides the same way.

Step 3

Sand the sides of all the project pieces and slightly round all the edges. Then, refer to the dimensions in the side view and measure along the bottom of each shelf side from the back to mark where the bottom edges will meet the back of the rail.

Step 4

Place the assembly template on the outside of a rail, flush with the bottom and sides. Scribe the top of the template. Put a scrap of 1x4 against the template and scribe that. Repeat until you have laid out where each shelf side will cross the rail.

Step 5

Lay out the screw hole positions as shown in the drawing. Clamp the assembly template to the inside of the rail, flush at top and bottom. Position the shelf against the template and align the mark on the bottom of the shelf to the back of the rail. Clamp the shelf to the rail.

Step 6

Set a stop on the drill to 2 inches, and predrill 1/8-inch-diameter holes through the rail into the shelf side. Use a 1/2-inch spade bit to counterbore the holes for the screw hole buttons. Attach the rail to the bottom shelf side with #8x1-5/8-inch flathead wood screws.

Step 7

Clamp the pattern in the next position and repeat the process until you have attached the four shelves to one rail. Then, use the pattern to lay out screw holes on the other rail, and then clamp it at each position to predrill, counterbore, and attach the rail. (If you don't have a drill stop, use tape on the spade bit to mark how far to counterbore.)

Step 8

Sand off the layout lines on the outside of the rails. Put glue in each counterbore and insert a screw-hole button. Apply two or three coats of finish, and your bookshelf is ready for duty.

Alternate Growth Rings for Gluing

Before you glue the pairs of pieces together to make the shelf bottoms, take a look at the growth rings at the end of the boards. You'll probably notice that the rings curve toward one face of the board. If so, glue the boards with the rings facing up on one board and down on the other. This prevents any tendency for the boards to cup. If the growth rings go straight up and down, you have a stable quartersawn piece -- just put the prettiest sides up.

Sand the Faces: Remove the Planer Marks

It's important to thoroughly sand the board faces to remove the tiny ridges left by the lumber mill's planer. You might not even notice these ridges until finishing highlights them. Start sanding with 80-grit sandpaper on a sander or a sanding block, and then hit the surface again with 150-grit sandpaper.

Hole Layout


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