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How to Build Freestanding Open Shelves

How to Build Freestanding Open Shelves

Complement your household decor with a customized open shelving unit. A well-designed bookcase has lots of uses besides book storage. You can use it to display special three-dimensional pieces, collections and even framed artwork. With their open backs, two or three units together can also be used as a room divider. You can make one unit or more — this is an easy-to-build project.

Skill Level: Intermediate
  1. Step 1 Cut


    From the 5/8" MDF, rip 6 pieces measuring 8' x 16".

  2. Step 2 Create a Box

    Create a Box

    From the 16" x 8' pieces, cross cut 2 pieces at 58-3/4" for the sides and 2 pieces at 32" for the top and bottom. These will form the outer box for your bookcase, measuring 32" x 60". Predrill and countersink screw holes. Apply glue to a 5/8" strip at outer edges of the 32" pieces and butt joint them onto the top and bottom edges of the longer pieces.

  3. Step 3 Cutting Shelves and Dividers

    From the remaining 16" x 8' pieces, cross cut 3 pieces at 30-3/4" and 12 at 13-7/8".

  4. Step 4 Adding Strength

    Drill and countersink 4 holes in the 2 30-3/4" boards. Add glue to one side of each board — a roller makes the job easy. Clamp one board to the inside of the box top and one to the inside of the bottom. Screw them in place.

  5. Step 5 Adding Shelf Supports

    Adding Shelf Supports

    On 2 of the 13-7/8" boards, drill and countersink 4 holes. Glue one side of each and clamp to the bottom sides, butted directly on top of the boards you added in Step 4. Screw in place. These support your first shelf.

  6. Step 6 Adding the First Shelf

    Using a 30-3/4" board, add glue to a 5/8" wide strip at each end of one side. Place this board, glue side down, on top of the 2 side supports. Drill, countersink and screw boards in place from the outside of the box, forming your first shelf. Repeat Steps 5 and 6 to create your remaining 2 shelves.

  7. Step 7 Making Vertical Dividers

    Making Vertical Dividers

    First cut 2 spacer blocks measuring 9-1/2" x 16", to help you position the verticals. Starting at the bottom left of your box, place one spacer atop the bottom of the box and one under the first shelf. Now glue the ends of a 13-7/8" board and fit it against the end of the spacers. Drill, countersink and screw the board in place through the horizontal surfaces. Lay your box on its side and repeat Step 7. Add the remaining verticals, alternating sides for the second and fourth display spaces.

  8. Step 8 Finishing


    Fill all screw holes and visual gaps with wood filler. Sand all surfaces with fine grade sandpaper.

  9. Step 9 Painting


    Prime and paint your bookcase as desired.

What You Need for This Project

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