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June 10, 2008

Building a Bookcase Part IV

In this episode we look at attaching a fixed shelf by two different methods: Biscuit Joinery and with a Stopped Dado Joint.

Next, we look at different ways to reinforce our shelves so they won't sag under the weight that's put on them. We also talk about a cool program that can calulate for you, based on information you put in, whether your shelves are strong enough to support what you intend to put on them.

Finally, we look at how to cut the rabbit joints into the side pieces for the back to fit into so you end up with a nice, clean looking fit.

Questions or comments? Leave them below and I'll get back to you!

Thanks so much for watching, we hope you enjoy!

Here's the link for the Spagulator program mentioned in this episode.

Comments (10)

Jerry France:

Hi Craig:
Always learn something from these videos. Thanks
for your hard work.

(WR) Craig:


Thanks so much Jerry. I'm glad you picked something useful out of the video. It's always nice to hear when I've helped somebody.

Take care,


Shannon Kizer:

I can not wait for the next video. I liked the way you showed the many ways to add the fixed shelf. Thanks for all the great info. In the future could you show the dovetail way to fix the shelf. thank you for your time.

Shannon Kizer

(WR) Craig:


Thanks for your email Shannon. The thing that is almost always true with woodworking is, there's usually several different ways to perform any given task. The tricky part is deciding which way works best for what you want it to do!

I'm glad you enjoyed the video!


Thomas Ankrum:

For any bookcase one most consider where it's going. In most homes the base board tends to be the one thing that will keep a bookcase from being flush with the wall. If I were to build the bookcase, or any bookcase for my home I'd have to cut a notch in the back that is likely to look very ugly. Any suggestions?

(WR) Craig:


Getting the bookcase flush with the wall will give you a more "built-in" look, but it's not necessary. In fact, the bookcases that I built in the videos, are installed in my daughter's bedroom with about 3/4" distance from the wall. I anchored them to the wall with a 3/4" x 3" x 36" filler board The filler board is placed below the top against the wall and is screwed through the top and into the filler board where it won't be seen because of the height of the cases. The baseboard in the bedroom is 3/4" think so there is a uniform gap from top to bottom.

Now, if you want the book cases to look built-in then the best thing to do would be to remove the baseboard where the cases will sit against the wall. You won't install the base molding to the cases as you build them, rather install the cases against the wall with the baseboards removed. Once installed, add the same base molding back to the wall and then work your way around the bookcases using the same molding, just as though they were part of the wall.

You may find that your walls aren't plumb so you may still end up with a gap between the wall and the bookcase. To avoid this you can install a trim piece (ex. cove molding) between the wall and the bookcase or scribe the sides of the bookcase to the wall.

In order to scribe the sides to the wall you will have to have extra material between the side and back. In order to accomplish this you will need to make the rabbit deeper for the back to sit into the sides. About an extra 1/4" should be sufficient.

Hope this helps,


John Mayer:

Loved the videos. Great explanations and demos. We (she) is planning to put 3 - 4 six foot high painted bookcases along one wall. Of course, I'm looking to do it as cheaply but functional (no sagging) as possible. I saw that your cabinets in the parts I - IV had shelf peg holes on the inside. Were those sides purchased with the holes in them or did you drill them? Could you comment a little about different wood options?


Rik Minnich:

Hi Craig,
It's been awhile since I posted anything on your website. I use your video's all the time as references when I get a brain fart. They are all down to earth understandable. I also wanted to take this time to wish You and your Family a Happy Holiday.


I received an email from Nick asking about the process I used in painting the bookcases, so I thought I'd share my answer.


Hey Nick,

Thanks for your email. Painting has never been one of my favorite activities, but my wife wanted them painted, so they did get painted. I've found that the more you can paint before assembly the better. Obviously the bookcases in the videos weren't finished that way. I chose to do them that way because I felt the bare wood would show more detail in the videos. The big problem I've found when painting a project after it's been assembled is paint running in the corners and being too thick in the detail places like molding.

For the bookcases, if you don't want to pre-finish the whole thing before assembly you could simply paint most of the bookcase before the back is added (and obviously paint the back before it's added). I used a paint roller to paint all the flat part and then used a brush to cut in the corners and molding. The trick is to use a good primer for the first coat and lightly sand after it's dry. The next coat of latex will then go on much smoother.

Hope this helps!

Craig Stevens

Amber :

Wonderful post. I learned many interesting things. Thank you)

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