How to make a bookshelf

I am a wannabe builder.  If you following me for a while you see all of the building projects I do.   I love Ana White to pieces and admire her can-do attitude when it comes to creating her own furniture.  I so desire to build my own furniture one day but my confidence level is low when it comes to this. All that measuring perfectly scares me.  However, my friend asked me to make her some bookshelves, and she is so easy going I figured I would try my hand at making some custom bookshelves for her living room.  If they aren’t perfect she would totally just roll with it.  So I asked Ana if she would tweak the directions for the Kentwood bookshelves to be 2″ wide by 7″ tall.  Here I am all hot, sweaty and proud of the bookshelves I made.

 The inspiration for the shelves were the Kenwood Bookshelves from Restoration Hardware.

restoration hardware kentwood

I spent about $60 on wood and screws for each bookcase, which was pretty good considering they are solid wood and fit the specifications I needed. I followed Ana’s instructions exactly when it came to the building but here was my cut list.

CUT LIST FOR 83 1/2″ HEIGHT

2 – 1×12 @ 80 3/4″ (sides)
4 – 1×2 @ 11 1/4″ (side trim)
4 – 2×2 @ 82 3/4″ (legs)
4 – 2×2 @ 21 1/2″ (top supports and bottom shelf trim)
6 – 1×12 @ 21 1/2″ (shelves)
10 – 1×2 @ 21 1/2″ (shelf trim)
6 – 1×3 @ 26″ (top)
7 – 3 1/2″ wide planking or 1x4s @ 80″ long (back)

For those of you who build and don’t have a Kreg Jig it is a must-have.  You can get the basic one for about $100.  It certainly made making this bookshelf so much easier than it could have been.

building with a kreg jig

This is my third “build-from-scratch” project I have done. I did the Laundry Dresser and the Raised Cedar Garden Boxes. I will say each time you learn something new and it gets easier and easier.  The second bookshelf was better than the first.

kentwood bookcasesmake your own wood bookshelves

Next, I tried that tea/vinegar stain combo. It was really strange but it was fun to try.  I am not sure I will use it again just because it is really unpredictable the color it will turn.  But it was a fun experiment.

I started by first painting on some strong English Breakfast Tea.  It changed the color just a bit.

tea stained bookshelves

Then I soaked a bunch of steel wool pads in white vinegar overnight.  Then I painted over the tea with the vinegar/steel wool combo.  It immediately turned into an ashy gray/brown stain.  I thought it was pretty cool.

tea and vinegar stain

pine bookshelves

Then I took a hammer, nails, and sandpaper to it to add some character.  My friend absolutely loves them and they look perfect in the spot where we have them in her living room.

This is a repost from 2012. This post still continues to be hugely popular here at Infarrantly Creative because people STILL NEED bookshelves! Am I right?

Do you have the building bug?  Check out some more of the builds I have done…

Built-in Mudroom Lockers

how to build mudroom lockers DIY

 Laundry Basket Dresser

laundry basket square

Pallet Wood Planter Boxes

diy planter box

Huge Garage Shelves

garage shelf plans

*This post contains affiliate links.

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83 Comments

  1. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. You amaze me & are so inspiring!!! Thank you!! The bookcases look fantastic. Great job!!!

  2. Great job Beckie, they look great! What an awesome thing you are doing for that family. I’m so proud of you for your building skills and for your big heart!

  3. Awesome! – I was thinking about having new shelves recently but I doubted I could do them myself, since I’m also more a wannabe than a builder.. but this was really motivating to read and see! Great!

  4. Your shelves look AWESOME!!!! They look like something you would buy in a fancy upscale furniture place. Love them! Great job.

  5. Looks great!! I just started my first project from Ana White, the closet organizer. Hopefully mine will turn out as nice as yours.

  6. Beckie, I sooo proud of you! You did a great job. I just love it when women grab the drill and hammer and make something wonderful. Make sure you note on the bookcases somewhere that you made it and the date. These could be passed down for generations and it would be extremely special for a young woman to know her great, great grandmother made them.
    I have been working with the tea and vinegar too, trying to understand the results. Sometimes you get brown, sometimes grey and if your not careful sometimes black. {Which I kind of liked}

  7. So beautiful. I could picture these on both sides of my TV and with her design for a TV cabinet underneath. Wow, who needs a hubby when we could DIY all on our own.

  8. Get out! These are fantastic and I can’t believe it took only $60, I totally need to learn how to build stuff but am so scared to try. You have inspired me! If you have a chance I would love for you to link up on I Freakin Did it Friday over @ Miss Information

  9. They are awesome Beckie great job!! And I love the color they turned out. Looks like a very rich cedar. I need to build stuff too. And maybe I would if our garage wasn’t a disaster. Ugh.

  10. Emily you think your garage is a mess:) you should see mine…whew!! It overwhelms my husband daily! Glad you love them as much as I do! They are perfect for this families home, and I’m pretty proud of myself or actually building something from plans! Toot, Toot!

  11. Your bookcases are Terrific! I’m new to Pinterest and am loving checking out all the wonderful blogs. I read your post about people not commenting and sadly have to admit-although I have enjoyed many of the ideas and how too’s on the blogs- this is my first comment. I have about 100 blogs that I have added to my favorites. I am adding yours too. Thank you for sharing!

  12. Darlene 🙂 You totally just made my day! It’s so nice when someone new likes your work and starts following you. This is my passion and I am truly blessed that I get to do this job daily {happy dance} Glad you like the bookcases! I’m not the best builder, from plans…..But this one was pretty easy! Let me know if you try any of my projects and post a pic!

  13. Oh Beckie…
    I have been following you for a while now, and have always been truly inspired by your amazing talent…and this just reinforces all that inspiration! Goodonya, for creating such gorgeous shelves…and for making all of us ladies with messy garages feel “normal”
    Jess

  14. Jess, So glad you like them and thank you for following me and loving what I do. Without fans like you, this wouldn’t be possible:)

  15. I absolutely love the way these turned out. I want to start building my own furniture soooo bad. I refuse to buy furniture that isn’t solid wood – and that makes furniture is quite pricey so I haven’t bought any furniture. Ha! I really want to start building furniture but I don’t have the necessary tools. I bet you can guess what I am asking for for Christmas! =]

  16. I get so nervous when it comes to building things from a {plan}, I like to design more in my head. However, I LOVE these bookshelves and I’m glad you like too!

  17. AWESOME job! I build a farmhouse table for my first project (and I was five months pregnant at the time). I can’t WAIT for the weather to warm up a bit so I can make more stuff 🙂 Bookshelves are definitely on my must do list (I swear my books procreate like bunnies).

  18. Very cool bookshelves.

    I need something like this flanking my fireplace. Since each side of the fireplace measures out differently (by an inch – go figure – what was the builder thinking?) the only way I’m going to get what I want is to custom build.

  19. Ugh! I hate that! Yep building them is the way to go. If you aren’t afraid to tackle it it really is an easy build with the Kreg Jig.

  20. These are grrrrreat. I am so inspired! I need one of those in my house! just about the perfect dimensions.

    I have *never, ever, ever, never* built anyyything.

    Where do I start? Would you please list (a very detailed list) of exactly what tools, or benches, or whatnot I would need to be able to complete such a project? I am clueless. CLUELESS. Any books/sites that are a must? And do I have to cut the wood myself or can I purchase it in those dimensions? Where do I buy wood?

    Please impart your wisdom. I feel this is a hobby I am going to need to undertake and eventually master. Life is calling! 🙂

    Thanks again. they’re awesome. you’re awesome!

  21. {Giggle} Thanks, Monica! You are too sweet! Honestly, I would recommend checking out Ana-white.com. She has a list of basic stuff you need to get started. In my opinion, a chop saw and cordless drill are essentials.

  22. Wow! Impressive. I LOVE these and the fact that you make it seem possible for anyone to do. I LOVE the idea of building & making things but have always lacked the confidence to just do it. It all seems a bit intimidating but I am now inspired to try. We moved 4years ago and my books are still in boxes. My husband insists he’s going to build the bookshelves and refuses to buy any however my stash of books is growing (thanks to half price bookstore just around the corner….LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that store). Wouldn’t he be surprised to see the new bookshelves I built when he comes home from vacation this weekend. I would love to be able to complete this project before he comes home. How long did it take you…can the tasks be broken down into several days? What is a Kreg Jig and can I complete the project with a nail or screw gun instead? Thanks for sharing photos of your work in progress! The final product looks amazing!

  23. Thanks, Michele. The Kreg Jig does make it easier, but, yes, you can use nails and screws if you want to. I did not complete it all in one day. I would say to give yourself a few days to get it done.

  24. Hi Beckie,
    I am trying the tea staining method and it seems so simple, but I have a problem. I can not get my steel wool to oxidize at all. It has been two days now and I am getting nothing from it. What am I doing wrong? At first I had it in a plastic container then I moved it to a glass jar and put a lid on it. My husband even added nails to it. Any advice would be great.
    Heidi

  25. The only thing I can think of is maybe it is the type of steel wool pads you used. I would try buying a different brand. That is all I can advise. Good luck, and let me know what happens.

  26. 🙂 these are exactly what im looking to make when i get my library painted, and now i have the instructions! Thanks a lot! 🙂

  27. Where do you buy your wood from? I purchased some from Home Depot and it was more than $60 a bookcase 🙁 So I’d like to know for future reference. Thanks!

  28. $60 is pretty good for solid wood book shelves. Have you priced the particle board crap in stores? I mean I just looked at a wall unit was $1700 at pottery barn. OYE! I could build the whole thing for a couple hundred bucks in lumber.

  29. Thank you for posting your efforts! I am in the process of building this now, though we expanded each shelf to be 25″ wide instead of 21.5”.

    On your cut list I noticed you have:

    8 – 1×2 @ 21 1/2″ (shelf trim)

    Since you have 5 shelves and the trim is on the front and back of the shelf, should you have 10 pieces of shelf trim?

    FYI to potential builders, we are getting our lumber from Home Depot near Leesburg VA and I will end up paying ~$140.00 per shelf. We are using a mix of preium/common pine.

  30. Yes, you are right! I will get that fixed in my tutorial asap. Thank you so much for bringing that to my attention and sharing your dimensions and cost with others.

  31. these look great!!! I’m hoping to make some similar to this but more like 5′ tall. Would you possibly help me convert your measurements to a bookshelf for 5′?! I’d really appreciate it!!!

  32. Awesome Becky – i too was not very confident when starting out, but built the confidence the more projects i finished, not only do we save money but its also tremendously awarding to be able to create! Sure you will agree?! Hope for you there will be many many more projects!

  33. Thank you so much, and, yes, there have been! Since moving into my new house, I have already built-in mudroom lockers, a stone fireplace surround and wood mantel, and an industrial hallway cart. They are all on the blog if you want to check them out!

  34. Hello, I totally dig these shelves and plan on building some to your specs this weekend. Can you give me an idea of what kind and how many screws I will need. I’m going to pick up one of the Kreg jigs as well.

    Thanks so much for posting this.

  35. Love these! I want to try to make one. Do you have a shopping list? I notice that you only have a cut list. Would it be the same shopping list as the plans for Ana White’s Kentwood bookshelf?

  36. I’d like to make this in 90″ tall and 32″ across. Do the legs need to be taller if the bookshelf is taller, or can they be the same ratio as the ones here?

  37. They can be the same ratio, but with anything that tall I would definitely mount the shelves into the wall with an L bracket before you start putting books in. I hope that helps!

  38. I am thankful that you scaled Ana’s plan up to a 7′ version!

    I have a question/concern about the price quotes I’ve seen here and on a number of other sites (Rogue, Ana White, DIYstincly made, etc). You quoted “for $60” on this post, but getting all the supplies from my local Big Box store AND getting a 10% discount on the products AND living in a comparatively low tax area (8.5%) the shelves cost me $82.66 without factoring in the steel wool and tea. However, because my first store didn’t have 2x2s and my second store only had the shabbiest 2x2s I’ve ever laid eyes on I ultimately went went select grade pine 2x2s, which brought my total up to $119.13 (again leveraging a 10% discount and a comparatively low tax rate).

    So . . . what I would like to learn here is: where are you getting your wood?

  39. The Kreg Jig is a must have. Makes things a lot simpler. Love the book cases and I am huge fan of that stain.

  40. Stumbled across this through a google search…sorry if this is a little late. Do you know the weight limit for each shelf? Could I stack heavy textbooks on something like this? Thanks!

  41. Instead of tea one may want to try a stain using chewing tobacco. This is what was used in early Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries. It makes an antique color and patina that is not matched by modern stains.

  42. Hi! These turned out so nicely! I have a 4 ft tall x 4 ft 11 inches wide space that id like to put two miniature versions of this shelf in, but I’m struggling to come up with a cut list for my local hardware store. Would you mind helping me?

  43. Ok, there’s no way you bought wood that good for less than $60. That much wood for one of those bookcases is minimum twice that amount. What’s the catch?

  44. I’m sorry if it’s listed on here I am just not seeing it lol can you tell me your shopping list? I’m super excited to try this. They look great!

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