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This page trys to describe the basics of building a simple bookcase.  The plans offered at the bottom of this page can be easily altered to any height or width. This bookcase is 41" tall by 42" wide and was made for my grandson Michael's bedroom. There is a short back to the top shelf to help keep stuff from sliding off and a toe kick under the bottom shelf, cause kids will be standing on it! I used red oak for my shelves, to match other furniture in the room, but, ash, maple, cherry, or any hard wood is fine. I wouldn't recommend pine as it is soft and the joints would tend to get loose and fail.  I won't go into detail on how to cut the shelves and sides to size. I'll start with cutting the "blind dados" that the shelves will fit into.
Make sure you follow all safety precautions that come with your tools. Keep your fingers on your hands!
First we need to set up our stack dado head cutter to 3/4", or more precisely, the thickness of your shelf stock. My stock was just a hair under 3/4" so my joint was sloppy. I needed to remove one of the standard cutters, and replace it with a narrow cutter, then shim up to the correct width with cardboard shims between the cutters. This is done by trial and error. Set up the blade, do a test cut and see if your shelf stock is snug. This is important. So you want to get it right.
 

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Now you want to make sure your cutter is set to a height of 1/4". Then mark the points on the fence where the cutter is above the table. This is so when we cut the dados, the joint won't pass thru to the front of the case, but will stop short of it. Of course if you want to, you can ignore this and just cut your dados all the way thru, thats fine. 
 
Mark 3/4" on the end of the shelf. Depending if your cutting the right side or the left side, you will either drop the shelf onto the cutter at the front line, like the pic to the left, or stop cutting on the back line. Picture what you want to do and make sure you understand, before you make any cuts. 
 
It would be safer to use a feather board here, to apply downward pressure on this rabbit cut. Also notice that there is a piece of wood clamped to the fence. This allows me to cut right next to the fence without damaging the cutters on the metal fence. This cut is along the upper side of the top shelf. 
 
When your done you'll have a series of dados that are 1/4" deep but taper up to the surface in the shape of the cutter. You will need to clean up these areas with a sharp chisel. Don't even think of using a dull one, just go sharpen it or go out and buy a new one! A dull chisel is very dangerous to use, because it takes more force to push it thru the wood. Clamp your piece down so it's not floppin all over the place while you work.
 
Ok this is one of the dados after it's been cleaned up with the chisel. Work slowly and carefully, any "goofs" on this on the upper edge will be visible where the shelf meets the side. Don't try to chop it all out at once, lay out carefully with a pencil what needs to be removed and do a little at a time.
 
 
 
This pic shows roughly how the shelf fits into the sides. It should be a snug fit into the dado to prevent wobbling! 
 
I have a hard time clamping everything at the same time, like Norm does. I work a little slower, and do one shelf at a time. I force the shelf into the dado with bar clamps on the front and back of the shelf  & clamp a framing square to keep things square. On this project i used no screws, only the glue to hold things together. If the joints are tight enough this will work fine. You can always drill thru the sides into the ends of the shelves and cover the screws with plugs.  
UpDate!

You can now buy a handy gizmo thats easier to use for squaring up assemblies like this. You can read more about it here! 

 
 
Here I'm clamping the back to the top shelf. The back fits into it's own rabbit thats let into the side pieces and the top shelf. Not only does this keep things from sliding off the back, it also helps keep the unit from "racking" itself out of square and breaking the glue joints. I did the same with the toe kick under the bottom shelf, only that one is set back from the front.
 
Ok, almost done.
 
 
 
Yup I ran out of clamps here! Had to pull out that old strap clamp! It might not have been a problem if i was using screws with the glue, but since I wasn't using screws, I needed to be sure that I had enough pressure to push the shelves down into the dados. 
Ah....that looks pretty good! 
About 24 bd ft of red oak and a Watco finish.  
It's a nice rigid bookcase, that will last along time in my family. 
To get these plans, please make a $4.75 donation. This will help me cover server and other web costs. You can use Pay-Pal or credit card.  Thank You! 
 
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