Dwell Made Presents: DIY Modern Bookcase

Build a simple, modern bookcase from a single sheet of plywood using this step-by-step video and guide.

In this episode of Dwell Made, Mike Montgomery of Modern Builds creates a modern bookcase from a single sheet of ¾" pine plywood.

Key Products 

1 Sheet of ¾" plywood 

⅜" Oak Dowel 

Cool Mint Paint by Behr 

Minwax Polycrylic

Wood Glue

Step 1: Cut Plywood to Size 

The bookcase begins as a roughly 30"x 30" box. The cut list included should give you all the necessary info.

Step 2: Edge Band 

You can either buy or make your own edge banding. Either way, make sure your edge banding is the same wood species as you plywood. Otherwise they won’t match, and that will look weird.

Step 3: Make the Box 

I recessed my screws with a ⅜" drill bit so that I could could hide them with a ⅜" oak dowel. The glue alone could hold the box together, but using screws allows me to attach the pieces and keep moving without waiting for the glue to dry.

Step 4: Plug Holes 

After the box was assembled, I inserted the aforementioned oak dowels into the recesses with a bit of wood glue. Once it dried, I used a flush trim saw to trim them.

Step 5: Make Shelves 

The shelves interlock with a long half-lap joint centered in each piece. I cut out a section the same width as the plywood on opposite sides of both the vertical and horizontal divider. These voids interlock to produce an impressively strong joint.

Step 6: Install Shelves 

I used a 12" speed square to make sure I screwed my shelves in square to my box, using recessed screws like before. 

Step 7: Sand 

Sand to 220 grit. 

Step 8: Rout Chamfer 

As an optional step, I used my trim router to create a chamfer on the outer edge of the shelf. This makes the visible plywood on the face of the bookcase look more intentional and elegant. 

Step 9: Build the Base 

The base uses the same joinery method as the shelves, just on a smaller scale. In the video I used a 1 x 3 piece of pine. In hindsight, I would have liked to use a piece of the plywood to match the rest of the case. The visible plys of the plywood would match the visible plys on the face of the bookcase. I centered the base to the case and glued it in place.

Step 10: Paint 

Plywood, especially pine plywood, has a distinct A side and B side. The show face (A) is much nicer than the B face, which is typically hidden within a cabinet. To hide these ugly faces, I painted the inside of the vertical pieces with a Cool Mint paint by Behr. It’s important to make sure your pieces are oriented the correct way during the builds so that none of your "B" faces are facing out.

Step 11: Finish Them Up 

I finished the piece with 2 coats of satin Polycrylic by Minwax.

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