Built-in Bookshelves

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Project by Peter Alkema posted 07-08-2018 06:07 PM 971 views 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hi guys so we had this nook in the wall of a reception room just off our patio which I had always thought would be perfect for some fitted shelves. My wife had found a design she liked (of course on Pinterest) and eventually got around to doing some plans and getting the space ready in about March this year but then I had some other projects get in the way and after putting the spacers in top and bottom the whole project stalled a bit.

Then we decided to put our house on the market and suddenly I had to finish it within a week which I decided was possible and put in 4 consecutive late nights after work to get it done. Luckily I had ordered all the material pre-cut so I just needed to assemble in the workshop and them mount in place. One slight problem was that although our patio doors opened wide enough to get the assembled carcass through I had not checked the gates in the garden so I had to make a decision to literally cut off the bottom section to get it through and re-assemble once inside – a bit of a time-consuming mistake unfortunately.

Also the walls on our old English style country home were not exactly regular so there was quite a bit to fit it in and make it look regular around the edges. I had stepped down the widths of the trimming from the outer to the shelves to the 3 verticals so I thought proportionately it worked reasonably well. I did the jointing with dowels which I haven’t done much off (prefer pocket hole joinery) but it worked well – especially as I made a purpose-built jig so I didn’t have to measure up each joint. Its so interesting if you keep an open mind when designing and constructing – I originally thought I would have to do two jigs because on the inside verticals the shelves come in from both sides, so the holes would have to be offset. But then I realised if I drilled 4 holes in one go on each joining surface then I would only use two when actually building and the remaining two from the other side as needed – this saved hours of time.

Also the design of the bookshelves only works because it was supported from all four outer sides by the edging to fit it into the wall. All I literally needed for the actual assembly was the 6 shelves and 3 vertical sections – the strength comes from the floor, ceiling and 2 side walls. However because it isn’t rigid it requires accurate positioning and ensuring left and right edges are parallel with the walls. Also I redid my measurements quite a few times before actually getting the wood cut – it would have been a real problem if any inaccuracies in the construction meant I could not fit it in the edging if this was done too tight – so I left a centimetre to play with all round (which I needed!) I just hid this with the wide edging and of course there was no margin on the bottom where it rested.

Oh and I was to hasty not to make a plan for the light switch – I just assumed I could get access to the wiring above the light in the ceiling and re-route it to another switch. Turns out there is a concrete slab and I needed to cut through, get access to the switch and run the wires round to the side of the bookshelves and mount a new switch on the inside of the 3rd shelf down. Luckily I left enough space behind the assembly and on the left to be able to put a piece of wire around and then some string which I used to pull the electrical wiring through. About an hour before the first people were due to come look at the house I realised I must have blown that whole section of the house and we were stressing a bit but then we figured out the problem and the lights came on!

I had done 2 coats of enamel white / 45% gloss without primer which was also only just drying as I put all the books on so some of them have stuck down a bit – never a good idea to rush for a deadline, but it also means you get the project done!! Oh and the books were largely what I had been keeping in boxes for a bout 5 years as guess what – we didn’t have enough bookshelf space for them, but now we do…… :-)

-- Just published my first book - Woodworking for Everyone -

2 comments so far

View ChrisK's profile


2046 posts in 3859 days

#1 posted 07-08-2018 06:33 PM

Really nice built in. Looks great. Nice work.

-- Chris K

View woodbutcherbynight's profile


6069 posts in 3186 days

#2 posted 07-09-2018 05:17 AM

Nice work.

-- Live to tell the stories, they sound better that way.

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