Tall Bookcase – Office Remodel part 4

So much has happened since I started casually remodeling my office. Casual is the key word there. Not only have I not given it much priority but I’ve also had a few good things happen with life and with the business in the meantime. And with that said, making this bookcase was one step closer towards calling the office remodel complete. If you’re interested in a set of plans for this bookcase click here.

Everything I’ve made for the office so far has been very basic from a design standpoint. I simply do not want to put a lot of time and effort into making fine furniture for this space because I know I have to share it with four of our dogs. This bookcase design is simple as well. It’s a tall bookcase with a fixed shelf dividing the upper and lower areas. In the upper and lower areas are two adjustable shelves. The main joinery method for the bookcase is pocket hole screws and the main material is plywood, specifically 3/4″ PureBond birch plywood. It’s made here in the USA and sold at the Home Depot.

Step one is to break down the sheet of plywood. To start I’m making a full width crosscut with a track saw to remove a small section of material. This kind of cut is possible on a table saw but it’s not easy and can sometimes not be safe due to the size of the sheet and the small amount being removed.

Followed by a nearly full length rip cut. Making a cut like this on a table saw isn’t as sketchy as the last one but with it still being nearly a full sheet it’s another situation where bringing the tool to the material is easier than bringing the material to the tool.

And now the more easily managed pieces can be brought to the table saw. I made a set of plans for this project before I started so the rest of the plywood cuts went by pretty quick.

There are a total of seven horizontal plywood pieces for the bookcase. The three on the right are for the fixed top, bottom, and middle panels and sized a little wider than the four on the left in this image. Those are for the adjustable shelves. They will eventually have solid wood banding installed on them.

Here you can see the importance of having as many horizontal surfaces as possible at the same height. In order to make 8′ long cuts I need to remove the fence on my jointer/planer. Not a big deal :)

Before assembly of the case I got started on the face frame material. All of these pieces will be cut from s4s poplar. Every time I buy s4s (surfaced on 4 sides) lumber a little piece of me cries. The whole point of having machines for milling rough sawn lumber is to save money in the long run. But in this case it was a matter of access to woods and the best source for this build was overpriced s4s poplar. Breaking down these boards starts with crosscutting to final length at my miter saw station.

Followed by ripping the pieces to their final width at the table saw.

While the design of this bookcase is very basic there are a few standard design elements in play. The lower face frame rail was sized to allow for the addition of baseboard moulding in the event that I wanted to add it in the future. At this time I do not. The lower rail is also the widest which will give it more of a stronger foundation appearance. The top rail is the next widest to allow for the addition of crown moulding in the event that I wanted to add it in the future as well. And again, at this time I do not want to add it. And finally the center rail is sized the same as the outer stiles just to tie the sides together.

Pocket hole screws are industry standard for cabinet face frames. Because the ugly appearance of the pocket holes is on the inside nobody will ever see them. And while pocket hole joints aren’t the strongest joint out there they are plenty strong enough for face frame construction. Never use pocket hole joints in situations where wood movement is necessary, like attaching a breadboard end to a table top. For more information about this pocket hole machine I have click here.

Clamping the outside stiles to the workbench makes quick work of assembly. The most annoying part is actually getting out of the way for the camera. Like this shot; I don’t think I would be standing behind the part to screw it together if the camera wasn’t recording :)

The good aspect of recording the build is that I can easily get a helping hand ;)

The back panel will be attached to the case via a rabbet in the side panels. In this case I made the rabbet about 2/3 the thickness of the sides and a little deeper than the thickness of the back panel. I have exact measurements in the plan but in this case I just eyeballed it.

This is the most important step of the build. I call it “screwing up the width of the fixed shelves and therefore needing to remove more material from the side panels to accommodate.” …..it happens.

Assembly of the fixed shelves is just as easy as the face frame. The lower shelf and middle shelf will have the pocket holes facing the ground and the upper shelf will have the pocket holes facing the ceiling. This means a 90 degree chunk of wood can be clamped to the sides to act as a stop block for each shelf. Then the shelf clamped to that chunk of wood. Once everything is secured with clamps the pocket hole screws can be driven home to lock the shelf in place. No fuss and no slipping with this method.

To attach the face frame to the case I laid the case on it’s back on my workbench. Coincidentally, I found out that the back panel needs to be the exact width of my workbench because it fit perfectly inside the back panel rabbets.

A little glue and a few brad nails will secure the face frame to the case. I used a couple of clamps to hold the face frame exactly where I wanted it before shooting the nails.

All of the nail holes get filled with wood putty.

For the four adjustable shelves to be adjustable I need to cut shelf pin holes. And to do that I’m using the JIG IT® Shelving Jig from Rockler. I bought this template back in 2008 when I first got into woodworking and have put a lot of miles on it. Rockler is a partner of mine and sent me another one to use. There is no need for me to open another one though so I’ll pass it along to someone else for free. Just leave a comment on this article and I’ll use a random number generator to select a winning comment 24 hours after this article goes live. EDIT: THANKS FOR THE LOVE ON THIS ONE. ANTHONY SCOLARO WAS THE RANDOMLY SELECTED WINNER. 

The jig is simple to use. Line the jig edges up with reference edges in the project, the back and bottom in this case, and start drilling the holes as needed with the included drill bit.

Once you max out the travel of the jig simply use a shelf pin through the template and into a previously drilled hole and continue drilling as needed. Repeat this for as many holes as you’d like. Super easy and precise.

The back panel will eventually get attached with short screws. All I wanted to do here was make sure it was cut to the appropriate size before I started finish prep.

And finish prep consists of using a router to flush trim the face frame with the case sides…

Sanding all surfaces up to 180 grit..

And applying the finish. Just like everything else I’ve built for the office, this bookcase will be white with a few pieces of bubinga trim. On my cabinets and dog bed table I used Sherwin Williams white lacquer. The results are nice but man was it a huge pain in the butt to spray a solvent finish. The lacquer smells up my house for days, even when spraying outside because I store the project in my garage. And I can’t spray in my garage because the solvent smell is even worse in there. So for this project I tried out General Finishes water based white polyurethane primer and white polyurethane satin finish. Long term durability is something I can’t speak for right now but as far as the finished product goes, they both look and feel the same. The main difference is that I was able to spray the water based poly inside my shop and not worry about any of the crazy fumes. I wore a respirator (as you should always do) to protect my lungs from the dusty bounce-back and overspray.

Next up is the bubinga trim for the adjustable shelves. Earlier in the year I found a bunch of Bubinga being sold at $5.50 a board foot so I bought a bunch of it. That’s one of the reasons why I’ve been incorporating it here and there with my projects. For the solid wood banding on the adjustable shelves I started milling a chunk of 8/4 rift sawn material starting at the miter saw.

Followed by jointing two adjacent faces at the jointer..

And then getting the opposite faces flat and parallel with the planer..

Four pieces are ripped out of the board at the bandsaw. I should have had my fence rotated 90 degrees to allow for shorter cuts to be made with the blade guard dropped to the surface of the wood.

The bandsawn faces were cleaned up with a few passes at my drum sander.

And finally a rabbet is established with two passes at the table saw. There’s two things to notice with this picture. First is that the waste side of the cut is not being trapped between the blade and the fence. It’s on the opposite side of the blade so that it will sit freely once cut and not shoot back like a rocket. The second thing to notice is that my first cut was too deep. I’d love to say that this was on purpose to allow a little room for glue squeeze out but in fact it was because the insert plate on my table saw was set too low. I’m not sure what happened or how it got adjusted but because it was lower the beginning and end of my cuts here were too deep. I’ve since adjusted it but I’m still scratching my head as to how it was lowered.

Before gluing the bubinga onto the shelves I wanted to round over the corners. Whiteside Machine Company is also a partner of mine and for this task I’m using a Whiteside 2005C 1/8” radius round over bit.

To prevent any ugly nail holes from showing on the solid wood banding I only used glue and clamps to attach them to the shelves.

Finally the back panel can be installed. I used a bunch of short screws to attach it. No glue is necessary for this piece.

By this time the solid wood banding can be trimmed down to the appropriate length on the shelves and to do that I used my crosscut/miter sled. I removed the insert plate here for better dust collection. The eight cuts that needed to be made were all pretty small and the offcuts were small enough to let them pass through the dust collection system.

A final sanding is needed on the bubinga. You can see how the small radius round over combined with the board being rift sawn allows the grain lines to blend all the way around the board. It results in a very even grain appearance regardless of what angle you are looking from.

To seal the bubinga I went with General Finishes High Performance satin water based polyurethane. And because it dries clear I went ahead and added another layer to the entire shelf. I figured that these shelves will see the most abuse on the project so one more layer of polyurethane will be nice long-term.

Add the shelf pins and this one is done! (kinda) I LOVE how much the bubinga stands out with the white polyurethane.

Here’s the “kinda” part I just mentioned. I forgot to record the process but in order for the bookcase to sit flush against the wall I cut out the profile of my office baseboard in the back bottom corners of the bookcase. I did this by making a template out of 1/4” plywood first and then transferring that shape to the bookcase with a flush trim router bit. I just went into the shop and got it done and forgot to record the process. Oops!

And here it is in use. Holding all of my shirts and hats that I sell here on this website. I finally have a place for them that is in the office instead of in a box in a room on the opposite side of the house.

Thanks again to Rockler for supporting this video. Stay tuned in the next month or so for the final before and after video of the office remodel. If you’re interested in a set of plans for this bookcase click here.


    • Hey Richard. The gloves are for grip. It’s winter here and my hands are quite dry which decreases grip. The gloves are for use with chemicals and such but they have a good grip while still being tight enough to provide a good tactile feedback.

    • Just to break it up visually and provide symmetry top and bottom. I wanted the center shelf to be fixed to hold the sides together and thought it would be easier to just have the face frame attached to it as well. I could have left the center divider off and used bubinga for that piece as well but thought it would be easier to paint it all while not having a negative impact on the appearance.

    • I had my air cleaner car running so it pulled a lot of the finish dust out of the air. I did have a little bit of dust on all the horizontal surfaces but it’s the same as woodworking dust. Just vacuum it up when I clean up like normal. It’s already atomized by the time it reaches the tools so nothing stuck.

  1. Man, the plans that you make, and I’m thinking in particular the ones for the mitre saw station, are so helpful. I caught a glimps of plans for the book shelf in the vid and it reminded me of that. I tell everyone who sees my mitre saw station to go check you out and buy your plans! Keep up the awesome work!

  2. Just a heads up from someone who generally just follows your youtube channel – the video for this is currently unlisted. If it’s on purpose, feel free to ignore me, but if it’s not, I thought you should know.

    That said, the contrast between the babinga and the white finish is really striking, and I personally really like it.

  3. Great video Jay. I really like the use of bubinga for edge banding. It breaks up all the white and makes the whole thing pop.

  4. I was just saying to myself a couple of hours ago “I wonder when jay is going to put out a new video “ . Great build , I love your work . I am currently working on a slightly modified version of your miter station to fit into my workshop space ! My wife has a few projects lined up for me and one of them is actually 2 bookcases to go on either side of our fireplace. I was thinking about getting that jig for shelf pin holes for that project. Again great video and I’ll be waiting for the next one.

  5. Very nice project there Jay, as always very informative, keep them coming, also greetings from Australia where it is currently 44 degrees Celsius or 111 degrees Fahrenheit, sorry just thought I’d let you know that, have a good one

  6. Another great build, Jay! I love the Bubinga accent, it looks great! I find myself in need of a few more shelves, along with a couple of display cabinets for collectibles, and might borrow the accent idea here with a species that matches our furniture. Thanks!

  7. The email lead me here, couldn’t find it on your YouTube channel. That timber really looks good with that white.

  8. Great project Jay, I really love bubinga. This is a great way to use it, especially considering the cost here in the uk

  9. Great video as always. I have been watching you for quite a while since the pocket hole step stool days and I love how your channel has progressed to what it is now. You have been my favorite you tuber for sometime now. I am getting ready to make some built in book shelves and that jig would definitely come in handy if I don’t win it from you It’ll be on my Christmas list for sure. Keep up the great work.

  10. Looks great!!! Think the accent would of looked good on the middle as well, but totally get why you didn’t do!!! And how do we enter to win the shelf jig? Thanks

  11. Nice build! And for me, timely. I need to build some bookcases for my room. Thank you for sharing so much information with us!

  12. I noticed that you used foam insulation under your track saw on the initial cuts. I’ve heard others talk about that. Is this foam self healing, and what does it do for tear-out on the cut? Seem’s to me it would get a bit expensive if you make a lot of cuts. BTW, simple shelf, I think not. Nice work! Beautiful contrast with the bubinga. And yes, I know you love saying bubinga! :)

  13. Jay, I appreciate you including the mistakes when you could have easily edited them out. It’s encouraging to those of us who are novices!

  14. Jay
    Love these simple builds as much as your big projects. You always present things in such a great way with your explanations. You don’t just show us how you do things but you also put the why in there. I’ve learned alot from watching you and it’s really helped me getting started back into wood crafting after a 25 year break.

    Would like to ask about you sprayer. What model is it? I’ve been looking over all of them and can’t decide where to go. I need to spray some cabinets we’re adding to the kitchen.

    Thanks again
    David Schmidt

  15. Beautifully simple and definitely one that I will be replicating myself, really hope I am lucky enough to get the jig!

  16. One of my daughters recently asked me to make some tall bookshelves for her bedroom. Perfect timing, thank you! Perfect, your plans make it so easy for a semi component woodworker like me to get grate results…

  17. Another useful project for the home. Your choice of materials make a beautiful end product. Always entertained and always learn something from you. Keep it up and thanks.

  18. Great video Jay. It’s a simple easy project that I can make with the tools I have at home. Keep up the good work!

  19. Looks great. I’ve been asking people what foam they use for their track saw. The answers have varied quite a bit. Love to know what you use

  20. Nice! Everything you to do is well done. I especially appreciate your presentation style. No ums, ahs, dahs; just clear spoken directions and explanations. I just wish I could afford the tools and/or the time left to pay for them all!

  21. Thanks for posting this build. Simple yet very attractive especially with Bubinga accent trim on the shelves. And the fact that you include mistakes and your work around them shows us that mistakes will happen for all of us. Many just edit and continue. I built a variation of your miter station and love the storage capacity and usefulness of the entire build. Thanks for giving us all new ideas and methods to try.

  22. Love your videos. Well done and your eye for design and execution is fantastic. Really like how you show your errors – makes me feel a little better when I make them ;-) Great work – keep it coming.

  23. Awesome bookcase Jay. I built my first 2×4 outdoor bench and chair from watching your videos. Keep up the good work!

  24. Another great video. I have been a hobby woodworker for nearly fifty years, and still learning. I always enjoy your videos and articles the quality of both and the attention to details is phenomenal.

  25. Fingers crossed that you will be doing a Planer/Jointer review…would love to hear your take on how it has been in your shop!

  26. Once again you prove to be one of the best teachers I have every had the pleasure to be exposed to. You can take a potentially mundane project and make it interesting. Thanks

  27. The Bubinga and white goes very well together. I really like the idea of the cutout for the baseboard!

  28. As always your videos are not only fun to watch but also educational. I really like when your “twin” shows up to explain what you are doing instead of just doing a voice over, very imaginative.

  29. I always enjoy your videos. I’m just starting out and really appreciate being able to learn things from you. Take care.

  30. If you are not lucky enough to win or already own the shelving jig you can do what I did the last time I needed to make holes for shelf pins — use a scrap of pegboard as your drill guide. Pegboard is a handy template to use for any regular pattern you need to make, just make plywood guide plates with dowel pins which register with the holes.

  31. It’s cool to see the different techniques you’ve
    used to build your bookshelves around your house, and that they all seem to stand up to time well!

  32. Love the simplicity of this design. I’m just getting started in wood working. Shelf pin jig would be a great addition.

  33. Great job.. looking forward to meeting you at the City Hardwoods meet-up this coming Saturday. See ya then.

    Greg Roberts

  34. I really enjoy watching your videos but have never really made it to the full build article on your site. The article is well written and I will be checking out future projects. Great job!

  35. Congrats on joining the adoptive parent club! I watch for when your vids publish so I can see them as soon as they are available. Love your style and keep up the good work.

  36. Another informative and entertaining video! I needed a round over bit and a bookcase, go figure…I WAS planning on using my peg board shelf pin jig…but…

    Oh and that 1/4-inch…I found it in my shop the other day cutting drawer bottoms.

    Thanks Jay for all that you do!

  37. Jay,

    Great backdrop of your miter station. I picked up your plans and I preparing for the largest shop build for me to date. These videos of yours are great inspiration, thank you.

  38. Very nice work love seeing you videos. I am just getting into wood working scene and love the feeling of completing a project.

  39. Jay, I’ve been watching you since you started, and I’m always impressed by how far you’ve come as a woodworker and video producer. Keep up the great work.

  40. I like the way you used the bubinga as an accent. An expensive wood used sparingly can be more impressive than if used for the entire build.

  41. Nice clean simple design. Love watching you work, very talented. I’ve learned a lot from watching your videos and reading your blogs. Keep them coming.

  42. Everything is top quality : woodworking, filming, editing, attitude.
    It’s always a pleasure to watch your videos.

  43. Jay, nice work man!
    Thank you for the example of GF’s White Poly. I think I’ll use that on my laundry cabinets (next project).
    Right now I’m painting my closet remodel shelving and cabinets. What a mess latex can be when using a brush and foam roller. lol
    Rockler’s shelf pin jig looks like a good investment. I’ll have to look into that.

    Also, you’re not the only one that doesn’t enjoy the finishing process….esp. with paint.
    Building and creating copious amounts of sawdust and shavings is much more fun.

  44. Looks great! Is that a new jointer and planer combo you picked up and so you plan on doing a video covering them?

    • I second that request. I saw it in the video when it was being used as an outfield table. I have wondered for a hobbyist how well one of these machines would work versus separate machines.

  45. I like the simplicity of your bookcase while at the same time having visual appeal. The Bubinga definitely sets off the white nicely. Great job Jay.

  46. Jay, you’ve come a long way since your first videos, as has your shop and stock of tools. I think you do one of the best production jobs out there today. As an old fart, I dont care for the louder music between the narration as I like to hear what you are saying but then get blasted by the music. Keep it simple…
    Thanks for the variety of information you provide.

  47. Jay,
    As always, another excellent video. You do a great job explaining the steps in building your projects clearly and with the proper amount of detail. Thanks.

  48. Love the trim and the idea of spray finishing inside the garage. It’s not something I’ve considered because of the overspray, but at the same time, if I make room, it would make sense that it’s possible because there’s no wind to spread the overspray. Great video.

  49. Excellent bookcase build that came just in time. I have a couple I am getting ready to build. Love to see your new equipment. Your videos are always clear and easy to follow, just as your articles are. Yes, put me in the drawing for the Shelving jig.

  50. I found your videos a few years ago, and has inspired me to fall in love with wood working, thanks for all of the advice and well explained videos.

  51. Great DIY. I just wish I could figure out how to duplicate myself like you do. The bookcase project will work great in my wife’s sewing room.

  52. Nice clean look on the shelves. Simple but sophisticated upgrade from Ikea shelving :)
    Thanks for the video!

  53. I have no need for a bookshelf right now but I would probably build one anyway if I had that jig. Great vid too! Thanks for sharing.

  54. I need to build two of these bookshelves. We have a small one from Walmart and it’s…from Walmart. We were just about to buy two big ones from a Facebook group but a 2.5 hour drive. I’m glad you made this video when you did. Timing is perfect! Thanks for all your content.

  55. I Love your simple to follow designs. When I started woodworking you where one of the first channels I subscribed to and followed. I will be building a garage cabinet project next year in preparations for a kitchen remodel soon after. That pin whole jig looks like a good investment.

    Thanks Jay

  56. Great vid as always. Looking to make some of these myself, though I might go natural rather than white.

    Noticed that you use the Rockler dust fittings to attach a hose to the back of your Kreg Foreman. I have several of those kits for other tools, but neither of the attachments that come with it seem to fit on my Kreg K5’s dust port… is there some other attachment or fitting that would work for that?

  57. Watching Jay and the level to which his skill has evolved is both inspiring and depressing all at the same time. Inspiring because we can see the humble beginnings where he started, but depressing because he’s gone so far past my feeble skill set that sometimes I wonder if I can ever get even close to that level. Many of the original YouTubers have gone from simple DIY projects to quite a high level of mastery. It’s understandable, many of them left regular jobs to do this full time while I plod along maybe getting into my garage two weekends out of the month and only in good weather. I remain grateful that they still make content for us to see even as I grumble when they add super expensive gear I can’t afford. Jealous? Yeah probably. :) But seriously, it’s way more inspiring than depressing and I have enjoyed watching the evolution of Jay and his pals. It’s because of Steve Ramsey, Jay, April and many others that I have been able to do anything at all and some of it has even come out great. Jay’s SketchUp videos have been a huge help too. Thanks to all of you for all you do.

  58. Absolutely amazing! Been watching your channel for about 3 years now and the majority of the projects that I have made have been inspired and based from the work you do. Thanks for everything!!

  59. Really nice job ! I just made a cabinet for my kids crafting materials with fixed shelves since I dont have a shelf jig.
    I should have waited cause I relaly like the trim on the shelves, which I didn’t do…
    Merci pour les trucs et conseils !

  60. I like the way that you can switch and integrate using hand tools and power tools in your work specific to the needs of the project. Thanks for a detailed video Jay

  61. Another great tutorial Jay. I’ve finally got our spare room/office back and will be outfitting it as well. I’ll be looking to your projects for ideas and plans. Thanks again!

  62. Thanks for the project and article. I like the shelve face framing and how you finished the project. Thank you for all your articles and videos.

  63. Nice job Jay and that bubinga looks GREAT to work with looks great on the book case. But I have to ask spraying inside the shop?? I know you have a nice dust collection system but I think overspray will still land on the flat surface of other tools on the shop. Making for extra clean-up. You ever thought about making a wall trap spray both out side?

  64. Appreciate your detailed info. Forget that you have that sprayer now I need to go look up that and your Hammer jointer/planner.

  65. Jay I really enjoy your videos and your projects. I am happy for your success. You have been a great inspiration to me, especially your earlier videos where you did projects that us weekend woodworkers would do. Congratulations and keep it going. Oh, and congratulations on extending your family.

  66. Great job on the build Jay, I think the Bubinga turned our very nice! I appreciate you putting these videos out here, it helps me come up with ideas in my own shop!

  67. I’m addicted to your channel. I can’t wait for each new video. I’ve learned so much from you since I started watching your stuff. Thanks for explaining it in a way for all levels of woodworkers to be able to understand.

  68. Jay, Your approach to building the Bookcase, producing video and article is top notch. As always, inspiring and practical build, thank you.

  69. Great bookcase. Inexpensive yet well built and sturdy. I built one very similar to it a couple years back without the face trim but after seeing yours I think I will add some to it. Really enjoy the videos Jay. Thanks

  70. Great video Jay, as always. Your giveaway has brought me to your written article for the first time, and I really like it as well. Very detailed.

  71. I love the hardwood trim on the shelves..great accent! Also the white poly finish would seem to be a great deal more durable than any latex paint would be. Great project.

  72. I need to build some simple bookshelves for my office. They don’t have to be fancy, but I like the idea of an exotic wood accent. Just for visual interest. Love your videos!

  73. Love the contrast of the white and the bubinga getting ready to build some book shelves myself I maybe try that as well.

  74. Very nice video. I was just contemplating making some new shelves for an existing shelf stack. I will be using this method to make those shelves.

  75. Nice bookcase. I would like to make a couple of those for myself. Winning the hole jig/template would aid in making a set. I really like the look of Bubinga. I have never used it before. I’ll have to look around to see if anyone in my area sells it.

    I wish you were about to more videos, I really enjoy them.


  76. Nice bookshelf. I need to build a couple similar to this for my house.

    BTW, I’ve watched all your videos and enjoy them very much. Thanks for taking the time to make them.

  77. i really enjoy your style of storytelling in your builds and that you aren’t afraid to show when you make mistakes and correct them.

  78. I agree Jay, that babinga really pops on the white and make this price by visually stimulating. Awesome job and video as usually, bud!

Comments are closed.