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Thadius856 11-09-2011 12:33 AM

Wood Choices for Built-in Bookshelf
Looking to start on a built-in bookshelf soon. Will be working on the plans for the next few hours. Not sure if I want to go stained or painted yet, but I'm leaning towards painted. It'll most likely end up " ply carcass, open back, and solid face frame. The base/toe kick will be dimensional lumber hidden by ply and MDF base.

For paint grade, is there any favorite type of ply that paints well and is fairly inexpensive? For stain grade, what grade should I seek for the ply?

I have easy access to the big box stores for sheets and know that I'll have to be cherry-picking the piles no matter which materials I choose. Other than face knots and exposed edge voids, what should I keep an eye out for?

oh'mike 11-09-2011 05:14 AM

Birch cabinet ply with solid wood applied to the exposed cuts is my go to wood.

MDF is a possibility but the strength becomes a serious issue with book cases.

Going 'backless' can be frustrating as the walls are never flat and plumb--The cost in time and materials for a back always are worth it to me----Check your walls and see if I'm right.---Mike---

Jmdesign 11-09-2011 05:54 AM

You can use either for a painted look. Before you buy from the big box stores definitely go seek a lumber company. Explain what you are doing and price shop. It doesn't make sense to buy a 40.00 sheet of 3/4 if you can buy it for 28 to 30.00. Stay away from mdf as the base, as any moisture in the floor intentionslor not will cause it to swell. Good luck

oh'mike 11-09-2011 06:09 AM

Watch out for some of the plywood from China-----Often it warps and twists badly.

Snav 11-09-2011 07:14 AM

I 2nd that birch suggestion - I love birch and live vicariously through other people's birch projects :D

Thadius856 11-09-2011 07:53 AM

Definitely going backless. Just put up 3 (nearly-) full sheets of MDF bead board that would make a great backing. It'll be full wall length. I already know every bump and wave in the wall from seeing them in my nightmares. That said, I'm getting good enough with a compass to feel comfortable scribing it out.

Plain old birch sounds like the winner then. I would never consider MDF for any furniture, other than a speaker box. Think I'll use pine 1x2 to finish the front edge of each shelf, fluted casing or 1x3 for the vertical stiles of the face frame, and 1x4 for the base/valence.

I'm pretty close to finalizing my design. I was going to assemble the ply like so I had 1-15/16" to nail the stiles to. However, it only seems necessary to build them this way when building a bookcase you'd plan to stain (so you don't show the backside of the ply sheets). If you were building it, and it was going to be painted, would you build it like in the picture?

Snav 11-09-2011 08:56 AM

Well then you definitely want to go with birch - for unsupported shelves it's quite ideal.

I wouldn't triple the exterior casing as in that photo - but it wouldn't hurt, it would only add to rigidity and give you more options for trims and casings to use.

Thadius856 11-09-2011 09:15 AM

It's doubled in the photo. There's a piece of scrap between the two for spacing at top, center and bottom.

Edit: Unsupported? They're 27" span, glued into 7/32" dadoes on each side.

Gsmurray24 11-09-2011 06:57 PM

Rather than 1by 2 pine, I use poplar. It's less knotty, a bit harder, and paints rather nicely. Just my two cents.

Snav 11-09-2011 09:32 PM


Originally Posted by Thadius856 (Post 767251)
It's doubled in the photo. There's a piece of scrap between the two for spacing at top, center and bottom.

Edit: Unsupported? They're 27" span, glued into 7/32" dadoes on each side.

Sorry, I meant supported in the center - they span 2' or more - only supported on the ends.

Birch handles this better in my experience.

1910NE 11-10-2011 06:32 AM

Another vote for the Birch, and the poplar too. As for the backless will save some on materials. But, having done it both ways, I was happier with backed shelves that I built.

Oh-Fudge 11-10-2011 12:45 PM

They really import plywood from China, or was that a joke? :turned:

Snav 11-10-2011 02:26 PM

Sure they do - wood's imported from all over. My whitewood pine is from Sweden.

Oooh - fancay . . that's why it's so dirt cheap :D Naturally - imported goods are always the cheapest to buy. . .lol

Thadius856 11-10-2011 02:57 PM

Yup. Imported goods are cheapest when buying in a developed nation that has no lumber tariffs and a free trade agreement with one or more undeveloped nations who allow employers to use workers in dehumanizing conditions for pathetic pay. That's not an issue with just China either, mind you.

You want a mind f*ck? Next time you're at Walmart, pick up a 100lb exercise dumbell and look at the underside. I'd bet the farm that it doesn't say "Made in USA" on it. So, why is it cheaper to mine, melt, form and then transport a hunk of lead 3,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean when it's practically considered waste at domestic mines?

Thadius856 11-10-2011 03:00 PM

Back on track, I'm still working on the plans. Can't decide whether I want to do a 2x6 or 2x8 base. Also can't decide if I want a straight 4-compartment type of bookcase or a 5-compartment multi-depth bookcase. Also trying to determine the price difference between buying quality stain-grade solid stock form Rockler vs hardly-paint-grade solid stock from Lowe's.

Will post photos later, and plans once I finalize them.

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