Leaning Ladder Wall Bookshelf

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Use 1x board to build a leaning ladder wall bookshelf!  Easy plans by ANA-WHITE.com

Hi and Happy Monday!  

Thanks so much for all the comments and likes on the new plans I posted last week for my leaning ladder desk!

And thank you to all of you who watched the video too - I'm glad that putting the extra time into creating video is helpful to some of you!

I promised you I'd share with you the bookshelf plans too!

The bookshelves have been sanity savers for organizing my office.  I love having the different sized shelves to sort out my stuff.  As a working mom, with small children and limited babysitting, my desk has to be super organized.  I don't have time to look for paperwork or clear off my desk to work - it always has to be tidy and everything easy to find.  

Building the bookshelves followed the same steps as the desk, but I made the overall width about half of the desk size (just under 16" to maximize cuts on 8 foot long material), and of course, more shelves.  I love that the shelves are all 1x boards - so no plywood cutting or edge banding to dress up raw plywood edges.

One trick that really saved me a ton of time was this:



I set my first shelf, with 9-1/2" space underneath the shelf.  I used a level and clamps to get everythign just right.



Then I screwed the shelf to the legs with 1-1/4" screws.



Then I cut two plywood blocks exactly 11" in height and set them on top of the first shelf.



Then I just set the next shelf on top of the blocks, and screwed it in place.



And repeated those steps for all of the remaining shelves.

This saved a ton of time and frusturation, as placing those shelves can be a pain, especially if you are having to measure around lower shelves.


Another little tip is I built the two bookshelves before the main desk piece.  Then I clamped the desk legs to the bookshelf legs (see in photo above) so the legs matched exactly.  Then when I went to put the shelves in in the desk, I just matched them up with the shelves in the bookshelves.  This made installing the desk shelves much easier too.

The leaning ladder bookshelf plans follow (if this is the homepage, you'll need to click READ MORE below).  You can find the leaning ladder desk plans here.  

Enjoy! XO Ana

Dimensions shown above - can be made wider, not recommended wider than 36"


Shopping List


4 - 1x3 @ 8 feet long

1 - 1x6 @ 16" long

1 - 1x8 @ 4 feet long

1 - 1x10 @ 16" long

1 - 1x12 @ 16" long

Common Materials
1 1/4 inch screws
1 1/4 inch finish nails
120 grit sandpaper
Cut List




2 - 1x3 @ 76-1/4" - both ends cut at 5 degrees, parallel, long point to short point measurement

1 - 1x3 @ 17-1/4" - back support



5 - 1x3 @ 15-3/4"

1 - 1x6 @ 15-3/4"

3 - 1x8 @ 15-3/4"

1 - 1x10 @ 15-3/4"

1 - 1x12 @ 15-3/4"

2 - 1x3 @ 6-1/4"

2 - 1x3 @ 8"

2 - 1x3 @ 10"

2 - 1x3 @ 12"

2 - 1x3 @ 15-3/4"


Cutting Instructions

It is important to cut the backs and shelves to the same length. To do this quickly and accurately, consider a stop block on your saw, spaced out the shelf width from the saw blade, and clamped or screwed down (depending on your set up). Some saw stands have this functionality built in.

Tape Measure
Speed Square
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
Kreg Jig
Circular Saw
Miter Saw
Brad Nailer
Power Sander
Drill Bit Set
General Instructions

Please read through the entire plan and all comments before beginning this project. It is also advisable to review the Getting Started Section. Take all necessary precautions to build safely and smartly. Work on a clean level surface, free of imperfections or debris. Always use straight boards. Check for square after each step. Always predrill holes before attaching with screws. Use glue with finish nails for a stronger hold. Wipe excess glue off bare wood for stained projects, as dried glue will not take stain. Be safe, have fun, and ask for help if you need it. Good luck!


Step 1

Cut the legs first, according to the cut list.  Then use a speed square to mark off the back top corner square to the top angled cut, so 2-1/2" is cut off the back.  Use a circular saw to cut this.  This is shown in the video.

Step 2

Attach the back support to back of legs, flush to top and back.

Step 3

Build shelves by nailing and gluing backs to shelf bottoms with 1-1/4" brad nails or staples and wood glue.  It is very important to glue all nailed joints.

Step 4

Add sides as you did the back.

For a stronger shelf, you can also pocket hole the sides on from underneath.

I cut the corners on my sides at 22-1/2" degrees (I choose this number because it is a setpoint on my saw, the exact degree can differ).  To do this quickly, I made a small mark on my saw with a pencil, when I had the board in the position I wanted to cut it at.  Then after cutting, I just took the next side, lined it up with my marks, and cut.  No measuring needed.

Step 5

Step 6

To get the bottom shelf in place, I first positioned the frame against a wall, making sure legs were 9-1/2" out from the wall. I then measured up 9-1/2" and added the shelf with clamps and used a level to ensure it was level. Then I screwed it on with 1-1/4" screws (you can use pocket hole screws here).

Step 7

For the rest of the shelves, I cut a block of plywood 11" long and used it as a spacer to position the remaining shelves. When installing, I recommend attaching the top to studs in the wall to prevent any forward tipping.

Finishing Instructions
Preparation Instructions
Fill all holes with wood filler and let dry. Apply additional coats of wood filler as needed. When wood filler is completely dry, sand the project in the direction of the wood grain with 120 grit sandpaper. Vacuum sanded project to remove sanding residue. Remove all sanding residue on work surfaces as well. Wipe project clean with damp cloth.

It is always recommended to apply a test coat on a hidden area or scrap piece to ensure color evenness and adhesion. Use primer or wood conditioner as needed.


Jodi W

Wed, 10/28/2015 - 14:59

For the bottom shelf, I believe the side cuts should be 15 1/4", not 15 3/4". My 1 x 8's were actually 7 1/4" wide x 2 = 14 1/2" + 3/4" back shelf lip = 15 1/4". 

So the last item on the cut list should be 2 - 1x3 @ 15-1/4".

I'm building these with my son for his room. So far, so good! After I go cut 1/2" from the side boards and glue/nail those on, we'll be ready for some sanding and staining. I'm excited to see how this will turn out! We expanded the shelves to 24" wide and are making 2 shelf units to go side by side. I think it will look awesome!


Thu, 01/12/2017 - 06:46

Can you tell me if you used common or premium grade pine boards for this project?  I like the finish you show so I would like to recreate it.


Wed, 01/18/2017 - 16:50

A friend turned me on to your work and plans.  I ended up buying a miter saw and he loaned me the rest.  This is my first project and boy, what a way to start.  It's been relatively easy, but I really struggled with the five-degree cuts to assist the leaning.   I haven't completed the assembliy because the pocket holes have me in fear.  Just wanted to thank you for the plans and empowerment.  You make this so anyone that is willing can replicate! 


Sun, 07/21/2019 - 20:55

Hi Ana! You say to cut at 5 degrees off square at the top and bottom of the 1x3s and that the cuts should be parallel. 

I can visualize the top 5º cut but I'm not sure I understand where or how to make the bottom 5º cut, or if even a bottom cut is required? Only one cut is shown in the video and diagrams.