Framed Three Shelf Bookshelf

Submitted by Ana White on Fri, 09/27/2019 - 10:31
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I love this bookshelf because of it’s simple sturdy design, the exposed legs (exposed legs make a room look bigger), and the perfect sizing. It's plenty big and fits lots of books, bins, blankets and more. Build out of plywood or 1x12s.  Free plans from Ana White.

bookshelf plans
bookshelf plans
bookshelf dimensions shown in diagram
42 1/2″ High x 42″ Wide x 14″ Deep


Shopping List
  • 3 - 1x12 @ 8 feet long OR 1 sheet of 3/4" plywood ripped into four strips, each 11-1/4" wide x 8 feet long
  • 6 – 8′ length 1x2s (I use the $1 pine furing strips, but you could use maple, poplar, MDF, oak and others) 
  • 2 – 8′ length 1x3s (matching the 1x2s above) 
  • 1 – 1/4″ Sheet plywood, mdf, or other backer material 
  • 2″ Nails 
  • 1 1/4″ Nails 
  • 12′ Iron On Edge Banding (About $6 for 25 foot roll, very effective and easy to use)
Common Materials
120 grit sandpaper
paint brush
Cut List
  • A) 2 – 1×12 @ 38 1/4″ OR 3/4″ MDF or Plywood @ 11 1/4″ x 38 1/4″ (Sides) 
  • B) 3 – 1×12 @ 37″ OR 3/4″ MDF or Plywood @ 11 1/4″ x 37″ (Shelves) 
  • C) 4 – 1×2 @ 41 3/4″ (Sides of the Legs) 
  • D) 4 – 1×3 @ 41 3/4″ (Fronts and Backs of the Legs) 
  • E) 2 – 1×2 @ 37″ (Inside Top Trim) 
  • F) 8 – 1×2 @ 35″ (Outside Top Trim and Shelf Trim) 
  • G) 1 – 1/4″ Plywood @ 38 1/2″ x 40″ (you can use beadboard, 1/2 plywood, paneling, etc) 
  • H) 8 – 1×2 @ 8 1/4″ (Side Shelf Trim) - measure and cut for best fit
  • I) 1 – 1×12 @ 42″ and 1×3 @ 42″ OR 3/4″ MDF or Plywood @ 14″ x 42″ (Top)
Tape Measure
Speed Square
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
Circular Saw
Power Sander


Step 1

Build the Box. Start by nailing through the sides, A (green) into the shelves, B (wood), as shown above. Use the measurements in the above diagram to guide you.

You can also use screws or 3/4" pocket holes and 1-1/4" pocket hole screws.

Step 2

Side Legs. Use the 1 1/4″ nails to nail the sides of the legs, C (Green), to the sides, A, of the bookcase, as shown above. Keep outside edges flush. The legs, C, will over-extend the sides,A, by 3 1/2″.

Step 3

Front and Back Legs. In the same manner as the side legs, but with 2″ nails, fasten the front and back legs, D (green), to the side legs, C, shelves, B, and sides A.

Step 4

Attach the top trim with 1-1/4" brad nails and glue.

Step 5

Top Outer Trim. Using 2 of the boards F (shown in green above), fasten as shown above. Use glue and 1 1/4″ nails. Keep the top edges flush.

Step 6

Trimming out the Shelves. Using the remaining 6 boards F, (shown in green above), trim out the edges of all the shelves. Keep all top edges flush with the shelves. Use the 2″ nails and glue.

Step 7

Covering the back. Attach the back plywood, G, as shown above in green. Use the 1 1/4″ nails and glue. Make sure you mark and nail into all the shelves.

Step 8

Side Trim Pieces. Using te 1 1/4″ nails, nail the side trim pieces in place as shown above. The measurements shown are from the top to the top of the trim.

Step 9

Attach the top as shown above. If you are using plywood or MDF, simply position the plywood so it overextends 1″ on the front and side edges and glue and nail in place. You will also need to add edge banding to finish out the plywood edges if you are using plywood.

Step 10

Attaching the planked pine top. If you are using the pine boards, first attach the 1×3 as shown above in green. Keep back edge flush with the back of the 1×2 (not the plywood). Overhang each side 1″. Nail in place. Then add the 1×12 to the front in the same manner.

Step 11

Finishing. Fill nail holes with putty. Sand. Attach the edge banding to the plywood if you used 3/4″ plywood for the top. Stain or paint if desired.


Maggie (not verified)

Wed, 01/13/2010 - 11:43

I'm thinking about making this over the weekend and wondering if there is a way to modify it so it includes a set of doors on the bottom...


Brown Sugar Babies (not verified)

Thu, 01/21/2010 - 10:32

Thank you for posting this!!! I have tons of books and I think I can do this myself - no help from hubby.

Cookie (not verified)

Mon, 02/08/2010 - 11:08

I have not yet built this bookshelf, but would love to know if you think I can make it so that there is not a back. That way I can use it as a dividing piece in a very long room?


Ana White (not verified)

Tue, 02/09/2010 - 07:38

Cookie, on this piece you can skip the back because both the back and front are framed, reinforcing all the joints, and making both the front and back look finished.

Good Luck! Ana

MeckMom (not verified)

Thu, 02/11/2010 - 11:07

What a fantastic site!! I can't believe how much time and effort you put into your brilliant posts. Your creations are gorgeous. I can't wait to share this with my readers. Thanks for all you do!

Anonymous (not verified)

Tue, 02/16/2010 - 04:40

Hi Ana,
I am printing out everything for the bookcase but I am the diagram for the plywood/mdf cuts correct? Or is it missing a 37" shelf? Just want to make sure I give Home depot all the right cuts because I dont own a saw!

Ana White (not verified)

Tue, 02/16/2010 - 10:40

It looks correct to me, 3 shelves, and then I is the top. I haven't had any comments from other readers about any typos.

Anonymous (not verified)

Wed, 03/03/2010 - 12:50

Great plans! and wonderful instructions! However I think the above commenter was right... the diagram for cutting the sheet goods doesn't look quite right. There are the 2 sides (lime green), the top (purple) but there are only 2 shelves (teal green). Am I also seeing this wrong?

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