Simple Little DIY Bookshelf

How to build a simple, little DIY bookshelf

Sometimes you just need a little shelf.  Nothing big.  Nothing fancy.  Nothing complicated.  Just a plain, little bookshelf.  Something simple…like this.

How to build a simple, little DIY bookshelf

Isn’t it cute?  It’s so little.  Everything miniature is cuter than the full size, isn’t it?  Except for candy bars…those are always better full size, amiright? 😉


It’s not REALLY that little, though, I don’t guess.  But it’s smaller than some of my latest builds and it’s the perfect little size for a small nook or space that needs a little extra storage or a display piece.  The top is actually a leftover piece of butcher block countertop from when they cut out a hole for the sink.  It was made to butt up to the existing counter in a friend’s kitchen for some extra counterspace.


But it would also work great in a bathroom for towels, or in an office for books, or in a kitchen for cookbooks, cutting boards, and dish storage…as seen here 🙂

How to Build a Simple DIY Bookshelf--small storage solution idea for bathroom, kitchen, or office for book or towel storage or display

If you’re looking for something a little bigger, though, check out this four sided bookshelftall bookshelf with feet, skinny bathroom shelf, this cabinet/pantry shelf, or this combination storage cabinet.


But, if you’re ready for a quick and easy build for this versatile little shelf, let’s get started.


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For this DIY Bookshelf, you’ll need:

3/4″ oak plywood (you’ll use about 1/2 sheet, but you can’t get all the pieces from a half (4×4) sheet, so buy a whole sheet and just use the leftovers for another project 🙂 )

1/4 sheet (2×4) 1/4″ oak plywood

(2) 1x2x6 oak board

(1) 1x3x2 oak board

Oak Edge Banding

Kreg Pocket Hole Jig


Circular Saw

Kreg Rip Cut (optional, but helpful)

Kreg AccuCut (optional, but helpful)

Miter Saw

Kreg Shelf Pin Jig

Shelf Pins

1 1/4″ pocket hole screws

Wood Glue

1 1/4″ brad nails


Step 1: Cut Plywood to Size for DIY Shelf

First, you need to cut your plywood pieces down to size.  I used my Kreg Rip Cut and circular saw to rip a piece of 16″ wide x 8 ft long from my sheet of plywood.  If you don’t have a Rip Cut, you can use a straight edge or a table saw.  This piece will become the sides and bottom of the shelf.

First cut plywood pieces to size to build the shelf

Then, I used my Kreg AccuCut and circular saw to cut another piece off the remaining sheet to 21 1/4″ x 30″ like shown above.  If you don’t have an AccuCut, you can also use a straight edge.  This piece will be the shelves.  Rip it in half to create two pieces 21 1/4″ x 15″.


Finally, from the 16″ wide piece, cut two pieces 32″ long and one piece 21 1/2″ long.

Step 2: Assemble the DIY Shelf Carcass

Have I mentioned how much I love using the word carcass when talking about cabinets? I use it every chance I get! Haha.


Okay, back to building. Use a pocket hole jig to drill 3/4″ pocket holes into the sides of the 16″ x 21 1/2″ piece from step 1.

drill pocket holes into the bottom of the DIy shelf cabinet carcass

Then attach between the two side pieces cut from step 1 like shown with 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws.  Attach so the top of the bottom piece is 2 1/2″ from the bottom of the side pieces.

Assemble the DIY shelf cabinet carcass

Then, use some scrap pieces or cut some from the remaining plywood 21 1/2″ long.  Width doesn’t matter much here.  Drill 3/4″ pocket holes into the ends of the pieces.  Attach at the top of the cabinet carcass like shown using 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws.

Attach top supports to DIY shelf cabinet carcass

These will be used to attach the face frame, and backing later and for attaching the top.

Step 3: Drill Shelf Pin Holes on Shelf

This step is optional, but recommended.  You could use pocket holes and screws to attach stationary shelves, but I prefer adjustable shelves because I’m extremely indecisive, so I switch things around a lot haha.  If you do want stationary shelves, you can skip this part, but in step 1, cut your shelves 21 1/2″ wide instead of 21 1/4″.


Drill shelf pins along the front and back of each cabinet side like shown.  You can use shelf pins like these to hold your shelves in place when you’re finished.

Step 4:  Add Back to DIY Shelf Cabinet

Cut your 1/4″ plywood to fit the back side of the cabinet (23″ x 31 1/4″) and staple or brad nail into place.  Make sure the cabinet is square when you attach.

Staple back onto simple DIY shelf cabinet

Step 5: Build and Attach Face Frame for Shelf Cabinet

Cut two pieces of 1×2 oak 32″ long and one piece 1×2 oak 20″ long.  These will create the top and sides of the frame.  Then, cut the 1×3 oak board 20″ long.  This will be the bottom of the shelf face frame.  Glue together using wood glue and clamps like shown.

Build face frame for DIY Shelf Cabinet

Also, for a more finished look, you can add oak edge banding to the front edge of the shelves, or glue on some thin strips of oak wood.  I cut some 1″ wide strips of oak and glued them on.

Finish oak shelf fronts with edge banding

Once the face frame glue is dry, glue and nail onto the front of the cabinet like shown.  I stained the cabinet before I took the picture (whoops!).

Step 6: Add Top and Finish

I said earlier that the top of this shelf was actually a leftover piece of butcherblock countertop.  But, if you don’t have any of that, you can make your own top from some 2x material or even 1x or plywood if you wish.  Since you have plenty of leftover plywood from the shelf, I would recommend using that for the top if you don’t want to glue one up.


Simply cut a piece about 17 1/2″ x 25″ and apply edge banding for a more finished look.  Then center the top onto the shelf and screw in place through the top supports from step 2 using 1 1/4″ wood screws.  Then, finish as desired.


Since this was oak, I used Minwax Golden Oak stain with a top coat of semi-gloss Minwax Polycrylic for a natural oak look.  Set your shelf where you want using shelf pins and there you go…you made a shelf!

How to Build a Small Simple DIY Bookshelf--free woodworking plans

How to Build a Simple DIY Bookshelf with this free tutorial and woodworking plans

I don’t use oak very often, but it’s really quite pretty when it’s finished.  If you’ve never worked with hardwood, it’s totally different than softwoods like pine and spruce.  I don’t have much experience with hardwood–mostly because it’s expensive and I’m cheap haha–but what little I’ve had has been pleasant.


Your cuts are much cleaner and sharper, but it’s a lot harder to sand.  There are pros and cons.  This is a great little project to try using it with, though if you’re new to it.


So, how would you use this little shelf?  Let me know in the comments.  Now, get out there and get building 🙂 Right after you pin this for later 🙂

How to build a simple DIY bookshelf--free woodworking plans and tutorial

Until next time, happy building 🙂

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