How to Build a Small Bookcase with Moldings

Assemble a custom storage piece with plywood and moldings, or select a ready-made option.

It’s a shame to closet your collectibles when open shelving puts those prized possessions on proud display. And it doesn’t take much to build yourself a custom bookcase: A few sheets of veneer plywood and some inexpensive molding, and you’re well on your way to creating a proper showcase for your hardback favorites and treasured curios.

Or you can find one that suits your space in a range of styles and materials, from unadorned models made of engineered wood to hardwood beauties with adjustable shelving and fancy molding. Either way, consider an attention-grabbing color to ramp up the statement.

Pictured: oak veneer bookcase finished in Empire Red from Gothic Cabinet Craft, about $320

Steps for Building a Small Bookcase

Step 1: Download the cutlist

 Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Cut List

Download printable cut list and plan here

  1. ¾ inch plywood top: 1 at 13 by 33 inches
  2. ¾ inch plywood sides: 2 at 12 by 43¼ inches
  3. ¾ inch plywood shelves: 3 at 12 by 31½ inches
  4. ¾ inch plywood shelf supports: 6 at 12 by 12½ inches
  5. ¾ inch plywood bottom shelf support: 2 at 12 by 3½ inches
  6. ½ inch plywood back: 1 at 43¼ by 33 inches
  7. 1×3 crosspiece: 1 at 28 inches
  8. chair rail molding: 3 at custom cut to size
  9. fluted casing: 2 at 39¾ inches
  10. 1×4 base trim: 3 at custom cut to size

Shopping List:

  1. ¾-inch plywood, Get a 4×8 sheet to make the top, sides, and shelf supports
  2. ½-inch plywood, Get a 4×4 half sheet for the back
  3. 1×3 Get a 3-foot board for the crosspiece
  4. 1×4 Get a 6-foot board for the mitered base trim
  5. fluted casing Get 8-feet
  6. chair rail molding Get 8 feet
  7. wood glue
  8. 1-inch trim head screws

Step 2: Cut the Pieces

 Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Using a circular saw and a straightedge, cut the assembly pieces based on the cut list. Sand them lightly.

Step 3: Build the Sides

 Illustration by Gregory Nemec

With the sides laid flat, position the shelf supports and use a strip of scrap to block out a gap for the shelves. Glue and nail the supports to the sides.

Step 4: Assemble the Sides, Shelves, Back, and Top

 Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Fit the shelves into the side slots, using clamps to hold it all together. Use the back panel to square up the assembly, then glue and screw it to the sides’ edges.

Tip the cabinet upright, apply glue to its top edges, and set the top piece flush with the back and sides but overhanging the front. Screw the top in place.

Step 5: Attach the Moldings and Trim

 Illustration by Gregory Nemec

Miter the base trim. Attach the pieces to the front and sides, flush with the floor. Install vertical lengths of fluted casing to the front edges, between the base trim and the overhanging top.

Install a 1×3 crosspiece between the casings, up against the top. Miter and attach the chair-rail molding to the front and sides, flush with the top.

Fill the fastener holes with wood glue, then sand and paint the entire piece.


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