Low-line Bookshelf

  • Low-line Bookshelf

Make a unit designed to span an entire wall for storage and display. 

Readymade bookcases are great for storage but sometimes a room needs a custom-made unit to fill an available space.

This 3000mm long x 800mm high bookshelf is designed to sit between two walls and comprises three 1000mm long modular units. 

The units are easy to assemble and simply butt together, with the joints hidden by vertical trim pieces.

It’s made from Tasmanian oak veneer MDF board and trimmed with solid Tassie oak timber, while the adjustable shelves and rails are edged with iron-on veneer. 

Use a router to add a decorative profile around the edge of the top trim, then apply clear polyurethane to finish the bookcase.

Make the sides

A cover panel is attached to one side of each outer unit to make them the same double thickness as the joint between the centre and outer units. 

The outer sides are 34mm shorter than the inner sides so the rails and base can be secured above and below. 

Cut a 17mm strip off the base of the shelf pin hole template before drilling into the outer sides to correct for this difference.

TIP The MDF boards can be cut using a circular saw and straightedge guide or have them cut by the supplier.


Use PVA adhesive on all joints and assemble each unit using 40mm x 8g particleboard screws. 

Attach the back panels to each modular unit and join the three of them together using 25mm x 8g screws. 

Build the plinth with adhesive and 40 x 2mm bullethead nails, securing the top edging and centre joint with size 20 biscuits.

Veneer edging 

The adjustable shelves and rails are trimmed with veneer edge strip that has a hot-melt adhesive backing. Hold each board upright in a vice to cut a length of veneer edging slightly longer than the edge.

Step 1. Position the veneer 

Position the veneer over the edge of the board and use a hot iron to melt the adhesive, moving it continually back and forth.

position the veneer, handyman magazine,

Step 2. Secure the strip 

Secure the strip by pressing down on it firmly using a cork block immediately after removing the iron to ensure a good bond.

secure the strip, handyman magazine,

Step 3. Trim the overhang 

Trim the overhang by working a fine-toothed file along the edge at a steep downward angle. Use 120 grit abrasive paper to tidy the edges

trim the overhang, handyman magazine,

Make a low-line shelf 

Step 1. Cut the panels to size

Mark out the panels on the veneered MDF, ensuring the grain is in the correct direction then cut using a circular saw and straightedge guide. TIP Apply masking tape over the cut line to prevent the veneer chipping.

Step 2. Laminate outer sides

Apply PVA adhesive to join the smaller outer side and cover panels for double thickness sides. Keep the front edges flush with the outer sides, 17mm in from the top and base of the cover panels, clamping until dry.

Step 3. Secure the trim

Cut the trim to length, using solid timber on the four vertical double thickness joints and over the front edge of the base. Apply adhesive, position the trim with the ends flush and hold with masking tape until dry.

Step 4. Plane edges flush

Using a sharp hand plane, shave the overhang off the trim so it finishes flush with the veneered surface of the panels. Sand with 120 grit abrasive paper to remove any imperfections and excess adhesive.

Step 5. Drill shelf pin holes

To make a template for the shelf pin holes, drill a line of 5mm holes at 30mm centres through an offcut. Clamp the template to drill the shelf pin holes 50mm from the front and back edges of the sides.

Step 6. Attach base and rails

Position the double-thickness outer side on a flat surface and stand the base in the rebate. Hold square and drill three pilot holes through the base then secure with screws. Attach the rails in the top rebate.

Step 7. Secure butt joints

Butt the base and rails against the inner sides then drill pilot holes through the sides and secure with adhesive and screws. Assemble the centre unit by butt joining the base and rails to the sides in the same way.

Step 8. Attach the back

Check each carcass for square by measuring the diagonals then position the backing board over the outer units in the rebate at the outer side and flush with the inner side. Secure with four screws along each edge

Step 9. Build the plinth

Use a mitresaw to cut the mitres for the plinth front and sides. Cut 17 x 8mm housings, 50mm from the back of the sides then at 975mm and 1005 in from each end on the front. Assemble with adhesive and nails.

Step 10. Cut biscuit slots

Position the top panels end to end and check that the joint closes up neatly, straightening with a hand plane as required. Mark corresponding biscuit positions on both ends and use a biscuit joiner to cut the slots.

Step 11. Join top panels

Position offcuts above and below the top panels, apply adhesive then insert the biscuits and push the joint closed, clamping the offcuts. Pull the joint tight with sash clamps over the offcuts, wiping off excess adhesive.

Step 12. Attach top trim

Cut the top trim with a mitre on the front corners then cut biscuit slots around the edge at 200mm centres. Apply adhesive then insert the biscuits and tap the trim in position, clamping until dry.

Click on the diagram

Click on the diagram to the measurements for this low-line bookshelf.

Click on the cutting list

Click on the cutting list to see what materials are needed for this project, and in what sizes.

Vote It Up: