How to Build a Double-Sided Bookcase

Earlier this spring, I decided to build a tall double-sided bookcase. You see, I have a lot of books—mostly paperbacks, although some hardcover books, too—but my store-bought bookcases leave an abundance of unused, wasted space because the shelf sizes are so much bigger than most of my books. Also, my store-bought bookcases aren’t very tall. I looked into buying some closer to what I wanted, but found the price to be quite excessive. So I decided to design and build my own bookcase to better accommodate the sizes of my books as well as extending farther upward, almost reaching the ceiling to give my front room a library-like feel.

I love the way my double-sided bookcase turned out, so today I’ve decided to take a break from my #12in20 posts. This blog post is all about sharing how you too can build a tall double-sided bookcase. (Please share in the comments how yours turns out if you decide to try my design… 🙂 )

Close view of Debey's personal double-sided bookcase design with some books on the shelves and window light in the background.
Debey’s finished double-sided bookcase with a few books on the shelves.

First off, if you do decide to build this, you’ll need some supplies. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 18 pieces – 1×8 lumber cut to 48” long each (for the shelves)

  • 4 pieces – 1×3 lumber cut to 92” long each (for the sides)

  • 9 pieces – 1×3 lumber cut to 49 ½” long each (for the back supports)

  • 4 pieces – 1×4 lumber cut to 92” long each (for the sides)

  • 9 pieces – 1×2 lumber cut to 49 ½” long each (for the back supports)

  • @ 200ish screws (color coordinate them to the color of your bookcase if you want) I bought a 189 count box of #6 x 1-5/8″ screws and had a few left over.

  • Stain or paint (I recommend water-based. I bought an oil-based one without thinking and later suffered with much messier cleanups. Or, you can also buy pre-stained lumber, but it’s a bit pricier…)

  • Either a co-worker to help assemble or a sturdy frame & clamps to line up & hold the pieces as you put it all together.

  • You’ll also need tools:

    • Drill & bit

    • #2 Screwdriver (one that will fit your screws)

    • Paintbrush or stain rag

    • pencil & eraser

Below are the design drawings I sketched out to use as instructions in building this tall double-sided bookcase. As you can see, I decided to add a couple inches to the height–going for 92″ inch high sides instead of the 90″ written on my notes.

Bookcase Instructions Page 1
Bookcase Instructions Page 1
Bookcase Instructions Page 2
Bookcase Instructions Page 2
Bookcase Instructions Page 3
Bookcase Instructions Page 3

Basically from this point, use the drawings to guide yourself in putting all the pieces together. You can either stain all the pieces before or after assembling—builder’s choice! 🙂

The way I personally put everything together was to first measure the positioning of shelves to the side pieces—starting with Side A 1x4s since the back of the shelves would line up flush to the back of the lengthwise 1×4 pieces. I started with the bottom shelf being 3” from the bottom—so I measured 3”up on the 1×4, then marked off 3/4” from there to allow for the space the shelf itself would take up. Next, I measured 10” from that 3/4” mark, which would then be where the bottom of the next shelf would hit. Again, I marked 3/4” to allow for space of the shelf itself before measuring up another 10” from there, and so on. (10” is for the height of each shelf, which is the height of the Side A shelves.) Next, I drilled holes in the 1×4 in the approximate mid-line of the width as guides to where I’d screw the sides of the shelves to the 1×4.

Repeat this process for another 1×4 for the opposite end of Side A shelves. (Basically, where another 1×4 would be placed at the other side of the shelves.) Make sure this 1×4 mirrors/reflects rather than simply copies the other side (so when marking from this second side, remember it will be an inside/outside sort of a thing).

Then, I used the screwdriver & screws to screw each shelf to one of the 1x4s … only one because I next measured out and positioned a 1×3 lengthwise side piece, similarly to the above 1×4 process, except leaving approximately 1/4” overhang at what would be the front of the bookcase. Once done with the 1x3s, I then screwed one to the shelves on the same side where the 1×4 was screwed to the shelves, making sure that each shelf was level as this was the second screw holding each shelf in.

Next, I screwed the marked 1×4 and 1×3 pieces to the shelves on the other side—again, double checking that everything was even and level.

*A note here … When I built my bookcase, I miscalculated the number of total 1×8 shelf pieces needed, so ended up one short. As a result, I decided not to do a top shelf on Side A, giving it a total of only 8 shelves instead of the designed for 9; however, this worked out okay as I’m able to put bigger-sized books on this “over-sized” top shelf. So—if you have a few larger sized books you want to be able to accommodate, you also may want to subtract one from the total 1×8 pieces of lumber needed.

To complete Side A, I placed it face down on the ground, then measured where each of the 1×2 back supports would go. The way this double-sided bookcase is designed, the back supports from one side are placed to hit where the shelves from the other side are. So, the first 1×2 will be placed about 1/2”-3/4” from the bottom. The second 1×2 will be placed at 8 3/4” up from the bottom. (The top of the second 1×2 will be @10 1/4” from the bottom.) The third will be 19 1/2” from the bottom (it’s top will be @21” up at the top). Except for the very bottom back support, each subsequent 1×2 back support will be 9 1/4” apart from the top of one to the bottom of the next.

Voilá! Side A is now done.

For Side B, the lengthwise 1×4 and 1×3 pieces are measured and attached in the same way that Side A was—except that the bottom shelf is only 1” up from the bottom and there is only 7 1/2” between the first and second shelves. (Which will fit mass market sized paperback books.) From the second shelf on up, there is 10” between shelves just as on Side A. This smaller bottom shelf is what accommodates the offsetting between sides so that the back supports from Side A can be secured to the back of the shelves on Side B and vice versa. This also helps to stabilize the bookcase.

Side view of Debey's double-sided bookcase showing how the back supports from one side align with shelves on the opposite side.
Side view of Debey’s double-sided bookcase showing how the back supports from one side align with shelves on the opposite side.

The 1x3s are used as back supports on Side B, with the first back support being 4 1/3” up from the bottom (the top being 6 3/4” up). The second will be 13” from the bottom (top 15 1/2” up from the bottom), and so on each subsequent back support being 8 1/4” apart from the top of one to the bottom of the next. (The 8 1/4” on Side B versus the 9 1/4” on Side A is because one side uses 1x2s whereas the other uses 1x3s for back supports.)

Angle view of Debey's double-sided bookcase showing how the shelves align with the back supports on the opposite side.
Angle view of Debey’s double-sided bookcase showing how the shelves align with the back supports on the opposite side.

Once both sides of the double-sided bookcase are finished, I suggest moving each side into the area where you want it to go separately (before attaching them together). This is because the bookcase is so tall that you will need to angle it up in order to get it standing upright (unless you have extremely high ceilings…). I found it best to angle it face down, then slowly tilt it up into place. Place the sides back-to-back in the area they are to go, then drill holes approximately 12” from each side of the bookcase through each back support and into the shelf on the opposite side. (Do this for both sides A & B.) You guessed it—next, screw in some screws through the holes to hold the bookcases together at the “back” of each side.

Debey's double-sided, tall bookcase positioned in the space it will go before being loaded with books.
Debey’s tall double-sided bookcase almost reaching the ceiling.

Yay!!! You’re done! Load some books into your new bookcase and admire your handiwork!!!

One last thing—I should mention that you could also build each “side” as a single bookcase, using a couple of the back supports to attach this single-sided version to studs in the wall if you wanted to put one or more “sides” along a wall…

Here’s a final photo of how my double-sided bookcase turned out. I love the old-time look and feel as well as knowing how solid it is. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Debey's double-sided bookcase with some books on the shelves.
Debey’s double-sided bookcase with some books on the shelves.

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