/ / / How to build a simple bookshelf: West Elm Knock-Off

How to build a simple bookshelf: West Elm Knock-Off

A step-by-step tutorial on how to build a bookshelf plus there are simple DIY bookshelf plans.

Have you ever found a furniture piece that you loved, but it was out of your budget? This happened to me recently with a bookshelf from West Elm. I loved everything about it, but I could not justify the cost. So I decided to use the West Elm piece as inspiration a make a DIY Bookshelf Knoff-Off.

how to build a bookcase

Also, welcome to this months At Home DIY challenge! Every month for the whole year, I am participating in a different challenge, and this month it’s “Build It Cheaper Than Buying It Furniture Challenge.” After my how-to tutorial there is a link to 30+ other DIY home bloggers projects, so be sure to check those out.

Now back to how to build a bookshelf.

Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience, click here to read my full disclosure policy

How much does it cost to build a bookshelf?

This question depends on the size of the bookshelf, material used, and style of the bookshelf. But for a simple wood bookshelf, you can build something incredible for around $100.

For the bookcase in this tutorial, the inspiration came from the Reclaimed Pine Bookshelf from West Elm. Like I stated earlier, the problem for me was the price, around $1000.

The cost to build this DIY bookshelf was about $100 for the materials. And just like the inspiration, I used pine for the wood, but I decided to add an element of metal.

But let me share how you can build a bookshelf for 10% less.

DIY Bookshelf with plans




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DIY Bookshelf Plan

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STEP 1: Cutting the wood for the bookshelf

Once all the materials have been gathered its time to cut the wood into the pieces needed to build a bookshelf.

Cut list:
• (four) – 2″x3″x70.25″ (legs)
• (fourteen) – 2″x3″x11.5″ (sides)
• (four) – 2″x 2″x5ft (shelves)

To help make it even more comfortable here is a cutting diagram for the 2″x3″ boards because the 2″x12″ will be cut in half.

Cutting diagram for 2″x3″ boards:
board one – 70.5″, 11.5″, 11.5″
board two – 70.5″, 11.5″, 11.5″
board three – 70. 5″, 11.5″, 11. 5″
board four – 70.5″, 11.5″, 11.5″
board five – 11.5″, 11.5″, 11.5″, 11.5″, 11.5″, 11.5″

Cut the boards according to the cut list.

cutting wood for bookshelf

TIP: Use the cutting diagram to save on wood.

STEP 2: Create pockets into the wood

After the pieces have been cut, pockets need to be created on the side pieces (2″x3″x11.5″).

There will be two pockets per end of a side piece, so four pockets per piece.

To create the pockets, use the Kreg Jig K5 or a different model.

creating Kreg Jig pockets for bookcase

TIP: To help you attach the shelf to these side pieces later, drill a 1/8″ hole through eight of these pieces 3″ away from the ends (11.5″ end) and centered in the middle of the board. When building the legs, place one of these side pieces wherever it says a shelf will be placed there.

STEP 3: Sand the wood

Now the boards need to be sanded to give you a smooth finish. To help make the process easier and quicker use an orbital sander with #220 grit sandpaper.

STEP 4: Stain and finish the wood

Once the pieces are smooth, wipe the pieces with a cloth to remove and dust.

SIDE NOTE: This step can be completed after step 5.

Then apply a wood stain to the wood, make sure to follow the instructions on the container.

TIP: If the container says to use a wood conditioner. I like to wipe the wood with a damp rag then stain the wood.

For this DIY bookshelf, my daughter picked Early American by Varathane, which did not require a wood conditioner.

Varathane wood stain

I like to apply a stain by using a rag.

Let the stain dry completely before sealing it with a wood finish or moving on. My favorite type of wood finish is Tung Oil.

STEP 5: Build the sides of the bookshelf

Now you can build the sides (legs) of the bookshelf.

Place two leg pieces, 70.5″, on a flat surface with the smaller 2″ side facing up. Then place seven of the 11.5″ pieces between the two leg pieces.

SIDE NOTE: If you pre-drilled holes into the side pieces, three of the 11.5″ pieces will not have holes but four will.

TIP: To make it easier at spacing the side pieces, cut a 7-3/8″ scrap piece and another scrap board at 16.25″.

Starting at the top, place one 11.5″ flush with the ends of the leg pieces. The pocket on the side piece will face up.

Clamp the boards together then secure them together with 2.5″ screws through the pocket holes.

Then space the next 11.5″ side piece, 7-3/8″ away from the last side piece you attached. Again the pockets will face up, toward the previous board. This side piece will hold a shelf so if you pre-drilled holes use one of those.

Remember my TIP above? Use the 7-3/8″ scrap board as your spacer.

Make sure the side piece is square with the legs, then clamp it into place. Use the 2.5″ screws into the pockets to secure the side piece into place.

Now you’re going to place the next side piece, again 7-3/8″ away from the last board you installed. But this time the pockets will face down, away from the previous piece.

Install this side piece the same way as the last piece.

The next side piece is installed with the pockets facing up, toward the last piece, and again 7-3/8″ away. Install this side piece, using the same process. A shelf will be placed on this piece, use a pre-drilled piece here.

Install another side piece 7-3/8″ away from the last board, but this time the pockets will face down, away from previous board installed.

You are probably noticing a pattern with the way the pockets are facing, but the last two side pieces will both face up, toward the other boards. Plus both will hold a shelf, so use pre-drilled pieces.

Place the next side piece 7-3/8″ away from the last board, make sure it is square, clamp it into place, then attach it with 2.5″ screws.

Now for the last side piece, it will be 16.25″ away from the previous side piece. So this time space the pieces 16.25″ apart, remember you have a 16.25″ scrap board you can use.

assemble the sides for the bookshelf

Then square the piece to the legs, clamp it into place, then secure the piece to the legs using 2.5″ screws.

Complete this step again to build the other side of the bookshelf.

bookshelf sides

STEP 6: Build the bookshelf

Now that the legs (sides) of the bookshelf are built, you can assemble the bookcase.

SIDE NOTE: I would recommend moving the wood parts to the desired location. This way, you are not moving the heavy bookshelf as far.

To build the bookshelf, place the legs on a flat surface so that the 3″ side of the leg is facing up.

Place a shelf on the bottom 11.5″ side pieces (the shelf will go through both leg pieces). Then place another shelf on the next side pieces from the last shelf.

The next shelf will skip a side piece and will be placed on the next.

SIDE NOTE: All the shelves are 16.25″ apart, so some will skip a side piece.

For the last shelf, skip another side piece then place the last shelf on the second from the top side pieces.

Starting at this shelf, place a 1/8″ spacer between the shelf and leg piece. A nickel will work, I used a ruler that is 1/8″ thick. Adjust the shelf so that there is an overhang of 1.5″ from the leg piece.

Clamp the shelf to the side piece, then using a 90-degree drill attachment plus the pre-drilled holes secure the side pieces to the shelf with 2″ screws.

build a bookshelf

Then move to the next shelf on the same leg and attach that shelf to the side piece the same way. Attach the other two shelves on this leg the same way too.

Now move to the other leg and attach those shelves to the side pieces the same way.

STEP 7: Secure the metal to the bookshelf

Every bookcase needs some type of backing to make it not wobble side-to-side. For this style of a bookshelf, we will use an “X” bracing out of metal for the back.

To create the “X”, place one of the 72″ metal bars onto the back of the bookshelf, your bookshelf should still be on a flat surface.

SIDE NOTE: The metal will make your hands black so wear gloves.

Place the metal so one end is at the top shelf and the other end is at the bottom shelf. Place the other metal bar onto the bookshelf so that it forms an “X”.

Adjust the spacing of the ends of the metal to the bookcase legs, so everything is spaced equally. Then using a marker, mark the metal at each shelf where you want a screw placed to secure the metal to the shelf later. You will have four marks per metal bar.

Now take the metal bars outside, place a scrap board under a marked spot. Then drill a 3/16″ hole at this marked spot.

TIP: Use a Shop-vac to collect the metal shavings while you’re drilling the hole.

Drill a 3/16″ hole at each marked spot, eight in total.

After place the metal on an old sheet or cardboard, then spray paint the sides of the metal black.

SIDE NOTE: You can paint the 3/4″ screws too.

Once the paint has dried, place the metal back onto the bookshelf. You may have to adjust your placement to give you the same fit as before.

When you are happy with the placement, clamp the metal to the shelf. Then secure the metal into place by using the 3/4″ metal to wood screws.

metal bracing for bookshelf

You can now place felt pads onto the bottom of the legs. Then stand up the bookshelf and move it into place.

SIDE NOTE: It is recommended to secure furniture piece to the wall to prevent it from falling. So please do this!

how to build a bookshelf

Now load the bookshelf up!

I hope you learned how you can build a bookshelf yourself! Enjoy your simple DIY bookshelf.

DIY bookshelf

Now be sure to look through the other projects from 30+ other DIY bloggers as part of this month’s challenge, there could be the perfect tutorial there for your next furniture build.

See more Built It Cheaper Than Buying It Furniture Projects
At Home DIY Challenges
At Home DIY Logo Participant
Yield: One bookshelf

How to build a bookshelf

DIY bookshelf

The size of this simple bookcase is 60" wide, 70.25" tall, and 14.5" deep. Material is pine with metal bracing. This bookshelf was inspired by a West Elm bookshelf.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Active Time 4 hours
Additional Time 4 hours
Total Time 8 hours 10 minutes
Difficulty Easy


  • miter saw
  • drill
  • orbital sander
  • Kreg Jig K5
  • clamps
  • tape measure
  • 90-degree drill attachment
  • square


  1. Cut wood according the cut list on the plans.
  2. Create pockets into the side pieces with a Kreg Jig K5.
  3. Sand the wood until it is smooth with #220 grit sandpaper.
  4. Stain the wood and apply a wood finish.
  5. Build the sides of the bookshelf accord to the plans.
  6. Assemble the bookshelf by attaching all the pieces together.
  7. Secure the metal X bracing to the bookshelf.
  8. Enjoy the bookshelf.
DIY bookcase west elm knock-off


  1. Megan that looks amazing! I can’t believe they wanted $1000 for their version when yours rocks it, I bet your son loves it too, great job!!

    1. I know, it’s crazy!! Thanks, Toni!

  2. Megan, this looks amazing! I’m so impressed with your woodworking skills. And what a bargain at only $100 for materials! Well done!

    1. Thanks, Rebecca you are very sweet!

  3. I’m always so impressed by your work and this is NO DIFFERENT! Great job girl!

    1. Thanks, Carmen! Loved your project this month too!

  4. Man I want one of these for my office, the only thing this post is missing is the order form so I can put in my order… LOL.

    I totally love this and Early AMerican is my all time favorite stain color!

  5. I ADORE these shelves! I really need to make a bunch of shelves for our new house. I wince at the thought of buying something from the store now that I see all of these beautiful woodworking projects. :) The bar has been raised, haha.

  6. Oh my goodness! The bookshelf is so beautiful! What a fabulous job you did! WOW!

  7. I love this! It looks so great and you can’t beat that cost for supplies!

  8. This bookcase looks great! And it seems like a straightforward build – thank you for sharing!

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