This is an easy project. At least it should be. I ran into a few complications.
My goal with this bookcase was to maximize a full sheet of 3/4″ plywood. The design I came up with does just that. There is very little scrap lumber left over.
I also included room in that sheet for a simple dowel hole jig. Joining this all together with dowels creates a strong piece of furniture as well as eliminates the need for any fasteners.
To make this bookcase, just download the plans and follow the cutlist. Keep all your grain running the right way and keep track of your pieces and you will have no trouble at all. It really is that simple.
Since I was using pine plywood, I thought it might be nice if I stained this project: something I rarely do. Typically I just apply a clear finish and let the natural color of the wood shine through. Unfortunately, I decided to try a product I have never tested: a polyurethane/stain mixture in one can. The results were disastrous. Very difficult to apply, it left ugly streaks and pools of stain. It refused to stick to the birch edge banding.
People Use that Stuff?
I’d like to think I have a fair amount of experience at staining and finishing wood. I’ve tried just about every technique there is and I knew this would be similar to applying poly, a fairly time-consuming process. I did everything the manufacturer recommends. I applied a pre-stain wood conditioner and carefully brushed it on using one the the manufacturer’s brushes intended for their polyurethanes. I let it dry overnight, sanded with steel wool and applied a second coat, which they also recommend. Still looked horrible.
As I was already running behind on this project, I had to make a decision to keep applying more coats (after waiting 8 hours between each) or cut my losses and just paint the bookcase. I opted for the latter. This is a product marketed as an easy one-can finish for inexperienced finishers and DIYers. I can’t help but wonder how many of them became as frustrated as me and gave up ever trying to finish wood again.
Strangely, I am very happy with the way the paint turned out of this piece! It matches one of the colors in my Jetsons wall clock and fits well in my mid-century modern living room.
If you want a super-easy easy weekend project, make this bookcase with the intention of painting it. If you choose to go that route, you can eliminate the edge banding and just paint the exposed plywood edges. You can also eliminate the dowel jointery and just glue and screw it all together. Recess the screws (or nails) and fill in the holes with paintable wood filler. You can also save money by just using MDF instead of plywood, since grain direction is irrelevant on painted pieces.