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How To Build A Formica Laminate Bookcase

March 12th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments
Formica Bookshef Fabrication


Making a bookcase from scratch can be fun. The materials you use will determine how you build the unit. This tutorial will teach you how to make a Formica shelf cabinet for storing books. The book storage cabinet design I am referring to in this article will not have doors on it.

I would suggest that you fabricate your open shelf cupboard using plywood unless you want to go with a cheaper material.

Make a drawing of the bookcase that you will be building. Using it as a guide, create a cut list of all the parts you will need.

All of the parts can be calculated for butt joint assembly. The parts can be stapled and screwed together. It is important that you have a back on your bookcase. This is what gives the freestanding unit the most rigidity.

When calculating the part’s sizes, make sure that you allow for the thickness of the Formica. Two pieces of vertical grade Formica will be one sixteenths of an inch (1/16″) thick. Two pieces of standard thickness mica will be one eight of an inch (1/8″) thick.

  • Example: If your cupboard is twenty three and one quarter inch (23-1/4″) wide overall and your material thickness before you contact glue the laminate on is five eights inches (5/8″), you would deduct an inch and one quarter (1-1/4″) off of the width. This means that the cut size of the top and bottom, for a butt joint, would be twenty two inches (22″), but that is prior to laminating the interior side pieces. When you laminate the sides, prior to assembly, they will no longer be five eights inches thick (5/8″) because the laminate (vertical grade) is one thirty second of an inch (1/32″) thick. This means that the bookcase top and bottom would need to be cut at twenty one and fifteen sixteenths wide (21-15/16″) when they are butting between the two sides.

Once the list is made of the boards you will need for the Formica bookcase, make a list of the plastic laminate sizes you will need to cut as well. The Formica laminate sizesĀ  should be cut one inch (1″) larger than the boards they will cover.

Cut all of the board parts and then cut your laminate. Contact glue all of the Formica to the top, bottom, partitions, adjustable shelves and back. You are only laminating the interior sections of the bookcase prior to assembly. Refer to this article about applying contact glue.

If you have a toe kick, you can laminate it prior to assembling the bookcase and plan on recessing the toe board back from the front edge.

The exterior of the book case will get covered with Formica after you have assembled the cabinet. This will cover over all of the staple or screw holes. If you have never used a high-speed router, review this information on router direction when cutting Formica.

If you are making your bookcase with fixed shelves, be sure to cut them three eights of an inch shorter in-depth than the top and bottom. This will allow room for the high-speed router to pass by when laminating the front edge on the bookcase unit. It will also make it easier to file the plastic laminate cabinet edges.

If your bookcase is going to have adjustable shelves, you will need to have your shelf support pins on hand. Not all support pins are the same in thickness. Some adjustable shelves need to be cut one sixteenths of an inch (1/16″) shorter than the interior width of the bookcase and others may require that the adjustable shelves be cut one quarter of an inch (1/4″) shorter. The depth of the shelves should be one quarter of an inch (1/4″) shorter than the interior depth of the top and bottom. Bookcase shelves look better when they are setback from the front edge.

You should make a jig for drilling adjustable shelf holes in cabinet sides.

Quick Reference Guide For Building a Bookcase With Formica

  1. Make a drawing
  2. Cut the wood
  3. Cut the Formica oversize
  4. Laminate the interior parts
  5. Assemble the bookcase
  6. Laminate the exterior sides
  7. Cover the face edges of the bookcase
  8. Install the bookcase top Formica last

Now you can buy a really nice prefab cupboardĀ  in a box from places like Wal-mart, Ikea, or any large office supply store. The drawback to that is you are limited to the color selection.

Tip: Call a local cabinet fabricator and ask if they will sell you some Formica plastic laminate to build your bookcase out of. You should be able to get a much better price from a small cabinet business rather than custom ordering laminate through Home Depot or Lowe’s. A well built Formica book case will last a lifetime.

Categories: Cabinet Making
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