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Large Bookcase Donation

Transforming store-bought bookshelves into a classic bookcase


This is not a typical project for me. I am sharing it with you because there were a lot of learnings along the way. I completed this project in 2017 as a donation to the Chabbad synagogue in our town which was moving to a new building. The Rabbi has 4 old store-bought book shelves and wanted to convert them into a wall to wall bookcase.


Before I started I took photos of the location where the bookcase would reside:

I noticed the backboard which would need to be accounted for when the bookcase is pushed against the wall. I also took note of the colors in the room so I could match the color of the bookcase to blend nicely.

Next - i tasked my assistant (actually my son) with disassembly of the office shelf units:

And now started the fun part, and one of my biggest lessons for this project: stripping the finish was an incredibly laborious task. I would have been better off building this from scratch using fresh MDF - but I accepted the challenge. Here are the stripped boards going through HVLP spray painting:

Now comes the second learning: spray painting in the winter is a fools errand. I have since purchased a large collapsable spray booth I can use in my workshop. I fought a battle with the wind and low temperatures (you notice the snow, right) and eventually got the paint to adhere well

I then made 4 doors from MDF: I purchased a door kit router bit to make the stile and rail, and the result is here:

..which leads me to the next learning: sanding MDF before painting, is tricky. I should have sanded the central panels before gluing up the doors, and as a result I had to fold my sanding paper into a very tight spot


I must admit that it felt really good to finish this project. I under-estimated the amount of work it would take me, so perhaps the best lesson here was how to estimate effort and time, and this would come in handy in future client projects

I was proud to see the unit loaded with books and being used actively in the library. The Rabbi and his wife even gave me a very kind kudo on social media!

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