How to make an MDF bookcase

Updated July 20, 2017

The need for storage has become epidemic to contain the overflow of modern life. You can make your own bookcase for less than the monthly rent on an outside unit by using medium density fiberboard (MDF), a few hours of time and simple tools. MDF is stiffer than plywood and provides a stable, flat surface perfect for storing everything from books or toys to electronics. An added bonus is the price.

Cut the bookcase pieces. Use a table saw to cut two sides 1.5 m (5 feet) long by 30 cm (12 inches) wide. Cut two boards for the top and bottom 1.2 m (4 feet) long by 30 cm (12 inches) and three shelves 116.2 cm (3 feet 10 1/2 inches) long by 30 cm (12 inches) wide.

Drill three evenly spaced 6 mm (1/4 inch) holes that are 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) from the ends of the top and bottom boards. In both side pieces, mark and then drill 6 mm (1/4 inch) wide by 6 mm (1/4 inch) deep holes that are 2.5 cm (1 inch) away from each edge, for the shelf pegs. Space these holes to best accommodate the shelf heights you'll need.

Apply wood glue to the joint between the sides and top, and the sides and bottom. The cut ends of the sides will rest against the sides of the top and bottom, lined up with the holes you drilled. Allow the glue to get tacky on the cut edges and apply again. Screw the bottom to the sides and the top to the sides through the pre-drilled holes. Counter-sink the screws.

Apply vinyl spackling to the exposed edges on the frame (the ends of the top and bottom pieces) and the shelves, and fill all the screw holes. Sand with 150-grit sandpaper once the spackle has dried.

Prime the frame and shelves with a solvent-based primer (oil-, alcohol- or lacquer-based). Paint with any durable household paint.

Push the shelf pegs into the pre-drilled holes. Lay the shelves on the pegs and load up your stuff.


Pegboard makes an easy and accurate template for marking the shelf peg locations.


When MDF is cut, it creates a fine dust, similar to baby powder. Cut outside if you can, and always wear a mask and eye protection. The ends of MDF are very porous; always use a good grade of wood glue and glue twice to avoid splintering.

Things You'll Need

  • One sheet of 1.8 cm (3/4 inch) MDF, 1.2 m by 2.4 m (4 feet by 8 feet)
  • Measuring tape
  • Safety goggles
  • Mask
  • Table saw with carbide cross cut blade
  • Pencil
  • Drill with 6 mm (1/4 inch) bit
  • Twelve #6 X 3.7 cm (1 1/2 inch) coarse flathead MDF wood screws
  • Screwdriver
  • Wood glue
  • Vinyl spackle
  • Putty knife
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Twelve shelf-support pegs, 9 kg (20 lb), 6 mm (1/4 inch)
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About the Author

Kathy J. Campbell is a staff writer for the SEO Regional Theater and a former southeastern Ohio journalist. She's been writing for more than 20 years, has completed two novels and served as managing editor for TICO Publishing.