Making MDF Cube Storage Bookcase & Desk

Today I’m taking you with me on a customer job to make some MDF cube storage bookcase shelves. As part of this job I’m also making a floating desk that goes all the way around the room. You can watch the timelapse build and I’m explain it all in a bit more detail on here.

Watch the timelapse video here:

Making a MDF Bookcase & Floating Desk (Timelapse)


This was one of those jobs where the customer had a vision of what they wanted but it was important to make sure they’re understanding of what I was building matched with my understanding of what I was building. So the first thing I did was knock up a quick 3D design in SketchUp so we could discuss the shelf spacing, desk size and other things. I managed to design this so we only needed two metal legs underneath the large floating desk. The cube storage size was centred around the size of standard box storage files.

Making the MDF Cube Storage

For this project I cut everything to size in the workshop before going to site. It would have been impossible to cut this quantity of wood in such a small room and there was nowhere really to work outside, not mentioning the weather! This also included cutting biscuit slots in everything so that it all (hopefully) neatly fitted together once on site.

I started off by fitting some temporary riser supports to the floor out of stud timber. This was just to hold the base in the correct position while I installed everything else. The first panel to go in was the big left hand panel – note this has biscuit slots cut in the top to allow for the installation of an extension piece towards the end of the installation. I then installed the base shelf – slotted in to the left hand side panel with glue & biscuits.

Making the Cube Shelves

The cube shelves are all held together with biscuits. I had to take care on the biscuit positioning to ensure the biscuits of a lower shelf didn’t interfere with the biscuits of the next shelf up. The short vertical pieces are just slotted and glued in place. The long horizontal pieces are then added on top – again glued in place – biscuits everywhere! I repeated this all the way up the unit. Bear in mind this has almost zero structural stability until the right hand panel is attached so I had to use some clamps against the door frame and a spacer block to keep everything square as I worked my way up.

Building the Top Section

Once I got to the top I added the short extension piece on the left hand side, mentioned earlier. I could then work on fitting the right hand main support panel. Again, this is biscuit jointed in place. I used a few screws through the right hand side panel hold everything together while the glue dried. At this point nothing is attached to the wall – I wanted to ensure everything was built perfectly square without the angles of the wall or ceiling potentially throwing things out of line. I finished off this part of the build by adding the right hand height extension and top. The top panel is glued to the ceiling to prevent any sagging of the MDF over time. Since the unit is tight to the ceiling there’s really no need to any additional wall fixings – it can’t physically go anywhere! It’s fixed at the bottom, at the top and the whole unit is caulked in.

Making the Floating Desk

The floating desk lines up with the second shelf in the bookcase so it was essential to install the bookcase first. I marked a level line around the room for the desk height and fitted 20mm x 20mm support timber all around the room. The front support strip was fitted across the shorted side of the room – I used slightly wider timber for this with it being such a big span (20mm x 100mm). By fitting the first support timber across the short span it reduces the length of the long span.

PRO TIP: If you’re fitting L-shaped shelves fit the short span first. This reduces the length of the long span and minimises sagging.

Once the support framework was all installed I glued and brand nailed the top panels in place. These are made from paint-grade 18mm plywood. The front edges are firmly clamped while the glue dries. All of these needed to be scribed to the wall. I made the underside covers from 6mm MDF and cut them to match the sizes of the top desk panels, again all scribed to the walls. Once again these were glued and brad nailed in place.

Fitting the Legs and Finishing Touches

Once the core structure of the desk was built I then fitted the two adjustable support legs in positions to minimise any sag or movement of the desk, for example if you’re leaning on the desk while working. Trim pieces were fitted to the front edge (18mm x 45mm approx.) to finish everything off – again glued and brad nailed in place. The front trim was perfectly aligned to the top and trim-routed on the underside to the perfect size using my palm router. This method of construction for any floating desk or shelf provides a very ridged sandwich structure once the glue is dry.

I added some thin stripwood mouldings around the bookcase to hide the unevenness of the wall – these are glued, brad nailed and caulked in place. 2-part filler was used to fill all of the nail holes and joins between the various sections of the desk. I also added a small amount of filler between all of the cube intersections, again just so that there’s no visible join once it’s all painted. These were sanded back to the point that there were no visible joins. Edges were given a light sand to knock off sharp corners, everything was washed down and a small bead of caulk applied around all edges. Very happy customer – on to the next one!


Andy Mac
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