Build A Wooden Bookshelf – Milwaukee M18 FUEL Jig Saw & Router

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Milwaukee M18 Bookshelf Project

What's This?This post is sponsored by The Home Depot. Shelves come in all shapes, sizes and styles. They’re a great way to display and organize books, collections, knick-knacks, paddywhacks and other things in your home or office; or just to add interest to an otherwise boring space. Since we recently received some new Milwaukee M18 FUEL tools to review, this seemed like the perfect chance to build a cool wooden bookshelf I’ve been planning and put the Milwaukee 2737-20 M18 FUEL jigsaw and 2723-20 M18 FUEL compact router to the test. We shall shelve this project no longer!

Stylish Bookshelf Building With Some Top Shelf Tools

Milwaukee M18 jigsaw and compact router.
Milwaukee M18 jigsaw and compact router.

This three-tiered bookshelf is a beginner to intermediate level project you can build with only a few tools. Most of the work was done using the Milwaukee M18 FUEL jigsaw and compact router.

All of the solid wood parts were cut from two 1x10x8 pine boards (actually 3/4” x 9-1/4” x 8′) that I cherry-picked for the fewest knots and blemishes. The rear panel is less than 1/3 sheet of tempered hardboard. Total materials cost was around $40, plus a few bucks for paint and polyurethane. Feel free to modify dimensions to better suit your needs and taste; or use a different species of wood. In either case, your actual cost may vary.

Side Hustle – Getting Your Shelf On

Milwaukee 2737-20 jig saw
For straight cuts, you can clamp a straightedge to your workpiece. This gnarled board was used for test cuts only, not in the bookshelf project.

Start by cutting the sides to a length of 23-1/4”. I made some test cuts with the Milwaukee M18 FUEL jig saw model 2737-20, using a straight edge as a guide. But I quickly found that the variable speed trigger, built-in LED light and the blade support roller all made it really easy to follow a line, even free-handed. So I ditched the guide altogether.

Blade support roller
A support roller helps keep the blade square to the shoe of the tool. But the lower part of the blade can still deflect if you apply too much sideways pressure.
Orbital action selector lever
This lever controls the saw’s orbital action. The higher the number, the more aggressive (and faster) the cut. For the smoothest finish, set it to “0” and take your time.

The jig saw comes with a pretty aggressive blade, which is great for rough work. But we need something a lot tamer for this project. Instead, use something like the scrolling blade pictured below (or one like it) for the entirety of this project. Speaking of blades, the jigsaw’s tool-less blade holder makes installing and removing said blade a simple, one-second process; two if you’re slow. And speaking of tool-less, the shoe plate adjustment is just as easy.

Jig saw blades
The Milwaukee M18 FUEL jig saw is compatible with standard T-shank blades (no U-shanks). The top blade in this picture came with the saw. But for this project I used a scrolling blade with flat ground sides (no tooth set), which gave me far cleaner cuts that needed only minor sanding afterwards.

The jig saw will see a lot more action in this project. But our next step is to cut shelf support dadoes. And for that, we turned to Milwaukee’s 2723-20 M18 FUEL compact router.

Shelf Layout – Sufficiently Spacing Your Stuff

Bookshelf dado layout.
Both side pieces measure 23-1/4” long and are dadoed the same. All dadoes are 3/4” wide (the thickness of the shelves) and 1/4” deep. Note: The bottoms are to the left in this picture.

Lay out the two sides as shown above. The width of the dadoes (3/4”, in this case) should match the thickness of your shelves.

Cutting Dadoes – Milwaukee M18 FUEL Compact Router

Silky smooth adjustments.
I don’t think I’ve ever used a router – compact or not – whose base adjusted as smoothly and effortlessly as this one. The coarse and fine adjustments and lock lever are all pretty much perfect.

Like the jigsaw above, Milwaukee’s M18 FUEL 18V compact router feels exceptionally well built. And it has two notable safety features your fingers will appreciate: 1) Super quick braking action stops bit rotation almost immediately upon power off, and 2) An electronic lockout prevents the tool from whirring into action if it happens to be switched on when you attach a battery pack; it must be switched off then on again to operate.

Variable speed dial.
Variable speed control dial, from 10,000 – 31,000 RPM.

Now that you’ve made acquaintance, grab a straight bit and rout 1/4” deep dadoes to support the three shelves. Consider going slightly deeper for larger, longer shelf units. Start by making a simple T-square router guide. The router comes with a guide that you can use to run parallel to an edge; this is something different.

To A “T” – It’s Hip To Be Square

T-square router guide.
This T-square router guide consists of a thin board (with square corners and parallel edges) glued to a piece of square or rectangular rod. Clamps may tend to pull the pieces out of square while the glue dries, so it was “clamped” with a staple gun instead.

It’s important that all of the dadoes be parallel to each other. Otherwise, you may end up with tilted or twisted shelves, neither of which is very hip. This simple T-square router dado guide is an easy way to get it right every time.

It's hip to be square.
The two pieces must be aligned square to each other.

The dado guide is just two pieces of wood glued together. The flat part is wide enough that it can be clamped to the workpiece without interfering with the router base, and long enough to overhang both edges. The T-bar extends past the router bit on both sides and is thicker (taller) than the dadoes will be deep.

Slightly off-center.
A careful measurement shows that the router sub-base is slightly off center (a hair farther to one side that the other, a condition that can be corrected with a little hole elongation.). The T-square guide will completely eliminate that offset from the equation, giving you perfectly positioned, straight, repeatable dadoes.

The straight bit you use should be equal to or narrower than the width of your dadoes. A full 3/4” straight bit may be a little much for a compact router, unless you make shallower passes. Mine is 1/2” in diameter (with 1/4” shaft).

Calibrating And Using The T-Square Dado Guide

Calibrating the T-square jig.
Clamp the guide to a scrap board and rout a dado through the T-bar.

This T-square guide has built-in positioning indicators, which we will create now. Clamp it to scrap material. Rout a dado with the router base riding along the edge of the guide. Then repeat on the other side, with the same side of the router facing the T-bar. For consistency, I kept the opening on the base facing the T-bar.

Milwaukee jig saw.
Do this on both sides of the guide, always holding the router in the same orientation with respect to the T-bar.
Easy indexing.
Now both ends of the T-square are indexed for easy alignment.

To use, align the dadoes you just cut with the layout marks on your workpieces.

Making a wooden bookshelf.
For illustrative purposes, I’ve labeled the jig indexes and layout lines “A” and “B”. Start by aligning the inside edge of dado “A” with layout line “A”.
Routing dadoes with Milwaukee M18 compact router.
Clamp the jig and rout the dado. For deeper dadoes, you may need to make more than one shallow pass until you reach full depth.
T-square router guide.
That’s the first part of the dado.
Complete the dado.
Now reposition the T-square to “B” and complete the dado.

How Stella Got Her Back Grooved

Tempered hardboard.
My shelf back will be made from this piece of tempered hardboard.

The next step is to prepare a seat for the back panel. Depending on how you plan to use the shelf unit, you have two options: groove or rabbet.

Grooving with the table saw.
I set my table saw fence 3/4” from the blade and raised the blade to 1/2” (matching the depth of the dadoes). Run both side panels with the dadoes face down and the back edge riding against the fence.

If your bookshelf is going to sit on a table, dresser or floor, you can use a bearing guided rabbeting bit to create a lip in the back edge of both side pieces, into which you’ll inset the back. This technique will give you the deepest shelves.

A perfect fit.
A perfect fit. If your groove needs to be widened, tap the fence a tad farther from the blade and run the piece through again.

However, the one I’m building will be mounted to a wall using French Cleats, a secure method for hanging cabinetry (That will be a separate how-to article). But, to make room for the French cleat system, I need to offset the back panel 3/4” from the rear of the bookshelf.

Bookshelf sides: dadoed and grooved.
Your sides should now look like this. (The back edges are positioned together and the tops are in the foreground.)

If you have the right combination of material thickness and bit diameter, you can groove with the router and included edge guide. I don’t have a straight bit narrow enough – and don’t want a 1/4″ (the thinnest straight bit I own) thick back – so I got groovy with the table saw instead.

Shapely Sides – Laying Out And Cutting That Sexy Profile

Curves in all the right places.
The middle section steps back 1” from the front edge. The top steps back 2”.

The design of this wooden shelf unit was inspired by one I saw online. Its most striking feature is that the sides become narrower above the bottom and middle shelves. I used a French curve to draw arcs that begin 1/2” above the shelf dadoes.

Reference lines.
For repeatable positioning, find a curve segment you like then use a fine tipped marker draw reference lines that kiss the edge of the board and dado. Since the plastic curve is translucent, the marks can still be seen when you flip the French curve over to lay out the other side panel. When you’re done, the marker can be wiped away with alcohol.

French cleats… French curve… My last name is “French”… Kissing… Coincidence? Oui, it’s just a coincidence. Except for the kissing; that’s always intentional.

Milwaukee M18 jig saw dust collection.
The Milwaukee M18 FUEL jig saw comes with this dust collection attachment. And it does a pretty darned good job.
Shapely sides.
For best results, use the scrolling blade recommended earlier (or one similar). Start cutting at the widest end and work your way towards the narrower, top section. That way all of the curves will be cut in the “downhill” direction and will have a much smoother finish.
Side hustle.
Both sides cut to shape. If you take your time and carefully follow your layout lines, you can get great results that require minimal sanding.

Cutting The Three Shelves – Being Shelf-ish

Cutting shelves to length.
I started by cutting three shelves 31-3/4” long. That length was chosen, in part, because it makes for nice proportions. But mostly to get maximum yield from a single 8′ long piece of lumber.

Now to cut the three shelves. For this project, their length is equal to the overall width of the assembled bookshelf. That normally wouldn’t be so, but in this case the front edge of the shelves extend all the way to the outer face of each side. The actual usable shelf space, however, is that length minus the thickness of both sides.

1/2" of meat on the bone.
The 1/4” deep shelf support dadoes leave 1/2” of material. That’s the amount we need to trim from both ends of each shelf.
Milwaukee M18 bookshelf project.
After cutting the shelves to length (31-3/4”), notch each end 1/2” shorter. Leave the front edges intact.
Shelf notch measurements.
Close-up of front corner. The notch is 1/2” deep and starts 1/2” from the front edge.
Milwaukee 18V Brushless M18 jig saw.
Use another piece of wood to keep the jig saw from tipping while you make the short, end cut. You want this cut to be parallel to the front edge of the board.

Trim Your Shelves To The Proper Depth

Determine shelf depth.
Lay down one of the bookshelf sides and insert the three shelves into the dadoes. Make sure the front edges are seated against the front edge of the side panel.

Seat the shelves into one of the sides and mark where to trim the back of each. Cut them to their final depth.

Shelves need to be trimmed to depth.
From the back, you can see how much of each shelf needs to be trimmed.
Marking where to cut.
Marking where to cut.

Test Fit The Shelves And Cut The Back Panel

Bookshelf test fit.
Before going any further, let’s make sure things are fitting together as they should.

A test fit now can spare you from throwing a testy fit later. It’s also a good time to cut the back panel to size. Make the panel as wide as the back edge of the individual shelves and as tall as the distance from the bottom of the bottom shelf to the top of the top shelf.

Back seated in place.
The back panel sits in the groove on each side. And because the grooves are the same depth as the dadoes, the back should be the same width as the shelves.

Pretty Up The Fronts Of The Shelves

Marking the stop points.
At the front of each shelf, make a mark 1-3/8” from the end, as shown. Do this on both ends, top and bottom.

The sides of the bookshelf have a cool, curvy contour. So it’s only right that we should adorn the shelves as well. Make marks as shown above to indicate your start and stop points. Then use a 5/32” Roman ogee bit with a 3/8” guide bearing to add a simple, yet visually striking, touch of interest.

Visual indicator.
Ride the router base along the front edge of the shelf. Begin with the right side of the guide bearing aligned to the mark on the right end of the shelf, and stop when the left side reaches the mark on the other end.

Work your way from right to left (because of the direction of bit rotation) then flip the shelf over and repeat. The Milwaukee 2723-20 M18 FUEL compact router has a great dust collector attachment, but the nature of working on an edge like this is particularly prone to throwing material in your face. Eye and respiratory protection is a must.

Milwaukee M18 compact router.
Rout from right to left.
Oh gee! Look at those ogees!
Oh gee! Look at those ogees!

Round Over The Rest Of The Front Shelf Edges

Next, install a 1/8” round-over bit and shape the ends of the shelf fronts.

Before and after.
Compare the before (bottom) and after (top). The top one has a 1/8” round-over. Do this step with the router held in the “normal”, vertical orientation (base sitting on top of the board and the bit pointing downward). This time, rout from left to right.

Finally, rout the ends of the protrusions.

Rounding the ends.
As with the ogees, this step is also done with the router held horizontally. Round over the ends, working counter-clockwise.

Don’t round over the bookshelf sides until after they are sanded.

Smooth Operator – Everyone’s “Favorite” Part

Enter Sander Man.
Sand the side pieces (especially the contoured front edges) before giving them their routed round-overs.

It’s standard woodworker parlance to complain about sanding. But it’s one part of a project that often has the greatest impact, and the difference in appearance and feel can bring a lot of satisfaction. While some might have you feel that you’re supposed to despise this part, a random orbital sander actually makes it a breeze.

Sand the sides and shelves. Just don’t over-sand the shelves or they might fit loosely into the dadoes. You’ll have to sand the ogees and rounded edges by hand, but it’s really not a big deal. Use some fresh 220 grit and you’ll be done in no time.

Getting A-Round To It – Routing Round-Overs On The Side Panels

Finally, after sanding the two side pieces, you can round over all of their outside edges. But don’t round over the rear inside edge or the dadoes; leave them square.

Next Stop: Coloring Or Assembly? – It Depends

Dyed in the wood.
I’m applying paint like a stain in order to act as a dye. This is matte finish acrylic paint (Apple Barrel Purple Pansy #21488E)

Your next move depends on how you decide to finish your bookshelf. If you’re going to paint it, you can go ahead and assemble what you have so far, add the trim pieces we get to later on (skip ahead to “A Couple Extras – The Trim Package“ for more one that), then paint. If you plan to stain or dye the wood, you may opt to do so before assembly (as I did).

Dyed In The Wood – Pansy Purple Planks

Color me impressed.
For a beautiful dyed look that’s dirt cheap, use acrylic paint. I used two and a half 2 fl. oz. bottles of paint that cost $0.50 each. Apply it with a rag then wipe off the excess soon afterwards. You can vary the appearance by wiping more or less.

My reason for coloring first is that glue squeeze-out can drastically hinder wood’s ability to absorb stain or dye. So any glue that might get on the surface will leave a noticeable uncolored spot. And since stain and dye soak into wood, you can almost always glue after they’ve been applied and given time to dry.

Wooden bookshelf.
If you like the look of wood grain (or dyed wood), you’re going to love this technique! It gets even more vivid and beautiful when clear coated.

This bookshelf is for my wife. She loves purple. But she also likes the wood grain look. You can achieve that look with wood dye. But actual dyes can be expensive, a pain to mix and work with and are available in a very limited color palette. The perfect solution? Use matte (not gloss) acrylic paint! Granted, paint doesn’t penetrate the way dye would, but it’s a great alternative.

Milwaukee bookshelf project.
Leave the glue surfaces bare (though you can glue to matte acrylic paint applied – and wiped off – in this manner). But do touch up any crevasses – such as the ends of the back panel groove – that might be visible after assembly.

Pro Tip: Acrylic paint is water based. You can apply either a water-based or oil-based clear coat. But if you use oil-based paints/stains, you’ll only be able to use an oil-based top coat. To determine what you have, look at the product’s clean-up instructions. Water-based products clean up with water. Oil-based products will say to use a solvent, such as mineral spirits.

Bookshelf Got Back – Give It A Rub

Oil rubbed hardboard.
Use boiled linseed oil to give tempered hardboard a deeper, richer color. The lighter strip laying on top is the same material before treating with BLO.

Not to neglect the back panel, I always like to darken my hardboard when used as a bookshelf backer. It just looks nicer. The hardboard I used is tempered on one side, that’s the side you’re going to see.

Use a rag to coat the tempered face with linseed oil. It’s going to soak in almost immediately, so keep applying until you get a nice even tone. When it stops absorbing, wipe off the excess until no more oily residue comes off. Allow it to dry thoroughly before installing. Note: Do not sand the face of the hardboard; it will scuff and look bad.

Assembly – Where All Your Hard Work Comes Together

Glue and clamp the shelves and sides together. Not pictured are two more clamps that I had towards the fronts of the middle and bottom shelves.

After gluing the main assembly, verify that it’s square then clamp everything together. Check for square once again and let it sit until the glue dries.

Slipping in the back.
The back panel can be slid in place after the glue-up has set.
Screwed in place.
Drill pilot holes and counter-sink so the back panel can be screwed in place. I used five screws per shelf, and no glue.

Once the entire unit is built, I’ll pull the back and give the main unit a couple coats of clear satin polyurethane (or maybe lacquer). But, unfortunately, that will have to wait a little longer because it’s too cold in my shop for a film finish to cure properly.

A Couple Extras – The Trim Package

Wooden bookshelf.
Here’s what we have so far.

OK, so here is where you’d skip to if you were going to give the bookshelf a standard paint job (then you’d backtrack and pick up where you left off).

All the trimmin's.
Cut and paint a trim piece for the top. This sits just in front of the back panel.

The last two parts are made with simple, straight cuts out of the scrap from when the shelves were trimmed to their different depths and help to tie everything together nicely. The first piece blocks the view of the back panel and keeps things from falling behind the bookshelf. The second piece finishes off the space underneath the bottom shelf.

Rear stop in place.
Here’s what it looks like after the glue-up.

The shelves were glued into the dadoes with regular Titebond wood glue. The same can be used on these two trim pieces. But instead, I went with Titebond & Thick to reduce the chance of runs or smears.

"Kick plate"
The second trim piece spans the width underneath the bottom shelf.
"Toe kick"
“Toe kick”

Final Word – Book ‘Em!

Bookshelf completed!
Bookshelf completed!

Both the 2737-20 jig saw and 2723-20 compact router are professional quality tools that truly deliver on all performance expectations you might have from the Milwaukee brand. They feel great in the hand, have extremely smooth (surprisingly smooth) controls and adjustments and 18V brushless motors packed with more than ample power.

Milwaukee M18 jig saw and compact routers.
Milwaukee M18 FUEL jig saw & compact router. I have no notable complaints about either tool; that’s rare for me.

Of the countless remodeling and woodworking projects these tools are capable of tackling, they were right at home building this wooden bookshelf. And if there was a book written about them, this is right where I’d keep it!

Get the Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18V brushless D-handle Jig Saw model 2737-20 (tool only) for just under $200:

Buy Now - via The Home Depot

Get the Milwaukee M18 FUEL 18V brushless compact router model 2723-20 (tool only) for just under $180:

Buy Now - via The Home Depot

I acknowledge that The Home Depot is partnering with Home Fixated in sponsored content. As a part of the sponsorship, Home Fixated is receiving compensation for the purpose of promoting The Home Depot. All expressed opinions and experiences are our own words. This post complies with the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Ethics Code and applicable Federal Trade Commission guidelines.

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About Steve

Steve made his first woodworking project at age 9 (in 1982) and whittled his first wooden chain at 18. He was also a consumer electronics repair tech and shop owner for a little over 20 years, until his impending obsolescence became impossible to ignore. Since then, Steve has focused passionately on manipulating his wood... in his workshop. Don't judge him.

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