Letter A Bookshelf Tutorial {3M DIY Starts Here}

A few months ago (while I was still in the planning stages for my boys’ bedroom), I put out a plea on Facebook asking my blogging besties for help. I knew that I wanted to create a giant letter A and Z for above my boys’ beds, but I just wasn’t sure what material to use to make the letters. Fun fact: The “A” and “Z” in my blog name are in honor of my boys, Asher and Zephan.

Ten different, amazingly creative women chimed in with equally awesome and different ideas. Ack! How was I to choose? Well, when Ana White whipped up some plans for these functional PBK knock-off bookshelves, I was sold! Nervous as to whether or not I could pull them off, mind you, but sold nevertheless. Although I’m not a stranger to power tools, my carpentry skills aren’t great. All of that math and spatial relationship business hurts my head :). But with a bit of help from my hubs, we were able to create a fantastic focal point in the boys’ bedroom! Today I’m going to share with you a step-by-step tutorial on how to create your very own Letter A bookshelf!

3MDIY.com helped sponsor my maiden-bookshelf-building-experiment, and I am so grateful that they did. This project requires a lot of power tools and paint and therefore a lot of safety equipment! If you are going to DIY, be smart and invest in some 3M Tekk Protection. For this project, I used 3M Tekk indoor and outdoor safety glasses, disposable ear plugs, home dust mask, and a paint respirator. I didn’t use the chemical gloves pictured below but paint gloves are a fantastic idea. We all know how difficult it is to get spray paint off of hands *wink*!

To save you a ton of time, push play below for a short four-minute video demonstrating some helpful hints, tips, and safety tricks. The video will help you cut some corners and explain quickly how I created the bookshelf. And even if you have no intention of building the bookshelf, I encourage you to click play just to see what a dork I am :P! It’s entertainment at its finest.)

Letter A Bookshelf Plans

**Update: Ana has posted the plans to make the letter A bookshelf at the original 29″ height. I highly recommend following her plans which are much more detailed (and probably accurate) than mine :)! Click here to be taken to the plans. 
letter a bookshelf

Materials Needed and Cut List:

Shopping List Cut List
2 – 1×5 @ 8 feet long1/8” Pressboard

1 1/4″ Wood Screws

2” (could get away with smaller) finish nails

Hanging Bracket/Hardware that attaches to back (use long finish nails to secure hardware)

Toggle bolts if hanging in drywall.


1 – 1×5 @ 9.6” (long point to long point, both ends cut at 15 degrees off square, ends NOT parallel)2 – 1×5 @ 5.4” (long point to short point, both ends cut at 15 degrees off square, ends ARE parallel)

2 – 1×5 @ 7.2” (long point to short point, both ends cut at 15 degrees off square, ends ARE parallel)

2 – 1×5 @ 36” (long point to short point, both ends cut at 15 degrees off square, ends ARE parallel)

1 – 1×5 @ 8.7” (long point to long point, both ends cut at 15 degrees off square, ends NOT parallel)

1 – 1×5 @ 12.75” (long point to long point, both ends cut at 15 degrees off square, ends NOT parallel)

1 – 1×5 @ 20.1” (long point to long point, both ends cut at 15 degrees off square, ends NOT parallel)

2 – 1×5 @ 6.3” (long point to short point, both ends cut at 15 degrees off square, ends ARE parallel)

1 – 1×5 @ 9.15” (long point to long point, both ends cut at 15 degrees off square, ends NOT parallel)

Trace and cut around A on pressboard.

Safety Materials Needed:

Note: This project assumes you have prior experience with power tools. The plans below are Ana’s with several of my own modifications. I increased the overall size of the original plans by six inches. Before beginning, please watch the video, read through the plans thoroughly, and then make all of the necessary cuts. I made this project without using a pocket-hole jig (PH in the plans below) because I wanted the industrial look of the screws showing on the exterior. I explain in the video how I did this project without a pocket-hole jig.
You will start by putting together the bottom base of the A.
Next, you will put on the “feet” of the letter A.
 In this step, the sides of your A are attached and the outline of your letter is taking shape!
Yay! You have completed the exterior of your bookshelf!
Now we will begin to build the interior components of the bookshelf.
Woohoo! Our A is built! The hard part is done. It’s time to back our bookshelf with some pressboard.
You can use your nail-gun in this step to attach the pressboard to your shelf. If you don’t own a nail-gun, simply use a hammer and finishing nails. I pre-drilled small holes around the perimeter of my bookshelf to make it easier to nail in the finishing nails.
 Yay it’s done and perfect! Er…oops. Not quite perfect but good enough for me :).
Put on that 3M TEKK Protection respirator and head outside! It’s time to spray prime and paint. This might be bordering on “TMI”, but I think it’s an important bit of “too much information” to share with all of you. Back when I first began DIY’ing, I used to spray paint without a respirator. I figured I was outdoors and I wasn’t really breathing in that much paint. Then one day, after spray painting a table black, I blew my nose 24 hours AFTER spray painting and saw BLACK! Eek! And ew… Do your respiratory system a favor and wear a quality respirator when spray painting! Change out the mask filters as recommended and be safe. It’s just the smart thing to do.
With respirator mask in place, I sprayed two coats of spray primer and two coats of spray paint on the bookshelf. My boys wanted a space-age-Star-Wars vibe to their room, so I chose Krylon spray paint in Chrome. It added the perfect amount of industrial chic I was hoping for!

spray paint bookshelf

Hanging these bookshelves is a challenge! There were no studs in the drywall where I wanted to hang the bookshelves, so we installed two Toggler Heavy Duty 3/16″ Toggle Bolts. These bolts make rather large and conspicuous holes in your drywall so only use them with your semi-permanent wall-hangings. To the back of the bookshelf, I attached two sawtoothed picture hangers with long finishing nails (NOT the small brad nails that come included in the package). D-ring picture hangers with long screws would also work well. These shelves are heavy, so make certain that you are using the appropriate hardware to hang your project.

Yay! At long last, we get to enjoy all of the hard work! I am absolutely thrilled with how my bookshelf turned out and more importantly Asher LOVES his letter A :).

letter a bookshelf plans

Please visit 3MDIY.com to see other fantastic project plans by fellow bloggers!

This post is a collaboration with 3M DIY. To enter to win free samples for your next DIY project, visit 3MDIY.com Content and/or other value provided by our partner, 3M DIY.
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  1. Heidi V says

    I love this and my two boys (both A’s) would too! If you ever feeling like making another (or 2) I’d love to buy them! (Also, I’m local:))

    • Beth says

      And rob you of the joy of making your own Heidi? *wink* I’m not planning on making these to sell anytime soon, but I’m flattered by the offer!

  2. Gayle says

    Love these! What a great job you did. I do think you might want to paint the center of the A the same color as the wall so the A shape stands out a bit more.

    • Beth says

      I have the plans for the “Z” that match my A in size (35″ tall) and Ana will soon post her original plans for the A and Z which are 29″ tall. I’m not sure if she plans to create plans for any other letters but it doesn’t hurt to ask, right?

  3. says

    Cute letter bookshelves and I’m so glad to see you protected yourself while working. So many DIYers skip that step because “it’s just going to take a second” which is less time than it takes to do some harm to your body. So yeah, for safety and yeah for A to Z’s!

  4. says

    Oh gosh I love these! Perfect for a new married couple, perfect for a baby’s room, little kids-so many options! Maybe a married couple wouldn’t want chrome but pretty stained wood would be amazing 😉 I’m going to bookmark this for future reference. Great job!!

    • Beth says

      Thanks Sara! And I agree, I think you can easily customize the letter with paint or stain to fit your own style/decor. I’d love to see this in weathered wood!

  5. says

    This are seriously so cute! Great job, girl!! I love how they are functional and a great piece for the room at the same time. Love them! Now all I need are some guts to create my own! Thanks for the tutorial!!

  6. Liz Tanner says

    What color is the wall paint? I am looking for that perfect blue for my son-and in this picture it looks like what I would like. Thank you! By the way, the letters look great-good job!

  7. says

    Hey beautiful lady!!! Thanks for working with me on this project! It turned out awesome (but of course, everything you do does!) and I’m especially impressed with how you scaled it up! Hope we get to work together again!

  8. Kate says

    I’m a professional carpenter, and a few things in your video worried me, especially since you mention safety in your video.

    First, you’re using power tools with your hair down. That’s a huge problem. If your hair gets caught in a tool, it can rip out a hunk of your scalp. Use a scrunchie!

    You mention using work gloves, which is fine when carrying wood, but you should never use work gloves while using saws. The glove can get caught in the tool and pull your hand right into the blade.

    Also, the cut you made on the table saw is not safe. If you’re cutting a long board the short way, it can easily get pushed out of square. The board will catch between the blade and the fence and the blade will kick the board back at you. At the least, this will hurt. At worst, you can lose a finger. It’s called kickback, and it’s the most common way people are injured using table saws. You should use a miter gauge or a cross cut sled, and you shouldn’t use the fence. It’s actually safer not to use the fence when cross-cutting because then nothing can get caught. Honestly, a chop saw is a more appropriate tool to use for this, if you have one available.

    Please please please include some additional safety information! I know 3M won’t pay you to do the above things, like they pay you to talk about their eye and ear protection, but your viewers need to know how to protect themselves. Imagine how you would feel if someone hurt themselves because they followed your video. I love seeing women doing their own carpentry projects, it’s so inspiring and empowering, but not if you lose a finger.

    All of the above being said, the shelf is very cute and I think the wonky shelf is charming :)

    • Beth says

      Hi Kate, thank you so much for your comment! I knew in hindsight that my hair down was not a good idea. I’ll update my video with annotation comments to reflect your points. Thanks again!

  9. Sne says

    Such a cute idea and project, done so well. Have you considered making these to sell? I want them with my kids initials (H and R) so please do let me know. Thanks!

    • Beth says

      So sorry Diana! I only had A and Z. Ana White is the brains behind the shelf plans so it wouldn’t hurt to ask her to design plans. You never know!

    • Beth says

      Hi Jennifer, I did these so long ago that I do not have the plans any longer. I modified plans that Ana White made for me because I wanted the letters to be larger than she created. Ana has both the letter A and Z plans posted on her site. You can find the Z here: http://ana-white.com/2012/09/plans/letter-z-shelf Just be sure to follow both the A and Z plans on her site if you are making both so that they are the same height.

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