I will be building a bookcase in the near future, fairly simple construction (I hope) with 3 shelves.

I'm wanting to have this flush up against a wall (as you would), however the wall in question is... not great. It seems to be out of whack in all directions. It seems vertically there is a bulge midway - luckily that seems to be consistent throughout the width - and there seems to be a depression horizontally in the middle.

enter image description here

The thin black lines represent a flat plane, where the red lines show the deviation from the flat plane

I have scribed simple things like worktops to walls before, but this seems a little more complex.

Are there any tricks to scribing something of this shape with verticals and horizontals to a wall?

  • Level the sides and give yourself an inch or so on either side to add scribe pieces. Then you don't have to scribe shelves or anything else. Your drawing is a bit hard to decipher.
    – matt.
    Nov 19, 2023 at 17:17
  • @matt. I tried to explain the diagram the best I can in a caption below it. Not 100% sure what you mean. The back of the bookcase would go up against this wall with the unevennes.
    – physicsboy
    Nov 19, 2023 at 18:24
  • 4
    Build a freestanding bookshelf. Attach the back in a couple areas, use shims if necessary. Then you don't have to build it to walls that aren't flat or square.
    – matt.
    Nov 19, 2023 at 18:31
  • You could build the casework, get into place, and then fit/scribe the side trim pieces and a "false top" to the necessary shapes. Face-frame built first and attacked as a unit isn't the only way to trim out a cabinet. For better answers you might try the Woodworking stack.
    – keshlam
    Nov 19, 2023 at 19:31

1 Answer 1


Two approaches:

  1. build a standard bookshelf and then attach trim on the vertical sides (I call them gables, but that's a regional thing) to cover the gap. If, for example your gap maxed out at 1", you'd want to have a fairly wide piece of trim (3" seems reasonable) so that the eye might be tricked into not noticing the variance. With that 1" gap, if your trim started at 1.5", then it would be screamingly obvious that the wall was out.

  2. build a bookshelf with extra depth at the back of the gables that you're willing to cut away to make a good fit with the wall. This approach hides the variance better.

Either will work, though in my opinion, the second is cleaner looking.

Once you've chosen one of the two options, scribing involves holding the bookcase temporarily plumb and then marking a cut line with a horizontal compass that's open to the largest gap. (Light colored masking tape on the gable makes it easier to see your pencil line.) If you opted to scribe the trim, then it's the trim that gets held plumb and marked. (It's handy in this instance to have the bookcase installed, as you'll have something to clamp the trim to.)

Personally, I like using a jigsaw to cut near my line, then finishing with a belt sander, but alternatives exist, such as a flap wheel on a grinder, or (if you don't value your limbs/health) freehanding the cut on a tablesaw.

  • 1
    I always freehand my cuts on the tablesaw, that doesn't mean I don't value my health or limbs. I've never even came close to cutting myself. We do this all the time for cabinet installs. Excellent answer though.
    – matt.
    Nov 19, 2023 at 23:51
  • 1
    Thanks for this. You and @matt. have been helpful! I'll get it constructed and then offer up to the wall to see what the damage is. I'll decide which route to go down at that point I think.
    – physicsboy
    Nov 20, 2023 at 10:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.