I'll offer you another option. A dado joint is for all purposes a mortise and tenon joint. What the pros would do is to take the shelf and trim the ends down thickness wise just a bit to form a true tenon. Then instead of continuing the dado to the edge you stop it just short. Then you trim the tenon back from the front edge of the shelf enough to fit into into the stopped dado (or groove). Doing it this way avoids the groove showing at the front edge and by making the tenon slightly narrower than the thickness of the shelf hides the groove cut into the sides. It is a bit more complex and time consuming but not really a lot more difficult to do. When you make the tenon using this method it should be ever so slightly shorter than the depth of the groove to make sure it works out right.
Charles; yes, but...
That doesn't actually address the issue of covering up the edge view of the plywood gables (assuming they're plywood).
It also doesn't help with covering the joints between individual units in a bank of bookcases. Neither does taping the edges.
My personal preference is to treat bookcases like bookcases; vertical channels with inset pilasters...easily adjustable to accommodate different ht. books.
It could be suggested that they're not 'elegant' enough, but I take the Architects' view, "Form follows function". It doesn't get more functional than pilasters and clips...also available in brass. 5/8" U-Shaped Aluminum Pilaster - 2551096 - Richelieu Hardware
That doesn't really answer your edge trim question though.
I use solid wood, in my case, the thickness of the gable(s) plus an 1/8" overhang on both sides X 3/8" to 1/2" thick, glued and pinned as per Stick's comment.
Use a furniture filler crayon to fill the almost invisible hole if you like. Fil-Stik™ Putty Sticks - Mohawk Finishing
You are probably right that he is using plywood and my suggestion for stopped grooves is for solid wood. Tenoning the ends of the shelves and using the shoulder to hide the grooves will give it a cleaner look though, unless you convinced him to go with your method.
I have used small biscuits to hold face frames on with just glue, small trim I have glued and tacked with an 18 ga. nailer (didn't have the pinner at the time)
The one below was a 'quickie', but it was a (false) face frame that was tacked on with brads and glue. It was going to be painted, so I didn't make any effort to hide the fasteners, but the recipient decided she liked it plain.
It's not a true face frame, but I think it looks nice and gives the shelves a little extra support.
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