Introduction: A Bookshelf Made of Encyclopedias! YAY!

Picture of A Bookshelf Made of Encyclopedias! YAY!

I work at Half Price Books, and I've been trying to find out what to do with all the books we can't resell or donate.

And then this beautiful set of large print encyclopedias came in - and what can I say, I fell in love with them! :D Because I needed more shelves for my piles of books, I figured it couldn't hurt to try this. I'm pretty happy with the results but I had to redo several things.

The picture below is a recent one. (As of November 2008) It's held up really well!

Step 1: What You'll Need!

Picture of What You'll Need!

- A set of encyclopedias... make sure they're at least an inch to 1 1/2 inches thick - otherwise, I don't see them holding much of anything!
- 8 "L" brackets per cube (one cube = 4 books)
- enough screws to hold the brackets.
- Nuts and bolts to secure the books at the back. (I will explain this later!)
- A drill (or two if you're awesome) and several drill bit sizes.

I'm sorry I can't be more exact, but depending on the thickness of your books, you'll need to adjust the screw and bolt length. That's really the trickiest part and what caused me the most trouble. I ended up going with size 8 screws at 1 1/4 inches, and size 8 bolts at 1 3/4 inches because of the varying sizes of books within my set. Confusing! I also used wood screws. They looked more "grippy" - and I figured that would help with the pages of the books.

I ended up spending roughly $50-60 on this project. I can't give an exact cost because there was a lot of trying and then returning. Home Depot hates me, I'm sure.

Step 2: Beginning to Build...

Picture of Beginning to Build...

This is where it gets a little complicated.

You'll want to set the books as shown below to start the cube. Secure the L brackets about 1 inch from the outside edge of the book. (I've included a finished picture for reference, as well!) I think you all can figure out from there. Just make sure the horizontal books are BETWEEN the vertical ones. This seems to be the easiest way to do it.

Make sure you drill as deep as you can without puncturing the other side of the book - if you don't, the pages with ripple around the screw and cause a bump.

Also, when screwing (not as much of an issue when you're near the spine of the book) make sure to hold the covers of the book and press firmly. If you don't the pages with start riding up the screw and cause more rippling.

I didn't realize how annoying pages are until now.

Also, yes, the L brackets are crooked. Many of these books are bowed. Don't be worried if they look like this. Things will square out when you place the last book in as long as all your spines are even with one another!

Step 3: Now, to Explain the Nuts and Bolts...

Picture of Now, to Explain the Nuts and Bolts...

My first trial run with building these proved quite annoying. Turns out the screws on all ends of the books don't do enough to help keep the covers from opening.

This is where the nuts and bolts come in!

You'll want the head of the bolt on the outside of the shelf or cube. Make sure that the drill bit you're using is around the same size of the bolt to help with screwing the bolt in... otherwise, PAGES OF DOOM. Also stress.

I know it looks odd, but otherwise moving these things would be a pain. People mentioned gluing the covers to the pages, but that seem quite tedious and would take much longer. I'm not even sure how well it would work.

The ends of the bolts are the biggest problems - due to thickness differences, they are not all the same length. Any ideas on how to cut them off? :P

Step 4: Yay, Completed Cube! Now Repeat.

Picture of Yay, Completed Cube! Now Repeat.

Thankfully, my set of encyclopedias is rather large and I should end up being able to get six cubes out of it. I might update with pictures of those later. I've only finished two so far because I was distracted by instructables.

I figured I'll paint and seal them after I've finished them all. I don't want them going moldy or foxing on me!

I'm happy with them, but if anyone has suggestions on how to make this easier, or alternate ways to construct them, that would be great considering I am quite the impulsive DIYer. I don't always think things through enough to begin with, but I'm really good at learning from mistakes, haha!

Now, action shots! (Even your cat will like these. True story.)

Step 5: Updates & Painting Your Bookshelf!

Picture of Updates & Painting Your Bookshelf!

I finally got around to painting my shelves when I moved into my current apartment.

I used spray paint to finish them. It only took a couple coats and worked beautifully. I didn't even have to use primer on them, which was quite nice.

I used a clear coat on top to help protect them from moisture. They are one of my favorite things in the apartment now. :D

And as for an update - they survived the move, and they're very, very stable. They've been full the entire time I've had them really. The only downside is that they're ridiculously hard to move around due to their weight. :P


AmyCat59 (author)2014-03-18

Why paint these? The covers are so nice as-is!

Cute kitty... :-)

saima3 (author)2013-10-31

very nice and impressive project :-)

owenebs (author)2012-03-12

A bookshelf made of books... So meta.
All joking aside, it looks great!

saitaiable child (author)2012-01-26

How old is your kitten?

kansas kate (author)2011-04-06

Love this idea! In thinking about it, I didn't think of L brackets! If the binders of the books are nice looking maybe it'd be cool to paint the inside, but leave the binder and outside of the book as is?

star_above_the_clouds (author)2011-03-16

Nice! I wish I could do this, but I need my encyclopedias. Haha. (:

bobster580 (author)2010-08-10

The keep the books closed, you could avoid the nuts and bolts. drill a row of small holes and kind of sew them together with either strong string or twine, or a thin wire.

tizart7 (author)2010-08-02

Awesome shelf!

XMalice (author)2010-06-15

I liked them better before they were painted. Seems more fun obviously made from encyclopedias.

artquilter (author)2010-05-26

I just saw a boxfull of encyclopedias for $5 at Unique Thriftstore in Columbia Heights MN....
I was tempted, but I don't actually have the $5 to spare.  :=(

veggyv4 (author)2009-11-11

 Does anyone want a set of old 1974 Encyclopedia Britannica for this project, i'll ship them to you!! I love this project, but don't have the time right now, and i have to get rid of them soon:( 

MrL33TPenguin (author)veggyv42009-11-20

 I want them!

veggyv4 (author)MrL33TPenguin2009-11-22

 sorry:( i already gave them away

jeaniebean (author)2009-07-16

Friend, i find that duct tape solves the problems of the universe, and it's true here for the whole page separation weirdness that you used the bolts for. Also, duct-tape comes in many colors and can be used instead of paint. hooray! Awesome shelves!

Nyxi (author)jeaniebean2009-08-03

i like the way you think

pbarnett (author)2009-07-31

Great idea! I was thinking though.... What if after you run a heavy line of hot glue that by using a small drill bit and some skinny wire zip ties that you could assemble these with minimal hardware sticking out. Might be worth some experimenting.

eetzel (author)2009-07-21

Very Very Nice - good idea

McGreenish (author)2009-07-17

Okay this is MIND-BLOWINGly rad.

cardigan34 (author)2009-05-26

Thanks so much for this, I was the yearbook editor for my school and we have boxes and boxes of outdated yearbooks from other schools that I had no clue what to do with. Awesome!

twyladancer (author)2009-05-08

i had an idea, instead of painting them you could wrap colored tape, like duct tape all over them. Also if you have alot of phone books that you no longer use, you can put a couple together and duct tape them all and use them as booster seats.

Dreolin (author)2009-04-02

I really like these, but I like them even better before they are painted. Maybe just use some type of clear sealent?

StoryAddict (author)2009-02-05

"The only downside is that they're ridiculously hard to move around due to their weight." Well, at least you don't have to worry about them tipping over then, eh?

mle.mellow (author)2009-01-22

What if you just threaded a little bit of ribbon or wire through the whole and tied or twisted it to secure? Surely then it wouldn't stick out as much as nuts or bolts?

jessyratfink (author)mle.mellow2009-02-05

That could work, actually. At least just to keep them closed. Threading it through might be a little annoying because the pages get so jagged, but that would be the only problem!

artquilter (author)2009-02-04

You have quite a few comments here so I don't know if this has been covered, but I think structurally you should have them turned 90 degrees...the weight of the books should be on what you have in the last picture shown as the sides. kwim? And to keep with the simplicity, you could also be adding a book to the back of the cube for even more stability. I am definitely going to be on the lookout for free encyclopedias because of you! Awesome instructable.

jessyratfink (author)artquilter2009-02-05

Yeah, I know they should be flipped. But I like the way they look when I have them this way, and they hold more, even if it's only a little bit! They're still fine after 2+ years, so I'm hoping they'll stay that way. :D

mynameisjonas (author)2009-01-01

this, is, simply, awesome! five stars and faved.

porcupinemamma (author)2008-12-30

Why oh why did I get rid of my encyclopedias. This is a cool idea and an awsome instructable. Thanks!

pyrocop1 (author)2008-12-28

Have you seen the ones made and sold they sell for big bucks Website

Check out the other different configurations he does also.... Good instructable by the way

jessyratfink (author)pyrocop12008-12-28

Yep! His way of doing it is very different though - he does the whole reinforcing with wood thing. I didn't think that forward with mine. But Kiteman brought it up here in the comments! Yay brainstorming! I'd say the reinforcing with wood is definitely a good idea if you have the time and proper tools, though. :D

KentsOkay (author)2008-12-28

That is so cool! How old do you have to be to work at Half Price? I might work there this summer...

jessyratfink (author)KentsOkay2008-12-28

18. :)

KentsOkay (author)jessyratfink2008-12-28


jessyratfink (author)KentsOkay2008-12-28

Well, we'll still be here when you're old enough!

KentsOkay (author)jessyratfink2008-12-28

True 'nuff but Time Agent life expectancy is short....

Lithium Rain (author)2008-12-28

What an awesome project! Using books to hold more books. 5 stars and faved.

JanxAngel (author)2007-12-07

This is a really cool project. I'll have to keep my eye out on my thrift store trips. Somewhat unrelated question. What is the book like object on top of the single pair? I can't tell, but it looks interesting.

jessyratfink (author)JanxAngel2008-01-03

That's the collector's edition of Earth X. It's a wonderful comic. :D

mg0930mg (author)jessyratfink2008-12-28

What's it about?

jessyratfink (author)mg0930mg2008-12-28

Basically, all of mankind has mutated, nearly every person has superpowers. It examines what happens to the original heroes and mutants when they aren't really "special" anymore. (Captain America, Fantastic Four, X-Men, etc.) It's really interesting. I haven't read it in years, though, and it has such a complex plot that I can't remember much more than the basics. :P

soundinnovation (author)2008-12-28

You could cut those bolts off with either a small hacksaw or jewelers saw, but it might be better to remove them from the books before cutting them. Otherwise, you could try using one of those cutting discs for a dremel, but be careful with those because they grind down as they cut and throw debris everywhere, and they can also shatter. (eye protection) Smooth the ends off if you want with a big file and some sandpaper.

I considered cutting them off for quite a while, but in the end I left them on. I think it was laziness on my part, and also because I filled them with the stack on books I had laying around as soon as they were all assembled. But this information is definitely helpful if anyone else chooses to make them and is more concerned about looks than I am. Thanks! :D

Danny (author)2008-01-28

Why are there no strings on your guitar? do u play

jessyratfink (author)Danny2008-01-28

I attempted guitar in high school and I was awful. I still have a nice classical guitar but I never touch it. That one is my boyfriend's - he just got around to stringing it recently. :P


What kind of guitar do you have!?

I have a beautiful classical Gretsch. It was my grandfather's. I've always wanted to play it properly, but I have so many things I want to learn and that always gets pushed to the side. :P

Oh, lucky.

My brother has one of those, it's an Epiphone I think.

Or an Ibenez.

I'm too lazy to check.

Anyways, I have a B.C. Rich Warlock... :P

Maybe you should bring that to the HQ, if we can ever see you, my brother would show you his skills. He's really good. (For comparison, he can play the whole Eruption song by Van Halen.)

Oh, and are you interning with T3h_Muffinator?

He's most likely going to be there the whole summer.

I might be traveling to the HQ (which has now moved) during the 21st of June until that whole week or something.

Why? Because on the 21st, there's a Death Cab for Cutie concert, and I might go.

Then the 23rd.... oh jessyratfink, the 23rd, is when I can possibly meet you at the new place. :P

Here's the link of the new place and stuff:

mg0930mg (author)GorillazMiko2008-12-28

Lucky. Death cab for cutie concert. I HATE YOU!

mg0930mg (author)2008-12-28

Cool. Good job! You got featured, yet again. I may do thisif I ever get books, I wouldn't paint them though.

FreshPineSent (author)2008-12-28

Does this work with WIKIpedias?

About This Instructable




Bio: I work at instructables by day, and turn into a stitch witch by night. follow me on instagram @makingjiggy to see what i'm working ... More »
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