Book Frame: Recycle a Mattress Box Frame into a Book Shelf!

At my apartment complex, people throw out countless items of furniture when they move out, including desks, chairs, sofas, and the mattress set. I personally believe in "Waste not, want not", so when I saw a box frame being thrown out I took a closer look. As it turns out, the bottom of a box frame contains A LOT of good wood - always kept indoors and only warped slightly, if at all.

Now as a college student, I'm subject to two burdens: I don't have much money, but I do have about 20-30 textbooks (and no bookshelf). So that's when an epiphany hit me - bookshelves are made out of wood, box frames are made out of wood...hmmm....Eureka! And that's when the book frame was born.

This Instructable will take you through my process step by step, from disassembling the box frame (below, left) to the finished book shelf (below, right).
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Step 1: Materials

You will need the following to complete this project:

1) Mattress box frame
2) Flathead screwdriver, hammer, pliers, measuring tape, and pencil
3) Approximately (16) 1.25" Wood screws
4) Some sort of saw to cut wood (precisely!)
5) Drill
6) Sander, stain, and varnish....if you like pretty things.

A T-square also makes drawing lines easier, but is definitely not necessary.

Step 2: Disassembling the Box Frame

Picture of Disassembling the Box Frame
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Disassembling the frame took me about 45 minutes, but hopefully a few tips will speed things up for you:

Step 1 - Remove the two horizontal cross beams (see pic 1). This can be done with a hammer.

Step 2 - The tricky part. The springs are stapled to the vertical beams (see pics 2 & 3). I found the best way to remove these staples is with a narrow flat head screwdriver. It takes some prying, but you should be able to get all of them out. The ends of these beams are also stapled to the outer frame, but they can be knocked loose with a hammer.

Step 3 - The outer frame (see pic 4) also has some stapled springs, but by now you're a pro at removing those, right? The tricky part here is removing the stapled fabric. This can be done by ripping it off with your hands and with a little help from the screwdriver. Once that is done, a hammer will separate the pieces of the outer frame.

Step 3: Wood!

Picture of Wood!
As you can see, we've harvested a lot of wood! However, before we start building, we have to clean up shop a bit. Any stubborn or broken staples should now be removed with either the screwdriver or some pliers. You can also take the time to measure your wood stock, just to see how much you have to work with. My box frame yielded the following:

2 (3.5" x 79")
2 (2.5" x 75")
2 (3.5" x 51")
8 (2.5" x 51")
2 (2.5" x 40")

(all 0.75" thick)

Step 4: Book Frame Design

The concept of the book frame is adaptive and simple. There are three main factors to consider:

1) Boxframes aren't made out of plywood, so a conventional book shelf is out of the question. That's why I chose the design below (pic 1). This design uses boards to support the books in key places, without providing a "shelf" to keep them from falling through.

2) I just think the 45 degree angle on the shelves is cool. It allows you to browse your library without getting down on your hands and knees!

3) I designed by book frame for large textbooks. Therefore, my shelves are approximately 3ft apart. If you have mainly smaller books, you may want to shorten that distance in the next step.

Step 5: Making the cut(s)

Now it's time for some carpentry. The finished boards are shown below. I've included some of the measurements I used to make my book frame, both as an image and an attached powerpoint file. These cuts can get a little tricky, due to the 45 degree element, but I got it done with a drill and a jigsaw (hopefully you have better tools at your disposal!). Here's the play by play:

1) Cut 9 boards that are 3.5" wide and 26.25" long
2) 3 of these boards will be the middle supports - Make the measurements shown and draw horizontal lines at each position
3) Refer to the Middle Supports blow-up in the center of the second image. First draw diagonal lines from the bottom line to the 3rd, then the 2nd to the 4th. Once that is done, measure 1.75" from the outer edge of the board along the top diagonal and draw a perpendicular line that connects the two diagonals. This area is represented in white in the image, and will be cut out of the board. Repeat for both the top and bottom slits.
4) The other 6 boards are the side supports. Make the measurements shown for the side supports and draw the corresponding horizontal lines.
5) Refer to the side supports blow-up in the center of the image. Draw diagonals connecting the lines as shown in the figure. Once that is done, measure 2.5" along the middle line. Then measure 1.25" from that point in opposite directions, and draw 2 new perpendicular lines to connect the diagonals. The area shown in bold will be cut out from the board. Repeat for both the bottom and top slits on all 6 boards.
6) Cut 8 boards that are 2.5" wide and 40" long. These will be the cross bars that support the books. Leave 4 of them alone for now. On the other four, make 0.75" deep notches as shown in the figure. These notches will help the boards stay in place while maintaining the structural integrity of the middle supports.
7) Lastly, take some scrap wood that is 1" wide and cut 4 strips that are 4" long and another 4 strips that are 8" long.
8) Sand and finish to your satisfaction!

Step 7: Putting it all together...

In order for the book frame to come together successfully, this last step is paramount.

First, line up the front, middle, and back pieces exactly 1.75" apart.

Now take the one of the 1.5" x 8" pieces and rest it on the shelf on the outside of the shelf (please see picture below). Similarly, take one of the 1.5" x 6" pieces and also lay it on the outside, letting it rest upon the 8" piece (see picture).

Choose spots to drill the 6" and 8" pieces into the shelf. IMPORTANT - You must first predrill the holes with a drill bit. Once the holes have been made, drill the screws into place, thereby securing the front, middle, and back pieces to one another.

Repeat this process twice on each of the ends of the book frames (see pictures)

Step 8: Just add books!

With the sections all secured together, the shelf is ready to carry some books! The finished product should look like the picture below. You may now add your books to the book frame, stand back, and admire your work! Take pride in your work! You've organized your closet and helped to save the Earth!

A few final notes on the book frame:

1) Notice that the two of the middle boards are not secured (see tag). If you don't have enough books to fill the shelves, you can use these as book ends to keep the books in place!

2) If you want to, you can add as many screws and cross bars to add stability to the frame. However, I have about 100-200 lbs of books on mine and it's still standing!

3) You can also add plywood to make the shelves solid, creating a sort of "trough" for random items.

4) Sometimes the springs may leave rings on the wood. I tried to sand these rings off of mine, with no success. You may be luckier. The frame would also look very nice with some stain and polyurethane..

Step 9: Left Over Wood

Picture of Left Over Wood
In the interest of wasting as little wood as possible, I used the leftover wood to make another project:

Wall Clock and Sconces Instructable

Just follow the link to that instructable to keep making cool stuff!
Another Miner... small world!
XMalice2 years ago
Just watch for bedbugs. They're resilient little buggers and a possible reason for someone to throw out their box spring. It's a prime breeding ground for them.
jongscx5 years ago
aww, you didn't use the springs... :-(
LMO (author)  jongscx5 years ago
any ideas? they were very rusty....
mcadwell6 years ago
Excellent idea. Good Job.
proverbio6 years ago extend the life of an otherwise useless item is to be rewarded w/ whatever the individual desires. Requests to be submitted to the spouse or willing partner. Good luck! You've serve mother nature well.
Saint6 years ago
I like the idea of putting the shelves at an angle. It may take a bit more space then it would otherwise, but with a low shelve like this it makes looking for a book lots easier.
xrobevansx6 years ago
pretty awesome!