This Instructable will explain how I made a travel bookcase that folds up into a suitcase. Construction is pretty basic--you fit wooden shelves into an old wood-sided suitcase. Below you can read a bit more about my inspiration for the project, but if you'd rather just get crackin' skip to the first step!

Initial concept (written months ago):
I’m moving to the United Kingdom in less than a month. I know books are heavy and cluttering and I should just join this millennium and get an e-reader, but I love real books and have faith they will make me feel at home in my soulless grad-school dormitory housing. In order to claim my new space quickly and limit my book collection, I created the BookCASE--a tiny portable library made from a vintage, wood-sided suitcase.

I’m not the best at decluttering, especially when it comes to books. Somehow, even though I really only purchase books I use as references or that I can’t find at my library, I’m convinced that my collection reproduces while I’m not watching. In order to tame my library I like to employ the  volume-based method of decluttering--that is, outlining a space or container for a certain type of item that places a physical limit on how much stuff I can have. I like to call this approach the “carrying capacity” and enjoy designing specialized spaces for my possessions. The BookCASE is just one example of a specialized space and it takes the concept of “carrying capacity” quite literally--when I have it filled with books it weighs around fifty-pounds.

I took a vintage wood-sided suitcase and tried a variety of arrangements, selecting books I didn’t think I would be able to find so easily in the UK or that I couldn’t live without. Based on the books I wanted to bring, I customized the shelves to fit my collection. Mostly I have small paperbacks (these go along the top row) and some larger squarish books with large photographs. These larger books presented a slight challenge in that they can’t be arranged during moving with the spines facing upward, as they are wider than the suitcase.

To adapt to these varying book dimensions, I created a small shelf extension that rests alongside the books when they are on-the-go but can be attached to the bottom shelf so the books can be turned spine-out for the ease of browsing. I also have a small easel that stores away and can be used to display a large book. During moving the large books are laid flat on top of one another, meaning that there is additional space for library books when the books are lined-up spine-out.

I experimented with ways to create storage in the lid of the suitcase but settled instead on adding a small lithographed bookplate which I printed myself. I made some other decorative modifications to the case, lining it with navy corduroy and dark leather. Because of the added weight of the books, I added additional brass hardware.

I generally agonize over selecting how many books to bring for even a trip of a couple days but somehow, the fact that this project is so absurd helped me to enjoy paring down my books for my trans-Atlantic move.

How it's been working out:
I've been using the BookCASE for about five months now. I've only taken it on one major journey--flying from the US to the UK and then by traveling by train from the East to West of England. All in all, it was my least troublesome piece of luggage. It's been working well in my flat--as a student I definitely need as much bookshelf space as possible. The shelf-extension mechanism doesn't exactly work as I had intended, it holds up alright but it's definitely something that could use with some improvement.

Step 1: Supplies and Tools

All suitcases are different, so you're going to have to estimate quantities for materials based on the suitcase you select. Don't go crazy with size on the suitcase. Stick with a case that can fit in a carry-on bin.

Supplies and tools:
--a wooden-sided suitcase, I found mine at a church rummage sale, I stripped out the existing lining as it was moldy and full of pockets and things. Alternatively you might build your own wooden suitcase using seamster's instructable.

--wood for shelves, I used 1X4 oak boards I found in a dumpster

--finish for the wood, I used Rosewood-colored One-Step Wood-sheen Minwax stain and finish that a friend was going to throw out

--a hand saw and miter box

--sand paper, although a power sander or Dremel tool will save you a lot of grief!

--rags for applying finish, and something to protect the surrounding area from stain

--material for lining the case, I used leather I bought from a shoe repairman and some navy corduroy fabric

--a rotary cutter, sharp exacto knife and ruler, or heavy duty scissors capable of cutting fabric and leather

--leather or similar for making additional "washers"

--some cardboard for lining the case

--liquid nails or silicone caulk and a caulk gun (at least two tubes)

--spray adhesive

--hinges to reinforce the case, holding books means the case needs to be able to carry more weight

--at least two simple draw latches, don't want the case bursting open in travel! My case had two quite strong latches at the front, you may need additional latches depending on the design of your case.

--two barrel bolts for the shelf extension, this is something that could do with improving. Another type of latch might be better. Please comment with any experiments you might have!

--a drill and screwdriver

--screws (oval head) and washers (cup-type) for screwing in the shelves, I think I used size 8/32 diameter screws about 3/4 or 1 inch long. If you are attaching a bookplate, you will want similar washers and very short screws.

--a small easel (optional), I was able to fit a small easel between the shelves when packing the case. This let's you display a larger book once you've unpacked.

--(optional) some thin plastic and a book plate so you can let people know whose case it is! You will also need washers and short screws for fastening.
This is one of the cleverest upcycles I have seen. And travelling with books speaks to my heart.
<p>I envy the times when people got to travel with all their stuff and never had to worry about weight.</p>
<p>My husband refuses to build me another bookcase, and I have used the empty cupboards in the kitchen for shelves, so I have reluctantly gone to the e-side of books. I enjoy it, I always have a book with me, and I have enough I never run out. However, I miss my physical books.</p>
The idea is not new. In the 1920's &quot;Popular Mechanics&quot; magazine published a thumbnail about a bookcase in a trunk for frequent travelers like engineers or other technical persons. Still a good idea. Say a library trunk with CDs, CD player, speakers and a lap clipboard/ sketch board that fits between the two halves of the library.
You are right. It seems to be in eras when people traveled by ocean liner with greater frequency, they would had purpose-built trunks for almost anything, mini libraries, etc. It was this concept that sorta inspired me, but I wanted to make something that could fit in an overhead bin. I would love to see the copy of Popular Mechanics you mention.
I don't know the exact issue of 'Popular Mechanics' but go to the library or bookstore and grab &quot;The Boy Mechanic- 200 Classic Things To Build&quot; by The Editors of Popular Mechanics (Hearst Books U$ 9.95- Can$ 13.95) P. 57 &amp; 58. <br> <br>The trunk is two open faced boxes 9&quot; deep, 18&quot; wide and 31&quot; high with metal capped corners, trunk latches and hinges. In each half are two book shelves (you could change that according to book size) <br> <br>Well ?I hope this is of some help to you..
And the best part I see of this arrangement is that there's a little gap in the bottom for pamphlets and things.
Yes! Thank you for mentioning this little space because it was a somewhat unintended feature that I have found really useful. I use it to store a small wood easel for displaying larger books once unpacked, but it is also a useful space for pamphlets or writing instruments.
This is brilliant! If the one hard suitcase I had wasn't so flipping huge I'd totally go and do this right now! As it is, I'll just keep an eye out for something more sensible.

About This Instructable




More by moseph:BookCASE: Travel bookcase in a suitcase! Gourmet Chocolate Orange Wrist-watch pin cushion 
Add instructable to: