Picture of BookCASE: Travel bookcase in a suitcase!
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.
Johenix3 years ago
The idea is not new. In the 1920's "Popular Mechanics" 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.
moseph (author)  Johenix3 years ago
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.
Johenix moseph3 years ago
I don't know the exact issue of 'Popular Mechanics' but go to the library or bookstore and grab "The Boy Mechanic- 200 Classic Things To Build" by The Editors of Popular Mechanics (Hearst Books U$ 9.95- Can$ 13.95) P. 57 & 58.

The trunk is two open faced boxes 9" deep, 18" wide and 31" high with metal capped corners, trunk latches and hinges. In each half are two book shelves (you could change that according to book size)

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.
moseph (author)  KwartzKitten3 years ago
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.