Picture of Cheap, easy, low-waste bookshelf plans
Build an easy, portable 3' x 8' wooden bookshelf in about 20 minutes, with a minimum of tools and less than 1% waste, for about $60. The basic concept can be modified to create any size shelf system needed.

For a similar bed see: http://www.instructables.com/id/Cheap-easy-low-waste-platform-bed/
For a similar dining table see: http://www.instructables.com/id/Cheap-easy-low-waste-trestle-table/

As a professional carpenter, furniture maker, and designer/builder, I see a lot of home carpentry projects that are grossly overbuilt and over-engineered. One of the goals of this Instructable is to avoid the unnecessary overbuilding that I frequently see on this site, and that I see every day working in the residential construction industry. Many of the building methods we (in the US) use today are horribly wasteful despite the advances that have been made in materials science and structural engineering, because most people in the residential building industry, from architects and engineers to carpenters, are mired in tradition, doing things a certain way "because that is how it has always been done", rather than consulting the best available science, or even questioning their own assumptions about "the right way to do it". I don't intend to knock tradition, either. Many of the tricks, techniques, and tools that I use daily are definitely "old-school", but seem to have been forgotten.

Thanks to my father for introducing me to this style of shelving, and who built a particularly fine example (using stained fir 2x4s and 2x12s, black washers, and brass acorn nuts) which is at least 25 years old and still in use.

royaroo made it!3 months ago

Other than drilling a bunch of holes and using a dremel tool to cut some 5/16" threaded rod, this was a very low intensity build! I bought the lumber in the sizes that I'd use, so nothing needed to be cut - I used pine boards, 1x3x6 for the side pieces and 1x10x6 for the shelves. The threaded rod was 36" long and I cut it into 12" pieces; each piece had a two washers (one at each end) along with an acorn cap nut on the front face of the shelves and a wing nut on the side by the wall.

The whole thing went together so smoothly and easily - I can't recommend this instructable enough.

Oh, and as for the sturdiness... It's awesome!

aeray (author)  royaroo2 months ago

thanks for the photos, and I'm glad you like it.

piiopah made it!1 year ago

Brilliant design. Cheap and easy, as promised. Also nice and stable. I don't have any real tools so I made mine 8' tall x 8' wide x 8" deep. No wood cutting necessary. For the threaded rods, I just bought a $6 hacksaw and a $6 clamp when I bought the lumber and hardware. I put the rods between blocks of scrap to avoid damaging the threads.

8" is a little narrow for something so tall, so I'd make it at least 10" deep next time around. I spaced several of the shelves 12" apart in order to accommodate some larger books that I have. Finally, while I used cap nuts on the front side (available at both the Ace Hardware and the Home Depot near my house) I used regular nuts on the back. That way I didn't have to worry about punching through the cap nuts.

shleves full.jpgempty shelves.jpeg
cattyb2 years ago
We'd been meaning to build these for over a year to replace a bulky entertainment center plus some cobbled together shelving for our TV wall. With a new 32" panel TV that only needed an 8" front-to-back shelf, this looked like a good choice! Since we live in rented housing, we couldn't attach anything to the walls but wanted something large enough to cover an exactly 8' x 8' wall without protruding the 27" into the narrow living room that the old furniture had while being "knock down-able" for future moves. Main problem = no real workspace for 8' uprights.
We finally did it!
My parents have the space and Dad has the tools -- a drill press, forstner bits and a long workbench were pretty essential. We decided to use countersunk 2x4s as uprights. This eliminated the need for pricey cap/acorn nuts while still leaving the all-thread ends 'protected' on the outside and allowing us to put it flush against the wall without causing damage.

Dad was SOOO concerned that there wasn't any way they weren't going to go rhombus and kept trying to over-engineer the project (my husband wasn't so certain, either!) but I stuck to my guns and followed the plans I'd "modified" to my specs -- 92" uprights (so as not to actually wedge against the ceiling), with 3/4" washers plus lock washers and plain old hex nuts in a 1" wide hole countersunk to 1/2" depth, 1x10 shelves and my brother just happened to have salvaged massive amounts of 1/4" all-thread that Dad cut to 12" lengths for us.

Because we needed to fit a 32" wide TV into the center of the whole shebang, we spaced the uprights further out from the center and eliminated a couple of shelves from just that center section...making 8" tall shelves on either side suitable for DVDs.
I also had the brainstorm to use two nail-in furniture "feet" on the bottom of each 2x4 on the front side so as to compensate for the carpet tack strip on the back edge and to make the shelves lean ever so slightly into the wall. I thought we might have to anchor the top of it to the wall, but with the feet, it stands very firm with absolutely no signs of wanting to tip forward! I felt great satisfaction when the almost 150 square inches of friction applied allowed for NO racking -- I could practically climb the end without anything budging!

We now have over 58 linear feet of shelving (with space under for shoes) for that wall that barely protrudes 12.25" into the room for a total cost of about $125! We plan to make at least two more units to accommodate the more than 15,000 books we own that are currently on store bought or cobbled shelving and in boxes plus have display space for our many collections Our only problem...we didn't take into account the depth of the shelf itself -- if you've got 10" between holes, you actually only get 9 1/8" of useable height on the shelf (most hardback books are 9.5" tall) = major bummer! We measured (from bottom) 12", 12", 10", 10", 9", 9", 10", 10" with top shelf at 13" from the ceiling.

(The shelves are only partially populated in the second pic because of our plans to get the other units done soon -- we knew we'd have to have space to move what we DO have on the other wall somewhere while we build)

Sorry for the long description...we're just so excited to have finally done this and how very well it works for us!

Very helpful additional info . Another book lover too , we just moved and pared our collection down to about 8,000 books .
aeray (author)  cattyb2 years ago
This may be the best comment I have ever received on one of my projects. Thanks, and thanks for the photos. Good for you for sticking to your guns; see what I mean about everyone wanting to over-engineer everything?
Made this bookshelf with a little alterations. I made it 8'x8'. There was no cutting involved because I bought 8' 1x3's. There are 8 shelves of slightly varying heights. If I did it again I would have about 12 shelves on the 8' but we will stack on this. I stained it using a poly-stain. Thought this would take less time. I will never use this again. It left drips all over the place..even though I was being careful. I would have been better off using stain then polyurethane. I also made the mistake of bying oil based (rushing in the store). Didn't realize until I went to wash my hands. If you ever do this...I found out that cooking oil followed by dishsoap works great to take oil based paints off your hands. I also used 5/16" rod because there wasn't any flex and I was making the shelves so big (used a 5/16" drill bit too so the fit was a little tight :) . Couldn't find the acorn nuts after 4 stores so I ordered them on Ebay ($10 inc shipping for a box of 50). Only put them on front because I needed 64. I also put metal cable on the ends (drilling two holes at the end of each shelf and x'ing it) so the books wouldn't fall off (got this idea from the poster who used clothesline). It cost a little over $200 when done (CT prices are high) but it is much sturdier than a Melemie shelf that would have been this price. My husband did not not believe it wouldn't "rack" but it is VERY sturdy. Will be making more.
oops...forgot photo
aeray (author)  jzampaglione3 years ago
Looks good, and like it fits the space well. Thanks for the photo. I tried the poly/stain combo stuff once, years ago, and decided that it was junk. I've been having good luck recently with stain conditioner, stain, and Sherwin-Williams Fast Dry varnish. The varnish is good stuff and lays down nicely.
teamyoyo3 years ago
Just built a bookshelf with your method. 1800mm high and 1200mm wide. It was easy. 2 and a half hours and $170 worth of materials. Glued strips of wood to the back of the shelves to stop books going through. It's incredibly sturdy but I live in Christchurch so we'll see how it survives through a few earthquakes.
DSC00329 2.jpgDSC00330 2.jpgDSC00333 2.jpg
aeray (author)  teamyoyo3 years ago
Thanks for the photos, and the prospects of field testing. The town I live in was destroyed by earthquakes in the 1930s, but we haven't had anything significant since then.
teamyoyo aeray3 years ago
So far its survived a couple of 5's, several 4+'s and dozens of 3+'s and it's still as solid as the day I put it together. Hasn't budged an inch. Hugely satisfied with the design.
Here is the one I built. Had to sand my lumber & decided to stain it. Hardware store did not have acorn nuts so I used regular nuts & will order acorn nuts. Hardware store was out of 1 1/4" washers so I used 1 1/2". Simple, cheap, sturdy, & useful. I like it! Thanks for sharing the plans.
Xpyd3r4 years ago
This worked like a charm and I love the simplicity. I'll definitely continue using the design, Thanks for the great instructable.
aeray (author)  Xpyd3r4 years ago
Thanks. Excellent corner application. What are the specifics? Are the shelves themselves joined in any way? Mitered? Butted? Splined? Pocket screwed?
leander374 years ago
here's my 6x6 version build with #2 pine. shelves are 1x10 and threaded rod upsized to 5/16" to allow for extra width. center upright spaced at 1/3 side to side. this is very complex structurally - all the commenters who don't believe it should build it to really feel how it works. it is basically like a post-tensioned high rise. i think i'd like to paint the uprights and stain the shelves.
aeray (author)  leander374 years ago
Good analogy, and thanks for the pics. I'm a big fun of the judicious and appropriately proportioned use of asymmetry. Looks good.
narayas4 years ago
Made a nice set of shelves (30" tall x 8 ft) over 2 weekends. Home Depot cut the lumber, and I borrowed a hacksaw to cut the all-thread.
Sanding and staining the pine was more of a hassle than I thought it would be. I lost patience so it ended up kind of blotchy but the functionality is still fine. Didn't have a 9/32" drill bit so just used a 1/4" and it was a tight squeeze on the allthread but still worked fine. Nice & sturdy, glad to get all my books off the floor and organized.
Thanks for the very nice instructable.
aeray (author)  narayas4 years ago
Looks good. Thanks for the photos. With pine (or other species with inconsistent density) using a pre-stain conditioner really helps to even out the "blotchiness".
llmadigan4 years ago
thank you, thank you, thank you!! the lumber that i had in the garage wasn't exactly what your plans called for (2x4s and 1x10s), so i adjusted the length of the all thread to accommodate the depth. also, one of my 2x4s was kind of wonky and i was worried it would jeopardize the stability of the set - but it's totally solid! the shelves are level and aren't going anywhere!! :) (i threw all of my body weight against it, and it's totally solid!) it's approx. 4' wide by 7.5' tall.

oh yeah, and buying a bunch of cap nuts is not so easy unless you order ahead of time. i went to two hardware stores (one family owned and one big box) and they kind of laughed at me when i said i needed 32. so i got regular nuts, tightened them so they were flush with the all thread on the front side, hammered it against the board and tightened the back side while holding the front one in place with a wrench. so, some of them have a little bit of overhang on the back side, but i don't have to worry about gouging skin while walking past it. for my next set, i'll order the cap nuts in bulk from ebay ahead of time...
i said "totally solid" twice [blush]. i guess i'm excited :)
Dear Aeray,
First thanks so much for your instrucables. So enjoy them. I've done the bed and will send pics later. Most recently did the bookshelves. Had about 20 boxes of books after a move and nowhere to put them. Did 3 sets of your shelves and emptied the book boxes in a day. Pics included. THANKS!
- MaryAnn
aeray (author)  mhendrickson4 years ago
Extensive! Thanks for the pics!
Something about very long/low or very high/narrow bookshelves has always intrigued me but I haven't yet had the opportunity or space to build any.
Just build a 6'x6' version using the techniques in this 'ible. It looks great and works great! I used 6 lengths each of 1"x10" and 1"x4", both 6' long, and spaced the shelves to get on 18" shelf, one 16" shelf, and three 12" shelves. Mine cost a bit more (~$100 lumber and hardware), but the shelves went from concept to finished in only a few hours. Thanks a lot!
aeray (author)  a.tyler.nelson4 years ago
Pics would be great.
Here are a two views of the 6x6 shelves I built. Thanks again!
demxod84 years ago
Thanks for posting this. I've been looking for a simple solution like this for years. It's brilliant.
laturb4 years ago
Tks, Aeray. I was scratching my head trying to convince myself that I must build a tools/nails/equipment shelf unit in our basement.
Your instructions seem idiot proof so within the next two weeks I should be able to place all my bits and pieces on shelves and more importantly, be able to find them when I need to.
aeray (author)  laturb4 years ago
Post some photos when you're done.
Avasar100004 years ago
Would 2x2 material be strong enough if used as the upright supports? I did not see any mention of adding grooves that will ride over the all thread to keep the shelves in place. Is that not needed? My initial plan is to use 12" wide boards with 2x2 uprights and to make the bookshelf 5' to 6' tall by 60" wide.
I had also thought about adding some moulding to "jazz" it up a bit.
aeray (author)  Avasar100004 years ago
The 2x2s would be strong enough, but there might not be enough contact area between the upright and the shelf. The uprights clamp the shelves in place, and the friction between the shelf and upright is what keeps the whole unit from "going rhombus" (as starwalk put it). If you use 2x2s, there will be less surface area in contact, and less friction. And no, no grooves are necessary in the shelves, for the reasons mentioned above.
mkslocomb4 years ago
have you tried this with 12" shelves, or just the 8"? this looks like a good replacement solution for my "milk crate shelves" (at least if it will hold 12"). also, very nice 'ible. looks easy duplicatable.
aeray (author)  mkslocomb4 years ago
Thanks. 12" shelves should work fine, even with 1x material. If you need to dramatically increase the spans between uprights, or really dramatically increase the load-carrying capacity (like to hold bricks), you could use 2x material, but it shouldn't usually be necessary.
aeray (author)  aeray4 years ago
You should also double-check the length of your all-thread rods. I'd dummy one up and try it out before cutting all of them. It needs to be just long enough to catch a couple of threads and snug down without punching out through the cap nut. The actual "cap" portion of cap nuts is fairly thin, and if the all-thread is even a bit too long it will punch through the end when you snug it up
Briannabeth made it!1 month ago
Thank you so much for this instructable. I have never built anything in my life, and my husband and my father both scoffed when I said I was going to build this (which only made me want to build it more)! It is exactly the bookcase I have always wanted. I can't stop looking at it and marveling at the fact that I made it! It is gorgeous and incredibly sturdy. I think I am going to make another one for my classroom and smaller ones for other rooms in my house! Thank you so much again.
aeray (author)  Briannabeth1 month ago
Thanks for the photos, and I'm glad you proved your husband and father wrong.
PatrickM25 made it!1 month ago

Love this design! Built the shelves for my daughter's books and assorted items. Spray painted the washers red to match an old desk I restored for her. I'm planning on building another one for my office.

PatrickM251 month ago
BittahWoman2 months ago

My first question (of possibly many before I embark on this project) is where did you get threaded rod so cheap? Amazon is more expensive than home depot and for a 3ft piece it was like 5.62 at home depot. But you only spent 18 bucks on hardware? How??

aeray (author)  BittahWoman2 months ago
Go to a locally-owned hardware store, preferably of the "mom'n'pop" variety. Also, buy longer lengths as they are cheaper per foot.
BittahWoman2 months ago

My first question (of possibly many before I embark on this project) is where did you get threaded rod so cheap? Amazon is more expensive than home depot and for a 3ft piece it was like 5.62 at home depot. But you only spent 18 bucks on hardware? How??

jadkins8 made it!2 months ago

Very easy assembly. Six foot high by four feet wide. Under $100. The hardest parts were cutting the rod and getting the initial pieces assembled. Thanks for the guide!

shelf.jpgShelf - w books.jpgCutting threaded rod.jpg
BartholomewH2 months ago

So much reminds me of a flat pack assembly unit! I think that IKEA furniture designers would love it!

royaroo made it!3 months ago

bought lumber that was already the perfect dimensions.... All I had to do was use a drill to make holes and a dremel to cut the 5/16" threaded rod. Fast and easy gorgeous and seriously sturdy 6'x6' bookshelves

AmbaA3 months ago

Does anyone know what the narrowest shelf width that would still be stable with this design is? I specifically need shelves for mass market paperbacks, and was hoping to go with something about 5.5" wide.... (height is 48" tall, width is 3.5', 4 shelves total).

aeray (author)  AmbaA3 months ago
Will it be freestanding, or against a wall?
califazen6 months ago

I have enjoyed your platform bed design (made two of them) and I have taken this shelf idea and made two. But there is a problem.
Though my little versions used only two legs, they were 1x4s so the friction should be okay, but the not-so-great wood I use shrinks in my dry house. Over time, things get loose. One shelf has "gone rhombus" twice, one nearly did as I was re-loading it. So, in my experience, these need re-tightened periodically, especially if you are moving things about on the shelf with some regularity. So I am adding a little cross-brace arrangement on the back of the one that I am putting books on.

That's my experience. Hate to see some kid (or dog or cat or anyone) bruised up, right? NOt to mention the mess it makes when they fold onto themselves and send a load of books skimming across the floor. Has anyone else had this problem?

Nikiniku1 year ago

I just built my first one, and I am now going to build my second one. Nothing could be easier. In fact, it's so easy to build that it does have one shortcoming: satisfaction. Yes, it's so easy that building it doesn't leave you with the feeling of satisfaction and pride that a more difficult one does. The main thoughts are, "Where has this been all my life," and "Why aren't more bookcases built this way"? Anyway, I do have two questions:

(1) At the very end of the instructions, there is the following: "I know of an 8' tall 12' long version of these shelves ...fully loaded with hundreds of books". My question is, are the verticals 1x4s like this one? I ask this because I was thinking of building my THIRD bookcase in another way, but your way is so easy and foolproof that I may end up building three bookcases with your method. I do need to know, though, if 1x4s are strong enough for an eight-foot high fully loaded bookcase.

(2) For me, the most time-consuming part of building the bookcase was using a hacksaw to cut sixteen pieces of all-thread rod to size. The pre-cut pieces available from my local Home Depot are 12-1/4" long, and I need pieces 11-3/8" long for 1"x10"x8' shelves. The easiest solution is, I believe, to use wingnuts (I'd add lock washers to be sure) in the rear facing the wall rather than cap nuts. That way, you don't need to worry about cutting the exact length. You might end up with half an inch, or so, of protruding rods, but so what. They are in the rear and out of sight.

aeray (author)  Nikiniku1 year ago
The big version, built in the mid-eighties, uses 2x4's for the uprights, and 2x10's for the shelves, and 3/8 allthread rod. It is 12' long, and yet has only 5 uprights. Wing nuts will work fine; the "big version" uses cheaper plain nuts on the backside with brass acorn nuts on the front. The front washers are also painted flat black, and the whole unit is stained with Minwax Fruitwood stain. Lock washers won't be necessary.

I am sorry you feel unfulfilled by this project; try my trestle table design for a bit more of a challenge.
TheOnymous aeray7 months ago

How long would the all thread rod need to be cut for this type of build?

Nikiniku aeray1 year ago


The first shelf-set I ever built required eight eight-foot 2x4s for legs. I thought that was excessive, but since that was one of the first things I had ever built, I followed the design to the letter. After I finished, I still thought that the design was overkill, so I decided to build lighter next time. I'm going to follow that philosophy with my next bookcase. It will be over six feet high but it will use eight six-foot+ 1x4s for legs, and it will use eight-foot long 3/4"x10" wide plywood strips for shelves. I'm tempted to use your design, but for appearances sake, I'll probably use a design I tested with a 24" wide model. Nothing could be as easy to build as your design, but I think it's better for garages than living rooms. I still can't get over how easy it is. I've even been thinking of having bookcase building contests. I was shooting for twenty minutes today with my second bookcase, but I made some dumb mistakes along the way that scotched my record breaking attempt. Maybe next time.

After finishing the second bookcase built to your design, I can heartily recommend the use of wing nuts in lieu of acorn nuts for the side against the wall. Using them is superior in every way. They're easier to use and faster, and they make a better, more secure connection. Also, rod lengths need not be precise. Every thing considered, I would never again use acorn nuts for the rear.

Finally, I have to say that I'm having a ball with these projects. I'm seventy-six, but these are really the only things of any consequence that I've ever built, and I'm loving it. My next one will use the same design as others I have built, but after that I will try something more challenging. To build it, I'll have to use a router which I bought for the purpose (I have never used a router, so it should be sufficiently challenging). This will probably be my last bookcase for awhile, but it will be a dozy. It will be a six-foot lean-against-the-wall type, but the really interesting thing about it is that it will consist of parts that are assembled or disassembled like a Chinese puzzle (interlocking parts). No screws, nails, wires, or glue, but there it stands, and when you move, you just just disassemble it and pack it away. It will be a challenge.

aeray (author)  Nikiniku8 months ago

good on ya, and keep building!

aeray (author)  aeray1 year ago
Also, I realize that using all acorn nuts is more difficult, but I wanted to have the option (or give others the option) of using the shelf in a freestanding configuration.
davintosh7 months ago

Very clever way of doing this. Love it, and will likely copy the idea. Thanks!

danielg148 months ago

I'm pricing out building this shelf and find the prices much higher than shown. The threaded rod alone will be over $18.

aeray (author)  danielg148 months ago
I published it a few years ago, and prices have risen since then. Where, roughly, are you located? Also, buy the all-thread in long sticks, rather than short, home center, lengths.

I modified this to make it longer and lower. My first time making something like this, so it took a while, but I'm very happy with how it turned out. Thanks for the plan!

aeray (author)  itsatravisd8 months ago

thanks for the pic!

wjenkins1 year ago
great project for me. I get tons of compliments and is really awesome when it comes moving time.
aeray (author)  wjenkins8 months ago

thanks for the photos!

NickR11 year ago

I've seen some people counter-sinking the washers and nuts....would there be any issues in design (other than just more work) to essentially "counter-sink" the uprights by cutting rectangles out of the shelves? It seems to me like this would improve stability even more, as well as allow the shelf to sit completely flat against the wall. The only draw-back being that the shelves would have uprights interrupting them every so often. What do you think?

aeray (author)  NickR18 months ago

it would be a waste of time. They are extremely stable as-is, so it would be a (questionable) aesthetic choice.

robert.decicco.5 made it!10 months ago

Just made this simple bookshelf. Thanks for sharing the design, Aeray! I don't consider myself particularly handy and building it helped me build my handy 'person' skills. I learned how to measure and cut wood using a skilsaw. I learned how to use a combination square. I also learned how to use a reciprocating saw to cut the all-thread rod, which was a much easier way to cut the metal than a hacksaw. I was surprised that none of the hardware stores I visited would cut the all-thread.

My design was a 6' x 6'. I used 5/16th sized all-thread and hardware and brass acorn caps with the silver washers. The wood is stained red oak 215. There were points where I needed someone to help (hold wood while cutting, assembling, etc..). With the staining and waiting for it to dry, this took a couple of days to assemble. Overall, very happy with the outcome. I am a teacher and have hundreds of heavy books. This bookshelf seems sturdy and will last for years. Every time I will look at it, I will be proud....now, off to the next project!

aeray (author)  robert.decicco.58 months ago

excellent execution, and thanks for the photos.

DBR629 months ago

Any ideas for something similar, only with shelves 16-18 in deep, 4ft wide and about 4ft tall ? Looking to build something to hold old stereo receiver and items. Like this look. Thanks.

CHHandy made it!1 year ago

Thanks for the great idea - We needed a bookshelf and didn't want to buy a boring, poor quality shelf from ikea/target. Plus DIY is more fun anyway. Some small tweaks, but mostly followed the plan.

We used 4' long boards w/ a depth of about 12" to add stability and shelf space. Definitely could have gotten away with 10", but 8" just seemed narrow at the hardware store.

Instead of using acorn nuts on both sides, we used regular nuts on the back to give use some margin for error on the rod lengths. This was a great decision as the rod lengths were +/- about 2 mm between all of them.

Stained the boards with an "american chestnut" stain and used a very light stain on the legs to create a 2 tone shelf. Used a combined stain+poly mix to save cost and time.

The only real mistake was not leaving nearly enough height on the bottom shelf for the old, giant (mostly anatomy) textbooks.

Total cost was about $70 between the wood, all thread, stain+poly, and a cheap hacksaw.

aeray (author)  CHHandy11 months ago
Looks good. Thanks for the photo.
adupont01 made it!1 year ago

Here's an an 8'x8' unit my wife and I just finished. Very sturdy, we used 3/8" all threads, regular hex nuts, 1x12 shelves and lots of color! Uprights were drilled every 13 inches so shelf spacing would be 12 inches. We loved the cable bookend idea so we added that as well.

aeray (author)  adupont011 year ago
Looks good, thanks for the photos.
cadamcross1 year ago

Thanks for this design. I used your basic design to make a kind of desk hutch. I had a problem with it folding into a rhombus, so on the back side I added some dowel pins to hold it square, and I used dowel pins to connect it to the desk below. The result is quite sturdy.


I also reinforced the underside of each shelf with a 2x4 because they are 4 feet long and holding a lot of textbooks. A 1x4 probably would have been sufficient.

LDubya1 year ago

I'm thinking about using this for a retail wine shop as display shelves with (6) 20"x72" shelves with 16" between each shelf. Each of the shelves would hold 100 bottles which would weight approx 350-400lbs. Do you think it would be able to support this type of weight and would you suggest using thicker all-thread rods (perhaps 1/2" or 5/8")? Would it be able to handle the day-to-day abuse of re-stocking the shelves?

aeray (author)  LDubya1 year ago
I am not exactly sure what you are considering doing. Will the unit only be as tall as the one I have described? Will the bottles be upright or on their sides? What material are you going to use for the 20" wide shelves? (Solid-sawn lumber is rarely available that wide).

If you can give me some specifics, I'd be happy to help you out. If you want to send me a sketch, PM me and I'll give you my email address to send it to.

peets1 year ago

now i can pout my buoks on so easey :)

califazen made it!1 year ago

I've made two versions of this, tweaking the legs, one tall one and this short one. Wood will shrink: be sure you re-tighten your bolts after a couple weeks; probably especially true for four-leg versions and where you've jiggered the spacing as I've done. I put some stuff on top of this one after a couple weeks and there was a minor furniture malfunction. Its a snap to build, though.


The dirty sock on the floor adds a real classy touch. lol

biomedjake1 year ago

I made a 6ftx4ft model. Works perfectly, I stained it. Looks great. Appreciate this.

aeray (author)  biomedjake1 year ago
Thanks for the feedback. Please feel free to post a picture.
kayquobad1 year ago

can this shelf be made out of MDF ???

aeray (author)  kayquobad1 year ago
Yes, actual 4'x8' sheets of MDF, ripped to width, not the preprimed MDF boards. You also need more uprights, spaced not more than 24" apart.
moseph1 year ago
could these be done, as your dad did, with 2x4s or with 1x3s as the uprights?

Thanks for those comments. I was going to have to ask about the proper rod length for 10" shelves, but now I don't. I do have another question, though. What about tipping? Is there any reason why these shelves should be less likely to topple over than other shelves? I'm a woodworking tyro but this will the third set of shelves for me. The first one was the easiest. It started with fastening 2x3 horizontal rails to the garage studs to be used for shelf support on the back side. Then, I just had to attach the shelves to those rails and to the horizontal 2x3 rails on the 2X3 vertical supports on the shelf front side. Even for me, this was extremely easy. The second project just required fastening horizontal 2X2 rails to 2X4 freestanding vertical supports for the front and back. Finally, the two sides were fastened together by attaching the shelves to the horizontal rails on both sides. Another easy one. The fourth shelving arrangement, if I do it, will require skill that I may not have. It involves cutting notches into the shelves and the vertical supports and interlocking them together without benefit of screw or nail. I'll be a proud man if I pull that one off. Finally, I have to admit that there is more afoot here than just building shelves. Sure, I need the shelves, but it's also fun and very satisfying. It may even have some therapeutical value.

aeray (author)  moseph1 year ago
Nikiniku1 year ago

Something's wrong with this site. I first noticed that what I printed was not what I saw on the screen; then, I noticed that the pictures on the screen are all messed-up. Take a look. You'll see pictures superimposed over the text in several places. You can't print that is not shown on the screen because it is covered up with a picture. I have been planning to build some bookshelves for some time, and I have a collection of plans, but this is the one for me. It's cheap and it's easy. I like what the author says about overbuilt and over-engineered projects. My first project was an 8-foot long set of shelves. The instructions called for eight 2X4 vertical posts. It also required the plywood shelves to rest on 2X2 horizontal rails front and back that were attached to the 2X4s. I thought that was excessive, but it was my first project, so I followed the instructions to the letter. However, now that I've gained some experience, I believe that 2X4s are overkill. They might be required if I were to use the shelves to store a collection of anvils, but such is not the case. Anyway, since I like your plans so much, I'll be back in a few days to see if you've fixed your article. I hope you do, because I don't want to waste any more paper trying to print what is unprintable.

aeray (author)  Nikiniku1 year ago
This is not my site, I am merely a contributor, and have no control over how my content is displayed on the site. I am glad you like my Instructable, though. I have noticed a lot of bugs with the site while using mobile devices, perhaps that is the problem. Also, a pro membership seems to solve some of these problems, particularly printing and downloading problems. However, I am no expert on this kind of thing. I am a carpenter. Luckily, other folks here are experts, and quite willing to help. Please post about your problem  here, and I'm sure someone can fix it or otherwise help you out.

I liked the idea to work warehouse shelves

thanx alot

2014 - 2.jpg
aeray (author)  امحمد11 year ago
They look good. Thanks for the photo. But... is the bottom shelf under the allthread rod?

I've put feet of plastic at the bottom :)

ebreen21 year ago

Built this today, I went with 6' by 46" tall. 6 upright supports rather than 4. It looks awesome! Great plan aeray!

nhayford1 year ago

Hi thanks for this fantastic bookcase. It is just the thing needed to display my beloved textbooks ( nursing, culinary and computer books). Do you have a video demo of making this? I am new to these projects and a video demo would be so helpful for me. I have a 9ft wall and would like to make the bookcases 8ft tall and the need shelves 10 inches in width. Can you please suggesst appropriate wood and hardware? Please help. Thanks

aeray (author)  nhayford1 year ago
I don't, as I posted this a few years ago, but don't worry, it is easy. The lumber type is the same, but use 1x10's for the shelves, and cut the all thread at 11-3/8" instead of 9-3/8". Basically, it is just a double height version of these, with deeper shelves. Look through all of the comments for some great photos of how other folks have modified the design.
paddywagon1 year ago
Just used this template to build a bookshelf!  I decided to go 6' tall by 3' wide.  I gotta say, I'm really pleased with how it turned out.  Probably will make some more, and in more dimensions.

aeray (author)  paddywagon1 year ago
Looks good, thanks for the photo.
kriskross71 year ago
Hello, I want to build these shelves but I'm just having a bit of trouble converting everything to the metric system...but when you have the uprights and the shelves and washers all placed across, how much should the all thread extend past them? Like how much longer should the all thread be compared to all the pieces? Thanks for the help!
aeray (author)  kriskross71 year ago
Allthread length = shelf width + twice the thickness of the uprights + about 1cm.
kriskross71 year ago
Hello, I would like to build one with a space at the bottom so I can place the shelving over a washing machine. Would the absence of a bottom shelf ruin the stability of the shelves or would it be possible to build it like this? Thanks!
aeray (author)  kriskross71 year ago
It should work, depending on the actual dimensions. Try to have two pairs of uprights on at least one side of the washer.
42Libs2 years ago
Just finished building your instructable - the first thing Ive ever built in my life! I built mine 6'. Thanks :)
aeray (author)  42Libs2 years ago
Tall or wide? Glad to help, keep it up, and check out my other similar Instructables.
I just built a 3' by 6' bookshelf using a scaled version of your plans, in one night. I chose 1x10s instead of 1x8s for my shelves in order to support some big textbooks, which impacted the rod length. I decided to put in only 1 center support roughly halfway between the ends, and it seems to be holding up well and it is a much more aesthetically pleasing and sturdy solution when compared to the IKEA bookcase I was using.

All in all, an easy build after everything was cut, and I am grateful for your detailed instructions and annotated photos. I added an extra set of flat washers after realizing that I had cut every section of rod about 3 threads too long for the cap nuts alone (oh well).

I stood on top of the middle of the top shelf with 150 pounds of weight and tried to "shake" it loose. Even with up to 0.5" of difference between cuts, courtesy of the person who cut my wood, I got little more than a lateral wiggle which was quickly fixed by tightening two of the 12 rods I ended up using.

Thank you for this excellent instructable.
aeray (author)  kelociraptor2 years ago
Thanks for the excellent endorsement.
narmády2 years ago
Thanks for the awesome plans! We spent a bit longer applying 2 coats of amber shellac, looks great, went together easy. Only alteration was 1x10s, longer rods. :)
cattyb2 years ago
Oops -- this was supposed to be a reply to gmanhart-davis' question re drawers!
Stinkin' cookie blockers!
cattyb2 years ago
We've built our 2nd and 3rd 8'x8' units (see long narrative above) and I've been using both plastic bins and covered cardboard boxes -- suitably reinforced -- to store items that I like having accessible. Ours is in the living room, but if you're in a workshop/garage you can get creative with containers and size/space your shelves accordingly like we did. Baskets, boxes, drawers from an old dresser, crates, buckets, flowerpots...you name it!

(photos coming soon...need to get the hubby to do his pic uploading magic!)
rgbucha2 years ago
Do you think it would be possible to use MDF boards rather than pine? We have a large project and are trying to keep the cost down. Thanks.
aeray (author)  rgbucha2 years ago
While MDF has its place, and I use it fairly often, I wouldn't recommend it for this project. If you really want to use it, I would only use it for the shelves themselves, not the uprights, and I would space the uprights no more than 2' apart. Over time, even with 2' upright spacing, MDF will develop a noticeable sag. Go pick up an 8' 1x4 MDF board by the center and shake it vigorously perpendicularly to its long axis, and then try the same thing with a pine 1x4. You will be surprised. If you need to save a few pennies, look into spruce lumber, or a lower grade of pine.
mdamaso2 years ago
I used your guide about a year ago to make my own bookcase and it has held up spectacular and looks great. Now if I only hadn't underestimated how many books I own. Thanks for the Instructable!
aeray (author)  mdamaso2 years ago
I built two, and I'll probably be building another soon. Thanks for the photo.
This is a great project-and for any sort of woodworking familiar person I am sure it is simple-however, I did run into some challenges and have some solutions to offer for those with the same.
1) altered the plans to make my shelf 48"Lx 12"Dx36"H (single self unit)
2) drilled holes and used 17/64 bit because that is what came in my drill bit box and I wanted to save $...the hole markers points were very helpful and everything lined up great
3) the thread rod proved challenging-due to my altered board width the 12" pre-measured length would not work and I was forced to go up to the 24" pre-measured size. knowing nothing about thread rod-I asked if they could cut it and they said they did not do that-so I bought a hack saw for $5 and added the proper measurement changes-it had been 8" width on original plan and now I had 12" so instead of
(16) 9-3/8" segments, I needed (8) 13 3/8 segments
The biggest challenge quickly discovered to a novice is that even with the wing nut on-it still would not repair my thread so back I went to buy more wing nuts (one wasn't going to cut it) and I decided-I would use wing nuts on each rod for the back side of the shelf (8 total)-so each one after cutting-twisting till the end and then putting the fender washer on the appropriate way (Pro) so when I put the rod through the shelving was secure for the other sides fender washer, acorn nut and tightening.
4) after I was certain it would work and the wing nuts would stay-I took it all apart to stain-this was my own problem but I just was not sure and the stain looked so nice with the fender washers and bolts.
I will add photos when I can but all in all-what seemed to be a 20 minute project ;) was more or less a 3 day one for a mom of two who could only afford so much time each day. I am very happy with the end results and know it would be so much easier to make the next time-maybe with some extra hands and a cold one. Thank you very much for sharing the plans!
I love looking at your instructables and plan on making a couple beds and some shelves. My question is do you have any suggestions on adding a drawer like piece to this? Im thinking i might just have to build a cabinet and then put this on top (different dimensions of course)
drzog2 years ago
great, just what i was looking for, since i dont have a lot of fine skills as yet. did find the racking an issue, will try further tightening. used 3/8 rod and 300mm pine shelves, held by 3/4 inch x 4inch hardwood supports.
aeray (author)  drzog2 years ago
Thanks for the photo. Snug down the nuts, and load it up. It should be pretty solid then.
imagepimp2 years ago
I figured as much. Thanks for the advice and plans: will post some pictures when they are done.
imagepimp2 years ago
These shelves are great and I am tentatively planning on using the idea in a room in my house. Before I take that plunge, I have a quick question: the room of interest has a slight slope to the floor (old house, likely was originally an old screened-in porch). If I compensate for the height changes on the vertical supports from one side of the room to the other, will this thing be stable? FWIW, I am also planning on tying a couple of supports from the shelves to the walls: we have a lot of books and some inquisitive animals in this house. Thanks!
aeray (author)  imagepimp2 years ago
I had a similar situation, with the slope, and it worked fine. Mine are also tied to the walls with two screws and a short length of wire.
davesin2 years ago
Love this idea. Did an 8-footer with 4'x12" shelves, used 2x4's for the verticals since I'll be loading it up with books. Added a 1x4 endcap on both ends. Used stopnuts instead of acorns or wingnuts since they were cheap and available in quantity at the local hardware store.
aeray (author)  davesin2 years ago
Looks good. Thanks for the photo. How is the end stop attached?
LeannK922 years ago
Would it be possible to mount a smaller version onto a wall to turn this into wall-mount shelving?
aeray (author)  LeannK922 years ago
Not really, because all of the legs have to be supported. You could suspend it from the ceiling, though.
wilson913 years ago
I haven't built the shelving yet but want to build a 10"Wx4'Hx10'L bookcase. Do I need to change the all-thread dimensions (and thus the washers and nuts)?
aeray (author)  wilson913 years ago
You'll need to make the all thread pieces longer, but the diameter can stay the same. Please feel free to post a pic when you are done.
Fourbonds3 years ago
Great job
Getting ready to------ Is there a maximum for the rails?

I guess 3 feet right?

aeray (author)  Fourbonds3 years ago
No maximum. If they are over 4 feet, tie the unit to the wall with a bit of wire or cord and a screw. It isn't structural; it just keeps the whole mess from toppling due to pets, earthquakes, drunks, and children.
aeray (author)  Fourbonds3 years ago
Thanks. Did you build one?
Built your shelving system because, as you said, it is expandable to be larger. My eventually came to be 68" tall by 12 feet in width with 6 shelves. Thanks for the plans, it worked well.
I just made a small version of these shelves. They look great. Thanks for a successful first building project.
aeray (author)  margaretmeek3 years ago
Thanks. Post a photo if you get a chance.
scaylos3 years ago
My build of this with leander37's specs (6ftx6ft, 1x10 shelves, 5/16 rod). Had some trouble with books trying to commit suicide from the open end which I fixed by zig-zaging some cotton clothesline between the uprights. Made for an easy, and rather aesthetically pleasing bookend.

Thanks to both Aeray for posting this and to leander for the further inspiration. Box Mountain was dealt a mortal blow with this one.
aeray (author)  scaylos3 years ago
Thanks for the photo. Glad you liked it.
axiesdad3 years ago
Excellent job on the shelves and the 'ible! I recently designed and built a set of storage shelves for my son's garage and am totally guilty of the over-building you talk about. I also made these bookshelves. They are only slightly more complicated than yours and I like modular construction. Now if I could only figure out how to build an 'ible.
Minn oct 2011 024.JPG9 14 2011 001.JPG
aeray (author)  axiesdad3 years ago
If you can figure out how to post a reply, with photos, you should have no problem posting an Instructable. I'm not particularly computer-literate...
handytradie3 years ago
I used the same design to build a Stubby Cooler Display Shelf........
Dead Easy!!
Book Shelf is next :-P
allstar7844 years ago
You could also use pegboard as the backing if using in a garage and be able to create great utility areas with hooks. Just a thought.
BreakFix4 years ago
Hija. Love the simplicity of this. I'd like to make a modified, short bench version - any idea how much weight this could withstand? Guessing I'd have to increase the all-thread diameter. Thanks!
aeray (author)  BreakFix4 years ago
Like to sit on? How big?
paqrat4 years ago
Great instructable. Any advice for someone (unskilled and inexperienced )wanting to make the shelves 8 feet tall?
aeray (author)  paqrat4 years ago
Consider anchoring them to the wall with a short piece of wire, chain, or cable. Kids, earthquakes, and drunk friends happen.
paqrat aeray4 years ago
Thank you. No kids, earthquakes or drunk friends here but I do have one adventurous cat so an anchor sounds like a very good idea.
MDarcy4 years ago
What modifications would you recommend if the shelves were closer than 11", say 6-7". Most of my books are mass market paperbacks so more shelves would be nice.
aeray (author)  MDarcy4 years ago
None. Just adjust the shelf spacing and upright height to fit what you've got.
Hardwyre4 years ago
Hmm... I like this. I also realized something. By using longer pieces of all-thread, you can make deeper shelves.

|-|-|-| = 24"+ deep shelf

Since most things kept on shelves won't fall through the gap in the boards, these would make pretty awesome garage shelves or such. You could use any scrap left over on the back when anchoring them to a wall as well.
aeray (author)  Hardwyre4 years ago
You could just use a 24" wide rip of plywood or OSB and the same (2) uprights, with longer all-thread and not have any gaps. You can also, commonly (in the US), buy 12", 16", and sometimes 24" "shelf boards" made of particleboard or melamine-coated particleboard. I might use thicker (3/8" or 1/2") all-thread for 16" and 24" shelves, though.
Great idea. Fast and easy. Thanks!!!
My 4' x 6' version.
aeray (author)  AP Digital light4 years ago
Looks good. Thanks for the photos.
Servelan4 years ago
Thank you! I have another project that requires cutting some all-thread and this step will make it actually usable when I'm done instead of a pile of frustrating pieces with glorped up ends.
aeray (author)  Servelan4 years ago
If the ends are going to be exposed (unlike this project) you may still need to dress them a bit with a file or grinder, before removing the wingnut.
jack8559 aeray4 years ago
Conversely, you could apply J-B Weld to one end of the threaded rod and grind the other flush after assembly, just be careful not to damage anything with the sparks from grinding (or you could file the ends smooth).
If Outdoor shelves are wanted, PT 5/4 decking could be used for the verticals and maybe used for the shelf too. Would be simple to add cross braces if two 5/4 deck boards were used side by side for the shelves. Of course one should use outdoor rated hardware too.
I plan to make several.
aeray (author)  I can build it instead4 years ago
By "cross braces", I think you mean cleats, on the underside of the side-by-side boards, perpendicular to them, to keep them in alignment with each other. Also, if you are using PT lumber, double-check that the hardware you are using is not only "outdoor rated" but PT-compatible as well. Some "outdoor" hardware is not.
If you build, please post pics.
Yes, I meant cleats. Thank you for refreshing my syntax.
Looking in the Decking aisle, I also see PVC boards and wood/plastic decking.
I know they cost more but the look may appeal to some.
aeray (author)  I can build it instead4 years ago
The plastic and plastic composite decking are only good for 16" spans, and are probably too floppy to be used as uprights, so it would probably be good to stick with the 5/4.
You got to be kidding me a professional carpenter since 1968. Second shelf down from top. Notice the end. see the "cupping" taking place? The bow across the board? Means (1) the lumber is drying out and will continue to cup. (2) the threaded bolt is so tight as to cause the cupping.
Next there is no cross bracing any where or did I miss it in the photo. A "X" should be formed at some point. Right now, once the lumber fully dries out and shrinks even more, and possibly all shelves "cup" one should be able to push one end of the shelf and it may rack, eventually.
If the upright were notched to receive the boards, then I would never worry about racking.
With this type shelving, I would not recommend making longer spans than the 26" specified.
aeray (author)  spartancaver4 years ago
I saw the cup in the photo too, when I posted it, but when I went and looked at the shelf it wasn't there. It only shows up in the photo for some reason, some kind of "optical delusion". Yes, I may have to re-tighten the shelves nuts at some point, but no, no cross bracing to prevent racking is necessary.
It's because you are using a wide angle lens. Notice that the vertical support at that end also looks like it is curved. Everything is getting distorted by the wide angle lens. If that shelf was cupping, it would cup the other direction from what you show in the close up.
aeray (author)  darkarmani4 years ago
Gotcha. Thanks.
llmadigan4 years ago
love it! thanks for posting this 'able!

do you think they'd hold up if i made it 8ft tall?? anchored to the wall, of course. i was thinking of using 2x4s for the verticles and maybe 3/8 all-thread, just because of the overall size/weight. space the supports about 2.5 feet apart... what do you think?

aeray (author)  llmadigan4 years ago
It should work fine with 2x4 uprights, but I don't think they're really necessary, even on an 8' shelf. You also don't need to use bigger all-thread (1/4" is plenty strong) but you will have to use longer pieces of rod if you use 2x4s. A piece of heavy wire attached to an eyebolt (in a stud) is a good safety feature in case of an earthquake or kids or pets climbing on it.
llmadigan aeray4 years ago
thanks. i already have a bunch of 2x4s, so i'll just use them. it happens that my local hardware store has plenty of 3/8 all thread, but not much 1/4. as long as it will work, i'm ok with using it - it's not like it's very expensive.

i'm painting the 2x4s now (cause they're ugly) and will be sure to post pics when they're complete.

thanks again :D
aeray (author)  llmadigan4 years ago
I look forward to the pics.
tbcross4 years ago
very nice I have put this project on our endless project list.....but with around 500 books it'll bump to the top quickly :)
aeray (author)  tbcross4 years ago
Yes, I actually built two while making this 'ible, and might have to make another.
aeray (author)  aeray4 years ago
If you do build one, please post a pic.
guyzo354 years ago
I love simple and old fashioned ideas, definitely a project for the future
aeray (author)  guyzo354 years ago
aeray (author)  aeray4 years ago
Post a photo if you do build it.
starwalk4 years ago
Looks very nice, but if anyone is worried about the whole thing 'going rhombus' then a couple of the 'Observator' fixings (a ready-made crossbrace for the 'Ivar' range) from IKEA should remove the issue. These cost either £1 or £2 in the UK dependent on size, and so wouldn't add much to the cost.
aeray (author)  starwalk4 years ago
Thanks. I edited the last paragraph of Step 5 to be clearer, it may be of interest to you. IKEA hacks are always amusing.
TechDante4 years ago
like it. its a perfect and quick student build for a dorm room. ldoes this only use friction to keep the whole thing together
aeray (author)  TechDante4 years ago
Friction, gravity, and tension.
jauncourt aeray4 years ago
It looks great, but I'd put a warning on this for folks with kids. If it is knockdown, then it's always possible for kids to knock it down.

I think that risk could be remedied with a few drilled holes on each end of the shelves and a few zip ties routed around the rods. It would still be easily taken down and moved, but it would be that much safer.

Disclosure: we have a LOT of knock-down shelving around here and we do use zip ties to keep them from being taken down while fully loaded.
aeray (author)  jauncourt4 years ago
Good idea, but it might not be necessary: Tightening the nuts clamps the uprights against the shelves, holding them in place and providing shear strength (through friction) for the whole assembly. I know of an 8' tall, 12' long version of these shelves that has survived a few minor earthquakes while fully loaded with hundreds of books. Once the nuts are tightened on my smaller versions, I (all 240lbs of me) have a very hard time "racking" the shelves by pushing on one end of them in an attempt to get them to collapse: I can't.
So the shelves just rest on the bolts (thread rods)? Seems like the shelves would not stay in place. Maybe routing out a "trench" on the bottom of the shelves for the bolts to rest on.
aeray (author)  Forest of Cheem4 years ago
Yes, the shelves rest on the all-thread. Tightening the nuts clamps the uprights against the shelves, holding them in place and providing shear strength (through friction) for the whole assembly. I know of an 8' tall, 12' long version of these shelves that has survived a few minor earthquakes while fully loaded with hundreds of books. Once the nuts are tightened on my smaller versions, I (all 240lbs of me) have a very hard time "racking" the shelves by pushing on one end of them in an attempt to get them to collapse: I can't.
Broom aeray4 years ago
Thanks for the anecdotes; I was wondering about stability.
aeray (author)  Broom4 years ago
Give it a try.
It looks like the shelves are constrained from forward and backwards movement via the shelf supports, so they could only move side to side.

Since the wood looks like pine, I'd guess the weight of all those books might impress a "trench" onto the underside all by itself.

If not, consider a drywall screw, on the backside of the shelving, at each shelf and shelf support intersection.
aeray (author)  kill-a-watt4 years ago
The shelves are pinched quite tightly between the uprights, and do not move.
neilh4 years ago
If you are cutting a lot of threaded rod, perhaps making one of these with a mill or a dremel if you are careful could help:


This machinist slits a nut of the proper sized and uses it in a vise to hold the threaded rod for cutting. (it is not mine, but I love the simplicity of it).
Broom neilh4 years ago
aeray (author)  neilh4 years ago
Good ideas. I actually use a Portaband (a hand-held metal cutting bandsaw) clamped upside-down to a workbench.
Great stuff! I'd love to see more ideas with the same philosophy if you have them.
aeray (author)  fungus amungus4 years ago
Ah ha! I have seen that one before. Just didn't check your account to see your other instructables. I remember reading it and thinking, "yes, this is a much better solution than the frame I built."
martzsam4 years ago
Nice! An Environmentally friendly bookshelf that doesn't look to shabby either!
aeray (author)  martzsam4 years ago
And dead easy to build, too. Thanks!