So, if you want to make a special, memorable, beautiful and above all USEFUL gift for an academic, writer, architect, &c., this may be the perfect gift for you.
This particular version is my first attempt at making one myself. It was a gift to my brother-in-law. Since he is a seminary student, and since I had access to a CNC laser, I engraved a Bible passage on the front and a quote from one of his favorite theologians on the back. Yours can be customized however you want--with a painting, a personal note, a favorite poem or quotation, the first line of Beowulf, or anything else you can think of. If you don't have a CNC laser, I'm sure some local business offers custom engraving.
Best of all--despite its appearance, this thing goes together rather simply, and doesn't require any advanced carpentry skills. So let's get started!
Step 1: Tools and Materials
Power Drill--this is a must. If you don't have one, you can get a cheap version at Harbor Freight Company, but I'd recommend something that will last. Also, everyone needs a drill
Small Cobalt drill bit--this is in addition to the small wood bits--I used a 5/64 inch
Tin Snips--crucial to the last steps, though a hand saw can work as well
Stuff to cut wood (not pictued)--I left this vague because the tool I used, a wonderful CNC laser-cutter, simply isn't available to most people. A handsaw will do, or a variety of other setups.
Plasti-Dip--Or at least some solution to coat the metal pieces, so you don't have metal leaning directly against your books.
Wood Glue--This is essential. They sell it more places than you think; I generally use Elmer's wood glue, but I'm not particular about brands.
Wood stain--You don't really need to stain your wood, but it's not as hard as you'd think and leaves you a prettier final project.
Old Rag--This is essential if you're staining wood.
Paintbrush--Useful when applying stain.
Electric sander--I wouldn't buy one just for this project, but mine was quite useful when smoothing off the metal prongs and rounding their ends.
Wood (not shown)--Enough for a 9x13 square, some structure, a 12x1.5 shelf, and two 5x7x9 triangles for support bracing. I had great success with some reasonably-priced plywood that had a rather beautiful front; you may want to choose to use different wood.
Hinges (7x)--I used the smallest ones my Lowe's had; if you use bigger hinges, you might only need 6.
Wood Screws--If you work with plywood, you'll probably want to get small screws. I used #4 wood screws 3/8'' long--the smallest Lowes had. Note: if at all possible, use phillips head screws to avoid scratching the wood later.
Washers--Just get small ones.
Sheet of copper--Or a similar metal; your call.
Performix Plasti-dip (or other coating for the metal)--honestly, electrical tape might do in a pinch, but I like the cleanness of this coating material and the fact that I don't have to worry about tape coming loose and sticking to the pages.