Instructables

My girlfriend has a lot of books.  A lot of hardback books.  A mountain of books.  Our apartment has exactly zero shelves.  But there is sixteen feet of clear wall space that a bookcase can go up against and none of the shop bought laminate versions appealed.  So these are my plans to make an appropriate bookshelf.  The entire project cost $220 for all the materials.

 
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Step 1: Tools and materials


Tools:
Safety glasses
Circular saw / table saw / jigsaw / cross-cut hand saw
Power drill
Hand sander
Work bench
Wood drill bit
Angle drill guide
3/8” dowel centres
Clamps
Measuring square
Measuring tape

Materials:
5x - 8’ lengths of 1 x 10 softwood
14x - 6’ lengths of 1 x 10 softwood
132x - 3/8” x 2” hardwood dowels
24x - 2½” x ½” corner braces
4x - 2” corner brackets
4x - 4” straight braces
Wood stain and protection of choice
Wood glue
Wood screws

Another option instead of solid Spruce/Pine/Fir is to use a good quality ¾” thick plywood.  An 4’x8’ board ripped into 1’x8’ boards by the store could be slightly cheaper in price if you don’t mind seeing the plywood edge.

Step 2: The design

Picture of The design
Bookshelves 1.jpg
Bookshelves horizontal dimensions 7.jpg
Bookshelves 6.jpg
Bookshelves 4.jpg

I opted for a slightly unusual design in a mountain-like shape.  The left side is a set of straight bookshelves in decreasing lengths with one of the shelves shorter in height to receive DVDs.  The right side is a set of various sized compartments for books, tall things or other such knick-knacks.  Each shelf is 12” tall except the bottom level which is 18” tall.  The T-section sticks out 4’ from the shelf and 2½’ high and helps divide the room into sitting room and a study area.  The SketchUp design shows how the boards sit and are arranged.

Wild-Bill22 days ago

I love that Bombay Mahogany finish (I used it on a built in book case and a desk). I have a Kreg jig that I got from my son-in-law, which might be a bit easier for a neophyte to use than a dowelling jig as nothing has to be lined up except for the wood but it is a bit more expensive as you need special screws and plugs. I love the look of your project.

caarntedd1 year ago
Nice work. I like the "T" section. Great use of space.
LadyTron1 year ago
really cool! I did something similar but not as epic with small different shaped book cases from thrift stores or ikea and screwed them into place, they were all the same color so it came out pretty nice, quick, and affordable!
chuckyd1 year ago
This is a great project on a budget!! Some other woods that may not require as much finishing are maple, cherry, oak, and walnut. They are more costly than pine, but not terribly so.

Here are a few suggestions. Instead of relying on a couple of metal angle braces to prevent racking, strategically place some vertical boards perpendicular to the supporr boards, and anchor from the back with three screws per intersecting shelf. These "flat" boards could then be anchored to the studs, without the use of metal brackets.

However, in lieu of anchoring to a wall, especially in a rental situation, use the short tee section to brace the longer section. This would requre some "flat" boards, as well, and some stronger connections between the two sections.

Design loads for shelves of books usually run at about 50 lbs per lineal foot, and most of your supports seem adequate. Typical spans, depending on wood species, usually max out at about 4 feet with such loads.

Finally, when I used to have those monstrous stereo speakers with flat bottoms, I would place adjustable screws in the bottom panel to minimize contact with flooring materials, such as carpet. While this was done for acoustic reasons, it also made the speaker more stable, as the tilps of the screws were supported directly by the subflooring, instead of the carpet. And it didn't damage the carpet.

Your design of the spaces on the shelves is quite appealing, and adds a great deal of interest to what would otherwise be a boring rectangular shape.
chiok (author)  chuckyd1 year ago
I did look at the fancier woods but was only able to find choice pine, poplar and red oak in the big box store and were 2.5x the price putting this project into a much higher band.

I'm sorry, I don't quite understand how the vertical boards are anchored to the studs from behind? Do you mean to make the vertical boards as brackets themselves for the shelf support? The T-section does help support the shelves, but you're right that the joints are not strong enough to support it entirely. Very interesting values for bookshelf loading though!

I will agree that having just the flat boards on the bottom is not ideal. I now want to raise the bottom with 4" feet and then a footer board around the bottom to cover the gap. 20:20 hindsight! Thanks for the comments.
This looks great. I've been considering doing something similar for months, but I was only going to make a simple square design. Way to go.

I think what chuckyd was saying is that you could put a piece inside of "apparently" random shelves, perpendicular to the rest of the structure to add strength. For example, if you cut a piece that was the exact dimensions of one of your opens, you could "blank" that shelf. You'd still have the use of 90% of your shelf space, but wouldn't be able to see the wall behind that section. Those back pieces could then be anchored to your wall, in place of the brackets. As for the T section, maybe a divider could be put in place, spanning the split, that could bear the load. It would also turn the T section into a buttress, preventing the whole set of shelves from tipping. Hope that helps.

Again way to go. Having seen your design I think I'll start drawing up plans of my own. Thanks!
I've got a lot of cabinet doors that my neighbor was throwing away, do you think they'd work for this?
chiok (author)  cattibalistic1 year ago
Would depend on the material of the doors, chipboard might not be suitable for supporting the weight. The other issue would be any mouldings or panelling on the doors will make it difficult for the pieces to butt up flush with each other.

But I can only encourage that you give it a go! A small scale staggered shelf would make a great feature piece.
Rich991 year ago
meticulous, beautiful project! how many holes did you have to drill?

i did a project like this, but it was not as long. my biggest mistake was using plywood, and it's glued and screwed.

Whats wrong with that?

well, i had to get it upstairs to where it will sit, and it's wicked heavy. all one piece, more than two sheets of 3/4 ply. it took 3 guys.

plus, i can never take it apart!

nice job!
lalunette1 year ago
Well done & great pictures. As a lover of books, I applaud you for creating such a lovely storage medium.

However, as a professional translator with over 20 years experience I am appalled by the French translation on the Madison Mill "dowel pin" container.

The translation provided makes absolutely zero sense in French. An approximate translation into English would be "Fluted Fingers". What the heck is that ???

The time tested AND correct word for a dowel in French is "cheville".

It is very common for companies to completely disregard proper translation on products and ask anyone with access to Google translate to come up with something, no matter how wrong it is. That is just a personal peeve when it comes to translation... don't let it stand in your way of enjoying this "instructable".

Cheers !!
chiok (author)  lalunette1 year ago
Technically, the spline on the dowel is called "fluting", so would say that part is more correct than the English. But the use of "finger" is questionable to me. We're allowed pet peeves; I get frustrated with the term "lightyear" used as a unit of time.
If you have cats, don't plan on having anything on the "tops" of each level of shelves. I promise you that within 30 minutes of building and installing this (and possibly while still building it) your cats will have conquered the mountain and claimed it as their own. That said, this would make a truly badass cat tree that you could also keep books on....
chiok (author)  mightywombat1 year ago
Great scott, you're right! Cats are normally good about not jumping up anywhere that isn't clear enough for all feet, but any small space will see the crystal go flying. I have seen bookshelf cat habitats before. One day!
russm3131 year ago
This is a very impressive piece of work. I would love to build something like this....but I would hate to stain it! Great job!
chiok (author)  russm3131 year ago
I can't say I enjoyed staining it, but the finished effect is nice, especially with the chamfer. You could also quite easily paint the whole thing which is much less labour intensive. A nice white basecoat and then a nice emulsion would be just as nice.
Syncopator1 year ago
Very good. It must have given you a great deal of satisfaction. I agree with the comment regarding mounting the flat screen on an easel - nice touch.
If only I had the space to accommodate such a beauty .....
blopez1 year ago
The bookshelf is beautiful. I also think putting a flat screen onto an easel is genius.
Absolutely gorgeous! I want a bookshelf mountain. :D
Lorddrake1 year ago
Encyclopedia Britannica!? .. I didn't think they still printed those magnificent manuals of knowledge. Yours is truly an ecclectic collection of the printed word :)

but seriously .. outstanding job on the shelves. I like how the chamfer outlines the edge of the shelf. Very clever.
chiok (author)  Lorddrake1 year ago
I don't know if it is still in publication, but those are fairly old. Some of the books are 150 years old. Her family has been collecting books for quite some time.

Thanks for the kind words though!
EB stopped publishing hardcopy in 2010, now it is all online. Prior to that it was in print for 244 years.
Um, flatscreen on a trestle/easel? Kinda awesome.
chiok (author)  StoryAddict1 year ago
Ooops, meant easel. Thank you for pointing that out! That easel was purchased from Hobby Lobby for $90 I think, with a wooden ruler tacked to the top block to stop the TV falling forward.
Cool Bookshelf design!
I did notice a rather humorous typo under the "Security" section:
"it needs to be anchored to the wall to prevent falling over and trapping any small plants or children."
Small plants?
chiok (author)  BrefelanDesigns1 year ago
No no, I meant plants.