Introduction: How to Make and Install Hungarian Shelves

Picture of How to Make and Install Hungarian Shelves

First time I saw these shelves was in Budapest, at a friends apartment. I was told they had been designed by a physicist. That's why I think they are safe. The ones in the photos have been up for more than a year now.

Step 1: The Model 240 Cm by 240 Cm

Picture of The Model 240 Cm by 240 Cm

This is just one model. You can personalize the design to fit your needs.

Step 2: The Materials

Picture of The Materials

For the model showed in Step1 the materials are:

4 sticks of pine of 240 cm by 5 cm by 6 cm (5 is front; 6 is deep) (photo1)
6 selves of DM of 240 cm by 22 cm by 3 cm (photo2)
4 wall metal peg screws to hold large weigths (one for each stick) (photo3)
12 regular wall plastic peg screws to hold medium weigths (three for each stick) (photo4)

Step 3: Cut Off Mortices on Sticks and Shelves

Picture of Cut Off Mortices on Sticks and Shelves

The whole set is assembled like pieces in a puzzle without glue or screws.

In the sticks make a mortice for every shelf.
In the shelves make a mortice for every stick.

In our case this means 6 mortices in each stick and 4 mortices in each shelf.

As a rule, in sticks make a mortice 2/3 deep of the side of the stick and in shelves make a mortice 1/3 deep of the side of the stick. (In the example this means 4 cm in sticks and 2 cm in shelves because the side of the stick is 6 cm).

Step 4: Hold Vertical Sticks on the Wall

Picture of Hold Vertical Sticks on the Wall

Use the strong screw in the middle of the stick.

Check verticality with a bubble level.

Fix the other 3 screws in every stick.

Step 5: Finishing

Picture of Finishing

Once all the sticks are on the wall, assemble the shelves and VOILA! you have it done.



The last thing to do is to insert wedges of wood under all the shelves and in every stick untill all the shelves are ortogonal (=perpendicular) (=90 degres) to the sticks.

Step 6: Another Example

Picture of Another Example

This is another one we made for a "used things" shop in our city.

It is 15 meters wide and 2,5 meters high with vertical sticks every 0,5 meters.

It was made with all kind of particles boards we had around.

As it can be seen in the photo it has no mortices in the selves --just in the vertical sticks-- and it works too.


megustacantar made it! (author)2017-11-06

I think I first saw this 'ible many years ago and finally put up some of my own! Thanks juliofo, and thank you to your friend in Budapest :^)

mom7478 (author)2017-08-29

Outstanding! I'm remodeling my home and this 'ible is perfect for my office. It will be 2 months before I have walls. I'll send a photo then. Love it and can't wait.

hottie_mchottson (author)2012-02-23

My super shelves are complete!! :-)

omg this is perfect...did you just measure out each one to the longer you by chance have your measurements :)

juliofo (author)hottie_mchottson2012-06-01

Wonderful work!!!
Thank you so much for posting the pictures!!!
Spread the word.

Can you take a close up of the corner where they meet

I will take some close ups when I get a chance but there really isn't much to see in the corner. The problem I ran into early in the project was that there wasn't a stud to screw into on the left side in the corner. So I just used the verticals you see to keep it even. The left side shelves extend all the way to the wall but aren't attached to anything there. The right side shelves just butt up to the left side shelves but also aren't attached to anything there either. I thought about doing a 45 degree cut at the corner but then you can't slide the shelves into grooves.

ok here are some more pics of the supershelves somewhat filled in with lots of nick nacks. I put the 6 foot ladder in to show some perspective as to how big they are since the previous picture just didn't seem to do justice to the actual size. Very boring corner shot included as promised. Also a close up of the beveled verticals for your viewing pleasure. Also I didn't do the little wedges on the bottom as stated in the instructable. I just cut them to exact size and then had to readjust some. Some were still pretty tight but nothing a good mallet couldn't handle. Ps. the house is for sale, shelves included lol


mjursic (author)hottie_mchottson2012-03-31

These shelves are F%^&*ING awesome!!!!! I'm totally stealing this design for my difficult living room, which will become my difficult library.

juliofo (author)hottie_mchottson2012-02-23

Very nice work.
Very nice picture.
Very nice comment.
Thanks a lot

The verticals are 2x4's screwed directly into the studs. The horizontals are 1x8's and are not screwed in to anything. They are stained with General Finish brand water based stains Espresso (vertical) and Rosewood (horizontal) though they sort of just look black in the photo. Total cost ~$120 because I used the premium pine 1x8's. All in all a very easy project and lots of positive feedback from friends.

emmiller (author)2016-09-21

My friend and I made this to hold my VHS collection. 7' tall and 10' long , It worked so well, We then made one to hold my cookbooks. My only problem is now my kids come over and look, and borrow my videos, with Mom I didn't know you had this movie. Great shelving system. Thax You for the idea.

larry03052 (author)2016-08-19

I've stored many Hungarians on these shelves (you'd be surprised how easily they pack!) until I finally lost them all in a move...good times... =)

Squee made it! (author)2016-08-15

I started these almost a year ago, finally got off my butt this weekend and finished them. I made my notches a bit too small, so my wedges ended up being made from cedar shims. I'm still happy with how they came out.

shekhar.suman09 made it! (author)2016-04-26

I wanted to make this and put my books in it for a long time.. finally I was able to make it! And it looks super in my room! My books have their palace to stay in!

SarahLydiaK made it! (author)2016-04-03

i love this! Was not very hard, surprisingly.

My tip is use (4) 2x4x8 , when sawing , make the wedges from this by making diagnal cuts in the middle of your notch cuts.

It is the 2nd picture ...

I laid it out on the ground and remeasured to ensure it all would work.

Asding the wedges and getting them to stay was the hardest part for me!

LienekeK (author)2016-03-27

where do you get the wedges?

billbillt (author)2016-03-08


LeeG18 (author)2015-09-03

Beautiful — thank you very much. I have been looking for just this for years, I thought I had come up with the design but wasn't sure where the screws should go. Strange that I'm in Hungary ....!

BartholomewH (author)2015-06-14

In your face IKEA! :D

mtemple (author)2008-07-26

Thanks so much for posting this instructable! I spent the past few weekends building these for my wife. I think they turned out pretty well and now we have a place for our books!

mtemple (author)mtemple2008-07-26

Here are some pictures...

dsterba (author)mtemple2014-11-17

Hi! Great Shelves! I'm impressed by how many heavy books you have with no floor support. I'd love to do a similar thing, but am afraid of them falling - can you speak to how sturdy they have been over the last six years? What did you use to mount it to the studs? How long were the screws/mounts?


daveallen (author)mtemple2008-08-01

mtemple: nice job! in fact, they look so much like the ones I made I thought they were my pictures for a second! I also tapered the tops and bottoms of my uprights to try to look nice and to fit in with my slanted ceiling, but I just used an orbital sander (no router available). We also need new shelves but I'm afraid we're out of wall space... I suppose I'll have to...sigh...sell some books.

mtemple (author)daveallen2008-08-02

Your project inspired me! I had a really good time building these shelves. Thanks for some great ideas :)

Greenehouse (author)mtemple2009-12-23

Great job, thanks for the pictures. Two questions: What size wood did you use for your verticals and for  your shelves?

juliofo (author)Greenehouse2009-12-23

240 cm long, 5 cm wide, 6 cm deep (photo 1)
240 cm long, 22 cm deep, 3 cm thick (photo2)

good luck

juliofo (author)mtemple2008-07-26

Hi mtemple, Wonderful work! I specially like the way you solved the verticals not to conflict with the moldure (please help me with this word) on the ceiling. Thanx for posting the photos. On the basis of photo 3 you need to start some more because there is no much room left. Why for your wife? Dont you share the books?

mtemple (author)juliofo2008-07-26

I used the same paint for the shelves that is on the "crown molding" and used a router on the uprights to bevel the edges. This gave them more of a "finished" look. Yes we share the books and yes we need more shelves already :)

juliofo (author)mtemple2008-07-27

Thanks for the linguistic help! As you can guess crown molding = MOLDURA (in spanish).

cjolmsted made it! (author)2014-06-16

I decided I wanted something more modular, so I made my shelves smaller. The bottom shelf runs the whole span (100"). Most of the shelves are doubles (36") and a few are singles (20").

ProTip: To cut out the slots in the vertical supports, batch it. Lay all of your supports out together, with the front face up, and clamp together. Measure out where your cuts need to go and cut straight across all of them at once. This gave me very even shelves and saved a bunch of time.

rafain (author)2014-05-30

I did a couple of this. They are really nice and work well for over 2 years now. Nice project to share time with my sons.

BlueCoyote (author)2014-05-25

Justo lo que buscaba, fantástico!

jpollard3 (author)2011-12-27

This is what I've built. As a first woodworking project in my life, it was bloody time consuming. I've never worked with wood or a jigsaw. Heck, I do not have a work table! Cutting was interesting to say the least. Two sawhorses, 2 snapped planks, some blood, lots of sweat and paint and I was done!

It took a while to get the vertical wood pieces attached to the wall then some more time to get the horizontals to fit in again. I can't believe how sturdy it is!

I can't even fit a piece of paper into my joints. I had to use a hammer and a lot of brute force to get the horizontals fitting the verticals, so I had to skip that step. The thing is going nowhere!

ToolboxGuy (author)jpollard32014-05-15

Wow! Amazing results!

And with so little experience!

jpollard3 (author)ToolboxGuy2014-05-20

Thanks! I just took my time with it, measured everything about 4 times before cutting and drilling, cursed like a sailor and built it! The thing hasn't moved an inch since being installed, and thats with a few kids using it as a ladder.

juliofo (author)jpollard32011-12-28

Wonderful work.
I like much your low table solution for the shelve at the bottom. Is it on wheels?
Thanks for posting the photos.

jpollard3 (author)juliofo2011-12-28

Nope, no wheels. Everything is bolted to the wall. The only difference I made is to use 2400 x 76 x 50 mm for the vertical and 2400 x 300 x 22 mm for the horizontal, so all the shelves are quite deep, but that makes it look less crowded in my opinion.

AntonioMDC (author)2013-09-09

if you had an open/unfinished wall, and that wall was NOT a bearing wall, you could just notch the studs. if a bearing wall add strips to the front of each stud leaving gaps to simulate the notches.

I can't tell you how many shelves I have cut or pieced to flow in and around studs and made or bought little brackets to attach to each side of every stud, and never thought of this. it is so elegantly simple. I wish I had seen this sooner!

ToolboxGuy (author)AntonioMDC2014-05-15

Unfinished wall? Don't cut away at the studs, instead just make some upright spacing cleats and mount them right onto the studs. It won't have the same nice finish as these, but we're already talking unfinished walls here. Set a row of cleats, drop in a shelf, add another row of cleats, drop in another shelf, and finish with a top row of cleats. You will still need wedges/shims - it transfers the weight load down the entire stack to the floor, versus one small contact point. I suggest you use good quality wood for the uprights/cleats - not one that easily splits, has knot holes, cracks.

vincent7520 (author)2014-05-04

Great !…

Thanks for posting !…

One question though. How do you account for the wall's strength ? I fear that sheet rock wouldn't be strong enough to hold hundreds of books. What do you think ?…

ToolboxGuy (author)vincent75202014-05-15

Make your uprights align to the studs, and you should have no trouble. USA is commonly 16 inches on center. If you are handy with the saw/chisel to cut the mortises, put them in at a 3 degree angle. it will help tip the books back towards the wall - just don't hang the uprights upside down, or your shelves will fall out!

ALWAYS use the shims/wedges, so small vibrations don't wobble the shelves out of the mortises.

pabray46 (author)2014-05-04

The ultimate in super simple, infinitely adaptable design! Thank you. Loved seeing photos of all the variations you inspired. I made a similar one in 1970 that filled a 20’ wall in my apartment living room in NYC. Never thought to hang it on the wall. Good thing, too. It was a very old plaster lathe wall (no studs). Instead of narrow stick uprights screwed to studs, I used uprights from same 1” x 8” shelving.Stood them up on the floor and notched the back edges to fit into matching notches for each shelf. Stunning display area for all my souvenirs from European honeymoon. Pride go-eth before a fall.The shelves burned to cinders when I (accidently) set my apartment on fire 6 months later—while building a sofa.

fnorman made it! (author)2014-03-07

This was a fantastic online find for me... here is my accomplishment :) Took me 8 days (due to fibro), but I've done it! Thank you for putting the info out there! :)

aesmeralda (author)2014-03-04

Very inspiring work. Here is my version of the your inspirational spark ;).

More power and be blessed.

aesmeralda (author)2014-03-04

Inspiring. Work. Keep it up.

Ninzerbean made it! (author)2014-02-12

I made these with the help of my contractor Tripp, they turned into more than shelves - more like an architectural design element in my kitchen. Thanks ever so.

robin isan (author)2014-01-19

Hi, thank you for such a useful instructable. I've used it to build these bookshelves into a difficult corner space. Used store-bought timber for the uprights, painted to match the walls, and salvaged scaffolding boards for the horizontals, sanded and waxed. Delighted with the results, will be using this method again!

sfsavage (author)2013-09-03

great instructable. made a set and am very pleased with them.
patience and prep is key here
..and routing is the icing on cake

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