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.
BartholomewH2 months ago

In your face IKEA! :D

mtemple7 years ago
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 mtemple7 years ago
Here are some pictures...
dsterba mtemple9 months ago

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?


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.
Your project inspired me! I had a really good time building these shelves. Thanks for some great ideas :)
Great job, thanks for the pictures. Two questions: What size wood did you use for your verticals and for  your shelves?
juliofo (author)  Greenehouse5 years ago
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)  mtemple7 years ago
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 juliofo7 years ago
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)  mtemple7 years ago
Thanks for the linguistic help! As you can guess crown molding = MOLDURA (in spanish).
cjolmsted made it!1 year ago

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.

book shelves.jpg
rafain1 year ago

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.

BlueCoyote1 year ago

Justo lo que buscaba, fantástico!

jpollard33 years ago
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!

Wow! Amazing results!

And with so little experience!

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)  jpollard33 years ago
Wonderful work.
I like much your low table solution for the shelve at the bottom. Is it on wheels?
Thanks for posting the photos.
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.
AntonioMDC1 year ago
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!

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.

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 ?…

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.

pabray461 year ago

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!1 year ago

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! :)

aesmeralda1 year ago

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

More power and be blessed.

aesmeralda1 year ago
Inspiring. Work. Keep it up.
Ninzerbean made it!1 year ago

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.

shelves 1.jpgshelves 2.jpg
robin isan1 year ago

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!

sfsavage1 year ago
great instructable. made a set and am very pleased with them.
patience and prep is key here
..and routing is the icing on cake
20121008_shelving.jpg20121008_shelving TV.jpg
I just wanted to say an enormous THANK YOU for these wonderful instructions. I put the shelves up in my new art studio (http://www.instructables.com/id/Wood-Shed-into-Epic-Art-Studio/). Like many other commenters here, I used a dado and had to pound the shelves into the supports. They are definitely never coming out!
joshgale2 years ago
I just completed these shelves and it turned out great! Most of the time went to planning...after that it went pretty quickly. I did 4 bigger shelves instead of 5 small ones so I could fit larger pictures and such comfortably on each shelf. Made with 2"x4"s and 2"x8"s. Would be interested to see how a 1"x8" might look.
Nice job .
My super shelves are complete!! :-)
juliofo (author)  hottie_mchottson3 years ago
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
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_mchottson3 years ago
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.
mjursic3 years ago
Great instructable! Love it! Going to make it!
I am trying to design shelves that will be wall to wall and floor to ceiling because I am a grafter and have limited space in my bedroom, these look like an awesome idea, but I am such a clutz that I am afraid that I would end up knocking one of these shelves out....
TashaDax3 years ago
Holy mother of Tesla! This is awesome and beautiful and I love it to bits! I have a question though (since I'm too lazy to look through the previous comments):
Would this hold up on drywall?

It would be far more secure if you affix it to the stud and not just the drywall. If you're going into the drywall alone, the amount of weight will depend on the surface area of where the shelf pulls on the drywall. So if you use something called a Hollow Wall Anchor (http://www.johsoncn.com/hollow_wall_anchor.htm) instead of plastic wedge anchors, you're going to be MUCH better off.
juliofo (author)  TashaDax3 years ago
Hi, Hi,

Yes and Yes.

There are solutions at the comments for drywalls.

Basically it consists in making to fit any (at least one) stick of the shelves with a stud of the wall.

Good luck (and post photos of your result).

agent_orage5 years ago
Thank you SO MUCH! for sharing this! This has to be the simplest, and by nature, most elegant shelving designs in history. :)
Freaking awesome! I'm totally doing these in my living room
Do you have plans for this awesome shelving? I have a room that this would
work perfectly in.
Wow, awesome job on that corner! That looks incredible!
Hallway Closet. Removed the ancient sliding doors and built a similar version of the book case. On the 24" run on the left, instead of running a third vertical support, i used some of the 1 1/2" trim under neath to support the ends. As with the other shelf project, all i used was a drill, miter saw and a router. To make the mortise cuts in the vertical supports, i make multiple cuts halfway down into the 2x4 with the saw between my marks for the shelves. It doesn't produce a squared off notch, but the imperfections are well hidden by the shelves themselves. I always ensure i leave enough of a gap to get the wedges in well. A little DAP and paint, and short of an over critical eye, the impression is usually ..well impressive. Thanks gain Juliofo!
juliofo (author)  agent_orage4 years ago
Wonderful!!! Again. But don jet crazy with it, otherwise yogur people aré gong to hate me.
Well Juliofo, given the ikea shelves i put up in the bedroom closet have begun falling off the wall.... i have a couple more places to implement this design. ;)
I like the way the the shelf was designed here in this photo. I love the finished product when books are up there and the lights too, nice! This will be a great idea too for children's room so that they would have an organized room and encourage them to look and read books when they are bored playing. Great idea here.
Thanks :) I used 2x4's with 12"x3/4" MDF for the shelves. I trimmed the front edge of the shelves with some 1.5" flat molding to square up the look. Also i did not mortice the shelves, which provides a 3/4" gap at the back which makes hiding wiring really simple. :) Props again to Juliofo for this awesome post.
You idea is really great and I would like these kinds of shelves installed inside my daughter's room, for her things to be more organized. In the living room, definitely. Oh and yes, how could I forget the small office I have at home. Thank you!
juliofo (author)  agent_orage5 years ago
Thanks for posting the photos.
triumphman3 years ago
a dovetail joint would be nice , but not easily applied to the shelves.
triumphman3 years ago
Are the wedges thin triangular pieces of wood? The whole thing stands without screwing the shelves to the sticks? And heavy books don't collapse it? Wow!
Hali! tuti polc! Ezt meg is barkácsolom :) köszi
juliofo (author)  mikola.tibor3 years ago
Thank to you for your comment but post pictures of your set up whenever possible.
noeleonoel9 years ago
Wouldn't it make more sense to drill and screw from the back of the vertical rails through each mortice? This may even eliminate the need to wedge. Would make it harder to install though as you would have to lift the shelf weight as well as the vertical rails when attaching it to the wall. Also would require that the to wall screws be visible.
If you are installing it in a narrow corridor (my house is small, the only space I have for a library is the corridor leading to the kitchen) you can't assemble the whole thing first and then hang it on the wall.

But yes, eliminating the need to wedge would be desirable. Wedging is rocket science for a clumsy dude like me.
juliofo (author)  Hatredman3 years ago
Hi Hatredman,
Unfortunately the desing does not allow to eliminate the need of mortices (which is the most dificult part of this construction). And the wedges are there because of the mortices. In a platonic world wedges wouldn't be needed at all because mortices and surfaces would be perfect (a.k.a platonic). Wedges are introduced because we all are human and then imperfect (as our constructions are), and wedges is a very efficient way (after Archimedes) of filling up gaps; (as when we put a folded paper under a table leg).

On the other hand I do not give credit to your statement of not being able to deal with wedges because "wedges are the solution to us, the clumsy ones".

Try again and post photos, please.
juliofo (author)  noeleonoel3 years ago
Hi noeleonoel,
I am sorry but it is not a good idea. The whole desing is based on structural simplicity. And puting screws to hold the selves to the sticks would destroy this simplicity. Furthermore, mortices + wedges is much much stronger than screws.
leander373 years ago
Built these in living room and kitchen. 2x3 CVG Fir uprights and 2x12 #2 Pine cut down to 11" for shelves. 3" wood screws in dado and 4" wood screws 1/2 way between each shelf. Heavy duty anchors at top of bigger shelf because it extends past stud into truss area...

Thanks for a great inspiration, this is a great design... You can see the %$#y IKEA shelf that I was replacing on the left - what an improvement!

So many dado cuts on my table saw and the balde got dull... on 2nd to last cut, it snagged and banged me hard in the chest. Watch out because dado cuts are like cutting 100s of boards, so replace the blade if it seems dull!
built in 01.jpgbuilt in 02.jpg
juliofo (author)  leander373 years ago
great job!
Thanks so much for the pictures and info.
mattolsend3 years ago
I used this design to build 2 bookshelves this month. One at my apartment, the other at a friends place. Both came out great. I used toggle wall anchors to hold the shelves to the drywall. I used a handsaw and chisel to make the mortices. Dimensions are aprox. 8' X 4' X 1'. Thanks for posting this instructable!
juliofo (author)  mattolsend3 years ago
Thank you! for sharing your experience. Wonderfull mount, wonderfull photos.
Jedibowler4 years ago
Been wanting to build these for a while, I made mine from 18mm MDF from B&Q and they cost peanuts! £35 for two sheets of the stuff and they cut them to size for me, just the fiddly bits left to do...

With a little bracing they would probably work quite nicely as a freestanding bookcase too!  Mine need some touching up and sanding down where they have been bruised during installation but they are certainly solid!

Just need to get the projector mounted between the top-right uprights and I can relax for the weekend. :)
shelves up.jpgshelves close.jpgshelves standing.jpg
gabrieljose4 years ago
Hi, I'm from Brazil and I found this very interesting project, so I sent a carpenter to build a bookcase with the right steps to my room. take a look:
juliofo (author)  gabrieljose4 years ago

Moito bonito!
But next time do it yourself.
Thanks for posting the photos.
holomorph4 years ago
Plenty of comments and examples on this great instructable already, but I figured I might as wall share mine anyway. These use 2x3s for the vertical pieces, and some 1x10s and 1x8s for the shelves.
juliofo (author)  holomorph4 years ago
The more the better.
Thanx for posting the photo of your design.
daveallen4 years ago
In response to adrian's comment about earthquakes, I actually think these are safer than most bookshelves for earthquake-prone areas (I live in Los Angeles). I built a set of these that pretty much covers an entire wall, and they are attached to the studs in 66 places(!) which is way more than the usual earthquake strapping. I also added half-round molding to the front of each shelf for a finished look, and because the molding is slightly wider than the shelf it provides a lip that should help keep the books on the shelves in the event of an earthquake. Although I hope I never get a chance to test that theory...
jvercilo5 years ago
Hi. I know this guide has been here for some time, but I've just found it. And I have a doubt about step 4: do you fix all the screws in the mortices? I ask this because in step 5 theres a drawing of a screw above the mortice. So, which one is right?

Thanks a lot for the guide, I'll try to build one of these as soon as I move to my new apartment!
Goedjn jvercilo4 years ago
If you put the screws into the mortices, you can use shorter screws, and
the screwheads are hidden by the shelves. If you put the screws above and below, you pretty much eliminate any chance of the weight on the shelf
splitting the risers.
If you're still wanting to do this, I screwed mine directly into the mortices.  Just make sure you have a long enough bit to get inside the mortice.  And I pre-drilled the holes in the mortice and used wide head screws so it doesn't stress the wood so bad.  Good luck!  It's really fun!
juliofo (author)  jvercilo5 years ago
Hi jvercillo

It is up tu you.

Your are rigth. Drawings do not match with the text. But the whole instructable is more a customizable recipie than an strict construction algorithm.

To me it makes sense to put the screws into the mortices but this makes it a little weaker than putting them on the surface. Even you could choose half and half.

Look at the photos and adapt the idea to your needs in your new apartment.

Have fun and post the photos.

good luck

Juliofo, thanks a lot for the reponse. I'll sure post some photos, but unfortunately it'll take a while until I actually get the chance to build it. Cheers!
guidos5 years ago
For newbies like me:  The instructions for cutting mortise (and tenon) found elsewhere on the internets did not look like this joint to me.  The closest to this that I could find was the Halved joint.
I just found directions on how to make a Halved joint. Thanks, Guidos for supplying the name of the joint so I could google it! http://www.ehow.com/how_2331206_cut-crosshalving-joint.html
gidgetcrush4 years ago
How do folks recommend cutting the mortices? I can't wait to put some of these up!
karteks4 years ago
hello i love this design and made this version of the shelves.
i also posted another instructable on the topic here !
etageres 044.jpg
juliofo (author)  karteks4 years ago
Well done!
Thanks for posting a photo of the result.
Nate530854 years ago
Thank you so much for uploading this instructable. We used spruce 2x4's for the vertical slats and a mixture of 1x8's (top 3 shelves) and 10" MDF for the bottom two shelves (for text books). All the shelves are holding great!

We also have metal studs in our apartment. The vertical wood 2x4's that we used were first pre-drilled, then we pre-drilled the metal wall studs. We used regular 4 inch drywall screws because thats what we had.
juliofo (author)  Nate530854 years ago
Very nice work!
Thanks for posting photos.
The only point of confusion I have:
Is it really necessary to use the anchor screws in the studs?

If using the studs for the vertical pieces, shouldn't one just use a regular wood screw into the stud for support?
juliofo (author)  taylor.stuckert4 years ago
Thanks for the question.
If I were you I would take advice of your experience in holding things. Basically you are rigth: wood screws are enough but because of the doble security I will maintain the word of using anchors (at leas one per stud) in the instructable. To be honest I have made four selves by now and two of them are anchored and two are just screwed.
bwrobel5 years ago
Hi, Hope I am not too late. I would like to construct some hungarian shelves for a corner space that is currently underutilized and would do well as a reading nook with shelves flanking both walls and meeting in the corner. I really liked that white corner number with the lights. Really cool. Can anyone who has built these tell me if you need to hang the vertical rails into studs or will heavy duty drywall anchors do alright for holding books? I have metal studs and they are kind of a pain to drill into and it would be nice to just use very strong self drilling drywall anchors. Thanks for the advice.
Thanks for the great instructible! I made a set of these for my computer room and they turned out great. I even incorportated a desk into the design and it works quite well. The shelves were so cheap to make, I intend to eventually extend them around the room completely.
juliofo (author)  Ironfounderson5 years ago
Please, post a photo. And again when completed your Babel Library.
canis5 years ago
i think that with as many screws as you have holding the thing on the wall, you could get away with countersinking the screws inside the joins. The final product would be seamless, with no visible means of support. Magic shelves! You might experience a slight loss of strength overall, but I rather doubt it. Then again, I'm not a physicist.
juliofo (author)  canis5 years ago
You are rigth. Actually there is an inconsistence in between drawings 4 and 5. The 4th suggets screwing out of the mortises while the 5th suggests exactly the opposite. When i construct it i usually prefer to hide the screws. The loss of strength that you mention is not important for me either. thanks for your comment.
canis juliofo5 years ago
Thanks! Great instructable BTW
Jareth2475 years ago
Haven't read the other comments, but... what about doing an entertainment center in this way? Have a spot for the TV, another for whatever (game consoles, etc) and still have tons of shelves for DVDs, games, books, and various odds and ends? Put this on the wall of your living room (or den or whatever) and this thing could potentially be the only shelf space you'd need.
grizelda5 years ago
I am so happy to have stumbled upon this site.  The catch for me is that I do not do woodworking (I quilt and write).  How would I go about hiring someone to make this type of bookcase?  I imagine part of the picture is the actual size and configuration of the bookcase.  Can you estimate for, let's say, about 42 square feet of bookcase?  (i.e. Wall 7 feet high and 6 feet wide.)
juliofo (author)  grizelda5 years ago

Quilting (not to say writting) is much more difficult than to set up hungarian selves.

Look at picture 1. Stay with the design for the vertical studs. For the distance in between studs, 30 cm is equal to 2 feet. So if you wall is 6 feet wide, you put the first and the last studs in the very corners of the wall and 2 more in beetwen. For the vertical selfs, calculate that you need; but again the desing in the picture is good for many people.

The most difficult part is to do the mortices. Ask for it to be done in a wood workshop.

Good luck
monkban juliofo5 years ago
You might want to edit the stud info as 30cm is close to 12 inches (1 foot, not 2). I greatly enjoyed this and want to try it. I would like to hear from anyone who has attached the vertical sticks to a concrete wall (that is, a wall without wooden studs underneath). Any advice? Thanks!
The mortises in the wood pieces have open sides, which means you wouldn't need fancy equipment to make them. They could be cut with a saw and a chisel. Just make the two crosscut lines as deep as you need the cut, then chisel out the wood in the middle. If it doesn't look pretty, don't worry, it will be hidden by the other piece of wood.
This design is awesome and SIMPLE!  Just measure, check for studs, and you're done.  Don't be afraid.  The only problem I ran into was I installed 12" shelving on the bottom and when trying to shim in the support started to split.  That is now the shelf that holds my wife's carnival trophies.  Very stable, and they really utilize space nicely.  I got rid of 5  standard 3-shelf bookcases (Walmart/Target crap) And all of those books fit, Along with - gasp - EXTRA ROOM!  No more crammed volumes. 
If I were to do it all over?  Check the bookshelf size against the size of the notch you intend to cut out on the rail.  I made mine an inch, and shelving is usually not that think (probably closer to 3/8").  Also, I don't have nearly as many paperbacks as I thought, so I would've utilized the space to include more  8-10" shelving.  All told I spent right around $100  For the room I got out of it, that's like buying 6 bookcases (I count that extra space!) for 17 dollars each!  However, I went with kinda price wood for the shelves, if you go fiberboard or compressed you can do the whole thing for easily under 50!  Perfect for a house with dogs that like to "claim" books.
Standard wood lumber is about 3/4 of an inch in the US (19mm), although some hardwood is a little thicker.
juliofo (author)  Victor Neuberg5 years ago
Thank you very much for the words and for the images.
thehemulen5 years ago
Thanks for the design, love it!
couple of questions...
1.) do the shelves have to be somewhat evenly spaced? or can you have one big gap and then a few little gaps between shelves?
2.) how much weight can these hold? I'd like to sit my 32" lcd tv on here along with a few electronic devices) wii, dvd player, xbox 360.
juliofo (author)  dominicpellegrini5 years ago
Hi Dominic,
1) In principle there is no rule for the distribution of the shelves. But I would not do many many mortices together. If the idea is to put electronics on them (say with spaces of half a foot) I think there should not be any problem.
2) I can only tell you about my experience. The ones that I made (on photos) hold easely an enciclopedy of art of 12 big heavy books. In general books are heavier than electronics but just in case i would do a test with  weigth before putting the screen on.

Lovemongre5 years ago
Not that the terminology matters much, but these are definitely not mortise and tenon joints.  These are easiest cut with a dado set for a table saw or a router fitted with a straight cutting bit.  While they can be cut by hand, having either of these tools will to the job in about one tenth the time on a large set of shelves.  Economy of scale is an important concept in woodworking.
damien3815 years ago
 Great design.  Made them in less than 4 hours with only a table saw.  

I will repeat a few suggestions.  Pay close attention to the layout of the mortices.  It is important that all the mortices are all the same distance apart.  I hadsome sloppy layout and the first stick was way off from the others.   I made the moritces almost tight enough so i could not find shims that were thing enough.  Lucky for me I have plenty of business cards!
juliofo (author)  damien3815 years ago
I hadn't thougth about cards. It is a very good suggestion.
Post photos. I am very curious about the results of others.

 Great Instructable.  Here is my project.  It was a lot of fun.  It took me a couple of hours and probably cost less than $50.  I used 2x4s for the risers.  The bottom shelf is 1x12, the next 4 shelves are 1x10 & the top DVD shelf is 1x6.  All of the shelves are 8 feet long.   Thanks!
2010-01-20 10.32.54.jpg
juliofo (author)  3rdcoastsurfer90005 years ago
Thanks to you for posting the photo.
Very nice implementation!
neutered5 years ago

not much to look at, but now i have a pony.
ginamarina5 years ago
Thank you so much for this idea - I have an odd-shaped wall these would work perfectly on. And I like that they also don't touch the floor so there is no problem vacuuming or kicking your feet into them!

What is the easiest way people have found to cut the "notches", "mortises", "dadoes", or whichever you choose to describe them? I'm concerned about my accuracy cutting so many notches! Is it best to bind the wood together in groups and cut the notches at once?  I've read all the comments, but not seeing what you guys are typically doing. Dado blade?

Thank you!
juliofo (author)  ginamarina5 years ago
Hi ginamarina,

That I do is the following:

1) cut with a saw (hand or electric) two lines of the mortise; let's say the top and the bottom.
2) mark with a chisel the back line of the mortise in both sides of the stick.
3) remove with the chisel and a hammer the dado out of the mortise.

I do the cuts one by one. I know it is a lot of work but I had bad experiences when tryed to bind the woodsticks together.

You do not need to do mortices in the selves. "They will not touch the wall" but with books on them the difference is not noticeable. (And if "odd-shaped wall" means that it is not straight this solution will be even better).

Dont worry if the cut of the back is not clean. It is hidden by the selve.

Dont worry for the accuracy of the cut (talking in milimeters). Three milimeters more or less do not make the any difference. You will fill tem up with the wedges.

Good luck
(If possible post pictures. thanks)
cmcaswell5 years ago
 We made these shelves for our living room--turned out great!
Wow! Great work!

How deep are your shelves?
juliofo (author)  cmcaswell5 years ago
They look Great!!!
Thanx for the photo.
enentrup5 years ago
I'm attaching a basic drawing as a profile view of my modification.

Someone earlier asked about deeper shelves. I'm thinking of adding a desk height workstation at about 28" from the ground, perhaps 30" deep. I think this could be a possibility with the addition of perpendicular, triangular  braces under the desk.

I'd put the desktop's triangular braces, themselves, flush to the wall and put in a couple of dowels or even nuts, bolts and washers, to secure it to the vertical braces.


Screen shot 2009-12-14 at 11.13.44 AM.png
I love these shelves. Does anyone have any ideas on how to anchor them into adobe walls?
juliofo (author)  Daniel Otero5 years ago
Hola Daniel,

I am not familiar with the adobe walls that you refer to. Could you, pls, explain how are they made, or any other clue for me to understand the problem.

Adobe is basically a mud brick that is baked in the sun, and used to form the walls of a home.
juliofo (author)  Daniel Otero5 years ago
If the bricks are put tother with concrete, I would do the holes there,in the concrete. If not I would do a big hole in the brick, then fill itup with chemical cement (a special type of concrete) and then put thepegs. Finally, once the cement has dryed, put the screws.

(This procedure is more dificult because you have to do the holes on thesticks after you have done them into the wall.)

Anyway this is how I would do it, but do not take my word as the truth.My advice is you to do whatever but once you are convinced that it isgoing to work.
partrician5 years ago
are the anchors and screws to have their own mortices or are we supposed to get anchors and screws that are long enough to go through the studs?
juliofo (author)  partrician5 years ago
All possibilities are ok. In the instructables I tried to mean that the screws have to be into the mortices of the selves. That way they are hidden (once assembled) and the look is more "clean". But if you get long ones, you can use screws all the way across the studs. Sometime I have mounted selves in that way and they are fine. (Although not more robust). And at the end, the screw's heads are hidden by the books. But you can also made the screws their own mortices, as you mention. Either way they will be ok. PS. If you construct ones, please post pictures. Thanks.
frogs8 years ago
My wife found your plans online last week so she decided it was time for me to get busy. Since the 4th of July was on Wednesday and I didn't have to be back to work until Monday, she figured we had time to complete this project over the long weekend. Your plans are wonderful, but we had to modify them a little to meet our needs. The area the shelves are installed is the landing at the top of our stairs between two bedrooms, with a slanted ceiling. We have a lot of books so needed to use all the wall space we could. Our vertical supports are made from 2" x 3" 8' long "studs" (pine or fir, not sure which). The shelves were all cut from one 15/32" 4' x 8' sheet of birch plywood. We purchased all our supplies on Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday we used a stud finder to located the wall studs and then we figured out the length of each vertical support and the length of the shelves. We cut the vertical supports to length and then used a dado blade on the table saw to cut the notches. However, the dado blade didn't go deep enough so had to use the regular 10" saw blade to make them deep enough. I intentionally made the dados about 3/16" wider than the shelf for the shim. I also used the dado blade to cut the notch in the shelves. After all shelves were cut to length and the dados cut, I used the router to round over the front edges to take off the sharp corner and to make them look nicer. On the far right ends of the shelves I cut the corner off about 1" at a 45 degree angle and routered that end as well. I used 3" deck screws in every dado on the vertical supports to attach them to the wall, making sure I screwed into the wall studs. I also drilled pilot holes in the vertical supports before attaching them to the wall. After the shelf edges were routered, I filled all holes with wood filler, although there were not very many. On Friday after several trips up and down the stairs to check and adjust the fit of all supports and shelves it was time for finishing. All shelves and supports were sanded with a palm sander. The dust was wiped clean and two coats of polyurethane was applied to all exposed surfaces. Saturday morning I applied the last coat of polyurethane to the shelves. Saturday afternoon I installed the vertical supports and after the last coat of polyurethane had dried at least 4 hours I installed the shelves. Shims were cut using a DeWalt miter saw from the vertical support scrap wood. Every dado has a shim tapped in tight with a block and hammer. That really makes the shelves solid. On Saturday evening, my wife couldn't wait the recommended 48 hours for the polyurethane to cure and started putting books on the shelves. She finished organizing all the books on Sunday afternoon.So with in 5 days, (3 days of actual construction time) the shelves were finished and books organized. We only spent $60 on 6 2 x 3 studs, 1 4' x 8' 15/32" plywood, one quart of polyurethane, and 4 foam brushes. (I already had the 3" deck screws).This is a wonderful project, quick and easy build!Thanks a bunch.I have enclosed photos of the before during and after the project was finished. I also took a close up of the way the shim is installed. As you can see from the "loaded" shelf, the next project is to figure out where to put another set of shelves.
C:\Documents and Settings\mcchesneyb439267\Desktop\shelves\shim.JPGC:\Documents and Settings\mcchesneyb439267\Desktop\shelves\b4shelves1.JPGC:\Documents and Settings\mcchesneyb439267\Desktop\shelves\completed.JPGC:\Documents and Settings\mcchesneyb439267\Desktop\shelves\vert braces.JPGC:\Documents and Settings\mcchesneyb439267\Desktop\shelves\loaded shelves.JPG
Ruzsa frogs5 years ago
This shelving that you built, frogs, is fantastic! Way to go!
hernanai frogs7 years ago
Awesome shelving unit although your text is totally tweeking this page out. HAHAH!
juliofo (author)  frogs8 years ago
Hi Frogs, Well done!!! Wonderful design! I am happy you found the instructable... (BTW, these instructables people do a very good work with this site that we all should thank very much). Thanks you for sharing your experience including photos.
tiggert5 years ago
This looks like a great project and just what we need in our living room. I'm planning on attempting this this weekend, although I have *very* little woodwork experience, I'm hoping I don't mess them up.
One question though, I saw it asked but not answered: I'd like to put in wider shelves (probably at least 30cms, 12", as we have some wider books. Do you think this would support that if the verticals are as in your design?
juliofo (author)  tiggert5 years ago
Hi tiggert, Even with "very" little woodwork experience you can do it. Actually the only work you have to do is mortices, and with that you dont need they to be "very clean" in the inside face (which is the most difficult to get) because these faces result hidden when you ensamble the stick with the self. I would say that 6 cm (2.3 inches) in depth is enough for 12 inches selves but just in case enlarge the sticks to 8 cm (3.2 inches) in depth. This will be sufficient for sure. On the other hand my advise is not to make selves wider than 12. Even with this simple design it is a lot of work, so dont try to do it in a couple of hours; but i am sure you can do it and the whole weekend seems a reasonable timetable. Good luck with it. I would thnk if you could post some photos.
tiggert juliofo5 years ago
Hi juliofo. Well I've made all the wood parts, and varnished them, and they fit together quite nicely. Now the tricky bit: Actually fixing it all to the wall. I had planned to mark exactly where the verticals would go on the wall, and then get someone to hold one in place whilst I drill the hole through the wood and partly into the wall. But I would need a very long drill bit to be able to do this, and they're not available in small diameter sizes. So it looks like I will have to drill the hole through the back of the verticals (I'm putting the holes in the mortice, so have to drill from the back) and then mark the wall through that hole and drill the hole in the wall. My worry is that if I get the angle slightly different through the wood and through the wall, then I won't be able to screw these tightly to the wall. Do you think this might be a problem? Sorry for the long post, I hope it makes sense. I'd like to check before I start drilling :-)
juliofo (author)  tiggert5 years ago
Hi tiggert, I assume you are going to use plastic plugs and screws to fix the sticks to the wall. If this is the case you can proceed as you said. Drill the holes into the sticks (either way: from back to the front or into the mortice to the back), then hold the stick on the wall and make marks with something (i.e.screwdriver) through the hole on the wall. Drill the wall. Plug in the plastic plugs on the wall and fix the sticks with screws. In some cases i have used a silicon-glue (brand named sikaflex in Spain) to give more consistence but this is not an actual need even if you are working with weak drywalls. And the drawback is that it is very sticky and messy if you do not have previous experience with it. Believe me. Plastic plugs screws and holes made with some care are more than enough to get a robust setup. Good luck
tiggert juliofo5 years ago
They're up! I know you said that the wedges are essential, but the shelves are already at 90 degrees, and quite solid, so I'm not sure I can actually put wedges in. I'll see when I start putting books on. The hardest part I found was to accurately mark where the uprights had to go on the wall, and accurately fix them in place, but got there in the end. Here are some pictures of the process I took. Thanks juliofo!
juliofo (author)  tiggert5 years ago
Nice job! Thank you for the pictures. I still think that some wedges will be needed. But it is up to you. (Because on the other hand it is true that for a 100% accurate job they wouldn't be a need).
tiggert juliofo5 years ago
The thing is the cuts in my verticals appear to be slanted slightly. So there is a small gap of 1mm or so at some of the joints on top of the shelves, but the shelves as they are are at 90 degrees to the verticals. So if I put in wedges underneath the shelves won't be at 90 degrees anymore (and also won't look quite as nice ;-) ). But I'll see when I put some books on if they need the wedges or not. Thanks again!
tiggert tiggert5 years ago
I managed to squeeze in some 1mm plastic "wedges" into most of the joints in the end, and as they were unfortunately coloured yellow I dabbed them with the varnish, I don't think they'll be noticed too much. That's it, not they're really complete. Last chance to admire them empty before they get loaded with books and CDs tomorrow :-)
agedjake6 years ago
Fan-bloody-tastic!!! simple, easy, green.......................WOW!
joreknight6 years ago
It's a pretty solid design I built a smaller version with 3 shelves only but the idea is the same, plus you can build it with very basic hand tools in a very short time. -Genial el diseño, construi algo percido pero solo con 3 repisas, fue un proceso muy rapido en una tarde ya lo tenia listo, aparte solo use herramientas de mano para hacerlo, gracias por compartir este diseño.
tichus6 years ago
I'm wondering if this design could be modified to a leaning version, and made to be disassembled. I also need lots of shelves for a hallway that has no children, no pets, and is not owned (no holes for walls).
samoht9 tichus6 years ago
Looking at it, I'm sure that some L brackets in the mortices to secure the planks to the shelves for stabilization would do it. Only thing after that would be feet for it to actually stand on the floor since you can't hang it. Haven't tried it, but it sounds like it should work.
jernorwood6 years ago
Thanks for the awesome instructable. I made these shelves for my room in the basement. I'm no carpenter but I really enjoyed making them. I used a 2x10 that I cut in 4 pieces for the verticals. The shelves are pine planks 1x10s, I think. These sizes are actual, they are labelled that way in the hardware store. (Why is it a 2x4 is actually 1.75x3.5?)
"Why is it a 2x4 is actually 1.75x3.5?" Because 2x4 is the setting on the lumber mills saw. I know, it's insane.
pwforste rarcke6 years ago
2 inches by 4 inches is the saw size before the wood is racked and dried. as the water leaves the wood, the wood fibers contract and the whole piece shrinks. wood you can buy at home depot, for example, has a specific moisture content, and they estimate how much it is going to shrink. then they cut it so that it will be 1.5 by 3.5 inches when it dries. and they usually get remarkably close.
jhliu6 years ago
Hey, I'm thinking about putting some of these in the kids' playroom for their books, but I wondered how deep everyone's shelves are. I see the original design is only 22cm deep, which is about 8.5", and kid's books tend to be pretty wide. Has anyone made anything with deeper shelves, say, 12" or so? Do you think that would still hold up, or should I just stick with the shallower ones? Thanks! It's a fantastic design, and I'm excited about the possibilities...
meritsetgo6 years ago
any ideas how to cut the mortises so they are square? it does not show how the mortises were cut and it you used a jig or a mortise machine.
LoriLynn7 years ago
Is the spacing of the verticals important to the weight of things able to be on the shelves? And if so, what is the way to tell how close together they should be?
Standard wall studs are spaced at 16-inches center-to-center in the US. That's an excellent distance for the verticals, as well, since nothing will ever be more than 8-inches from a vertical support. I've done extensive remodeling on my 1921-built home; I think Hungarian shelves are going into the Library!
Most building codes allow for 24" o.c. studs. So it might be a good idea to check with a studfinder if hitting the studs are needed.
juliofo (author)  LoriLynn7 years ago
Sorry again. Forget the idea of spacing them 32 inches. It was my fault in translating into centimeters. I would recomend spacing smaller than 20 inches.
juliofo (author)  LoriLynn7 years ago
After daveallen post (thanks! daveallen) I realize i misunderstood your question. I answered the questión of spacing mortices on vertical sticks while you were asking about spacing vertical sticks themselves on the wall. I think daveallen is rigth. It makes sense to space them on the wall to coincide with studs on a drywall. But you can put them at 32" if more convinient. I think that even should not be a problem to stick "some" uprigths on the wall not coincident with a stud if others do coincide. But it is only my guess. Do it at your own risk, all my examples are on masonry wall.
The uprights should be attached to studs within the wall, unless you are building the shelves on a cinderblock/masonry wall. Studs are typically 16" apart center to center; that's what dictated the spacing on the ones I built. Another thing: When I cut the notches in my uprights I lined them all up, strapped them all together, and then made my cuts with a circular saw. That way I could be pretty sure they were all in the right place (plus it saved a lot of time).
juliofo (author)  LoriLynn7 years ago
Hi LoriLynn I do think that spacing of the vertical sticks is not important because putting the selves into the mortices "restores" somehow the structure of the vertical stick. But take my reply as a guess, not as an absolute truth. That i can tell you for sure though is that i have made selves spaced 30 cm between selves without any problem.
Tildewave6 years ago
There is also LDF and HDF (Low and High density respectively) particle board. The difference between LDF, MDF, and HDF is the size of the particles. Smaller particles are more densely packed, and there are more bonds between particles to contribute to strength. A Caution with using particle board is that it can bow(and snap) if too much weight is added, so for a shelf with textbooks (or other heavy shelf worthy things) you could try: A) Using real wood(wood has a grain which gives a boatload of strength - try bending a box of straws) B) Laminating(Glue) two sheets of the particle board together C) Laminate two Sheets together, and add a bar of steel(usually sold near the nuts and bolts aisle at Home Depot and Canadian Tire - possibly other hardware stores too). You would have to use a router to create the bevel so that the sheets would be flush, but that would drastically increase the strength along that stretch of the shelf, provided that there are at least 2 joist(vertical) supports across that stretch
artquilter6 years ago
I wonder if there's a way to combine this style of shelving with the encyclopedia shelving that's in another instructable. Like maybe putting up more of the 'vertical sticks on the wall' that would accomodate what ever the book length is, as if it were many individual boards instead of one long board for each shelf. And would each book need two 'vertical sticks on the wall' to hold it, or would one 'vertical stick on the wall' in the middle of the book hold it? Or make the 'vertical sticks on the wall' deeper to have more contact with the book for shelf strength? Except for an issue with the depth of the book, maybe it would be artistically interesting to arrange the books so that it's not always a continuous shelf across, but different length shelves, accomodating different height object? Of course, first I'd have to find a whole bunch of free encyclopedias. Hmmm...something to think about as I'm falling asleep tonight!
bloody brilliant ! have bin looking for a quik and easy yet cool solution for shelving in a hallway and this is the best so far
nice instructable! i think it would be a good idea to space the vertical strips 16": apart, thereby allowing them to be attached to the wall studs, which would add a lot of strength to the unit.
habib6 years ago
great project, i will make one for my books too.
gpurcell7 years ago
Thanks for the inspiration! I made these shelves based on the idea from the OP:
Here's the picture
I used 8' 1x3 oak planks for the rails. Cut the notches for the seven shelves at the same time. Then I used 4' oak stair treads for the shelves. I decided to make the shims part of the design, so they are finished along with the rest of the wood. Everything is covered in two coats of amber shellac. Wood cost me about $200, whole project took four days going slowly and deliberately. If I had a proper wood shop with a router and such I could have done it in half the time.
SarahEve7 years ago
Hello, I just moved back into my parents house after graduating from college and I am completely redesigning my bedroom. I know I want and need to put up shevles for all my books and miscellaneous items. I love your design, but I'm just wondering about it's weight capacity. I have 2 leopard geckos in a 30 gallon tank, which weighs about 25 pounds. Do you the shelf will be able to hold that much weight? (A shelf full of books must weight more than 25 pounds..) Any comments or suggestions? Thanks :)
It should I had 30 lb. in hardcovers on mine.
Thanks for the instructable. I just put up my own set. I used 2"x3" softwood (pine) boards for the vertical members, and 3/4" oak plywood, banded with 1/4" thick oak trim for the horizontal shelves. The vertical pieces were painted with white semi-gloss latex paint (matchign the trim in the room) and the shelves were finished with a red oak stain and 3 coats of polyurethane.
photos 620.jpgphotos 625.jpg
that looks fantastic with the vertical pieces painted white and shelves stained dark... nice job.
hogzilla7 years ago
I am REALLY looking forward to trying this in my garage and if that goes like I expect it to I have PLENTY of wall in my house to fill!!!! THANK-YOU!! THANK-YOU!!
Balaszi7 years ago
I'm new to woodworking and would like to try making these shelves, as they seen pretty simple. I was wondering how you cut the mortices so cleanly, especially on the vertical supports. I have cordless jig and circular saws I'm able to get a hold of, can it be done with them? Thanks! Great instructable!
ysabet7 years ago
Years ago I picked up a set of 4 shelves fixed to wooden supports at a thrift-shop in Tucson AZ; they were battered and elderly, but a little sanding and some paint made them look pretty good and I mounted them over the toilet. I didn't realize until I read this article what they were, but sure enough, that's how they're constructed (only the shelves were mounted permanently into the mortices as a single unit.) They've held up to my cats climbing on them, large rocks being displayed on them, heavy pottery, books, jars of beach-sand and shells (I have a fairly odd bathroom) and lots of other stuff; damn good design. Think it's time to make some myself now. Thanks for the write-up!
Greenehouse7 years ago
Great idea. I think I will use a smaller, modified version for a DVD holder. I would think your "wedges" are OK and won't compress much because the wood grain is perpendicular to the grain in the wall uprights. Thanks.
jeff-o7 years ago
Did you specifically choose softwood for the vertical supports, or would anything work? I wonder if hardwood (like oak) would be safer/more durable.
juliofo (author)  jeff-o7 years ago
Hi jeff-o, Anything will work. I chose softwood because I were short of money the first time I did it but the ones in the photo of step6 are made with some redwood much stronger and dense. For sure oak will last longer and will give a much more beauty look to your selves. Good luck! and post the results.
Mr. Rig It7 years ago
Would love to see you add this to my new group.
Hope to see you there.
Home Repair, Refurbishment, and New Projects
Treelan7 years ago
This looks great! And kudos on the awesome drawings, they are very clear.
JerryMopar7 years ago
I was looking to build a new shelf, the one I made before is just too rickety. Plus, this has a Mid-century Modern vibe to it!! One more reason for me to like
raincntry7 years ago
I am excited to try making these shelves. Thank you for posting the designs and pics.
Hello, I'm in the midst of this project and had a few observations/questions. I may be wrong, but I think it was Eric that mentioned putting the vertical beams together to make sure the notches are all square? An excellent idea (before they go to the wall). I was actually about to consider mounting them first and hoping that my measurements/saw cuts were all within range, but I was off by as much as 1/16"-1/8" on some of my cuts due to an unwieldy saw. Now I can still take his recommendation (even the notches) and simply make the wedge slightly bigger if need be. This is one of my 1st projects involving staining/varnishing as opposed to rough timber - Do any of you have any hints/tips for the initial placement of the horizontal shelving into the vertical notches? (once the vertical studs are already in place). At this point I'm almost finished staining my wood, but am wanting some pointers on how to avoid jostling my wood too much or marring it if I decided to add varnish first. I opted NOT to cut mortices into the shelves themselves, only into the verticals. Thanks in advance
SWV17877 years ago
I like this, simple, elegant, and easy to build. I think I will try this in my basement. Do you know what the weight limit its???
juliofo (author)  SWV17877 years ago
As i said to CoolKoon (coment next to you) i haven't measured with a test the weigth they can resist. But if you are thinking them not for paper you can calculate a number weigthing and measuring a big book; a mean one filling completely up the space among selves. I am pretty sure this number will be "safe".
CoolKoon7 years ago
Hungarian shelves? ROFL That's pretty funny, especially since I haven't seen any shelve like that neither in Budapest not in any other Hungarian city. I haven't found it in IKEA either (probably because I wasn't looking hard enough, or it was way too expensive and I just ignored it). However I have two questions: why did you come to Budapest? And BTW those shelves look like they rely on those little wooden pegs for support. How much weight do they support without breaking off?
juliofo (author)  CoolKoon7 years ago
It was very long ago, back in the early ninties. I went to a meeting at the university and a professor i had relationship with offered me to be at his apartment. There i saw these selves and he told me they were designed by a friend of him that was physicist. I haven't doone any test by i am pretty sure that you can fill them up with paper and they will resist. The pegs among mortices do not break because mortices are filled with the wood of the selve itself. That way the the vertical sticks "are reconstructed in their vertical strentgh" when ensambled with selves.
PoisonedV7 years ago
How do you guys get so many books? they are pretty expensive, especially for DIY books...
juliofo (author)  PoisonedV7 years ago
Presents, Second Hand Bookstores, Salvation Army Shops &Trash are the main sources for regular books. For good ones and DIY there is no other thing than huge money investment... ...Libraries are a good alternative, thought.
daveallen7 years ago
Hello! I just finished building a set of shelves using this design. The only differences are basically cosmetic (I used 2x4s for uprights, 1x12's for shelves, and then added miter-cut half-round molding as trim all around the outside of the shelves as anti-earthquake/anti-baby-pulling-down-books protection). And then I caulked and painted them to look as much like "built-ins" as I could. I am attaching these images, hopefully they'll work OK. The height is about 6.5 feet, the width is approx 13.5 feet.
juliofo (author)  daveallen7 years ago
Hi daveallen, They look very nice!!! Good job. I like the color to be the same as in the wall, this makes the selves much more "ligth". The 3rd photo with the contrast white selves vs colorfull books is wonderfull. Thanks so much for posting. I hope this will encorage others to do their own. juliofo
Thanks so much for your excellent idea! My wife loves these shelves, and my friends are amazed!
Dr Obsolete8 years ago
Hmm This type of shelves (though more solid) have been for sale on the Swedish market for many years, sold by Sparring (the innovation company) and IKEA. (a simplified model).
juliofo (author)  Dr Obsolete8 years ago
Dear Dr. Obsolete (good choice for a nickname!), Apart from the <> --that I think I understand-- I cannot see the "positive and constructive sense" of your comment. If you want to mean that all the designs have been made in Sweeden, I am sorry but never were in that wonderful country. Of course could it happen that the guy (2 degress of separation from me) I was told designed the selves at Budapest copyed them from swedish model but it could also be the other way around. If this were the case (and there was a huge expoliation that days at the other side of Berlin wall) maybe he could claim for royalties to the innovation company. I know were my design come from and I published honestly as a contribution to the community. If you (or other) think there is a (C) issue here, please go to the court not to this comments board. On the other hand, If you want to mean that people should look for it at the NO.NAME company, there is a word in my environment that says: "The BEST of IKEA is NOT to go". The whole point of hungarian selves was to offer alterantives to IKEA monopoly.
Visitor juliofo7 years ago
Please stop reading between lines. Just because it "sounds negative" to you doesn't mean it actually is. See how I am positively and constructively letting you know how you can improve your on-line presence.
juliofo (author)  Visitor7 years ago
Hi Visitor, I take your positive and constructive advice. Thanks. But i have no interest to improve my on-line presence. Sorry. Best
heyladyerin8 years ago
Do the wedges come from making the mortices?
No, The wedges are cut from another piece of wood (I used scrap from the vertical braces), or you can just use store bought shims.
this one is great info. definitely a space saver and very pleasant to look at when you consider interior decorating. housing projects
DigoSanchez8 years ago
I really like this project. The design is so simple I'll be able to without having access to expensive tools. My one question is whether it is necesary to hit the studs, or is the dry wall strong enough to support the weight?
Or if yu cant get a hold on a stud finder, resort to anchors first.
Books tend to be really heavy, a studfinder is a whole lot cheaper than fixing an entire wall when your bookshelf takes the drywall with it.
disfasia8 years ago
I want to build this but the instructions are a bit off: it says to put the screws in the grooves, but the image shows the screws on the stick outside the groove for three rows, and in the groove once only on each stick. Did anyone figure this out?
Rlangg8 years ago
Is this slit, where the wedge (or shim) is to be hammered, a deliberate space (as suggested by hand drwn picture) or is it a space that will naturally be there because a cut can't be perfect? Must the wedge go all the way in? Must the hypotenuse of the wedge face down?
juliofo (author)  Rlangg8 years ago
Hi Rlangg, The draw is an exaggeration that tries to represent the space that will naturally be there in non-perfect cuts. But there is a former comment about the tolerances you can get being careful in the cut and is very impressive; if you count with very good tools and experience you can mount selves on the cut sticks without wedges. The ideal would be not to need wedges but in my experience this happens "naturaly" one among 50 cuts or so. (But when happens you can feel the happiness of perfection). Forget about hypotenuses and put the edges as profound as you can. But try the avoid mortices larger in the interior (close to wall) than in the exterior (open space) because in this cases even wedges cannot fix the self properly to the sticks.
malalala10 years ago
cool shelf - but do the instructions make sence to anybody else? I wish they were clearer? Whats DM? whats an "open box" exactly? etc etc.
juliofo (author)  malalala10 years ago
Hi malalala, Thanks for your comments, I am sorry for my bad english... in spanish the explanation would be much more meaningfull... DM is a material named in Spain DM because Maximun Density. It is a kind of composite made with wood powder and formaldehide under high pressure. The look is like thick, very dense brown cardboard. But you can substitue this material with whatever at hand: wood, plywooth(?), etc. By "open box" i mean the space (you can see them in figure 1 of step 3) that results of taking out a block of wood (kind of huge notch(?) --I would appreciate to be given the proper english word to edit. The idea for the construction is as simple as it appears to be: vertical sticks well fixed to the wall and shelves that you assemble on them. The only two considerations you have to take into account for doing your own design are: 1) put a vertical stick every 50 cm (20 inches aprox.) of shelf, leaving shelves unssuported no more than 10 inches on each end. 2) when you remuve wood for doing the "open boxes" in sticks; take out 2/3 of the deep of the stick and leave 1/3 And dont forget the final wedges (this is the real trick of it).
DM sounds like it's MDF in North America.
MDF is Medium Density Fiberboard, DM would probably be HDF like the stuff used in counter tops and some speaker enclosures.
mje fuzvulf8 years ago
HDF is what's called "hardboard." Speakers and countertops are made from MDF.
juliofo (author)  fuzvulf8 years ago
Hi ronin.ca and fuzvulf fuzvulf is probably right in the equivalence, DM (for Maximun Density in spanish) is a composite (not very valuable as wood) made of very fine grained powder of wood or cardboard. But the important is that you can make your own selves with whatever more convinient for you: wood, plywoo or any fiberboard. You could even try with cardboard (if you use enough layers and close enough vertical sticks; i would guess 15 to 20 inches).
berky938 years ago
hey! i think i have ben to your shop, or at least one very similar in construction - what city is it in?
juliofo (author)  berky938 years ago
hi berky93, photo1 is in Madrid, photo6 is in San Sebastian, Spain.
irene858 years ago
Hey everybody! I wanted to try to make these this weekend- I'm having a little trouble imagining how to cut those clean divets in the vertical pieces. What tools did you use to do this? Thanks a million, Irene
You can use a circular saw. Set the height of the blade accordingly, cut the left-most side of the divet then the right most. You can then run the saw in between the two lines you have cut. I have seen some books suggesting you do this a few times and chisel out the leftovers, but I find you can do the lot with a saw.
juliofo (author)  irene858 years ago
you can do it with: electrical saw chisel hammer 1) saw strait lines defining the size of the divets along 2/3 of the stick deep. 2) carefully with the chisel and hammer cut off the "divet block" trying to work just in between the lines you saw. (The wood block will get off very easy). Do not worry about non-clean cut with the chisel; this will be hidden by the self. If you can not access to a chisel, an alternative is to cut strait lines (as in 1) but many of them and very close each other into the divet space (like in a comb). Then you remove wood slices very easy.
irene85 juliofo8 years ago
Thanks! I think I will try the chisel- will it still work if I decide to use hardwood?
i just made a set of these last week . . . i used hardwood for the vertical beams and pine for the shelves, works pretty good!
juliofo (author)  rautiocination8 years ago
wonderfull!!! they look very nice. and that is another thing: you can make them to perfectly fit in any space you have. thanks for the photo.
bookratt8 years ago
Just saw this. This is terrific! Cheap and strong, functional and nice to look at, too! We may be moving to Poland for a year or two. The things I am going to miss most are my massive glass-fronted bookshelves we will have to store back here in the states, if we do go. This is a great idea and one I plan to implement, whether here or over there. This might work in the garage for small workshop stuff or the basement for my craft stuff. Awesome work on your part, great photos and instructions, too. Thanks for the idea.
juliofo (author)  bookratt8 years ago
Hi bookratt, Thanks for the thanks. The funny thing is that it is not my design but the one of an anonymous (to me) hungarian physicist genius. I saw an implementation at Budapest home of a university professor I have lost the contact with... But I like them so much that I construct them wherever I can. Soon I will post photos of the ones at our new apartment.
I want to build a house like this - any ideas? And it's got to be CHEAP people, do you know how much houses cost these days? Seriously, this is great - are there any bad instructables on this site? I'm in permanent awe of everyone! I'm going to impress my girlie with this! Or die trying.
juliofo (author)  stereosmiles8 years ago
Hi stereosmiles, Actually i would love to build a house like this too. But I guess we should be japanese carpenters to succeed on that enterprise (they made a nice wood bulding for the Seville expo in 1992 without a single nail; all just pieces of wood ensambling like in a puzzle). I am with you: I like all that i find at instructables...
spinach_dip8 years ago
Many thanks for the idea. I made one out of strips waste of plywood and some knotty pine. Not pretty, but extremely cheap. I plugged it into drywall with those cheap plastic anchors and the thing is solid as a rock. Tell the Hungarians they're brilliant if you see them.
juliofo (author)  spinach_dip8 years ago
Hi spinach_dip. Thanks for your comment. I´ll tell the hungarians thanks in your behalf. I would love to see your construction; take a photo and post it.
juss8 years ago
Eric : how much time does it took to make this pretty shelves?


juliofo (author)  juss8 years ago
You have to think one afternoon for preparing the materials with cuts and another one for screwing to the wall and ensambling. But it depends very much on how much adecuated are the tools you got for doing it.
curiousity8 years ago
Good call dadonaldd. Those shelves are beautiful julio and eric. I admire your craftmanship!
Drackar8 years ago
Whats unsafe about them? I'm sure if you had a sufficiently heavy weight on the front of a shelf, it would break, but it would have to be enough to snap the entire length of board in half, lengthwise. Not likely with most materials...I like this design, actually, I might use it when I put shelves in where I'm moving.
Cypher8 years ago
If you're trying ot buy the materials at a Home Depot or similar store then ask them where they have MDF. Thats the actual name for the material here.
juliofo (author)  Cypher8 years ago
Hi Cypher, Thanks for the advice
sonhue8 years ago
Hi, Thanhk you very much for your timely activation! I hope I will get a lot of useful information from your website. Thanks again Bye
ermockler8 years ago
Use fastener called "wall dog" for sheetrock.
juliofo (author)  ermockler8 years ago
Hi ermockler, Thanks for the info. Could you point to a photo or drawing of "wall dog" for those of us out of english countries? Thaks so much.
take a look at http://www.powers.com/product_2314.html
adrian10 years ago
These look pretty cool. I wouldn't recommend them for somewhere that's know to have earthquakes though. Or at least don't put them where they might hit something valuable or a person.
juliofo (author)  adrian10 years ago
Hi Adrian, thanks for your comments! It is an interesting issue that you pose. Maybe instead of hold the sticks on the wall they should be fixed with pressure to floor and cealing. That way it would do a much stronger structure than most of shelves; because many many of them are based on T and L junstions while Hungarian are based on + (cross) junctions. I'll think about it one more round... julio
_soapy_ juliofo8 years ago
I wouldn't worry. Anywhere there are earthquakes you shouldn't leave stuff on shelves where it will fall off at the slightest tremble. Simply add a thin strip of wood down the front as a lip, so that anything won't roll off. Use bluetac to hold stuff down. If the earth shakes too much, the house falls down, so you can't really win.
cant say i like the idea of wedges , would it not be better to cut the half lapps tight , and i mead tight , apply some glue and force the shelfs in with a block and hammer . Also for any one fixing to drywall there are fixing solutions out there at work i fixed a shelving bracket with four "worms"( a large spiral fixinge especialy for plasterboard ) and that was sufficant to hold my own weight (11st) a bead of gripfill is also often used in the contsrution industry to help things along .. marking out the notches , its best to lay the timbers on the floor and push them hard up against a wall (so all the ends are aligned) next to each other , measure the spacing on the first peice then mark across the rest with a square this will ensure all your notches are perfectly parrallel
juliofo (author)  soundwaveone8 years ago
Hi soundwaveone, I do not like wedges either but they work incredibly well. For that you propose you need the cuts to be done with a machine under numeric control with tolerances under a milimeter. I have not seen pieces of this type but in some ikea furnitures or in lego blocks. Anyway you can try but i bet you are not going to get the exactness that you need doing it by hand. But do not worry; if it does not work you put wedges and that's it.
tolences of half a millimetre are obtainable with hand tools , i do this all day at work
dmk5n8 years ago
Did you use a router or tablesaw to cut those mortices/dadoes
juliofo (author)  dmk5n8 years ago
Hi dmk5n, Yes I did but you do not really need it as far as precision in mortices is not an absolute requirement. If you are strong, paciente and got a good saw you can do it by hand. j
Krispy1019 years ago
Hey urm.. sorry to souind a bit thick.. But WTF is DM Wood?

Please reply soon! I really wanna make these =P

juliofo (author)  Krispy1018 years ago
Hi Krispy, This is not the fast reply you asked but it is that I do not visit instructables as often as I should do it. DM is the name in Spain for Maximun Density, it is not actual wood but a kind of brownish cardboard or powder particle board made with dust of wood and formaldehide (i think). It is heavy and bends very much, so use the thick one (from 1 inch thick up) and do not make shelves without support longer that 60 centimeters or 2 feet). hope it helps although late best julio
dmk5n8 years ago
Great Page! Thank you, Juliofo. One question. Are you placing the screws inside the mortices of the sticks (per Eric's photo) or above the mortices (per your diagram). Makes a 4 cm difference in length of screw. Would this make significant structural difference? Eric's diagram appears to have done this.
juliofo (author)  dmk5n8 years ago
Hi dmk5n I think Erics solution (screws inside mortices) is much more elegant than the one i posted formerly. I do not think there is any structural problem in doing it that way.
undercontrol10 years ago
this looks v.. cool.. any other furniture ideas tho.. i want to make a coffe table
there are good instructions for a coffee table at www.evereman.com. Look at the How to section of the website.
juliofo (author)  undercontrol10 years ago
hey undercontrol, thanks a lot for your comment! soon i will complete the post of "love table" . by now take a look to a couple of photos julio fo
eric9 years ago
I made these for my daughter, she likes them. See pix at http://schrepel.blogspot.com/2006/07/shelves-hungarian.html
More tips:
  • If you have 3/4" thick shelves, make the support dados 13/16" or 7/8" so there's room to fit a wedge underneath. I made mine too precise and had to make paper-thin (fragile) wedges.
  • You can put screws in the middle of the dado so that they're hidden by the shelves when finished. At least you can with oak supports (I made mine the suggested 5 x 6cm).
juliofo (author)  eric9 years ago
Hey Eric, They look wonderfull...
dadonaldd9 years ago
Hey, gang, one thing to watch out for in the USA - make SURE you are hitting the wall studs with your mounting screws - in Hungary, (I used to live over there) the walls are made of a brick-like block, so plastic anchors work well there, and offer solid support. This won't work in a sheet of 1/2" drywall, so, let me repeat: Please, make sure you hit the wall studs with your mounting screws!
juliofo (author)  dadonaldd9 years ago
Hi dadonald, Thanks for the advice. It is EXACTLY as you say. In spain (where i live) there are special screws to use with drywalls; they have two arms that open (once into the wall) forming a ' T ' with the screw. But still i would prefer to hit into the wallstuds. Another thing that can help is to bring the vertical sticks down to the floor for it to support all the weigth. In that case the wall only cares of holding them sticked to it.
The bolt you are talking about is called a Toggle Bolt or a Molly Bolt depending on who you talk to. These are ok for hanging pictures or mirrors but I wouldn’t want to trust them with shelving.
modulo juliofo9 years ago
I don't think that extending the sticks to the floor will make a difference. These shelves are basically wooden version of wire frame shelves. Companies like elfa and rubbermaid sell wireframe shelves in the U.S. that hang from the wall and support decent loads. If you extended the stick to the ground the screws would still be holding the weight. Even if the sticks were extended to the floor the shelves would still fail in the same manor and load as there is nothing supporting the front of the shelf.
modulo modulo9 years ago
By the way very cool shelve design! I was looking to upgrade the shelves in my closets with elfa shelving. This is way cheaper and with the right woods and effort will come out looking really good.
smoothie9 years ago
AFter 1956 revolution many Hungarians emigrated to all over the world. Before they re-established themselves, often there was trouble paying the bills ontime, so the Sheriff would come around to seize furniture for the creditor to sell. Many Hungarians made built-in furniture because it became part of the house and could not be taken legally (or without an ax) by the Sheriff. I love the idea, to keep the family going OK until you could catch up the bills, keeping all the furniture because it was built-in to the house. "Hungarian furniture" entered the language.
ayatamava9 years ago
It's better to say "mortise" than "open box".
mpm ayatamava9 years ago
Actually, that's a dado, a mortise is more hole-like than slot-like
juliofo (author)  ayatamava9 years ago
Hola ayatamava, Thank you so much for the word!
klee27x9 years ago
There would be alot of warping. Put it on the wall first, keeps it str8. Try it, you'll see. :)
stib9 years ago
As a totally unqualified bush carpenter and shed engineer, I'd recommend using hardw0od for the uprights. Pine tends to squash, and the joints will gradually loosen up with use. I don't know what you'd use in foreign lands, but here in .au Tas Oak or Mountain Ash (both are actually eucalypts) is what you'd ask for at the hardware shop. More expensive, but will last a lot better.
ruis20029 years ago
I saw an article in the most recent issue of Country Living magazine (my mom bought me a subscription) that showed shelves made of 2 x 4 planks of wood on large terra cotta planters turned upside down. They seemed pretty sturdy, and planters are lighter weight than bricks, so easier for someone like me to lift and carry indoors. They would not be as permanent a fixture as these shelves screwed to the wall, but you could paint the terra cotta pots (or leave them plain) to make them look interesting. I thought it was a neat design. Easier to do.
juliofo (author) 9 years ago
Hi you_ Thanks for your coment In a couple of weeks we are going to contruct another one. I'll post more photos.
Wow what can I say I'm loving this!!
timatron9 years ago
I've been thinking through these plans in my head for the last week, and that is exactly what I was planning to do. I mean why not? You also get to make sure everything fits perfectly before you put it up. Ideas?
jesusjones9 years ago
cuánto tiempo tardaste en construirlo?
juliofo (author)  jesusjones9 years ago
Hola JesUs, Relativamente poco. El montaje sobre la pared fue una mañana de domingo. El sábado por la tarde fui con mi hermana (la foto es su casa) a recoger los largueros y las piezas de DM que hacen de estantes (los encargamos cortar en una tienda de maderas, y ellos les habían hecho las mortajas o cajas --quizás esa es la parte más dificil; sobre todo si no tienes buenas herramientas a mano). saludos
enzoweb9 years ago
I had an idea for a coffee table which I've been meaning to do for ages but haven't got round to it. I have a coffee table which has an opaque sliding glass top, and you can store glasses and drink bottles inside the table. My idea was to make something similar, but with a clear glass top. I then thought I'd fill the inside with sand and have toy figures (armies, tanks, star wars etc) arranged inside. Alternatively you could use train set buildings and trees. If you were adventurous you could even put in a small working train set. There are lots of possibilities - an ant farm; an aquarium, a laptop with a TV tuner etc.
juliofo (author)  enzoweb9 years ago
Hi enzoweb, Your idea is great!!! but the comment should go on coffee table projects... ...or maybe not.
bbullet9 years ago
Very nice, thanks for sharing! I´ll build one!
juliofo (author)  bbullet9 years ago
Hi bbullet, Thanks for your commet. Please post the photos of your work whenever done... juliofo
acrstudio9 years ago
This is great. It reminds me of a shelf unit that my dad has had since his college days. Very 50's mid century modern. Thanks for sharing!
juliofo (author)  acrstudio9 years ago
Hi acrstudio, Thanks. I would love to see the photo of your Father's one. juliofo
Don33329 years ago
As a person with more books than shelves, I'm always looking for efficient, wood shelving. This is about the most shelves for the least amount of wood (not counting brick & board shelves) that I've come across yet. I'll second that warning about the wedges, they would really be the KEYSTONE in the system. Thanks
juliofo (author)  Don33329 years ago
Hi Don, Nowadays i am planning a selves of 16 meters (53 feet?) side by 2,9 meters (almost 10 feet) high to hold 5000 used books in kind of "salvation army" shop. If I succed I will post.
musa3d9 years ago
Very nice work. I recommend having the shelves chamfered at the sides to prevent injury. This could be important especialy if you have kids at home..Great job, though.
juliofo (author)  musa3d9 years ago
Hi musa3d Very good advise!!! The one in the photo is sharp because no kids at the apartment and because everything was done in a saturday afternoon (shopping) and next monday morning; not very much time to work the selves. juliofo
tikimon9 years ago
wonder if you can try using the plastic spacer wedges used for laminate flooring. a bag of 50 was under $2.
juliofo (author)  tikimon9 years ago
Hi tikimon, Sure. I began using the plastic I had bougth, but because of bad counting I finished using wood ones cut by mayself. Whatever acting as wedge will work. juliofo
this reminds me of a shelf i onxe saw exsept ithe sticks wer planks that ran sidways and the whole thing sort of looked like a sphere, ascii diagram time. _ __ | _\ |_ \ |__ _| \ __ | |_ | |_ _| / _ / |__ / the second turns sideways and interlocks with tthe first which is bolted to a wall. the complexity can in crees to a point ware you have say 5 shelvs and 5 uprites . -|- -|-|-|- -|-|-|-|-|- the center of shelf is farthest from the wall -|-|-|- -|- with the outer edges curving in to it as if there were a shpere suncen in to the wall. if that dosent explain clearly enughf ill try and find i picture if thare is intrest
juliofo (author)  cokebottle tuque9 years ago
hi cokebottle tuque, I would love to see the photo you mention...
stlcook9 years ago
change 'mortise' to 'mortice' Great design..I am going to modify for my 3rd floor landing to hold VCR tapes. Thanks, 3rd generation woodworker
juliofo (author)  stlcook9 years ago
stlcook, Thanks for the spelling. Aproval of the design by a 3rd generation woodworker is definitive!; I think.
mrpete juliofo9 years ago
mortice is an alternative (re: incorrect) spelling of mortise.

juliofo (author)  mrpete9 years ago
mrpete, Thanks. In the way I learnt "tenon" that I didnt know either.
lucigoosey9 years ago
What are the wedges made from? What are their dimensions and how are they made? (Or are they purchased? Can you use the relatively soft wood pre-made shims that are readily available?) You place such importance on being sure to insert the wedges, but then you don't tell us anything about them!
juliofo (author)  lucigoosey9 years ago
I used two types. I wanted to use plastic wedges (very profesional look) that I found in hardware store.( I was told they are used by carpenters to perfectly posicionate the door frames). But for some reason (bad counting or loose) I was short of them when mounting. So I compleated with wood ones (pine) made by myself in the last moment. Both were ok. I would gess that almost anything would work if you can push it on strong enough (with a hammer I mean). As a test: once the wedge is put you shouldn't be able to move the self by hand.
tomole10 years ago
I like it! Simple and easy to make, yet professional looking.
juliofo (author)  tomole9 years ago
Hi tomole, Probably I was on vacacation when you posted your commet... Sorry for missing to say thanks then; and Thanks a lot for your comment
unfathomablej10 years ago
Awesome! I like them.
juliofo (author)  unfathomablej9 years ago
unfathomablej Sorry I had missed your comment. Thanks so much. For me too it was a love for the first sight.
MacMarty10 years ago
In the USA a comparable material for "DM" might be called MDF, which stands for Medium Density Fiberboard. It's exactly as described: a brown composite of fine wood fibers and a resin binder. Pretty stable stuff, -way- better than any kind of particle board, which has larger wood fibers and is NOT strong at all. That said, I'm surprised, worried, and curious that DM can hold a lot of weight. Lotsa weight (books) out there on that lever arm, isn't there? I mean, I believe what I see, but....
juliofo (author)  MacMarty10 years ago
MacMarty, Thanks a lot for the info! I couldn't believe either that I saw in Budapest the first time (by 1994): 3,5 meters high selves with 1 meter apart sticks, 1,5 centimeters thick pine stuffed with heavy books. Thats why i saved the design. The shelves that you see in the photo (pay attention to the 10 volumes art enciclopedy in the middle of the bottom self) are made of MDF of 3 centimeters thick and 22 centimeters of side.