For years, my books have lived in milk crates, cardboard boxes, and endless piles. Given their impact on my quality of life and my work, I decided it was high time I fixed the situation and gave these little slabs of knowledge their own sturdy, permanent home.

I moved (again) at the beginning of August, so the solution had to be light, portable, and cheap. The Knock-Down Shelves provide twelve running feet of book storage, all carved out of one 4' x 8' sheet of plywood. Twelve bolts hold the hold thing together; pop them out and the shelves dissolve into 5 1' x 4' pieces, stackable and packable. Raking 5° from bottom to top, the shelves change width to accomodate different items. The cut edges of the plywood are painted with bright yellow enamel paint, an easy solution to hiding the unattractive inner plies. The surfaces are treated with a mixture of boiled linseed oil, polyurethane, and thinner that penetrates and protects while adding a slight warm tone to the wood.

I used a nice sheet of Baltic birch plywood, though any 3/4" stock will do. Add in some glue, hardware, and paint, the whole shelf should run about $60. I built it in a day. It can be done entirely with a circular saw if need be; I included instructions with the table saw because that's how I did it. 

You will need these materials:

1 4' x 8' sheet of 3/4" plywood
Trim head #6 x 1-1/2" screws 
Handful of 1" screws
Wood glue
12 3/8" x 2" bolts 
12 3/8" nuts
24 3/8" washers
Enamel paint of your choice
3/8" dowels for plugs
Painter's tape

You will need these tools:

Circular saw
Drill/driver with 3/8" countersink bit
Paint brush

Optional but helpful:

Table saw
Belt sander
Random-orbit sander

Step 1: Cuts

In a relatively simple project like this, made from flat, straight sheet goods, the fastest way to get it done is to cut everything first, then assemble the pieces.

I started with two pieces that were 3' x 4' and 1 piece that was 2' x 4'. I had to get the full 4' x 8' sheet cut down at the hardware store to fit it all on my roof rack. 

First, use a circular saw with a clamped straightedge to cut the sides. They are 47-1/2" tall, tapering from 8" to 12" over 42". In other words, the taper starts 5-1/2" off the ground, allowing for a double-thick "foot" on each side. This taper works out to approximately 5° off of vertical. 

With two sides cut, now cut three shelf backs and three shelf fronts. Each shelf is essentially an open box; this makes it structurally stiff and allows it to act as both shelf surface and lateral bracing, eliminating the need for a back or diagonal braces. The backs of the shelves are 4-1/2" x 48"; cut three of them. The fronts of the shelves are 2-1/2" x 48", each edge beveled parallel to one another at 5° so that they will eventually match the taper of the side pieces.

The shelves themselves are 8-1/4" x 48", 9-1/2" x 48, and 10-7/8" x 48".

You can make all these cuts with a circular saw; be sure to clamp a straightedge to run the saw against for straight, clean cuts. Use a new framing or laminate blade to help prevent chip-out and splintering of your veneer faces.

I used a table saw for most of these cuts, which is more accurate, faster, and cleaner. If you have access to a table saw, use it for sure. 

The whole shelf works within the 48" logic of a sheet of plywood to try and be materially efficient and eliminate labor. If you want a narrower shelf, change the dimensions to suit your space.
Can't wait to get started. I've just come home with two 4'x8' sheets of plywood and a big bag of bolts and hardware. Love the simple design.
Awesome! Always nice to have furniture that is easy to collapse and move!
Nice work, I like your furniture very much. Please, I'm interest on your mix of linseed oil, polyurethane and thinner. Can you tell proportions of each one, way of applying, etc.? Thanks.
The proportions, way of applying, etc. are all already in the Instructable. Please read it through. <br>
I'm sorry, I didn't read it before, my mistake. Thank you.
Nice Design. very simple. <br>my own preference would have been to attach the shelves from the inside so that you don't have the exposed bolt heads on the outside. I also prefer using 1x's for the edge banding rather than ply. I'm not criticizing yours. it's just a different look than what i do. <br> <br>one trick for painting plywood. if you want the natural wood Ikea look, then clear coat the wood before you paint. the clear coat keeps the paint from penetrating into the wood allowing you to clean up and bleeds. when using this techneque, remove the masking tape while the paint is still wet and use a damp cloth to clean up paint edges. rather than painting the raw plywood edges, one thing that works pretty well is first pretty up the edge with iron on edge banding. <br>
Good design, they look solid.
Nice job! I need to build some shelves too. Thanks for the inspiration.
Great design! I might build some of these instead of buying more shelves. :D

About This Instructable




Bio: Furniture hacker. Author of Guerilla Furniture Design, out now. Find me on Twitter and Instagram @objectguerilla.
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