Step 1: Tools and Materials
Threaded Rods (a.k.a. all thread)
Nuts (sized to the all thread)
Small Sledge Hammer (3-5 lb)
We got most of our books from the local library, which sells books they no longer plan to circulate. For the most part, we didn't look at the titles, but we did buy the thickest books we could find. I hope this is obvious to you, but you are going to "ruin" the books for this project, so probably a good idea to use books you don't want to read.
All of the other tools and materials could be found at a local home improvement store. I used 3/8" all thread 36" long, so it follows that the nuts and the t-nuts were also 3/8". The Iron strap was 1/8" thick by 2" wide, and I used about a 12" length of that.
Step 2: Layout
There were also a couple titles that we wanted to place next to each other just for fun, but it isn't something you would notice unless you looked for it.
Step 3: Drill Baby Drill
I clamped a scrap of plywood to the table of my drill press to give me something to drill into when I got through the book, and also support the back of the book a best as possible.
I experimented with several different drill bits, and finally settled on using the forstner bit. One of the big challenges is that the waste from the drilling does not easily come back out the drilled hole, but instead wedges between the pages, increasing the thickness of the book as you drill. I had pretty fair success with holding the book tightly, but it was even easier after I enlisted some help to hold the book down tightly. I also backed out of the cut frequently which seemed to help. You could also use a clamp, but with so many books, all different thicknesses, clamping was just a little too much effort for me.
Step 4: Cleanup, Part 1
Step 5: Drill Again
I swung the book around on it's axis until I found a good place for the second hole. Again, we were looking for a column that was slightly irregular, so I tried to vary to position of the second hole from book to book. Some closer to the spine (easier to drill) and some closer to the front edge (easier to clean out).
I also drilled holes in my iron strap at this point. The first one was centered on the strap, and 4 1/2 inches from one end. I then put that hole on my "alignment bolt" and drilled another. SWITCH OUT YOUR BIT! the forstner bit will be destroyed by the iron strap. I used a 7/16" twist drill bit for this.
Step 6: Hammer Time
Step 7: T-Nuts
Step 8: Assembly
Start by putting the threaded rod through the first book, and screw it in until it is flush with the bottom of the t-nut. Slide the next book down, and the next, and so on until you have your tower of books built.
A not here about thickness. We drilled 2-3 extra books because we knew we were going to compress the column as much as we could, but we needed to have a few books of different thickness that we could swap out to fine tune the finished height. Our column needed to be 29 1/2 inches to support the counter top, and we actually ended up at 29 5/8 which was close enough for us.
I didn't end up with useable photos for the next step, so I hope this description works well enough. When you are done with all your books, you should still have some all thread left sticking out the top of your column. I slid the iron strap down the rods, then tightened it down with nuts. We need the books to be compressed, so with my assistants help, one of us pushed down on one side of the iron strap, and the other tightened the corresponding nut, then to the other side, back and forth a few times. We were able to eventually compress the column from 32 inches to the final 29 5/8.