Make Table Legs Out of Books

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Introduction: Make Table Legs Out of Books

Yet another weird use for old books you might have lying around. :D

These legs are quite easy to make and very stable if done correctly - but they possess a bit of wobble as well.

That wobble came in handy when a car crashed through the art section of the bookstore I work at, however. The shelves fell when the car came through and the table merely leaned out of the way as the shelves hit it.

Invincible table for the win! (UPDATE: Crash pictures on the last step!)

I also apologize for the pictures in the instructable being hand-drawn. I did not document it as I went along and this is my way to make up for it!

Step 1: Gather Your Books!

First of all - you need hardcover books! Many of them of similar sizes, actually.

Your best bet is Reader's Digest Condensed. They print these books in such mass quantities and no one wants them. I'm know every thrift store I've ever been to has tons of them. You'll need to remove their dust jackets if they come in them.

Otherwise, look for sets of books at thrift stores.

If the thrift stores fail you, check at yardsales. If you buy regular run of the mill fiction and nonfiction, keep in mind that the hardbacks come in two standard sizes - book club and publisher. Book clubs are normally a smaller size and shoddily made. Publishers will be the larger size and they will also have well reinforced spines (you'll see a little bit of cloth peeking out, in most cases.)

I can't really tell you how many books you'll need, though.

To determine this, decide how tall you wish your table legs to be. Keep in mind that you should keep them 30 inches and shorter in most cases - otherwise, you'll get too much sway!

Once you know how tall you want them to be, try to get an average thickness on the books you're considering and buy just a few more books than you'll need. Once they're compressed you might find you need an extra book to help them line up!

Step 2: Gather Other Tools and Supplies!

Tools you'll need for this project:
  • drill
  • 1/2 in drill bit
  • 3/4 in drill bit
  • googles
  • wood glue

Other supplies you'll need:
  • 5/16 in. threaded steel rods (Think small rebar! These can be easily found at Lowes and Home Depot in different lengths. I want to say I chose the 24 in. length!)
  • 8 nuts to fit the rods.
  • washers (Optional - these can help even out the legs.)
  • oil-based paint or primer or your choice! (Getting oil-based is very important. Water-based formula will make the pages bubble and swell like you would not believe!)
  • case knife or x-acto or some sort to trim the holes in the books.

Step 3: You're Ready to Drill the Tops and Bottoms of the Legs!

Put on your safety goggles and head outside to a nice flat area. This is really the trickiest part - the rest it just a little tedious. :D

You're going to want to pick four-eight books to be the bottoms/tops of the legs. Doing both the top and the bottom in the way I'm about to describe will ensure your books are nicely compacted on the rod and make it easier to attach the legs to the table top.

I used milk crates as a drilling station, but you can also use two other books with a gap between them. (Image #1).

I didn't measure the exact middle of the books, I just estimated. I feel this makes the legs more interesting to look at, but if you're feeling extra particular feel free to mark the very middle of the book. :)

Now, follow the instructions in Image #2 to drill the books for the tops and bottoms of the legs!

Step 4: Drilling the Rest of the Books - Hints and Tips!

You will want to push the drill completely through every book but the ones that we've already drilled.

This can be especially tricky because the pages want to ride up the drill. Here are a few ways to make this easier on you:
  • Clamp or hold the page end of the book - or simply step on it while you drill. The pressure will keep the pages from bubbling as much.
  • Use the x-acto or case knife to cut away the cardboard that will build up on the inside of the book. This will occur on the inside of the covers and cause the book to look quite lumpy.
  • Pass through the book a few times will the drill - this will smooth out the holes on the front and back covers, as well as clean out the shreds of paper that will accumulate.
  • Take lots of breaks - both to let the drill cool down and to keep you from curbstomping the 50th book you have to drill.
  • Make sure the drill is straight as it goes into the book. This will keep the spine of the book from shifting which will lead to straighter legs!

Step 5: Threading the Books Onto the Rods.

This part is actually quite fun. It involves lots of stomping and pushing and you might want to do it where no one will see you.

I had everyone who came out on smoke breaks staring at me.

First, fit the nut onto the bottom of the rod. Make sure it is secure and line up the bottom of the nut with the bottom of the rod. You can also apply some glue at the point if you're worried about stability.

Now you will begin the great threading/gluing/book stomping process.

I will detail this in another lovely sketch.

(The basic process involves squirting glue all over the bottom book, and then threading the next book onto the rod. Put glue on top of that book and thread the next book onto the rod. Continue this until you read the desired height.)

You'll want to alternate the books a bit as the spines will always be thicker than the page end. This will keep the legs from leaning too far to one side. I have a picture showing this as well. :D

When you come to the top, press down on the books to compress them and secure the top nut. You'll want the books to be VERY tight at this point. The more crowded the rod, the less wobbly it will be.

Let the finished legs sit overnight so the glue can fully dry.

Step 6: Painting - an Optional Step, But Makes Them Look Fancy!

I used oil-based primer for the books. I used left over primer that I found at my apartment and a spray primer I bought at Home Depot.

If you're going to use the spray version, I would highly recommend getting a trigger adapter for the can. My fingers were bruised for days.

Might I also recommend doing this outside? I know I was still quite loopy even though I did it outside. All the more reason to take breaks!

I finished mine off with a polycrylic spray to seal the primer and help make it more water resistant. :D

Step 7: Table Tops...

I used a sheet of MDF for my tabletop. You'll want to consider how much weight you'll be putting on the table to decide the thickness and material. :)

Since my tabletop was fairly thin and I covered it with a piece of plexiglass, I simply drilled through the table, threaded the rod through, and secured the rod with acorn nuts.

If your tabletop is thicker, you can probably sink the nuts into the tabletop and make it smooth.

Regardless, it will still look quite fancy. :D

Step 8: Book Table Meets Car! (And Shelves.)

So an elderly lady drove into our art section one morning. This is the aftermath.

The table survived it! YAY!

The shelves fell on it and slid off to the side and there's no damage. I attribute this to the wobbly-ness. Plus, it's short and quite stout, and I think that helped it not get crushed. ;)

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36 Comments

weird how u crashed the car.

You'd might be able to build a second table from those broken books :( poor things
I love your idea! I can imagine a smaller side-table with a single centerd leg
If i ever come to make one I will send you a photo
Thanks for sharing!

I love this idea! Do you think you could make a side table version using just one leg? Or would it be too top heavy?

How much the table weight ? Is it easy to move ?
Very good idea by the way, absolutely love it. Its really a nice way to re-use old book that people want to put in trash. Thank you _

It's quite heavy. It normally takes a couple people to move it. I'm bad as estimates, though. :P And thanks!

Say I didn't want to paint them a color, do you think just a few coats of polyurethane would seal it well enough to keep buggies out of the pages?

That should work really well. I was planning to do that at first, but the books I ended up using were hideous. :P

Ah! My buddy crashed on my futon (literally...fell on top of it) and broke the crappy particleboard frame in one corner. I improvised and stacked a bunch of bibles and classic novels under that corner until I got around to making a new frame. Was thinking about making an 'ible on it, seems you beat me to it lol

Pretty neat looking. Projects that mutilate books always leave me with a bit of a funny feeling, though. Maybe cause Mom was a librarian...