Introduction: Make Table Legs Out of Books

Picture of 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!

Picture of 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!

Picture of 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!

Picture of 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!

Picture of 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.

Picture of 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!

Picture of 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...

Picture of 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.)

Picture of 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. ;)


OmerB made it! (author)2015-06-11

I know this post is several years old, however, I wanted to share with you a table I made from your instructions. The table is wobbly, and I will add legs to make it more stable. But as stands right now, it's awesome and the students in the library can't stop talking about it. I'm a teacher at a high school in Western New York and as part of a service day project, several students and I built this table. The books were going to be thrown away, the maintenance crew had a sheet of plywood laying around, a glass company down the street donated the plexiglass. I had to buy a few pieces with my own money, but the enthusiasm pride of the kids were priceless. Thank you for the instructions and keep up the good work!

AnooshI (author)2014-08-08

This looks so cool. Everyone would want a table made up of old books. You won't need to throw them away now. I always liked upcycling old books. Have a look at this book of Books for more ideas by Altered Upcycling. You can even sign up on their website for free ebooks!

landongaga (author)2012-04-07

weird how u crashed the car.

Bierle (author)2011-05-01

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!

RachelT (author)2010-05-17

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?

sweetnienna (author)2009-08-27

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 _

jessyratfink (author)sweetnienna2009-08-27

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

Raplaplox (author)2009-01-05

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?

jessyratfink (author)Raplaplox2009-01-06

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

guitarman63mm (author)2008-12-02

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

westfw (author)2008-03-29

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

hcold (author)westfw2008-09-06

Heh, should see the new addition to the public library downhere. To jazz it up for all the cool kids, they created the "Teen Space". They added a 42" Plasma TV, funny lighting, exposed concrete ceiling, a wall made out of street signs (with the "CAMERA OPERATING IN THIS AREA" sign carefully worked it), and to finish it all off, they made a wall of books by bolting them together.

Bookwall in background of image.

silverchakra (author)westfw2008-04-12

I understand that feeling, but when I use books for art projects I use those that people are getting rid of anyway, like at garage sales, Goodwill, etc. If someone doesn't buy them they go to the trash. Also, I'm just re-purposing the books for a new use! I actually made my first altered book a few years ago once I got over the idea of writing in a book! All kinds of altered books are really popular now and they are even in museums and galleries now. Recently I bought some shaped books online. This woman cuts them with a saw to make shapes from a cat to wings to a face and all kinds of other things-very cool! I just love this table project but I like keeping the books different colors for variety. I really love the table top!

jessyratfink (author)westfw2008-03-30

Reader's Digest don't count as book as far as I'm concerned. ;) But I do understand what you're saying otherwise. I am quite particular about my library!

carpespasm (author)2008-08-09

I guess this would be taking the "folded up paper" under the uneven table leg to it's logical extreme. Cool table.

GorillazMiko (author)2008-05-09

Heh, last step. :D

aphrael (author)2008-04-05

This is a great idea! A bar I know has some columns made of books, but they have quite boring tables compared to this :) By the way, you have really cool handwriting...

Weissensteinburg (author)2008-03-29

comment me when you add the i know it's up =]

Crash pictures are up, sir! :D

Oh geez!

I completely forgot them today. It was a sale day at work and I was running around all day like a chicken with my head cut off. :P I will try again on Tuesday. :)

Well no wonder! If you had operated like a person you would have accomplished everything much quicker, and would have had time for leisure activities (like providing pleasing aesthetics for my viewing pleasure).

GorillazMiko (author)2008-03-30

Hahaha, awesome!
Easy and simple. Great job!
+1 rating.

Still waiting for the plushie...

I know. I'm making a greenhouse today, but while it's drying/curing/whatever, I'll probably be working on a how to sew instructable which will be followed by the plushie! I promise. :D

incorrigible packrat (author)2008-03-30

Neat! Interesting fact about the book club vs. publisher's edition spine difference. Did you use a regular drill bit or a spade bit to holify the books? I'm thinking that a spade bit, or even a fancy brad point bit, might make book-drilling less of a chore. I dunno. I have a mess of Reader's Digest Condensed that I've been wondering what to do with ('cuz I sure ain't gonna read 'em). Do you know if they're just shortened, or bowdlerized as well? Perhaps I'll sacrifice a few as test drilling subjects...

I used a regular bit, though a spade bit would have been very nice to have!

You can sometimes get semi-decent spade bits in those sets of 38 drill bits in a plastic case, with a name like "Trademaster" or "Job-Mate", or some such.

gmjhowe (author)2008-03-31

Sweet, perfect table for reading on!

Patrik (author)2008-03-29

Wait - didn't you post this a while ago? I could have sworn I'd already seen this somewhere...

chooseausername (author)Patrik2008-03-30

Yes, she made a forum topic about. I think it was last year.

Correct! This is just the follow-up. :)

Patrik (author)jessyratfink2008-03-31

Ah, good to know I'm not crazy! ;) Deja vu all over again...

duck-lemon (author)2008-03-30

I would SO try this if i had enough books. +1

LinuxH4x0r (author)2008-03-29

Nice idea! I have seen these before, but not with the rod Crash pics please!

jessyratfink (author)LinuxH4x0r2008-03-29

I don't know how they'd work without the rod. Just seems scary to me. :P And crash pictures will be coming. If I can't find the CD tonight I will get them at work tomorrow!

shooby (author)jessyratfink2008-03-29

you could soak them in water and elmers mixed together, and clamp them shut while they are drying- they'd be like bricks. Then glue them together

LinuxH4x0r (author)jessyratfink2008-03-29

can't wait to see them!

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Bio: I work at instructables by day, and turn into a stitch witch by night. follow me on instagram @makingjiggy to see what i'm working ... More »
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