There are some big advantages (in my opionion):
- You can rearrange the whole thing whenever you get tired of looking at it
- It's easily expandable (by either rearranging or building more modules)
- It creates a "living" wall of books (and/or other things)
- The modules are very light and are easy to move around, plus they take up very little space (for example in a moving van)
Step 1: Design
The width is in every case a multiplate of the height (up to 5:1 in my case), so that the modules are stackable. There are 3 different module-heights to accomodate either paperbacks, hardbacks, binders, big books, and so on. The different sizes of books/binders demand different depths for the modules, too, which gives a really nice look to the complete bookshelf.
The longer modules (3:1 and more) need a middle panel, to distribute the weight of modules on top of them evenly.
In order to combine all these different heights and widths, I had to build 2 customized modules which have different sizes (to adjust for the height), but besides that, everything is standardized.
I wanted to build the modules as low-key and sleek as possible. There is almost no hardware needed, since all the joints are glued. The mitred joints allow for a very elegant construction (although its harder to build) and keep the whole design very simple.
To assemble the whole bookshelf I made aluminum-clips out of a U-profile. Lined with textile tape, they clamp together the modules, making the whole bookshelf stable and sturdy.
Step 2: Materials and Tools
Since I don't own equipment to cut the big boards down to size, I had the material ordered as strips of the 3 different depths I needed. Clean and nice cuts are really important, since half of the edges are visible at the end.
So the needed materials are:
- Plywood-strips (widths depending on the measurements for the modules)
- Aluminum-U-profile (to produce the clamps)
- Felt-pads for the bottom modules
The tools I used for this project:
- A halfway decent circular saw bench (with the ability to tilt the saw blade to 45 degrees)
- A calibrated try square
- A measuring tape
- Lots of abrasive paper
- A very well sharpened chisel
- 1-K PUR wood adhesive (it has to be a really strong adhesive, since the surface of the connections is quite small)
- Plenty of plastic adhesive tape
Step 3: Cutting
It is very important to use arrestors, so that the corresponding pieces have the exact same length. I tend to check the lengths after every second cut, just to be on the safe side.
The angle of the sawblade is crucial, since even a half degree off can result in joints that don't fit properly. I use surplus wood to test that angle very carefully until the pieces fit perfectly.
Always take care to use the safety devices as specified! Even if it means slower progress.
Step 4: Sanding and Preparing for Assembly
To get the edges nice and smooth, I take several pieces of the same width and pinch them together with wooden bar clamps. It's easier to work this way and ultimately, it's a lot faster.
After sanding all edges like this (a very important step) I chamfer the edges very subtly. I prefer sharp edges, but still, they should be a bit chamfered.
When all of this is done, the pieces should be cleaned. All the dust needs to be removed, as not to affect the quality of the adhesion.
All the joints (inside and outside) need to be prepared with plastic adhesive tape. This technique will take a moment to prepare, but the time it saves after the adhesive has cured is substantial. Align the tape very carefully on the very edges (inner and outer edges) and do this wherever there will be adhesive (as seen in the pictures). Do the same for all middle panels by measuring precisely where they will be and then taping around the adhesive surface. The overspilt adhesive will cure on the plastic and can then be removed very easily.
Step 5: Assembly
I always do this before I apply any adhesive!
After this check, I apply the adhesive. The adhesive I use expands while curing, so not much of it is needed in these joints. If there is excess adhesive, don't bother wiping it off. PUR-adhesive is really nasty before curing and can much easier be removed mechanically after curing.
After applying the adhesive, I "fold" the pieces together and fixate both "open" ends with more plastic tape. I use a try square to check the angles and check all the corners carefully because the edges can sometime shift a bit.
Since the plastic tape is also applied for the middle panel (where one is planned), it is convenient to insert this panel at this time. I apply the adhesive on the panel's edges, spread the module a bit and put the middle panel in-between. It's easy to adjust its position because of the plastic tape, and to be sure I check it again with the try square.
When all the angles are checked again, I put some weight on top of the module so that the middle panel receives the needed pressure, check all the angles once more and let it cure for at least 3 hours (depending on the adhesive).
Step 6: Finishing Touches
I chamfer the now joined edges a little bit and retouch them with a black marker. This leaves no trace on this material, but needs to be tested with every other material.
I always test the modules by trying to pull them apart, but they are really sturdy. After checking all the edges, I decide which side looks better, and I mark the less perfect side so that I know which way to assemble the whole thing at home.
Step 7: Finished Product
I enjoy this project a lot, because it's practical and beautiful. Working on it is very satisfying, since all the time spent for preparations really pays off in the end.
I would be happy to read your ideas, your criticism, your opinions and your remarks on this modular bookshelf. Thank you!