Introduction: Stacking Book Shelves, Utility Storage Racks, Low Cost, Recycled or Salvaged Materials
I am a relic of prehistoric times (pre-internet). I was taught it was not important to memorize facts when you could look them up. I collected books so I would not have to memorize facts.(now I just Google it, but I still collect books because they do not need batteries) Over the years I have had to move several times and moving the books and cases was a major part of the job. I build knockdown book cases and packing boxes were needed for the move and disassemble the cases. I investigated barrister style bookcases that are stacked units and British campaign furniture book boxes. They both required considerable material costs or high purchased prices. I decided to design my own stack box bookcase system. At the time I had access to scrap material from a new sub division being built a few blocks away (sheet goods, plywood and particle board, 2x4,6,8,10,12's) and I also had access to machinery shipping containers (2x4's and 1x12's 6-8' long). I measured my books and I decided to build units that are 9 1/2x 12" inside and I weighed my book and 24" long was all I wanted to lift, it was also more comfortable to carry a 24" long box verses a longer box with the added weight and stretching to reach the ends. I was able to use particle board sub floor underlay for the end pieces and I ripped the 2 by material into 3/4 x 1 1/2 pieces 24" long. I have made over 100 book boxes.
I submitted the idea to Woodsmith magazine and they publish an article on the stack rack design Volume No. 110. They changed the size to a utility size for storing materials in the shop or garage. They also made a unit that used less material so each box is lighter. I have build about 36 boxes like this for a friend's garage. There were two additional modifications to the plan. The inside was lined with poster board (thin white cardboard), old campaign poster work nicely since they can have a plastic lamination for water resistance, and remnant drapery material was purchased, cut to size of the front of the box, hemmed. and tacked on the top forming a curtain concealing the contents. When the garage door is open all that is visible from the street is draperies hanging on the wall of the garage.
I have also made 12-3/4x12x24" boxes for the Christmas decorations. These have a solid one piece back (1/4" plywood) , were lined with poster board top and bottom, a 1/4" plywood front is screwed on keep dust out and little pieces in till next Christmas. This makes very compact storage for these items.
Units for DVD's and paperback books are 8 inches tall. A special box for coffee tables books was made it is 15 tall, in both cases the other dimensions stayed the same so the boxes can be stacked in the normal arrangement. Shorter boxes have been made 18, 15, and 12 inches to utilize storage where a 24 inch unit will not fit. When space is available the boxes are stacked like bricks so they form a solid unit and the seams alternate. Units 6 high should be secured to the wall, I have had them tip when filled at the top shelves and less load at the base.
Bookcases have been added to a workbench top leaving room in the center for a computer monitor.
When moving cardboard is taped over the front so that each box can be moved without having the contents trying to escape. Smaller books have towels or clothing stuffed to keep them from moving around during the move.
Step 1: Building the Basic Box
Each box consist of 6 slats, 2 ends, and 2 backs. The parts can be individual cut to size or they can be smaller pieces of wood glued to the size of the parts. The slats need to be 1 1/2 inch wide within a 1/64 of an inch, this is the critical dimension on the slat, 3/4 inch thickness is the next most critical dimension, it can vary up to a 1/16 inch without problems. and the length can be 1/8 inch difference. End pieces need to be 9 1/2 inches wide within a 1/64 inch, height of 12 inches is not critical and the thickness only effects the storage room inside the box. The back pieces are not critical they are just for keeping the books from sliding out the back. All the pieces for a box should be as nearly identical as possible.
I wanted to use a low quality 2x2 (1-1/2x1-1/2) for the end piece. I decided I would hold the end assembly together with pocket screws. (they are quick and strong) The 4 pieces are assembled into the end of the box.
A 1x6 is cut to length for the slats, (note stop for consistent length) and then ripped to 1-1/2 width.
2 spacer slats are cut to aid in assembly. The spacers have to be cut to width very accurately 1.700 inches in width. They are cut to 30 inches long so there is a handle to aid in removal from the completed assembly.
The calculations for the assembly is as follows:
Number of slats and width of slats. 6 x 1.5 = 9 inches
Number of spaces between the 5 x 0.10 = .5 inches
Add the two values together for the width of the shelf 9 + 0.5 = 9-1/2 inches.
The spacer dimension is the width of the slat plus 2 spaces 1.5+0.1+0.1= 1.70 inches
The space between slat is an arbitrary value, I use 0.1 for slats 1-1/2 inch and smaller, for wider slats I use 0.125 inch or 1/8 inch. If the material you are using is of very poor quality use a wider spacing to accommodate the material choice. The key to success is make all the units you are building the same.
The shelf is assembled slat, spacer, slat, spacer, slat. One end is squared and two clamps are applied to the assembly to "straighten" the slats and space them. The assembly is then aligned to the end pieces flush and square. This is all clamped together so the screw holes can be drilled and the screws driven, The clamps are removed and the other shelf is assemble as above and attached to the ends. This shelf is attached to the opposite side as the first shelf creating the alternating pattern so the shelves interlock.
The back is now added. Just flush the back to the ends of the box and screw in place. Depending on your material you may have to persuade the piece back to square. Drive some screws along the slat for added stability.
Step 2: Maximize Your Scrap
Building these shelving boxes is a good project to improve your woodworking skills. You can practice making different style joinery, you can use your setup pieces for other purposes than firewood, and your can hone your skills on a project that does not have to be "perfect".
The slats can be made from all the cutoffs in your scrap bin, those pieces too small for a good project, but too good for firewood. You can also use pallet material that is too damaged for any other use. Cut the pieces into parts 3/8 inch thick and glue together in a random pattern so the joints do not align. Since it is difficult to clamp these small parts I use lead weights that were made by melting wheel weights into a small muffin tin (purchased at a thrift store). I have a gallon paint can of these weights to use to stabilize parts during construction of a project. Also it the pieces "float" on the glue, sprinkle a little table salt in the glue before assembly and the parts will not slide around.
The end pieces can also be made from assembled small pieces, and the joinery can be your choice, butt joints, half lap, saddle, dowel, biscuit, mortise and tenon, finger, dovetail, pocket screw, etc. if you are just starting to learn a skill make the pieces a 1/4 inch of so large and trim on the table saw to final size and square.
Step 3: Assembling Different Assemblies
Now to assemble the assembly of scrap bin parts.
1. Make sure all parts are to size, recut if too large, do not use if too small (glue on more material where needed)
2. Assemble slats and spacers as before.
3. Flush and square ends to shelf.
4. Drill and drive screws to attach shelf to end
5. Assemble second shelf as above,
6. Flush and square to ends, starting from the opposite side, for the interlocking.
7. Drill and drive screws to attach self to end
8. Flush and square back pieces and screw in place.
If during assemble parts split or screws cause a "blow out" you may want to glue the assembly. To do this remove one slat at a time, glue, and reinstall. Then remove the next slat until all joints are glued and screwed. The back can also be glued in place using the same technique.
Step 4: Completed Boxes Stacked
Three units are complete, and I just happened by a garage sale and was given several boxes of woodworking books, manuals, and catalogs. Guess I will have to make more units.
Also to maximize storage space I have mounted (5) ball casters on a 3/4"x9.5x24 inch plywood base and set 2 shelves on top and can roll it under a table for storage. I can roll the 2 units out when needed and then back under the table till next time.
Also have built a bookcase over a workbench, made 12" wide units and then bridged across with a 2x10, then filled in with 12 and 24 inch units, 2 units making three shelves.
The finish on these can be left natural, stained, painted, or veneered with prefinished paneling. If paneling is used, miter mating corners at 45 degrees for a solid wood look. A 1/4 inch space was left on the side to give a visual break in the side if the panels do not match exactly.