This is an Instructable for the SwitchShelf, as I've been calling it, which is a dual purpose bookshelf that can be laid down and rolled under a bed on wheels when not in use to function as a storage unit.
I’ve always struggled with a small room and the obstacles of rearranging and trying to make all of my furniture fit. With so many bookshelves, there just wasn’t always a place to put them all depending on where my other furniture was. There also never seemed to be enough room to store everything or ways to organize it, and what was available, just didn’t seem to fit in with my room aesthetically.
My invention, The SwitchShelf, solves both of those problems by combining two organizational methods in one piece of furniture.
Standing up, my shelf functions as a bookshelf that can be used for books, pictures, or knickknacks, but laying down, it rolls on wheels and can be rolled under places such as a bed or desk and function as out-of-the-way storage. The SwitchShelf can also be a great way to save space and money in places like small apartments where you can repurpose the shelf easily when the space or need for one of the purposes changes. The SwitchShelf eliminates the need to buy two separate pieces of furniture and also the need to store the furniture you are not using.
- two pieces of 1/2 inch plywood, each 2' x 4'
- one piece of 1/8 inch hardboard, also 2' x 4'
- four low profile side mount caster wheels (McMaster-Carr part number 9994T91)
- Safety goggles
- an electric saw
- a router
- a router table
- (Digitial) caliper
- wood filler
- a measuring square, tape measure, and ruler
- a nail gun
- Elmer's glue
- a folding table (or any other kind of table to catch your wood as you cut it)
- a roller stand (recommended)
- miter saw
- scroll saw
Step 1: Making the Sides
1) The first thing we're going to do is get our wood ready. Take one of the pieces of plywood and measure out a foot on the top of it. This is where the optional roller stand comes in! We're going to cut that foot off the top of the plywood in order to make it 36", and the roller stand will help you keep the wood steady as you push it through the electric saw, making it easier to cut. Make sure that your table, folding or otherwise, to catch the wood is ready on the other side of the electric saw, so that when you push the wood through the saw, the newly cut pieces slide onto the table and don't drop onto the floor.
- Note that electric saws cut in a downward motion! You want the good side of your wood that people will be seeing to be facing up as you cut your wood, because there will be frayed edges from the saw on the bottom.
2) After cutting a foot off the top, we're going to cut a 7 1/2" piece off the side. This is only a rough cut that can be trimmed down to 7" later! This piece, set aside for later to make the middle dividers out of.
3) After you're done that, don't cut anything else quite yet! We're going to put the dado grooves in first before cutting the wood so that they were in exactly the same place on both of the sides. The router is used to make the dado grooves horizontally across the wood, and I secured two metal tracks to frame the router's path to help me make my line straight, but that is optional, depending on how comfortable you are with a router
- the purpose of the dado grooves is to make the shelf sturdier. Instead of just nailing the pieces together, the pieces will also sit in the grooves, giving it more support than just nails. The grooves won't be very deep! They should only be 1/8 of an inch deep.
- we want to leave 1/4 of an inch along the top for the top shelf's dado groove, and from there, the bottom of each dado groove is exactly eleven inches. So the bottom lip of each dado groove is 11 1/4" from the top, 22 1/4", and 33 1/4". These measurements will be easiest to make with a tape measure! I used a measuring triangle to make sure that the tracks were straight, keeping in mind that there is a plastic guard on the router that is 4 3/64" wide that has to fit between them.
- before cutting the dado grooves, make sure that your router is in a good position. You shouldn't have to force the router along the track, it should only take some pressure to keep it moving forward. If you have to force it because of the tracks, then your tracks are too close together. The tracks are only guiders to keep your line straight, so they don't have to be extremely tight against your router. At the same time, your router shouldn't be able to jiggle around too much, or the purpose of the tracks is nullified.
- push the router forward from the back at a steady pace. Keep a steady, light pressure on the top of the router with your other hand so that the router doesn't tip upwards. Remember to keep all fingers away from the blade of the router! While this may seem obvious, make sure you make a mental note of where the opening to the blade is in the front so that you can keep your fingers away from it as you guide the router.
4) After the dado grooves are in, cut the piece of wood exactly down the middle with the electric saw to separate it into the two sides! Also cut off any excess in order to make both sides 7" wide.
Step 2: Cutting Shelves
This is where we use our other piece of plywood!
1) First, cut off 23 1/4" from the wood. This will eventually be cut into three pieces to make three shelves, but not quite yet. We're going to do the dado groove for the middle dividers to sit in on these first, so that it is the same on each piece.
2) measure to 11 5/8" of the wood - this will be the exact middle of the dado groove. In order to put the tracks down, measure 2 2/64" away from the center of the groove on either side, as that is the width of half of the plastic guard on the router. Once the tracks are in place, cut the dado groove.
3) After the dado groove is cut, cut the piece of wood into three 7 1/2" inch shelves - these are oversize so that they can be trimmed. The bottom shelf only needs one dado groove, so set that piece aside. The other two shelves, however, need another dado groove on the other side. These need to be very exact! You want it in the exact same place as the dado groove on the other side. I used the measuring square to mark where the dado groove would go so that I could make it as accurate as possible.
4) That takes care of the bottom three shelves. Your top shelf will be the full 24". It will need one dado groove on the bottom for the middle divide, but it will also need grooves on the edges. This is for the sides to fit into the top shelf. For the grooves for the sides in the top shelf, I used a router table. If you know how to do this with a router like the one we used for the other dado grooves, then go for it! The router table, however, made this step easier.
- in the top shelf, cut a groove on each end 1/4" wide and 1/4" deep. This is why when we were cutting the dado grooves in the sides, we went 1/4" down the wood before we started measuring for the dado grooves.
Step 3: Putting the Pieces Together
To make sure all of the pieces stayed together, I used both Elmer's glue and a nail gun.
1) First, I glued each of the pieces in place with Elmer's glue. I made doubly sure that my pieces were straight by clamping the tool you see in the pictures onto each of the pieces. I used this corners as a guide for the rest of my pieces. Put Elmer's glue in each of the dado grooves, using clamps to hold the pieces together while they dry
- (Note: not all of the clamps I have on my shelf in the picture are necessary! I had the extras, and had a little fun clamping them on. I may have thought it looked cool. While the extra clamps certainly didn't hurt, and probably helped in making sure all of the pieces were snugly fit together, if you don't have that many clamps, don't worry about it! Put your clamps where you think they are needed most to make sure that your pieces will stay tight together while the glue dries.)
2) After the glue has had a minute or so to settle, start nailing. Be careful not to nail your fingers, which means keep all appendages away from where you are nailing, even if you are just putting your hand down to steady your other. The gun won't nail anything, even if you pull the trigger, unless the tip is pressed down, so make sure you press it down on the shelf. Try not to nail too close to the edge, or your nail may come out the side!
3) I recommend putting a nail on each intersection of the pieces, but the usage of nail is really up to you.
Step 4: Adding the Back and Other Final Touches
The order of this step is a little less rigid. I stained my shelf, which is completely optional, and I also stained it before I put the back on, which is also optional. If you choose to stain or otherwise paint your shelf, I would recommend doing it before nailing the back onto the shelf, because it will make it easier to stain/paint. If you put the back on first, however, and then decide you want to stain/paint your shelf, it's not the end of the world! You can still stain/paint it with the back on!
This is where our hardboard comes in! The smooth side of the hardboard will face inward, into the shelf. In other words, the textured side will be the side that faces the wall or floor, depending on how you're using the shelf.
1) With a jigsaw, looking at the board vertically, on the top of the shelf, on either corner, cut a square for the wheels. These squares will each be 2 1/4" high, and 2 3/4" across.
2) On the bottom of the hardboard, cut a smaller strip off the corners for the bottom wheels, measuring 2 3/4" wide, and 1/2" high
3) Screw the wheels into the corners of the shelf before attaching the back (while I'm sure it is possible to attach them with the back already on, I am also sure that it will be much easier to attach them beforehand). Use a small block of wood as a buffer between the wheel and the shelf, so that the metal of the wheel doesn't poke over the side of the shelf.
4) Attach the back with the nail gun. I used four nails on either side, and three along the top and bottom. How many nails you use to attach the back is up to you, though you do want to make sure not to nail too close to the edge, like with the shelves.
5) I used wood filler to fill in where the nails were visible on my shelf. You don't have to do this, but I recommend it, as it gives the shelf a more polished look
6) Optional: Add a bit of decoration to make your shelf look even more finished. It would be easiest to use a scroll saw for this, and you can make it whatever design you wish. If you want to do this, I recommend doing it before you stain it, just because then you can stain everything at once.
Step 5: Knitted Baskets (Optional)
I knitted baskets to go along with my shelf to give it more of a colorful look as well as to add another aesthetically pleasing organizer. By knitting the shelves, they are easier to clean and easy to store, as they are flexible.
To knit them, I made four separate side and a bottom before sewing them together (which I will explain in a moment). I made each of the five pieces 27 stitches wide. You can make the walls as tall or short as you wish. To knit them, I alternately knitted one knit row, and then one purl row. I continued this pattern until I was satisfied with the height of my walls.
(If you do not know how to knit and purl, but want to try making a basket, I would recommend the knitting class Instructable on this website. There are also books you can buy, but the class is very informative)
After knitting my bottom and walls, I used a sewing needle and thread to sew each of the pieces to the bottom, and then sew the sides to each other. While sewing the sides to the bottom, line of the edge you want to sew. Make sure that, if the knit row is facing upward for one piece, it is also facing up on the other piece (same with if it is the purl row). Knit close to the edge of the the piece, and I would sew along the stitches, keeping only one or so stitches of yarn between every time you pull the thread through.
The seams should go on the inside of the basket. I used a yarn stiffening spray to make the walls a little stiffer so that they would stand a little better, but it isn't necessary.