Introduction: 1/4" Steel Elephant Bookends With Pull Over Guards

Tired of all those tall and over sized children's books falling over because your bookends are too small or under weight? 1/4" steel plate, water jet, TIG welder, and a powder coating booth/oven will solve the problem. My daughter loves elephants with pink polka-dots, but any large animal or object silhouette will work just as well. The bookends sit well, but just in case prying hands want to pull them down, a tip over expandable safety guard was added to hold both bookend sides in place by the weight of the books being held up.

Step 1: Design

Using a CAD or drawing program work up a 2D design for the water jet or metal band saw cuts. I did the elephant 2D work in Adobe Illustrator. The design should include 2 silhouette face plates and 2" wide stand plates running the length of the silhouette plus 1-3/4" beyond the silhouette. For the elephants, I also added notch extensions on the feet of the elephant and corresponding 1/4" notch outs in the stand plates to make it look like the elephant is standing on the stand plate. The notches also was the location of the weld points.

For the tip over safety guard, I first drew up a 48" x 2" rectangle with rounded corners that would be cut out of the same 1/4" steel plate the bookends are made from. The length of the guard is based the maximum distance you think you will put between the 2 bookends. In my case the end stand they are on is 48" long. Next notch out 1/2" from each end of the of the rectangle a 1-3/4" slot that will fit the bookend stand ends. Next design a intertwining jigsaw cut pattern down the rectangle for the expandable pieces of the tip over guard. It should be the same pattern for each cut so the pieces can be interchangeable. In the case of the elephant book stand the first 2 end pieces are 6" in length and then subsequently did 2" segments down the rest of 48" rectangle. This provided the initial width of the guard to be 6" of space for books between bookends and expandable by 2" added segments as needed. For the tip over safety guard cap, I just purchased 2" / 1/16" steel strip and cut to fit each segment with the steel strip overlapping the slot of the jigsaw puzzle connection and no cap over the male end. As you can see from the photo's provided my jigsaw puzzle connection was just a triangular slot to allow them to snap in place, but not be pulled apart when laying flat.

Last step in the design is to import the cut design of the 1/4" steel plate into the water jet software and formulate the water jet tool paths. For the smaller tip over safety guard pieces, I used two 1/16" tabs to insure the parts didn't fall into the water jet pool.

Step 2: Cut

As a member of a local TechShop, I used the water jet to cut my bookends. I assume you could also do a lot of the cuts on a metal band saw, but doing so will certainly increase your time and accuracy. Likely the tip over safety guard would pose the greatest challenge with a band saw if you were to stick to the triangle type jigsaw pattern I used for the elephants.

Step 3: Weld

I used a TIG welder to attached the bookend base plates to the silhouettes and the tip over safety guard 1/16" depth cap pieces on to 1/4" safety guard base pieces. A MIG welder would work as well, but you might need to grind off any of the slag splash the comes with a MIG weld (at least with my non professional MIG welding skills).

Step 4: Powder Coating

Again, being a member of local TechShop is a plus so I powder coated the bookends for a clean durable finish. If you don't powder coast then certainly spray paint works just as well. From the pictures you can see I chose elephant gray with pink polka-dots. Prep metal using sand blaster, wash with simple green solution, and bake dry. Using purchased Kapton 1/2" circle tape dots, I first did the elephant's all in pink, applied the dots after the pieces cooled, and then powder coated the gray over the pink.

Step 5: Fill With Books and Enjoy the Smiles

My 1 year old daughter loved the bookends and continues to pull one book from the group after another. I no longer have to pick up all the books that fall over from the old under weight bookends I used to use. I also feel safe that if she pulls on the heavy pieces they are less likely to fall and hurt someone since the tip over safety caps are supported by the books that rest on it and the bookend on the opposite end. This was a fun project that provided me some good experience improving my skills with a CAD, water jet, TIG welding, and powder coating.

Metal Contest 2016

Participated in the
Metal Contest 2016