Introduction: Boards & Baling Twine: a Rafter Bookshelf

About: I live on a small homestead in western New Mexico, in a small light-straw-clay house I built with much help from friends. My spare time is filled with house and land projects, writing fiction, gardening, singi…

Just after I finished building my small (~200 square feet) house (if any such project can ever be said to be done) I found myself in dire need of more bookshelves. I’d built one in next to my desk, and had one short stretch of wall where I could position a freestanding set of shelves, but that was it. Not nearly enough for a dedicated book addict. The only thing I could figure out to do was to hang shelves from the underside of my sleeping loft. I didn’t have the time or energy to make a proper job of it, and cobbled together 20 feet of shelving from scavenged boards, baling twine (my house is built of light straw-clay, so I had rather a lot of this), and some screw eyes that I had on hand. It took an hour or so to build with hand tools (a push drill, a saw, and a screwdriver, the latter for sticking through the screw eyes as a handle for turning them).

It ain’t elegant but more than ten years later it’s still holding up my books.

I’m not going to do a step-by-step for this one. Your circumstances are likely to be different, and I think a brief description along with the photos will explain the theory well enough. (Not to mention that to do a proper step-by-step I’d have to take all the books down, and that’s a good deal more work than building the shelves!)

The 5 foot boards are supported in a cradle of loops of baling twine—three loops for shelves meant mainly for paperbacks, and four for hardbacks and larger books. Each loop requires two screw eyes, one attached to the bottom of the rafter and the other the width of the board away to the underside of the loft itself. Getting the board to sit (reasonably) level is a bit finicky and will probably require some untying and retying knots until you are satisfied. At this point the shelf will still look a bit iffy. Never fear! Start adding books and watch it stabilize.

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