Introduction: Bookshelf Hacking

Despite the amazing technology we now have allowing us to carry around thousands of books in our pockets, there is something about the touch, smell and experience of cracking open a real book that still excites me. I've accumulated quite a few books over the years and figured it was time to store them somewhere other than just stacked up on the floor.

Step 1: Seeking Inspiration

I've been pretty into the industrial bookshelf style for a while now so I knew I wanted a metal frame and if I could get the classic "french industrial" crossbeams in the back of the shelves that would be a huge bonus. After I found what I was looking for the goal was to see if there were any cheap furniture stores that has something similar that could be hacked into what I was looking for.

Step 2: Buying a Good Frame

I ended up going with the IKEA Vittsjo frame because it was the closest and cheapest option with a similar style to what I was looking for.

Step 3: Designing Wood Shelves

For these shelves I knew that I was going to be using 1/2" ply but I was unsure whether or not to have the shelves recess or lie on top of the horizontal metal bars. I chose to go with having them lie on top so you would get to see the edge grain of the plywood (which I think looks cool).

Fusion Model

I'm a bit spoiled here at Pier 9, where we have laser cutters that make short work of plywood sheets. To get my designs into the digital world I used Fusion 360 and sketched out and dimensioned everything. You can download the resulting DXF files I created to design shelving.

Step 4: Cut Out Shelves

Using the Metabeam laser cutter I was able to but the 1/2" ply in about 30 minutes with only minor flare ups along the way. Make sure you are always standing guard with water or a fire extinguisher, these guys can get a piece of wood from 0 to inferno in no time.

Step 5: Sanding

The laser cutter leaves some pretty nasty burn marks on the woods underside in addition to charing on the edges. I used an orbital sander to get rid of all these marks. Going from 100 grit to 220 grit gave me a nice finish that was ready for finishing.

Step 6: Testing Finishes

I went through a ton of potential finishes trying to figure out the right one, from clear urethane coats to beeswax. I settled on a wood balm that was part bees wax, part mineral oil. It took a bit of Mr. Miyagi-ing to get all the wax applies but after 30mins I had all the shelves done. Then I went back with a dry cloth and buffed out the previously applied wax.

Step 7: Assemble Bookshelf Skeleton

Follow the instruction to assemble your bookshelf, the only thing that is going to change here is that you will remove the middle vertical bars. This will make your bookshelf really unstable but we are going to reuse these parts to make the "X" bracing members in the back of the bookshelf.

Cross Beams

Conveniently these cross beams already have holes drilled in them so line up one of the holes with the screw holding the plate located on the back of the bookshelf. Then drill a new hole for the upper part of the cross beams going through the beam and the frame. Secure this with a screw and nut. I used a Dremel to cut off the ends of the cross beams that were over hanging.

Step 8: Add Shelves & Finish

Our shelves fit right on top of the existing frame and should be snug enough to not be moving around once places, if not go ahead and use the screws in the kit to anchor your piece down.


Congrats you now have an awesome looking DIY French Industrial Bookshelf :)