Building a Double Rainbow Arch Using Recycled Books

7,934

87

35

Introduction: Building a Double Rainbow Arch Using Recycled Books

About: Sandman Books is a local bookstore in Punta Gorda, Florida. Family owned and operated, staffed by volunteers, with a friendly cat in residence. We have over 100,000 used and new books in stock, as well as a v…

I own an independent bookstore and receive lots of books that are simply at the end of their lives. Old investment books from before the financial crash, books with cracked binding, or missing pages start to pile up in the corner. So, I decided to be creative and upcycle these books into something fun.

I built a frame out of 2×4’s and plywood to provide a stable base. I added rows of books and used a pneumatic framing nailer to secure the books to the frame and one another. I had to cut books with a miter saw to fill in odd gaps. This was a team effort, and it took over 4 weeks to complete!

The upper ‘rainbow’ section are paperback books arranged and cut into blocks. The colors are from the publishers, and I did not paint them.

I added some books by my favorite authors including Neil Gaiman (well, the store is named after the Sandman Comics), Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series, Andrew Smith’s Ignition (local author), and Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Supplies

Materials

  • 3 1/2 weeks of work (full time)
  • 5,000 books, both paperback and hardcover
  • 10,000 3" collated framing nails
  • 1000 3" construction screws
  • 5 sheets of osb
  • 3 repurposed pallets
  • 25 2x4's
  • 30 feet of crown moulding
  • Flooring glue (leftover from a project)
  • a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears!


Tools

  • Safety Glasses (all steps below need them)
  • Hearing Protection
  • 12" miter saw
  • Air compressor for tools
  • Framing nailer
  • Brad Nailer
  • Drill
  • Clamps
  • Circular Saw
  • Reciprocating Saw
  • Patience

Step 1: Location, Location, Location!

The first consideration is to designate a suitable location for the Sandman Books Arch. My plans call for a 9 foot tall frame by 25 feet in length but you can make a much smaller structure. In my case, I am 6'5" tall and desired an arch I could walk under without hitting my head. The second consideration is weight, especially if you are building an arch in a residential building. A quick estimate reveals each book weights approximately 1 pound plus the weight of the 2x4s, osb and fasteners. My design called for 5,000 books, so I had to accommodate at least 5,500 pounds. Luckily, the floor was reinforced concrete and more than adequate to support the arch. A smaller arch will weigh considerable less.

Step 2: Wood Frame Construction

The first step is the construction of a frame to stabilize the book arch. Start by building two identical towers using 2x4s and fastened together with nails. I calculated each tower needed to be 2 feet by 2 feet by 9 feet tall to achieve the desired outcome. I utilized cross-bracing to minimize twisting at the bottom and roughly in the middle at 4 feet. At the top, I installed the bracing 4" from the top of the tower to accommodate the arch support.

The middle tower is constructed in a similar manner to the outer towers. Install cross-bracing near the floor and at the 4 feet mark. Since the middle tower will have more weight bearing down, I installed a 2x6 frame 4" from the top.

It is a good idea to bolt the arch to the ground, especially if you are in an earthquake prone area. In my case I used bolts anchored into the floor but you may use other fastening methods.


Step 3: Arch Construction

The next step is constructing the arch frame between the three towers. Cut four 2x4s to a length of twelve feet then place them on the recessed frame stretching between the three towers. Install cross braces every 2 feet between the installed framing. Ensure everything is fastened with at lease 2 nails per joint.

Install the diagonal braces to form a rudimentary arch shape 3 feet from the top of each tower and attach to the overhead supports three feet from the edge of the tower.

Cut sixteen strips of OSB to 2 feet in width using a circular saw. Take one strip and freehand the approximate curved arch opening using a pencil. Cut out the arch opening using a reciprocating saw and save the piece removed as a template for the other three arch pieces. When you are done let your supervisor inspect everything. (His name is Kitty Wan Kenobi, the bookstore cat. Don't worry, he was at our house while we were using powertools).

Step 4: Book Placement and Fastening

Now the fun begins! Start by stacking books around the base of a tower in full rows. Try to find books approximately the same thickness but vary the spine color for a rainbow effect. Open the top cover of the book and use a framing nailer to nail through the spine into the OSB frame. Once you have three approximately level rows, screw through the face of each book into the books below to fasten everything together. Make sure to stagger the 'joints' between books to provide stability to the book arch. Remember, the frame provides a structure to build the arch but most of the structural integrity are the books themselves.

Step 5: Cutting Books

You may need to cut books in half to fit different areas. Books are not exactly the same size and there are variations with each publisher and edition. For hardcover books, clamp the book closed and carefully cut using a miter saw with a fine toothed blade. Make sure the book is flat on the saw before attempting to cut. If a book is not clamped, it tends to shred pages and make a jagged edge.

Paperback books are a bit different. The best method for paperback books is to use a brad nailer and nail several books together to keep the pages tight together. If the pages are loose, the saw will tear the pages and ruin the book. Only cut paperbacks with the cover facing down and the spines towards you. Wear safety glasses and keep your hands a safe distance from the saw blade.

Step 6: Continue Installing Hardcover and Softcover Books

Install books in the curved section in a similar manner to the towers. Overlap the books about 3 inches over the edges of the arch to support the paperback rainbow above. Open the front cover of the book and shoot two (or more) nails through the spine and to each other through the covers. Do one complete band of overhead books before moving on to the the second and third. This section of books needs to be tightly installed because the books become somewhat self-supporting like a roman arch.

Step 7: Installing the Rainbow

Cut bundles of paperback books using the method above to create two blocks of books. We opted to create a rainbow pattern so we color sorted the books by color. I am a bit color-blind so I outsourced this task to my wife. Once the blocks are sorted, it is time to install the. Glue the cut side of the blocks to the OSB in an alternating pattern. You may have to make smaller cults to fill in areas because not all books are the same dimensions. You may add some brad nails the paperback blocks from the inside of the structure. Big Kitty is the name of the compressor because it hisses a lot.

Step 8: Add the Finishing Details

Cut the crown moulding pieces to fit the upper section and give the sculpture a finished look. You many use decorative books or other items to top off the book arch but we had extra crown moulding on-hand. Nail into place using brad nails into the top structure. Take a nap before cleaning up because you will be exhausted. Trust me!

For more pictures visit our website!

Step 9: Dress Up in Costume and Have Fun!

The Book Arch at Sandman Books is a popular photography and wedding venue. We have hosted several weddings and many engagements!!

Trash to Treasure Contest

Finalist in the
Trash to Treasure Contest

Be the First to Share

    Recommendations

    • Cardboard Speed Challenge

      Cardboard Speed Challenge
    • Colors of the Rainbow Contest

      Colors of the Rainbow Contest
    • Digital Fabrication Student Design Challenge

      Digital Fabrication Student Design Challenge

    35 Comments

    0
    Klubway
    Klubway

    22 days ago

    Wow, this is really cool! It must have taken a lot of work to get done!

    0
    Fall-Apart-Dave
    Fall-Apart-Dave

    26 days ago

    Wow!! Fantastic project. Almost like a portal into L-Space (for the Terry Pratchett fans out there).

    Actually, on the subject of Pratchett, please please pretty please could you do me a small favour, and leave a plastic banana perched somewhere visible but out of reach on one of the pillars of the arches in memory of, and as a nod to, my favourite author of all time? Those who know, will get it...
    "Ook".

    0
    ram004
    ram004

    4 weeks ago

    It looks great. Good job!

    0
    clausfberthold
    clausfberthold

    4 weeks ago

    How beautiful is this? Great job and example on how to treat old books.

    0
    smebird67
    smebird67

    4 weeks ago

    I just sent this to my librarian sister-in-law who makes a Christmas tree out of books every December. I'm pretty certain she will be as dazzled as I am.

    Brilliant!

    0
    Sandmanbooks
    Sandmanbooks

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    Thank you!

    0
    drizztzak
    drizztzak

    4 weeks ago

    I love this! I replied on another comment about sealers but I also noticed the spaces between books in the stacked sections. I'd consider whimsical things to put in them to avoid trash getting shoved in. Maybe small shadow boxes (much like a book it makes you want to look deeper inside), or small characters from books (I know they sell small busts of Terry Pratchett's Discworld characters), maybe even secret little people (fairy/gnome/pixies) holes. Maybe secret "mailboxes" for love letters to authors, Santa, etc. Its such a beautiful display I'd hate to see it ruined by careless people. I'm inspired!

    0
    Sandmanbooks
    Sandmanbooks

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    Part of the arch borders the children's section and I found over a dozen candy wrappers stuck between the books about 2 feet off the ground. I absolutely love the idea of adding hidden characters that people could find; maybe even 3d print something! Discword would be perfect. I thought about adding a fairy door or something magical as well

    0
    charlessenf-gm
    charlessenf-gm

    4 weeks ago

    Years ago (seventy?) I read a Readers Digest Condensed version of (I think it was called) My Brother's Keeper about a couple of eccentrics living in a brownstone building in NYC - well, who died in that building (their home). One was blind and live on the third floor, the other took care of him and built an intricate maze out of stacks of newspapers that were also designed to serve as a booby trap should some interloper attempt an uninvited visitation for purposes nefarious.
    It turned out that the mobile protector must have made a misstep at some point resulting in one or more of these towers of stacked newspapers to fall on, and crush him.

    No one knows, for certain.

    Apparently it was some time before the police were called and discovered the two brothers.

    The story was based upon the forensic investigation. Now, anytime i see someone stacking books above eye-level . . .

    Amazing construction project.
    Nicely detailed instructions.
    Inspired recycling effort!
    In effect, from wood to paper to wood again!

    0
    Sandmanbooks
    Sandmanbooks

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    That's a great story and sounds vaguely familiar to me as well

    0
    themarketisgod
    themarketisgod

    4 weeks ago

    One of the coolest things I have ever seen excellent job!!!!!!!!!!

    0
    Sandmanbooks
    Sandmanbooks

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    Thank you, I appreacate it!

    0
    NSekinger
    NSekinger

    4 weeks ago

    This is incredible! As a librarian, you've definitely inspired a future project! Have you added a sealer to the raw paper edges of the tower? Some of our recycled book projects have started to look dusty or faded over time. Maybe an spray sealer is needed?

    0
    drizztzak
    drizztzak

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    I wondered about that myself. I was more concerned that the constant awe and touching would discolor the pages and eventually wear down the fabric on the covers. I thought a more gummy sealer like modge podge would be best.. I've used it on a secret compartment book and it worked well. But definately a beautiful use for old books!

    0
    Sandmanbooks
    Sandmanbooks

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    Yes, people do touch the books but it hasn't been an issue yet. I thought about using sandpaper to remove unwanted marks if/when they pop up.

    0
    ElectroFrank
    ElectroFrank

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    A glance at the Wikipedia page on bookworms indicates that a vast number of insect species feed on books. So perhaps some kind of sealer or insecticide might be incorporated.

    0
    Sandmanbooks
    Sandmanbooks

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    Yes, you have to be careful about book storage. For the most part, keeping humidity lower and the room climate controlled is essential.

    0
    Sandmanbooks
    Sandmanbooks

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    No sealer added on the lower books hardcover books. Some of the upper paperback books were completely falling apart so we used a clearcoat to prevent degradation. It appears to have stopped some of the issues

    0
    charlessenf-gm
    charlessenf-gm

    Reply 4 weeks ago

    Ah, a Librarian! I have a question for a librarian. Can you tell me where I might find generic organizing systems detailed/explained? What search terms I might use to Googol in order to learn more about creating a system?

    0
    i7700
    i7700

    4 weeks ago

    Wow! Really clever! GREAT JOB!!!