Introduction: Cardboard Bookshelf

About: I'm a farmer, teacher and tinkerer.

Since I won't be returning to school for a while, I brought a lot of school home. The mess rendered several vital areas unusable and I wanted to set up the 3D printer on a stable surface. I needed some shelves, but I didn't want to go buy shelves. So I decided to make shelves. One of the largest items I brought home was a dishwasher box, which formed the back and sides of my bookshelves. Two big more big boxes provided the rest of the material. It's sturdy enough to hold a bunch of tools and boxes.


Big cardboard boxes

Hot glue gun

Glue sticks (a lot)

Box cutter with fresh blade






Step 1: Disassemble Boxes & Make a Plan

I cut the extra boxes into their component parts. I set up the big box and noticed that the flaps fit the inside of the big box almost perfectly. I wanted three shelves made of four layers each. The washer box was approximately 34" tall, but I needed to straighten out the top and bottom edges so I decided to make the shelves 10" apart. I would be pretty accurate on the bottom two shelves and then just be ok with a little more or less when I put on the top shelf. I also decided I didn't really need a bottom shelf resting on the floor since I could just set things on the floor.

Step 2: Glue Supports and Shelves

I alternated the "grain" of the cardboard in the four layers of my shelves. After using a zig zag random hot glue pattern between each layer, I placed heavy boxes on top for a few minutes. For the support pieces, I cut scraps to 10" and alternated the grain in the three layers (the fourth layer of the supports is the big box "shell").

Step 3: Test Assembly & Finalize Pieces

I taped the bottom supports to the sides of the big box and realized that I needed to fold one side a little more. I took everything apart and used the end of a pen (without the pen extended) to create another fold. I also checked the top shelf support size, marking one of my pieces of scrap to the correct height (10 3/8" so pretty close). Then I finished putting together those supports.

Step 4: Glue Everything Together & Fill Shelves

Since hot glue cools quickly, I didn't have time to take a lot of pictures of each layer. I put the bottom two supports on first with a lot of glue on the "inside" edge that would connect it to the back as well. Then I put a nice line of glue along the back edge of the bottom shelf and along the bottom and sides of the edges in order to make it as secure as possible. I turned the box on its side and placed some heavy boxes above the shelf for a few minutes.

While it was still on its side, I put the next support on the side on the floor. It was the side that needed a little help bending so I was able to force it easier while it was on the floor. I flipped it over and added the support to the other side. Then stuck on the shelf.

I checked the final supports and the top shelf without glue and found that I had to trim one side of the supports. I used a little level to make sure it was pretty close, then I glued on the supports. I ran a line of glue along the edge of the back and on the supports and then added the top shelf. I set boxes on top to settle everything in to place.

I put all my tools and boxes on, glad that it is big enough to hold everything. The top shelf is pretty level and the whole thing is sturdy. I might finish the edges or paint it when I have time. If you have some big cardboard, try making yourself a new set of shelves! Good luck and share it if you make it.

Step 5:

Spring Cleaning Challenge

Participated in the
Spring Cleaning Challenge