Introduction: Gentle Giant Bookcase

Without a doubt, GIANTS ARE COOL! They're in lots of great giant stories. Check out these links from wikipedia to start your own gigantic reseach: Jack and the Beanstalk, David and Goliath, Andre the Giant of Princess Bride fame, Els Gegants, here in many parts of Spain and the Giants Causeway in my native Ireland. Hmmm...internet is big too but I'm an old school guy and still believe in reading from books. It's what children start reading from and its where our imaginations begin to grow. So the idea behind this colossal design is: we learn about giants from books, and we keep our books in a giant! Yes, my humble giant is made to store and display books to help fire the imagination of both young and old, both the small and the tall.

Now, picture this bookcase in a child's bedroom or a public library. Fill it up with amazing books and let imaginations run wild!

Step 1: The Idea, the Design and the Build Plan

I wanted to make something creative, unique and original. But it had to be something that could be completed by yours truly. I kept the elements simple: square boards. That way the overall design would be GREATER THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS and come out looking quite attractive. Meanwhile those square boards are very managable in a build project. No complex cabinet making skills going on here, folks. This design is for little people with big plans! I pooled my resources: I don't have a table saw...but I know a man that does. My local wood dealer Maderas Matorell has a massive CNC table saw. It calculates and cuts the boards very efficiently. By listing this place amoungst my resources (albeit my out sources) I can have all the parts accurately cut to size at a very reasonable cost. Lots of wood dealers will provide this kind of service. It goes a long way to helping professionals and DIYers get projects done. I even went back and changed a few dimensions at no extra cost....sound as a pound! Here, in my old shopping cart, you can see all the parts cut from an entire 2.44 m x 1.22 m sheet of 16mm MDF and only two leftover bits worth hanging on to. I chose MDF because of its low price and also it takes enamel paint really well. I wanted to go with a bright cheerful colour. My plan is to butt join all the boards using screws and biscuits.

Above, you also see my first sketch of the bookcase. I pretty much kept to this drawing and used the grid paper to scale up to the big guy. I passed it to a 3d programme to see how it looked and started playing around with the depths of each shelf in order for them to better portray the anatomy of a 7 foot person. By making the lower legs thinner the giant almost looks like a basketball player in shorts!

You can download the parts list as a PDF and also the assembly drawings. They may not work as a complete set of technical drawings but they give you an idea as to how all the boards are pre-drilled and where all the biscuits go.

One last detail worth mentioning: I used a knockdown fitting (furniture screw) to be able to separate the bookcase in two halves for ease of transportation.

Step 2: Materials, Tools and Equipment


  • 2.44m x 1.22m of 16mm (5/8") MDF
  • 3.5 x 50mm spax screws I think thats a #6 screw, 2 inches long.
  • No. 0 biscuits
  • No. 10 biscuits
  • Bed screws
  • Adjustable shelf pegs
  • Wood glue
  • Undercoat
  • White Spirits
  • Enamel Paint

Tools and Equipment:

  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Biscuit Joiner
  • Handsaw
  • Clamps
  • Corner Clamp
  • 20 mm Fine Hair Paintbrush (3/4 inch)
  • 40 mm Fine Hair Paintbrush (1 1/2 inch)
  • Sandpaper and Sanding Block

Step 3: Meet My New Workshop Assitant.....Patience

Doesn't say much....doesn't do much......but it's worth while keeping him around ;)

Step 4: Let's Get Started!

The boards are nice and square but there are a few corners that need to cut by hand. Use whatever you got: jigsaw, bandsaw, handsaw. These cut-outs are the "Shoulders" and "Waist" details on the two large boards and the others are cut-outs to the three "Shorts Verticals" to make way for the "Crossbar" that goes just underneath the "Waist". I don't have a photo of the pieces before mounting them in place, but here are two shots for those pieces during the glue-up.

Step 5: Marking, Drilling and Taking Your Time.

These two drawings show all the prepping that went into the boards before assembly. I hope they are useful to understand how I put the pieces together. If you have experience with assembling boards into boxes you won't have any trouble making your own calculations.

Measure and mark out the holes before drilling but instead of marking everything all at once do it in batches just to be sure you're not making any mistakes. Refer back to the drawings and the board sizes at all times to make sure your markings are correct.There's a lot of drilling to do. Start with the layout of 5mm holes to be drilled for the adjustable shelves. There are 168 of these holes so I made a template to move things along. I also came up with a way to make sure my adjustable shelves would stay in place: I clamped them together in twos and drilled down between them to create cavities to line up with the shelf pegs. If you are making large adjustable shelves this wouldn't be necessary but these shelves are very small and potentially unstable.

Then drill all the holes for the screw fixings. Lots of good sites on internet have useful tips on joinning MDF. You need to be careful it doesn't split. So keep in from the edge and drill pilot holes longer than the depth of your screws and 85% of the diameter of the screw. I decided on a 3.5mm screw because 85% of 3.5 works out to be 3mm for the pilot holes: Perfect drill bit sizes. In the land of the free that would be a 9/64" screw hole in the top board and a 1/8" pilot hole down through the length of the material. Countersink the holes on both faces of the piece you're screwing in from: one countersink to take the head of the screw and the other to allow room for any material that kicks up when screwing through the second piece. I used a corner clamp as a helping hand while drilling the pilot holes. There are 47 screws in this design; 4 operations per screw (hole, 2 countersinks and pilot hole) means squeesing the trigger on the drill at least 188 times plus the 168 holes of the adjustable wonder my trigger squeezing finger is sore!

There are a few places I wanted to use the biscuit joiner. Mainly right up the middle where each piece is blocking the next and also on the horizontal joins. This is the fanciest piece of equipment I own. I know, in previous instructables I mentioned that the only powertool I own is a drill. I was wrong. I also have this biscuit joiner but to be fair it was in storage and I genuinely forgot to list it. If you don't have access to a biscuit joiner use dowels or a pocket hole jig or incorporate some dados into the design instead.

Step 6: Dry Assembly

With all the pieces now cut and drilled and prepared for biscuits I did a dry assembly just to make sure it all goes together perfectly. It's too big to layout on my work table. So I set it up on the livingroom floor. The things my family have to put up with!

Step 7: Sand All Edges

Now that all the boards are fitting nicely dismantle the giant and set to sanding down the saw marks, drill holes and edges. Use 120 grit or 150 grit sandpaper and you can also do a quick pass on all the surfaces although the MDF faces come paint ready. I also ran the sand paper along every single edge of every piece. It shows up like a subtle detail.
I separated the pieces into two groups much the same as the two halves that will be dismountable. I sanded the first half and went ahead and glued it up. This way I broke up the monotony of sanding and had less pieces to clamp up with the few clamps I have. While the first half was drying I went back to sanding the second half.

Step 8: Glue Up

Check out this fast motion video to see the full sequence of assembly.

Start by gluing up the bottom half first. Use the waist piece as a guide. It actually belongs to the top half. Fix the pieces to the waist piece that go immediately below the waist without glue. We want to be able to separate it later. Continue to fix all other parts in place with glue using clamps where possible. I have a very poor collection of clamps. The screws tightening up the glue joints did a lot of the work that might otherwise be done by clamping. What little clamping I did do was left to set for one hour periods before moving on to clamping the next part.

Step 9: Paint

I find painting to be quite difficult. A high gloss paint finish on MDF transforms one of the cheapest boards on the market to an almost noble material... if you can do it. My hat goes off to the amazing finish memestra gets on the MDF in his instructable Pneumatic Adjustable Piano Bench. Now that's a good reference if any one wants to see the many stages involved in making MDF shine!

I already knew I wasn't going to be able to achieve a really high finish so I opted for a satin enamel paint so as to hide any brush marks. I'm sure there are lots of viewers out there that could do a much better job than me. Although it could be better I'm happy enough with the result.The MDF undercoat went on well and sanded off well but my original intention to use rollers was ditched when I quickly realized how tricky it was to manouver the roller in the smaller spaces. In an ideal world a spay booth and airbrushes would be the way to go but I just bought a couple of fine haired paint brushes and went to work.....with Patience.

After applying the undercoat I sanded it back with 120 grit paper and cleaned of the dust with a vaccum cleaner and also by wiping it with a small amount of white spirits. Then I applied the first coat of paint with about 15% white spirits mixed in the paint. Again, I sanded it all back, this time using 280 grit paper and cleaned it all just like before with the undercoat. Finally, I applied the second coat. It would do no harm to apply a third coat but I ran out of paint. 1 Kg. of satin enamel paint only was enough for two coats. 1.5 Kgs. or 2 Kgs. would have been better.

Step 10: Finishing Touches

After letting the paint dry its just a question of assembling the two halfs with the 4 bed screws (attaching the "Shorts" to the "Waist") and 4 normal screws (attaching the "Hands" to the "Waist"). Remember, all this is done WITHOUT GLUE so you can divide the bookcase in two for transportation. The small cavities for the adjustable shelf pegs work perfectly. Lastly, The wall braces went in place at the base of the head at the back so they are out of sight for all those who are not giants themselves.

Step 11: Finished!

I hope you lke it. If you have any questions I'll do my best to answer them. Thanks for watching!

Furniture Contest 2018

Runner Up in the
Furniture Contest 2018