Circular Cardboard Bookshelf




Introduction: Circular Cardboard Bookshelf

This design is based on a apostrophe. After a few requests for a tutorial on this curvy cardboard bookshelf (inspired by Patricia Dessoulles), I decided to have a go at it.

I covered it with pearlescent wrapping paper and it took just two days to complete from drawing to finish.

CLICK! to watch the time-laspe movie

Step 1: Sketch Design

The cupboard appeared like a 'comma' shape so I needed to trace a perfect circle as part of the template. 

After deciding on the design, I traced it out on baking paper, drew the rest of the shape freehand, fitting into the small piece of cardboard I had found and cut it out.

This design is suitable for smaller pieces of cardboard. The two halves can then be put together if you cannot find a larger piece of cardboard.

I cut out the centre for an uneven shelf level to add a bit of dynamic to the final appearance.

Cut three frames for shelf support and one silhouette backing. Only cut struts for two inside frames. They are cut half-way.

Step 2: Trace and Cut Silhouette & Struts

The struts are the supports for each level on the shelf. Its important when cutting struts to check if the direction of the grain is vertical. If the grain of the strut horizontal the shelf will bend.

The height of the strut will be equal to the height of each shelf level.

The struts are cut half way between the inner supports and the strut. The part I enjoy most  is fitting the struts in each layer like a 3d jigsaw puzzle.

Step 3: Join the Pieces

Check that each frame you've cut is identical to the layer in front of it. I found that the whole shape is thrown out of whack by irregularities in shapes.

I used a bit of quick sticking, polyurethane craft glue to join the struts at the front layer and back layer and edges.  This seemed to work faster than using the electric glue gun. While I worked out side in the sun, everything dried pretty quickly.

Now wet the watercolour paper tape on the sticky side, trim slits for curves, press edges firmly together and paste on tape to strengthen your inner struts.

Step 4: Decorate

Heat a pot of cornflour, water and pva glue to make a thin paste.

I brushed this glue mix onto the cardboard bookshelf when it had cooled.  After putting out in the sun, it dried rock hard.

Working out the general amount of wrapping paper to use
First I placed the wrapping paper over a section here and there.  I pressed the sides to form a crease all around each shelf layer.  Then I trimmed around this pressed template with a 2.5cm border all around.

In the meantime watch Jenny Bertrand's demonstration for a quick overview with your cardboard furniture design.  All you need to know to make your own designs arehere.

Also Camille has a detailed site about cardboard furniture design for beginners and is a great introduction into the cardboard design world. Especially helpful are ways for a more professional finish.

Step 5: Waterproofing - Another Way to Finish

I recently found the secret to creating a flat finish to your cardboard furniture.

The cardboard tended to sink once I'd painted it with the rice flour glue paste and the paper crumbled.

I did a bit of search and found Veronica's detailed site (in French) about how to give a professional flat finish to the surface of your cardboard designs.

I used the DIY joint compound recipe  -  the ingredients include calcium carbonate (cement mix), water, pva wood glue, preservative (such as vinegar / tea tree oil.)

Add (1:2) 1 part water to 2 parts calcium carbonate cement powder. Stir in 1 Tbl pva wood glue.

Store unused joint compound in a sealed container and it will remain workable indefinitely.

I painted this mixture onto the cupboard, dried it then repainted the top surface with the DIY joint compound mix. It dried to a hard, rocky surface.

If I was more careful, I'd paste it on with a spatula then filed it down smooth, and used wet n'dry sandpaper till it was flat.

However, in the picture below, I kept all the lumps and bumps and think it adds a bit of character to the final cupboard. Next time though, I might blend it thoroughly for a flat, chalkboard look. 

Step 6: Extending Your Design

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    10 years ago on Introduction

    What do you mean? "Add one half parts water" does it mean:
    - one and half or
    - half?
    Thanks. Marylise


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry bout that, I've corrected it to ratio of 1:2 - twice the amount of plaster to water amount. I tried a new recipe for mixing a solid plaster block that worked also - though the working time was about 15 minutes. I put
    hydrated lime
    plaster of paris
    patching plaster
    You might want to add citric acid or cow's milk to slow down the setting time while quickly painting. There's about a 10 minute time to grate and smooth the surface down too, before it gets too hard and creates too much dust..


    11 years ago on Step 5

    This statement confused me "I painted this mixture onto the cupboard, dried it then repainted the top surface with the DIY joint compound mix. It dried to a hard, rocky surface"....
    Did you paint two layers of DIY joint cmpd? If you used a different mixture please let me know what it is. Thank you :)


    Reply 11 years ago on Step 5

    Oh! sorry about the confusion. Yes I did paint it twice.

    • * First I glued the paper with a lime/ glue joint compound mix. It looked kind or uneven and bumpy so I thought I'd fix that.

    • * Then I put a plaster/concrete from lime mix - that's the white surface there.
    • * Third, I recovered it again with leftover wrapping paper. hope that's a bit clearer.

    Reply 11 years ago on Step 5

    Thank you! Also do you feel this made it more durable?


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Good job. I'm liking the yin yang design. But I dont understand, isn't it very weak???? Too weak to hold books????


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Hi thanks! It does look unlikely to hold much. But I'm making a large shelf to go toether with this. This is sooo strong because I made it with thick edges. Also I used 2 ply cardboard and checked to make sure all the grain was flowing vertically rather than horizontally. I'll try to make another tutorial following the spiral design by Elsa Pagis and Patricia Desoulle soon. I don't really know how they did it, I'm going on a guess.