Spirit Level Bookstand




Introduction: Spirit Level Bookstand

About: Analog maker dabbling in digital manufacture

This bookstand holds seven books at the same height, embedded in a block of Western red cedar that was recycled from an old mantlepiece. It was inspired by Mike&Maaike's brilliant JUXTAPOSED: Religion bookshelf, which sold for $2500 in a limited edition of 50. I don't have $2500 to spare even if they hadn't sold out, but I DO have some wood and a shiny new tablesaw...

Step 1: Books

You need a small stack of hardcover books. I emulated the original: "The world’s most influential religious texts are brought together and presented on the same level, their coexistence acknowledged and celebrated", but used The Dhammapada in the place of the more substantial The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (which was expensive). Here are the exact editions that I used:

The Dhammapada | The Torah | The Bible | Tao Te Ching | The Qur'an | The Analects | The Bhagavad Gita

Choose editions you like the look of; try to get a nice variety of colors, heights and widths (the depth doesn't matter so much in this design). Used books add character and you can often find these for just a few $. I removed the dust jackets from all of the books, because I preferred the look of the cloth. Of course, the books don't need to be works of religion - Mike&Maaike have also done JUXTAPOSED: Power, and the idea is transferable to any set of books you want to showcase and whose ideas you think should be considered in a balanced way. 

Step 2: Materials and Tools

You'll need a decent sized chunk of wood. I got mine from some friends who donated the mantlepiece they tore out when renovating. I used an offcut from this - it was a roughsawn piece of Western red cedar approximately 15" x 8" x 3". The exact dimensions don't matter much, provided it's about 6" longer than the stack of books.

There are doubtless many ways of making this bookstand, but I made all the cuts on a tablesaw, and this instructable depends on you having access to one. Ruler, tape measurepencil and calipers for measuring and marking. I used an orbital sander for the sanding, but elbow grease would work fine too. You also need wood glue and some clamps. I finished mine with semi-gloss polyurethane.

Step 3: Prepare the Piece of Wood

If you have a jointer and a planer - or a nice piece of wood! - this will be a breeze. I had none of these things, so made do with the tablesaw. I used it to shave the rough sides down so they were reasonbly smooth - this required numerous passes through the saw at its highest setting. Once it's OK, sand it.
Set your books out in a pleasing order so that all the tops of the books are level, then transfer the measurements to the block of wood. You want to sink them deeply in the wood - so deep, in fact, that you won't be able to make the cuts you need. No problem. Rip the chunk of wood in half at the depth of the shallowest book, and set the top part aside. 

Step 4: Cut the Notches

You now have to cut a series of notches in the bottom piece of wood, at the depth and width you marked. Attach a 2x4 as a sacrificial wooden fence to the miter gauge, and remove the riving knife, kickback pawls and blade guard from the saw. It should go without saying, but be careful. If you're inexperienced, careless, distracted or drunk, you should go do something else. 
Know what you're doing, focused, and sober? You may proceed. Clamp the wood to the sacrificial fence, and nibble away the notches with repeated passes through the saw, pushing the workpiece through with the miter gauge. You need to do this with sub-millimeter accuracy, so take your time and if in doubt, do test cuts and err on the side of caution. Each book requires a different height setting on the blade. The wider books need lots of passes; I transcribed the blade kerf with pencil onto the saw top so I could quickly line up each new cut.

Step 5: Restore the Sides

Cut the top piece into the right widths to establish the sides of the bookstand. Glue and clamp, taking care to line up the grain of the wood correctly and ensuring that the blocks of wood are lined up perfectly. Leave to dry overnight. I did one end at a time, because it was kind of awkward and besides,  I only own 2 clamps that had wide enough openings for this job. Once it's dry, trim to width.

Step 6: Sand and Finish

I sanded the whole thing with 100 grit sandpaper in a orbital sander, though I left the back of the bookstand kind of rough. This was intentional - I liked the idea of someone picking the bookstand up and seeing that the wood was recycled. I wiped the stand with mineral spirits to remove the dust, and finished the stand with three coats of clear gloss polyurethane, sanding with 220 grit between coats.

Step 7: Add Books

Slot the books in place, and enjoy your mini theological library.

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    9 years ago on Introduction

    I like yours better as well, although I do like how the original version was cut to align the fronts.
    Great job!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks. I agree with you - initially I was going to add a back with cut-outs as well - but after getting 90% of the effect for a fraction of the effort, I decided to stop!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I like yours much better. 1) Far less expensive, 2) DIY, 3) yours is much more aesthetically pleasing, I have to say. Also, if you want to add more later, it's not like you'd have to take down a whole 3foot block of wood from the shelf to carve out more space. You can make several different shelves for "juxtapositions" on various subjects. Very nice work.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks very much. I was originally going to make an accurate replica of the original but it looked tough to make and finding a place to put it was going to be tricky. I do like the idea of making different versions, too.