Introduction: Tree of Knowledge, Scaffold Board Bookcase

About: I am engineer that creates something useful,that will last a lifetime out of the things people throw away.

I wanted to make an interesting bookshelf, not just columns of shelves but something to make a feature in the room. So I went to the local wood recycling shop. All the timber there is rescued from building sites or saw mills and I bought some scaffold boards which were condemned due to defects in the wood but perfectly good for a bookcase.

I will show you the methods used to create this tree-shaped bookshelf.


1. Scaffold boards (I used 5x 4m long boards)

2. 100mm screws

3. L brackets and 25mm screws

4. Wall plugs and appropriate screws, dependant on the type wall you are attaching to.

5. Danish oil/varnish/paint or any other type of finish you like.


1. Drill

2. 5mm drill bit

3. Screwdriver bit

4. Saw with some form of angle control (I used a small table saw)

5. Something to apply your chosen finish, paint brush, rag etc

6. Tape measure

7. Paper and pencil

8. Sandpaper

Step 1: Make a Plan

This is my plan. I started by drawing a box which is the size of the wall/space for the bookshelf. Then I sketched out the tree design and estimated the length of each section, although this may change a small amount when you are making the tree.

I sketched my plan at a ratio of 1:20 so every 20cm of wall was 1cm in my sketchbook.

This means you can go through a lot of iterations without having to waste wood.

You need to measure the space the tree is going into and work around fixed items on the wall like sockets, switches and thermostats that you cannot move. Also be aware of any wires in the wall which you will need to avoid when drilling into the wall.

To make designing easier, I mainly chose lengths to the nearest 0.5cm in the sketch. This made it easier for measuring and consistency during the building phase and made the design more balanced.
If you are doing a full wall tree, try not to have the tree touch the walls or the ceiling, otherwise it will look like it is too big for the room.

Quick Tip: If you want a more natural looking tree, avoid perfectly level shelves. If you include these, it will look more like a circuit board. Use photos of real trees for inspiration.

Step 2: Start at the Bottom

The easiest way to grow your trees is to start at the base.

This is the thickest part of the trunk. Mine was four boards wide at the floor. I cut the ends of the boards to the required angle, rested them on the floor and screwed them together. The next section of the trunk was three boards wide. These three boards sat directly on top of three of the four boards below. At the top of the fourth board was where the first branch came out.

Step 3: Keep Going

There will be a lot of pieces of wood to cut for this and every angle you cut will probably be different but it will look good in the end.

When you have to join angles, if you have measured them and know what that angle is, then you need to divide that angle by two so that both pieces of wood join together at the same point with the same size mating face. However, I didn't have anything to measure the angle, so I cut the piece of wood to length, then held it up against the wall, adjusting the angle until it looked like the plan. Then I marked a pencil line that was parallel with the end of the plank I was joining to and cut that line on the table saw. Some sanding was required to match the sizes of the mating face, due to the different angles they were cut at.

Once the desired angle was achieved, I drilled the screw holes for the board I was attaching to the tree. This will allow the screw to pull that board up nice and close to the other board.

When making the branches, you want to keep them supported, so ensure that there is an L bracket at the end of each branch and if they are long or very wiggly, at least one in the middle. To hide the L brackets, their position was marked onto the wall whilst holding the shelf in place. Then the shelf was removed and the holes for the bracket were drilled in the wall. After putting wall plugs in the holes, the bracket was screwed on to the wall. Then the shelf was put back in place and screwed to the bracket, as well as the adjoining branch. Whether the bracket attached to the top of the shelf or the bottom surface, depended on how you viewed the tree. Generally, the shelves above your eyeline have brackets on top and the shelves below your eyeline have brackets on the underside of the shelf, to ensure they are less visible.

Step 4: Finishing

The scaffold boards I got were very wet, so I let the timber dry out for a couple of weeks after making the bookcase and then tightened all the screws as the planks shrank a little bit.

This is the time to do the final sanding of the timber. Once it's assembled, you can make sure the joints and edges are nice and tidy. If you want to kept the wear and tear that is on recycled timber, then do minimal sanding, just enough to get the splinters and sharp bits off. If you want to do more sanding, it would be easier to do this before cutting up the boards.

After final sanding, the bookcase is ready to be treated. I used Danish oil, as it soaked into the untreated wood, protecting it and giving a nice finish. Also, once cured, the oil is hard and will not transfer into the books and other objects on the shelf.

All that's left to do then is to load it up with your books!

I'd love to see your designs below.

Recycled Speed Challenge

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Recycled Speed Challenge