A Bookshelf Made of Encyclopedias! YAY!




About: I work at instructables by day, and turn into a stitch witch by night. follow me on instagram @jessyratfink to see what i'm working on! ^_^

I work at Half Price Books, and I've been trying to find out what to do with all the books we can't resell or donate.

And then this beautiful set of large print encyclopedias came in - and what can I say, I fell in love with them! :D Because I needed more shelves for my piles of books, I figured it couldn't hurt to try this. I'm pretty happy with the results but I had to redo several things.

The picture below is a recent one. (As of November 2008) It's held up really well!

Step 1: What You'll Need!

- A set of encyclopedias... make sure they're at least an inch to 1 1/2 inches thick - otherwise, I don't see them holding much of anything!
- 8 "L" brackets per cube (one cube = 4 books)
- enough screws to hold the brackets.
- Nuts and bolts to secure the books at the back. (I will explain this later!)
- A drill (or two if you're awesome) and several drill bit sizes.

I'm sorry I can't be more exact, but depending on the thickness of your books, you'll need to adjust the screw and bolt length. That's really the trickiest part and what caused me the most trouble. I ended up going with size 8 screws at 1 1/4 inches, and size 8 bolts at 1 3/4 inches because of the varying sizes of books within my set. Confusing! I also used wood screws. They looked more "grippy" - and I figured that would help with the pages of the books.

I ended up spending roughly $50-60 on this project. I can't give an exact cost because there was a lot of trying and then returning. Home Depot hates me, I'm sure.

Step 2: Beginning to Build...

This is where it gets a little complicated.

You'll want to set the books as shown below to start the cube. Secure the L brackets about 1 inch from the outside edge of the book. (I've included a finished picture for reference, as well!) I think you all can figure out from there. Just make sure the horizontal books are BETWEEN the vertical ones. This seems to be the easiest way to do it.

Make sure you drill as deep as you can without puncturing the other side of the book - if you don't, the pages with ripple around the screw and cause a bump.

Also, when screwing (not as much of an issue when you're near the spine of the book) make sure to hold the covers of the book and press firmly. If you don't the pages with start riding up the screw and cause more rippling.

I didn't realize how annoying pages are until now.

Also, yes, the L brackets are crooked. Many of these books are bowed. Don't be worried if they look like this. Things will square out when you place the last book in as long as all your spines are even with one another!

Step 3: Now, to Explain the Nuts and Bolts...

My first trial run with building these proved quite annoying. Turns out the screws on all ends of the books don't do enough to help keep the covers from opening.

This is where the nuts and bolts come in!

You'll want the head of the bolt on the outside of the shelf or cube. Make sure that the drill bit you're using is around the same size of the bolt to help with screwing the bolt in... otherwise, PAGES OF DOOM. Also stress.

I know it looks odd, but otherwise moving these things would be a pain. People mentioned gluing the covers to the pages, but that seem quite tedious and would take much longer. I'm not even sure how well it would work.

The ends of the bolts are the biggest problems - due to thickness differences, they are not all the same length. Any ideas on how to cut them off? :P

Step 4: Yay, Completed Cube! Now Repeat.

Thankfully, my set of encyclopedias is rather large and I should end up being able to get six cubes out of it. I might update with pictures of those later. I've only finished two so far because I was distracted by instructables.

I figured I'll paint and seal them after I've finished them all. I don't want them going moldy or foxing on me!

I'm happy with them, but if anyone has suggestions on how to make this easier, or alternate ways to construct them, that would be great considering I am quite the impulsive DIYer. I don't always think things through enough to begin with, but I'm really good at learning from mistakes, haha!

Now, action shots! (Even your cat will like these. True story.)

Step 5: Updates & Painting Your Bookshelf!

I finally got around to painting my shelves when I moved into my current apartment.

I used spray paint to finish them. It only took a couple coats and worked beautifully. I didn't even have to use primer on them, which was quite nice.

I used a clear coat on top to help protect them from moisture. They are one of my favorite things in the apartment now. :D

And as for an update - they survived the move, and they're very, very stable. They've been full the entire time I've had them really. The only downside is that they're ridiculously hard to move around due to their weight. :P



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    114 Discussions


    7 weeks ago on Step 5

    Dang, my parents had that set of Worldbooks. 1964 Large Print
    they are quite rare....but no one really wants them. They are bulky and woefully out of date. You used them very creatively, good work!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Why paint these? The covers are so nice as-is!

    Cute kitty... :-)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    A bookshelf made of books... So meta.
    All joking aside, it looks great!

    kansas kate

    8 years ago on Step 2

    Love this idea! In thinking about it, I didn't think of L brackets! If the binders of the books are nice looking maybe it'd be cool to paint the inside, but leave the binder and outside of the book as is?


    8 years ago on Introduction

    The keep the books closed, you could avoid the nuts and bolts. drill a row of small holes and kind of sew them together with either strong string or twine, or a thin wire.


    8 years ago on Step 5

    I liked them better before they were painted. Seems more fun obviously made from encyclopedias.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I just saw a boxfull of encyclopedias for $5 at Unique Thriftstore in Columbia Heights MN....
    I was tempted, but I don't actually have the $5 to spare.  :=(


    9 years ago on Introduction

     Does anyone want a set of old 1974 Encyclopedia Britannica for this project, i'll ship them to you!! I love this project, but don't have the time right now, and i have to get rid of them soon:( 

    2 replies

    9 years ago on Step 5

    Friend, i find that duct tape solves the problems of the universe, and it's true here for the whole page separation weirdness that you used the bolts for. Also, duct-tape comes in many colors and can be used instead of paint. hooray! Awesome shelves!

    1 reply

    9 years ago on Step 5

    Great idea! I was thinking though.... What if after you run a heavy line of hot glue that by using a small drill bit and some skinny wire zip ties that you could assemble these with minimal hardware sticking out. Might be worth some experimenting.


    9 years ago on Step 4

    Very Very Nice - good idea


    9 years ago on Step 4

    Thanks so much for this, I was the yearbook editor for my school and we have boxes and boxes of outdated yearbooks from other schools that I had no clue what to do with. Awesome!