Adjustable Bookshelf

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About: My name is Randy and I am a Community Manager in these here parts. In a previous life I had founded and run the Instructables Design Studio (RIP) @ Autodesk's Pier 9 Technology Center. I'm also the author ...

Intro: Adjustable Bookshelf

Building a modular adjustable bookshelf from these plans is easy to do and a fun DIY weekend project. The beauty of this shelf is the aluminum speed rail frame that allows the composite pine shelving to be easily slid around and repositioned. As you can see, I chose to arrange my shelves with standard spacing, but there is no reason I could not stagger them all at different heights. In this way, you can make the shelf your own.

While the speed rail places this bookshelf on the expensive end of the spectrum, it's adaptability, ruggedness, and aesthetic beauty will make this piece of furniture last me a long time. Should some day I no longer have need for this bookshelf, I can transform the individual parts into new pieces of furniture. This is not a cheap particle board shelf that you might find in a big box store and will ultimately dump on the curb when you move somewhere new. Speaking of which, since it can be broken apart into lightweight pieces and reassembled relatively easily, it is easy to pack up and move to a new home.

Step 1: Materials

The tools and materials you will need include:

(x6) 14" x 36" x 3/4" composite pine board (or wood of choice) *
(x4) 6' x #1 aluminum pipes
(x24) #1 flush-mount through-hole rail supports
(x4) #1 round rails ends
(x100) 3/4" x #12 screws
(x1) Quart of wood stain of choice (I used Polycrylic Satin)
(x1) Drill press ***
(x1) 1-3/8" forstner bit
(x1) Palm sander (and/or sanding block)
(x1) Assorted sandpaper
(x1) Power drill
(x1) 3/16" hex wrench
(x1) Ruler
(x1) Pencil

* I discovered the composite pine board at my local lumber store (Beckerle Lumber in Rockland County, NY), albeit I have been told you can get it at Lowes. I choose it both for its width and aesthetic. I found the checkerboard pine arrangement matched the modular design of my shelving. If you can't find it, I recommend using whatever type of board you can find close in dimension (preferably between 12" and 14").

*** If you don't have a drill press and a forstener bit, you may be able to get away with a corded drill and a hole saw (which is cheaper, at the very least).

(Please note that some of the links on this page contain Amazon affiliate links. This does not change the price of any of the items for sale. However, I earn a small commission if you click on any of those links and buy anything. I reinvest this money into materials and tools for future projects. If you would like an alternate suggestion for a supplier of any of the parts, please let me know.)

Step 2: Mark and Drill

Pick a "bottom" corner on each board to measure from. If you make the measurements from different corners, you might have holes spaced slightly differently from board to board (as the board may not be exact in length) and this will prove problematic later. However, by making them all from one corner, the layout of all four holes will always be equally spaced.

On five of the boards make marks at:

1-3/4" lengthwise x 2-1/4" width-wise
1-3/4" lengthwise x 10-1/4" width-wise
33-3/4" lengthwise x 2-1/4" width-wise
33-3/4" lengthwise x 10-1/4" width-wise

Drill each of these markings on-center with a 1-3/8" forstner bit.

The sixth board gets neither mark nor drilled. It will function as the bookshelf's top shelf.

Step 3: Sand

Sand the surface and edges of all of the boards with 180 grit sandpaper to make it clean and smooth.

Also, you may slightly round-off the edges of the boards with the sander if you wish to make them less sharp.

Step 4: Stain

Now is time to coat the wood.

I put on two coats of clear-coat satin Polycrylic stain, and then lightly sanded with 220 sandpaper in-between.

Coat the wood as you wish.

If you don't know what you are doing, you can learn more about stain in the Woodworking Class.

Step 5: Trace and Fasten

Lay the board without any drill holes upon a flat surface.

Place one of the drilled boards centered upon the undrilled one and trace the outline of each of the four holes onto the undrilled board using a pencil.

Center a flush mount rail support around each of the four markings.

Finally, fasten the supports to the board using #12 screws.

Step 6: Brackets

Position the through-hole rail supports on the center of each 1-3/8" drilled hole and fasten it to the wood board using #12 screws.

Step 7: Start Adding Shelves

Place the top shelf on the floor upside down with the brackets facing upwards. Slide the aluminum posts into each of the board's brackets and lock them in place by fastening the bracket's set screws.

If you want to make equally space shelves, next, find two identical 12" boxes or containers and place them atop the board. Storage bins and milk creates seem to work well.

Slide the next shelf upside down along the aluminum posts until it lies flat atop the 12" boxes. Check to make sure that it is lying flat using a bubble level.

Once this is confirmed, lock the shelf in place using the bracket's set screws.

Finally, remove the boxes from between the shelves. Your first two shelves are now placed.

Step 8: Add More Shelves

Continue adding shelves using the same process, and repeat until they are all set in place.

Step 9: Finish It Up

Carefully flip the bookshelf over (preferably with a friend) and place a round rail end onto the bottom of each post.

Step 10: Books

Now is the time to fill up the shelves with all of your books.

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    16 Discussions

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    David R

    1 year ago

    This is neat. I built one using locking collars instead of these speed rail fittings, which cost $1.45 each at Harbor Freight and fence pipe that cost $20 total for a 5 foot tall book case. I put rubber feet on my pipe legs.
    I loaded the shelves and they have held up just fine, at a much lower cost. I don't think mine looks as nice as this one does, I like the way the speed rail fittings look, they are just so costly. I suspect it might be stronger, but , really, the collars work.

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    gardnerpDavid R

    Reply 1 year ago

    Can you post a link to these cheaper fittings, I don't really think this design is worth it at McMaster prices. I looked on HF but couldn't find the right thing.

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    randofoNoahajtrev

    Reply 1 year ago

    If you follow these instructions exactly and get exactly the same materials from the same places I did, about $400.

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    Stryrker

    1 year ago

    This looks a bit expensive, at least with the McMaster prices, but I will be makign a couple of these. It looks modern, minimal, and construction is easy. BRAVO!

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE be sure to update the design to secure this to the wall. This looks like an American Ninja course to young children.

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    randofoStryrker

    Reply 1 year ago

    No young children in my life, but that is a good suggestion for people who have any.

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    krusmani.

    1 year ago

    Very nice and practical.

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    ggadget

    1 year ago

    Considering pvc is much cheaper and actually affordable, might we just use that instead.

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    fmeganha

    1 year ago

    Nice Man. I was looking for this!

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    EcoExpatMike

    1 year ago

    very nice. You put rubber feet under the bases? So it won't scratch the floor?

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    randofoEcoExpatMike

    Reply 1 year ago

    No. I considered it, but figured I wouldn't really be moving the bookshelf around and the aluminum was fairly smooth.