Boards & Baling Twine: a Rafter Bookshelf




About: I live on a small homestead in western New Mexico, in a small light-straw-clay house I built with much help from friends. My spare time is filled with house and land projects, writing fiction, gardening, sin...

Just after I finished building my small (~200 square feet) house (if any such project can ever be said to be done) I found myself in dire need of more bookshelves. I’d built one in next to my desk, and had one short stretch of wall where I could position a freestanding set of shelves, but that was it. Not nearly enough for a dedicated book addict. The only thing I could figure out to do was to hang shelves from the underside of my sleeping loft. I didn’t have the time or energy to make a proper job of it, and cobbled together 20 feet of shelving from scavenged boards, baling twine (my house is built of light straw-clay, so I had rather a lot of this), and some screw eyes that I had on hand. It took an hour or so to build with hand tools (a push drill, a saw, and a screwdriver, the latter for sticking through the screw eyes as a handle for turning them).

It ain’t elegant but more than ten years later it’s still holding up my books.

I’m not going to do a step-by-step for this one. Your circumstances are likely to be different, and I think a brief description along with the photos will explain the theory well enough. (Not to mention that to do a proper step-by-step I’d have to take all the books down, and that’s a good deal more work than building the shelves!)

The 5 foot boards are supported in a cradle of loops of baling twine—three loops for shelves meant mainly for paperbacks, and four for hardbacks and larger books. Each loop requires two screw eyes, one attached to the bottom of the rafter and the other the width of the board away to the underside of the loft itself. Getting the board to sit (reasonably) level is a bit finicky and will probably require some untying and retying knots until you are satisfied. At this point the shelf will still look a bit iffy. Never fear! Start adding books and watch it stabilize.



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    11 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Looks great! Could you tell us more about the design of your tiny house? (I'm wanting to build a tiny house of my own)

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    It's about 20' x 14' (not counting the new porch); one room with a sleeping loft. You can see some of the loft and a bit of the ladder in one of the pictures above. The walls are light straw-clay on a cedar post frame, with mud plaster inside and out. The inside mud plaster got several coats of alis. The outside south and west walls have a protective coating of lime plaster as they get the most beating from wind and rain. Most of the wood is from recycled plate glass window crates (I lived near a glass warehouse when I still lived in town). The floors are adobe mud mixed with cow manure for added strength, with a linseed/citrus-based solvent finish. The roof sheathing is ProPanel (coated galvanized steel), which a friend gave me. Basic construction took from August of one year to April of the next, with much weekend help from friends. It was, thankfully, a mild winter! Overall cost at the time (definitely not counting later additions) was about $3000.

    It was a lot of work, but excellent fun some of the time.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    It never has. I think you'd have to hit it very hard from the back side. The weight of the books holds the shelf in place.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    And they all lived happily ever-rafter :-)
    Great idea.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome idea! I want to add something like this to my IKEA Tromso loft bed.