Introduction: Cheap, Easy, Low-waste Bookshelf Plans
Build an easy, portable 3' x 8' wooden bookshelf in about 20 minutes, with a minimum of tools and less than 1% waste, for about $60. The basic concept can be modified to create any size shelf system needed.
For a similar bed see: https://www.instructables.com/id/Cheap-easy-low-waste-platform-bed/
For a similar dining table see: https://www.instructables.com/id/Cheap-easy-low-waste-trestle-table/
As a professional carpenter, furniture maker, and designer/builder, I see a lot of home carpentry projects that are grossly overbuilt and over-engineered. One of the goals of this Instructable is to avoid the unnecessary overbuilding that I frequently see on this site, and that I see every day working in the residential construction industry. Many of the building methods we (in the US) use today are horribly wasteful despite the advances that have been made in materials science and structural engineering, because most people in the residential building industry, from architects and engineers to carpenters, are mired in tradition, doing things a certain way "because that is how it has always been done", rather than consulting the best available science, or even questioning their own assumptions about "the right way to do it". I don't intend to knock tradition, either. Many of the tricks, techniques, and tools that I use daily are definitely "old-school", but seem to have been forgotten.
Thanks to my father for introducing me to this style of shelving, and who built a particularly fine example (using stained fir 2x4s and 2x12s, black washers, and brass acorn nuts) which is at least 25 years old and still in use.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
You will need:
(4) 8' 1x8 #2 and better pine
(2) 12' 1x4 #2 and better pine
(16) 9-3/8" long pieces of 1/4-20 all-thread rod (about 13')
(32) 1-1/4" fender washers
(32) 1/4-20 "acorn" or "cap" nuts
(1) 1/4-20 wingnut
My material cost was:
Hand or power saw for wood
Hand or power saw for metal
(You can often have these items cut for a minimal fee at your local lumberyard)
9/32" drill bit for wood
Two 7/16" wrenches, or two adjustable wrenches, or a 7/16" wrench and a 7/16" socket and driver
Awl, nail, or centerpunch
Step 2: Measure, Measure, Mark, and Cut
Yes, measure twice. As you can see from the photo, there is very little waste.
Trim the 1x8 boards to 8' exactly.
From each of the 1x4 boards, cut (4) 35-3/4" pieces for a total of (8)
Cut the all-thread into (16) 9-3/8" segments.
Before cutting each section of all-thread, run the wingnut onto the rod. After cutting the rod,remove the wingnut over the cut end to "chase" (repair) the threads.
You should also double-check the length of your all-thread rods. I'd dummy one up and try it out before cutting all of them. It needs to be just long enough to catch a couple of threads and snug down without punching out through the cap nut. The actual "cap" portion of cap nuts is fairly thin, and if the all-thread is even a bit too long it will punch through the end when you snug it up.
Step 3: Layout and Drill
Lay out one of the 1x4 pieces for drilling:
Holding the tape in your left hand, and hooking the end of the tape on the right-hand end of the board, mark:
Next, mark 1-3/4" (the center line) across the board at each previous mark, and use a nail, awl, or centerpunch to dimple the wood and guide the bit.
Using the 9/32" bit, drill completely through the 1x4 at the four marked locations. Try to keep the hole as straight as possible, although a high degree of precision isn't necessary.
Step 4: Repeat
Using the first piece drilled as a guide, drill the remaining seven pieces. Use a clamp, or just your hands, to keep the first "template" piece aligned with each successive piece. Use the same template piece for the other seven.
If you wish to have a more finished appearance (hah!) now is the time to sand, stain, and seal your work. It will be much easier to do it now, before the piece is assembled.
Step 5: Assemble
Refer to the photos and the PDF.
Place lengths of all-thread through the top and bottom holes on two pairs of 1x4s.
Place a washer and a nut on each end of each length of all-thread. Note: washers have a "belly" formed when they are punched out of the sheet of metal. Like a biscuit or cookie, the top edge is slightly rounded, and the bottom edge is a bit rough. Pay attention to the belly, placing the rough edge against the wood, and the smooth edge out. Pro.
Place the top and bottom shelves into position on top of the all thread, leaving 2" extending out past the uprights. The uprights clamp or pinch the shelves in place, so gently snug the nuts down to keep it all together.
Assemble the other pairs of uprights in place around the top and bottom shelves, leaving 26" between the uprights.
Fill all of the remaining holes with all-thread and loosely attach the nuts and washers.
Thread the remaining two shelves down the length of the unit, on top of the all-thread, and "snap" them into place.
A scrap block and a hammer may be necessary to "snap them" down.
Check the shelf assembly for square by measuring it for corner to corner. If the two measurements are the same, it is square.
Tighten all of the nuts, using, simultaneously, your tool of choice on each end of each rod. Just snug them up; it is not necessary to get them "gorilla" tight.
Tightening the nuts clamps the uprights against the shelves, holding them in place and providing shear strength (through friction) for the whole assembly. I know of an 8' tall, 12' long version of these shelves that has survived a few minor earthquakes while fully loaded with hundreds of books. Once the nuts are tightened on my smaller versions, I (all 240lbs of me) have a very hard time "racking" the shelves by pushing on one end of them in an attempt to get them to collapse: I can't.
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