My wife and I have small room off our kitchen that we use as a craft/studio space. We wanted a nice long counter along one wall, and had a small two drawer filing cabinet that we could use as support for part of the counter, but what to use for the rest? Books. This Instructable will show you how to create a column of books suitable to support a counter, a table, or whatever else you can think of.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
Threaded Rods (a.k.a. all thread)
Nuts (sized to the all thread)
Small Sledge Hammer (3-5 lb)
We got most of our books from the local library, which sells books they no longer plan to circulate. For the most part, we didn't look at the titles, but we did buy the thickest books we could find. I hope this is obvious to you, but you are going to "ruin" the books for this project, so probably a good idea to use books you don't want to read.
All of the other tools and materials could be found at a local home improvement store. I used 3/8" all thread 36" long, so it follows that the nuts and the t-nuts were also 3/8". The Iron strap was 1/8" thick by 2" wide, and I used about a 12" length of that.
Step 2: Layout
We laid out all of the books and sorted them into the order we wanted them to be. We paid more attention to color than size, but most of the larger books are on the bottom half of the column and most of the smaller ones are in the top half. We took a few pictures so we wouldn't forget the order as we worked.
There were also a couple titles that we wanted to place next to each other just for fun, but it isn't something you would notice unless you looked for it.
Step 3: Drill Baby Drill
We need to drill two holes through the book, and you could do as much layout as you like at this point depending on how you want your finished column to look. We wanted out column of books to be a little irregular as they stacked up, not perfectly straight, so I didn't do any measuring to locate the first hole, I just aimed for roughly centered and about 1/3 down from the top of the front face of the book. We are going to drill two holes through the book eventually, but I went through all the books with one hole first.
I clamped a scrap of plywood to the table of my drill press to give me something to drill into when I got through the book, and also support the back of the book a best as possible.
I experimented with several different drill bits, and finally settled on using the forstner bit. One of the big challenges is that the waste from the drilling does not easily come back out the drilled hole, but instead wedges between the pages, increasing the thickness of the book as you drill. I had pretty fair success with holding the book tightly, but it was even easier after I enlisted some help to hold the book down tightly. I also backed out of the cut frequently which seemed to help. You could also use a clamp, but with so many books, all different thicknesses, clamping was just a little too much effort for me.
Step 4: Cleanup, Part 1
Once I had drilled the first hole, I spent some time cleaning out the waste that had worked it's way in between the book pages. It didn't take too long, but it was well worth the effort when it came to drilling the second hole, because we could better hold the books when drilling hole #2. Some of the pages were torn slightly, so we pulled those off as well.
Step 5: Drill Again
This might take a little time to set up. I mentioned that I didn't have to be exact when I drilled the first hole, but it is critical that the two holes are the same distance apart or you won't be able to get the threaded rods through. To accomplish this, I put a bolt sticking up from the table of my drill press, about 3 1/4 inches away from the drill bit. I then used the bolt as an alignment pin for the first hole that I had drilled. The plywood acted not only to support the cut, but also kept the book up high enough the the nut on the "alignment bolt" didn't interfere.
I swung the book around on it's axis until I found a good place for the second hole. Again, we were looking for a column that was slightly irregular, so I tried to vary to position of the second hole from book to book. Some closer to the spine (easier to drill) and some closer to the front edge (easier to clean out).
I also drilled holes in my iron strap at this point. The first one was centered on the strap, and 4 1/2 inches from one end. I then put that hole on my "alignment bolt" and drilled another. SWITCH OUT YOUR BIT! the forstner bit will be destroyed by the iron strap. I used a 7/16" twist drill bit for this.
Step 6: Hammer Time
There was still a little extra thickness even after cleaning out what I could from between the pages. I used a small hand sledge hammer to flatten the books back to original thickness. Don't worry about leaving mark here from the hammer...they won't show in the final product.
Step 7: T-Nuts
After the books were flat, I installed the T-nuts. These are threaded inserts that have a built in washer that has been cut and bent to make small spikes that will hold it in place in the material that they are installed in. Picture worth a thousand words here...
Step 8: Assembly
Ready to assemble!!
Start by putting the threaded rod through the first book, and screw it in until it is flush with the bottom of the t-nut. Slide the next book down, and the next, and so on until you have your tower of books built.
A not here about thickness. We drilled 2-3 extra books because we knew we were going to compress the column as much as we could, but we needed to have a few books of different thickness that we could swap out to fine tune the finished height. Our column needed to be 29 1/2 inches to support the counter top, and we actually ended up at 29 5/8 which was close enough for us.
I didn't end up with useable photos for the next step, so I hope this description works well enough. When you are done with all your books, you should still have some all thread left sticking out the top of your column. I slid the iron strap down the rods, then tightened it down with nuts. We need the books to be compressed, so with my assistants help, one of us pushed down on one side of the iron strap, and the other tightened the corresponding nut, then to the other side, back and forth a few times. We were able to eventually compress the column from 32 inches to the final 29 5/8.
Step 9: Installation
To install this, we had a few inches of strap (12 inch strap) hanging off each end of the top book (7 inch book), and a lot of extra all thread. I used a Dremmel tool to cut the all thread level with the top of the nut, but a hacksaw would work just as well. Then I drilled two holes on the underside of the counter top, using a 1" forstner bit, that would house the nuts and allow the iron strap to sit flush with the underside of the counter. I then drilled two small holes on either side of the strap that I used to pass screws through to fix the column in place.