Medieval Book Turntable




Introduction: Medieval Book Turntable

     This Instructable will show how to build a 15th century book turntable. They were used in study and translation, such as comparing multiple translations of the bible at once. This one has the added features of having a book light and including storage space (a shelf beneath and a compartment in body of book stand).

     This is a real conversation piece to have in a library or study, as well as being of genuine use. I had read about this a long time ago, and decided to build one after my grandmother had a neck injury and was unable to look down while in a neck brace. It worked great, and has continued to be of use after she got better.

This is a medium difficulty project which took me a full weekend of free time to finish (what with time to stain, paint, etc.), with an estimated cost of $112.38+tax. (assuming everything is bought new and you do not have anything already on hand)

See below for a painting of a real book turntable in use from the church of St. Peter. (Footnote 1)

1. Clark, John Willis. The Care of Books. London: C.J. Clay and Sons, 1901. Project Gutenberg. Web. 8 July 2012.

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Step 1: Materials and Safety

     See below for a parts list for this project. Except as noted, all prices and item/model numbers come from Lowe's website. If you search their website for any of the model numbers below, it will take you right to that item's page.

1) 6-32x3/4 Machine Bolts w/nut - $0.98 (Item #: 57832, Model #: 491281)

2) 6-32x1 Machine Bolts w/nut - $0.98 (Item #: 57833, Model #: 491282)

3) #8 Flat Washers - $0.98 (Item #: 58122, Model #: 490685)

4) 3/4" x 1/2" Corner Braces - $1.97 (Item #: 315714, Model #: DPB115)

5) 1" x 1" Hinges - $2.48 (Item #: 311945, Model #: 890327) 4 packs of 4

6) Gatehouse Polished Brass Latch - $2.37 (Item #: 311957, Model #: 890269)

7) 1/4" 2' x 4' Birch - $8.44 (Item #6197)

8) 1"x18" Stain Grade Edge-Glued Round - $10.97 (item #1016, Model #1031199)

9) WHW Accent Egg & Dart 1" x 8' molding - $12.46 (Item #161632, Model # 681-8WHW)

10) WHW Accent Scallop 1-1/2" x 8' molding - $13.80 (Item #161624, Model #95-8WHW)

11) Corner Block 4-1/2" square - $3.10 (Item #107575, Model #B740CWHW)

12) PNE UNIV BSE IS 600 6-1/2" (base blocks) - $1.48 (#0224049) 4 needed

13) Minwax Quart English Chestnut Stain - $7.77 (Item #: 74476, Model #: 700444444)

14) Gorilla Glue - $4.99 (Item #: 152243, Model #: 50002)

15) FolkArt Enamels Paint, 2 oz 660 Metallic Pure Gold - about $1.99 from Walmart (Item #004453544, Model #K4129)

16) Plaid Decorative Icon Stencils, 4" - about $3.99 form Walmart (Item #004453829, Model #30620)

17) Bar Stool Swivel (6-3/8"SQ) - $14.80 from Twin Supply (Product ID: 280-1056)

18) Flexible LED Black Reading Light/Flashlight/Task Light by Checkolite- $6.95 from Amazon (Model #B1010-21-FBA)

This project will involve the use of power tools, including an electric drill and a jigsaw (or equivalent). Please be sure that you are aware of all requirements of using your particular tool (reference user manuals), and wear all appropriate protective equipment (safety glasses, gloves, etc.).
This project will also make use of certain chemicals such as stain, paint, and glue. Be sure to use these in well ventilated areas, and use face masks/gloves as needed.

Step 2: Making the Base

For all of these steps, when I have a piece of wood cut to the size I want it, I go ahead and stain it before assembling it with another piece. For this reason, I do not have a separate "Staining" step - it is throughout the project. Simply follow the steps on the can, applying as many coats as you want to get it dark enough. For me, this was 2 coats.

Also, it will be assumed for all steps that I am drilling a small pilot hole where each screw goes. I know it is extra work, but it ensures that no wood splits while you are screwing it in place - an important consideration when each piece is custom cut to fit.

To make the base:
1. Cut an 11" x 11" piece of 1/2" plywood.

2. Then draw an "X" in pencil from the corners. This will serve as a guide to the holes you will be drilling.

3. Place the swivel in the center of the board and mark where the bolt holes are with a pencil (if it is in the dead center, you should be able to see the "X" you made through the bolt holes). Drill holes to fit your 6-32 bolts.

4. Set the legs at the 4 corners and trace around them - this will give you a good idea of where to put the 2 screws each to secure the legs. (see photo below)

5. Screw the legs in place, decorative side out.

Step 3: Making the Shelf

To make the shelf:
1. Cut a 11" x 11" piece of 1/4" birch

2. Cut a 1-1/8" square from each corner (these were my measurements - confirm that your legs are the same width)

3. Cut pieces of Egg and Dart molding to fit three sides - should be around 8-3/4" each.

4. Use Gorilla glue to fasten the molding down. Be aware that gorilla glue expands as it dries, so for the first 10 minutes you will need to keep an eye on it to wipe off any that oozes out with a paper towel.

5. Turn shelf over, and fasten a bracket to each corner, facing towards the cutout so that you will eventually be able to screw it into the legs of the base. The screws that come with the brackets will be too long for the 1/4" plywood, but if you position them correctly the extra length will go into the molding on the other side and not show. See photo.

Step 4: Connecting the Base to the Swivel

Connect the base:
1. Find the center of the round wooden disk. I did this by holding one end of a tape measure on one side, and slowly moving the other end of the tape measure on the other side. Where the measurement is the longest, that is the diameter. There are other ways to find the center, that is just the way I used. Doing this in two directions will make an "X" on the board that is dead center.

2. Screw the swivel to the center of the wooden disk.

3. Bolt the base to the swivel. This was the hardest step of the entire project - I ended up maneuvering the bolts in the gap between the base and the disk and up into the holes using needle-nose pliers, and holding them there while working the nut on. A second person helps during this process.

4. Screw the shelf onto the legs. I chose midway up on the legs, but that is personal preference.

Step 5: The 4 Side Panels

To make the panels:
1. First make a template. A piece of 12" x 12" scrap booking paper is ideal. Each panel will need to be 12" wide at the base, 4.5" wide at the top, and 12" tall.
          1.1 Fold a piece of scrap booking paper in half from top to bottom, then unfold to show the crease.
          1.2 Measure 2.25" each side of the crease at the top, and make a mark.
          1.3 Draw a line from your mark to the bottom corner of the paper, and cut along this line.

2. Using the paper template, trace and cut out 4 panels form the 1/4" birch board.

3. Using the stencils and gold paint, add whatever designs look good to you.

4. Turn the boards over, and add hinges top and bottom. The top hinges should be mounted on the front of the board at the very edge. The bottom hinges should be mounted on the back of the board about an inch in from the edge. NOTE: On one of the 4 panels, leave off the top hinges. This panel will be the door to the center compartment.

Step 6: Creating Book Stands

To make the book stands:
1. Cut 4 12" pieces of both the egg and dart molding and the scallop molding.

2. Use Gorilla glue to make 4 sets of ledges as shown in the photo below. Again, watch to clean up any glue that oozes out as it is drying.

3. Gorilla glue a ledge to the base of each panel - clamps help.

4. Move panel edge along your saw blade to trim the ledges at the same angle as the panels, giving it a nice finished look.

Step 7: Mount Panels

To mount panels:
1. Using a 12" x 12" piece of scrap booking paper, trace along its edges on the top of the wooden disk. This will be where the panels will be mounted.

2. Lining up the panels with the marks that you just made, screw 3 of them into the wooden disk.

3. The forth one will need to be able to swing outwards, so we will need to raise its hinges up on little spacers made out of scrap 1/4" plywood.

4. Screw in a bracket into the bottom of the square corner block. This will be the stop to keep the door panel from falling inwards.

5. Place the corner block on top of the panels, with the bracket to the side of the panel without top hinges (the door panel). Screw the hinges of the other three sides into the block.

Step 8: Add Light and Latch

To add Light:
1. Use the tiny brackets from the Latch kit. I found that having one on one side of a leg and the second one around the corner was sufficient to have the lamp firmly locked in place.

To add the latch:
1. Cut the hook off of the latch as shown in photo below, using wire snips.

2. Use pliers to bend straight piece that is left out at an angle and then back down, as needed to accommodate panel thickness.

3. Screw it in to the corner block, keeping it loose enough to move freely.

FINISHED! Enjoy your new book turntable.

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    4 Discussions

    I love this, great looking build. Now it will be even harder to get me out of the bathroom, "let me finish this chapter on book 4 hon." LOL


    7 years ago on Introduction

    old school ipad...for those of us who always seem to have multiple tabs open!

    That is awesome! And sounds like it could be really helpful, or just fun to play with!