More Hungarian Bookshelves




Introduction: More Hungarian Bookshelves

Hello everyone, here is my instructable on how to make hungarian bookshelves. I found the first instructable right here looking for an idea to fill up an empty space in my flat. It seemed it was just waiting for some shelves to be put there and I wanted to make them myself so that they would fill up all the space and cover the naked wall. After browsing the site a bit I thought hungarian bookshelves would look great and also seemed to be reasonably easy enough to make not to leave the flat upside down for too long a time. 
You can find the original post here :
In this post I just want to share my experience in making them and show the slight differences I introduced.

Step 1: Prepare the Job

The principle of these shelves consists in fixing sticks of wood to the wall in which you have made notches (or mortices). In these notches you will simply slide in the shelves and they will stay there without needing any extra fixing. I find the idea very simple and elegant and this is usually a sign of a good design.

For your own project, take accurate dimensions and use sketches to find out approximately how much material you will need to buy. I actually made a basic CAD model so I could figure out better how it would look, and this helped me later for dimensions and to estimate the amount of paint I would need.
Don't underestimate this step and plan your work carefully if you want something nice at the end. I went to the shops to find out what dimensions of wood were available and at what price before I made my decision on the final design.

Step 2: Get the Material

for my project i used :

- 6 MDF planks cut to dimension of 1800x330x22 mm
- 3 2400x90x45 sticks of pine  wood
- 12 6x100mm screws + Rawlplugs

- 500 ml of grey/black paint (laquer )
- 1 L of light green paint (laquer )
- 1L of coating paint

- drill and bits for wood and wall
- jigsaw
- screwdriver
- painting equipement : driptray, lacquer rolls, paint thinner
- woodfile
- sandpaper

Step 3: Cut the Wood

Ok now you can get started.
I made marks on the planks and the sticks of where the notches should be. It's important you try to be fairly accurate when marking the notches because once the notches are made, they have to fit in perfectly or else you won't be able to assemble the bookshelf! I tried my best but I had to make manual adjustments at the end to get all these planks to fit together, and I believe you will always have to because of the imperfectness of your planks, sticks and walls. So just try to be accurate but don't overdo it because you'll probably have to adjust slightly anyway at the end.

I cut the notches  2/3rds of the width of the stick. In this case ,the pieces of wood are 9cm wide, 3cm remain and 6cm are there to support the weight of the planks and the stuff on the shelves.

Once the marking is done, cut away! Doing right angles with a jigsaw isn't easy... and you will have to do every notch step by step, easing the blade where it can go. I thought it looked kind of scrappy at the end, but the good thing is that you don't see these areas on the finished bookshelf ! 

If there's something to remember though, it's that it's better to cut too small than too large, because if you cut too large you'll have to use wedges rather than filing at the end which is not so nice.

Step 4: Do the Holes

The order you do this in is important if you ever want to put these shelves up. 

- Start by drilling holes through the notches. This way, the screws are hidden in the assembly. I think it's much nicer than having the screws visible. On the other hand, the remaining  wood in the notch should be thick enough to support the weight of the shelves. 

- Put the bookshelf together! As I said earlier, it's likely you'll have some filing to do to get everything to fit together.

- MARK every part of your assembled bookshelf so you will be able to build it back up exactly the same now that you've done the filing! If you forget this step you will regret it at the end...

- Fit it up against the wall you are planning to drill and maintain it in that position. You should use a bubble level to find the perfect position. help will be needed...

- Take out the shelves one by one and mark the wall through the holes you've just made, put the shelf back and move on to the next one. This method will ensure you get the holes in the wall perfectly positionned.

- Put the bookshelf back down, drill the holes in the wall and fit the Rawlplugs

(in my case i had already applied a coating on the wood)

Step 5: Paint the Shelves

You don't have to do this but I think that the shelves look better painted. I used a lacquer which is tricky to put on, and needs paint thinner, but the result is shiny and mirrorlike and is supposed to be quite resistant and washable. I had trouble painting because in fact I had the impression that the paint was never dry, even after several days of drying... in fact the paint was dry but the surface is somewhat "sticky" when it's new. Now after a few months it doesn't feel that way anymore.
You need to sand the wood before applying any paint or coating, and you should also sand lightly after each layer is dry to get a nice effect.
I read that you can also find very good water-based paints (acrylic) but I have never tested them.
So basically this is the longest step since you have to put several layers on each surface.
I also used a special universal white coating before applying the first layer to save the expensive laquer.

Step 6: Final Assembly

Once your wood is all nicely painted and dry, start to assemble!

-Fix the supporting pieces of wood to the wall and fit the screws. Depending on the -straightness of your wall and of your pieces of wood, things may move a little.
-Fit the shelves in. Once again, a little filing may be necessary.
- Admire your work and post some photos!

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    12 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Karteks, thank you for your post. I saw the original Hungarian Shelving post and then saw yours.

    I really like your idea of inserting the screws in the inset of the support beams.
    I adapted your plans to suit my needs and used the following:

    4x 1700mm x 100mm x 45mm (for support beams)
    4x 1500mm x 300mm x 20mm (for shelving)

    I used solid European Beechwood with 8mm x 100mm screws with plugs.

    I am really happy with the results. The shelving is really steady and I have a really heavy load on them with no bowing. Thanks for your instructable!

    photo 1.JPGphoto 2.JPGphoto 3.JPGphoto 4.JPGphoto 5.JPG

    Reply 4 years ago

    Hi Craig, wasn't on this forum for some time and i missed your post completely! great work ! i'm glad my post inspired you :)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I do have a young boy who will likely "perch"..... is there something I should change or pay more attention to? are you referring to the "sagulator" link?
    Thanks :)


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Make sure your joint cuts are perfect. If they are not, you will need shims as dictated in step 5 of the original ible. 



    The last thing to do is to insert wedges of wood under all the shelves and in every stick untill all the shelves are ortogonal (=perpendicular) (=90 degres) to the sticks."


    This is what the author said about the joints in the comments:

    "Rlangg says:
    Is this slit, where the wedge (or shim) is to be hammered, a deliberate space (as suggested by hand drwn picture) or is it a space that will naturally be there because a cut can't be perfect? Must the wedge go all the way in? Must the hypotenuse of the wedge face down?"

    "uliofo (author) says:
    Hi Rlangg, The draw is an exaggeration that tries to represent the space that will naturally be there in non-perfect cuts. But there is a former comment about the tolerances you can get being careful in the cut and is very impressive; if you count with very good tools and experience you can mount selves on the cut sticks without wedges. The ideal would be not to need wedges but in my experience this happens "naturaly" one among 50 cuts or so. (But when happens you can feel the happiness of perfection). Forget about hypotenuses and put the edges as profound as you can. But try the avoid mortices larger in the interior (close to wall) than in the exterior (open space) because in this cases even wedges cannot fix the self properly to the sticks."


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction


    thanks for pointing this out. It is a critical step for the shelves to look right.
    However all of my shelves are perpendicular and have no wedges. I can assure you I have nothing like precise tools or much experience :)

    I think I just did things a little differently than the original post and prefered to make cuts in the sticks "just to size". That way when i put the shelves up, because of imperfections building up, the shelves would not fit in perfectly and I would use a file to get the cuts just right to insert the shelf straight. Honestly, this works. It just takes a little more patience to do all the filing but i think it's worth the effort for the look of it.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Interesting. But to me it seems a little weak, as if it don't could withstand some books without twisting


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the reference, excellent and very complete program.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    yes thanks for the program
    i admit i didn't go into such considerations when i decided the dimensions, i went for a "look right" criteria only.
    However the shelves do not suffer any twisting/bending at all and look pretty sturdy.
    They are not loaded with many books however, mainly because i don't like the look of it!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Karteks, surely you do not have small children: sons, nephews or grandchildren, who want to perch on the shelves to grab something is up. They always do what one least expect, especially when least expected.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Simple and elegant. Even like the colors you picked :)

    Im gonna make something similar when I redo my livingroom. Thanks for the ideas!