Building Your Own Wooden Bookcases
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Has anyone built their own bookcases? If so, what kind of wood did you use? Were the bookcases of your own design or did you use commercially available plans? What tools did you use? How did the expense compare with buying manufactured bookcases? Were you pleased with the result?
I've built several of my own bookcases. Using whatever lumber was lying around the shed, with occasional purchases of cheap plywood. And my own designs, with help from woodworker relatives.
With minimal purchased supplies, the expense wasn't much, but I have no idea what it would be like for somebody who didn't have twenty-five years of packrat to build from and had to actually buy the stuff. ;) And the better the wood you get, the less you need for stability. Also: If you can fasten them to the walls, it makes it all so much simpler.
I've been reasonably pleased with the results, but I was going for quick-and-dirty, build it in an evening and then get the books shelved, and to be honest, the finishing has generally left a bit to be desired, and they don't compare to purchased ones (except in sturdiness - I've been continually disappointed by cheap storebought shelves that start warping after about two weeks of having to actually support *books*, gasp. The home-made ones I can climb up --) If I was building them to go in more public areas of the house, I'd put a lot more time and expense in. Even then, though, I don't really see the point of buying commercial plans if all I want is a basic, fairly nice-looking shelf- the principles are fairly simple! And some nice finished hardwood looks good with a minimum of finishing.
When I was in middle school shop class (10+ years ago) I built a couple of bookcases. I assume they're pine, but I could be wrong (after all, it was a few years ago :). I designed them based on a bookshelf I had (and screwed up the design, actually, but it all worked out), and they have lasted this long without falling apart or even warping or anything.
In other words, it's not all that hard to do something basic. They're not very pretty, though.
If you want plans and specs, I'm sure there are some available online somewhere, or in a library book.
My husband built these for me for Christmas (but they actually ended up being done about two weeks ago) and he spent about $150 on them. They are 9' high x 14' wide x 6" deep and made out of 3/4 yellow pine.
I've been planning to make some for a while and my father recommends plain old pine. I tend to want to make more, narrower cases than one wider one, because of the bowing that happens even with decent wood.
I just made some last weekend:
I built them specifically for paperbacks. Both the "traditional" size and the slightly larger size. Forgive my ignorance of the proper word -- it's the ones that are about 6 inches wide.
I used Hemlock 1"x6". I didn't use any plans -- I just bought 8 footers for the uprights and 6 footers for the shelves. I cut everything in half, then cut 1 and a half inces off the shelves (except the top & bottom shelves, which would also cross the width of the sides), and nailed it all together with 2" finishing nails. I used a piece of the thinest smooth plywood I could find. They cut it for me into two 3x4 foot pieces (for only 50 cents per cut). I nailed it onto the back. One of these days I'll take my paperbacks off the shelf and stain it (yeah, right!)
In total, I spent about $60 for both shelves, which are 3 feet wide, 4 feet tall, and 6 inches deep.
I built a wall to wall floor to ceiling book case in my last house out of oak.
I have a couple pictures of them. This was in my office to help save space by going all the way to the ceiling.
Autodafe > Thanks!!
Actually I was able to do most of it with my router.
I needed a saw (miter) to cut the boards to length. I borrowed a scroll saw to round the corners under the window (I now have a bansaw which will work better).
The shelves on the left and right are adjustable, After I was done I was putting the shelves up to maximize the room and discovered I could put in three more shelves. So I went and made three more.
If you have any other questions feel free to ask.
I built a set of "stacks" using several 4X8 sheets of quality plywood. The whole things stands 4' high, is 8' long, and each side is 12" deep. It gives me about 64 feet of linear shelf space.
I painted the whole thing with a white acrylic paint, several coats, and then let it sit for about almost a month before I dared put any books on it. (Once before I'd put books on painted shelves before the paint had fully cured, and wound up with paint along the bottom of many of my books).
In the next couple of days, I'll post some photos to my blog (http://stevensteinbock.blogspot.com/).
For a quick, down and dirty bookshelf attached to the wall, I've done metal brackets with a 2x4 (or corresponding sized board to books you intend to shelf) set across the brackets. (You just put the metal bracket strips down the wall evenly spaced, screwed into the wall, pop the brackets into the strip, flop the board across and voila you have a shelf. They hold up incredibly well, with a ton of books on them, don't look the best...but hey that is down and dirty and quick for ya.
My shelf plans with photos are up at http://stevensteinbock.blogspot.com/2007/04/shelf-life.html. Good luck.
I made a set of shelves for my oversized books out of some old cabnet fronts that were on the curb. The shelves themselves i made with some hollow metal poles left over from a collapsed garment rack.
I've also made a set out of old drawers. It's really easy! You just place the drawers on thier sides, (handles in opposite directions for balance), on top of each other, then drill and bolt/nut the pieces together. There are complete directions for making them in Readymade: How to make (Almost) anything: a do-it-yourself primer.
I salvaged two paneled folding doors from my neighbor's trash, used scrap plywood for the back, top and bottoms, put in some brackets and cut old boards up for shelves. I used paint left over from other projects and it looked fabulous. Good luck.
Once again, I am impressed by your ingenuity. Great looking shelves.
I've built quite a few over the years. Here's the cheapest:
While away at college I realized I desperately needed shelves to keep the books off of the floor of my closet. I had some time, very little space, less money, and no materials. Thankfully, I was working in the maintenance department.
My boss had me clean out a storage area where I found an old dresser. It was 3 drawers high, and about 5' long. He said I could have it, because it "wasn't good for anything anymore."
I gutted it, stood it on end, screwed in supports, and screwed scrap lumber in for shelving. (Also had to screw shims to the "new" bottom so it would stand straight-up on end.) The only scrap lumber in the shop's trash bin at the time was 3/4" plywood.
Empty, it was too heavy to move without a dolly, but it's the strongest bookcase I've ever built. I put it in my closet, and crammed it full of library-sale books. Even when fully loaded I could use it as a ladder to reach the shelving in the top of my dorm closet (9' ceilings).
I still have it, but it's one ugly bookcase. I usually kept it in a closet. (Now that I'm married it's been banished to the outside back porch. It holds most of the spare junk we've accumulated over the years.) I'll try to remember to take/post a pic of it -- if nothing else, it's good for laughs. That old dresser that "wasn't good for anything anymore" has served me well almost 20 years now.
If you don't have a lot of $, be creative. Drive around early on bulk trash days. Even if you have to take something apart for lumber, eventually, you'll find something.
Years ago I built trapezoidal bookshelves out of pine. They are 44" high, 36" wide and 11" deep at the bottom, 3" deep at the top. It has 4 fixed shelves at various heights. The bottom shelf holds standard binders, the top shelf paperbacks and the middle shelves mix of hard cover and bigger paperbacks. The very top of the bookshelf can also be used for paperbacks but you need bookends! The shelf spacing has worked surprisingly well over the years (not a lot of free space left!). Given the wide base they are pretty stable and strong and have survived numerous moves (& the '89 earthquake!). Over the years their clear finished wood has aged to a beautiful honey color. These bookshelves are ideal for narrow hallways and not too diffcult to make. And they cost about $10 each back then (not counting my time and all the tools I *had* to buy:-)
I built a shelf out of some wood that was part of a packing crate that a TV came in and 4 pine long pine boards I bought at the hardware.
To keep things simple I just used the long boards (6 foot 6 inches I think) as they were. They were the sides then I used my cheap jigsaw to cut the planks from the crate to make shelves.
Then I used my drill, some screws, and a object (I cant remember what it was0 to put the whole thing together.
I used the object as my standard measure and simply placed it on the boards to measure equal distances for my shelves. With that done I just pre-drilled my screw holes (to prevent splitting) and then sunk the screws.
After it was finished I painted it several times. It's the sturdiest shelf I own but it's not very wide (maybe 20 inches).
)I also made a huge cd shelf the same way. I needed one that would hold about a thousand discs and couldn't find one that wasn't crap or didn't cost a fortune.)
A number of years ago I put together a paperback bookshelf that's currently at my Mom's house. No plans other than in my head. The frame was made from 2x6s, the shelves were 1x6s. I cut the uprights to length (6.75 feet if memory serves), then cut the shelves to 2 feet, marked the uprights every few inches, screwed the pieces together (with drywall screws, of course), put some scrap panelling on the back, and painted it white. I glued some felt on the bottom and back to protect the floor and wall, used a chisel to notch the bottom back to go over a baseboard, and put it in place. To avoid tipping I put some adjustable feet into scrap blocks, then set those on top of the shelf and adjusted them to press against the ceiling.
Wood: pine (except for the back panel).
Cost: not sure - well under $100 if memory serves. The paint was left over from another job, and I already had the screws.
Tools: circular saw, power drill with a screwdriver bit.
Cost compared to buying prebuilt shelves - not really a factor, since I wanted to fit a particular space. I could have gotten decent prefab particle board shelves for a similar price, but they wouldn't be as durable, nor would they fit the dimensions, and I didn't want to pay someone else to make 'em, which would have cost a fair bit.
Results: The shelf looks a bit rough, but it works well and should last for many years, which is what I wanted.
I just ran into a bookshelf topic where i forget but not in this group and posting the following thought i better put it here, too:
Please, try something bigger! Start a bookcase revolution!
If you have any room where you can go wall to wall, you have only to find a dozen or so long thin planks which you saw off an inch or two or three longer than the wall on the end (subtracting the thickness of the boards at the end if you need them) and a few more you can cut up into lengths of 4-12 inches.
The idea is to bend the long planks = your shelves = into the space and create a bookcase that looks like a soft mountain range. The arch or egg-shell effect of the curves is what allows the thin planks to work and if you think books on slopes will fall-over, you are wrong. They can only tip one way so they may be started at a strut serving as a bookend and will remain standing at the other end even if there is space open . . . i had an article in the first issue (or just before the first issue, i forget what such is called - dummy?) of Forbes in Japan, with a color illustration flying through space! This 15 or so years ago, but as far as i know, no one has done it but me.
Note that it not only looks nice but is good for you for the curves are calming and, if you have children, it will improve their perceptive/cognitive IQ because the vertical horizontal environment we live in . . . (there was a study in australia once about what architexture vs bush can do for you, which was a follow up to the famous one done with kittens).
"Rise, Ye Sea Slugs!"
Right! Do not underestimate the aesthetic appeal of crown molding. It's cheap and easy to apply.
My sad experience is that Minwax stain is a better option than paint. Even if I waited forever for the paint to dry, it still ended up sticking to the bottom of some of the books. Some books, over time, even became stuck on the shelves! I consider them part of my permanent collection.
I never liked white shelves. Stain is good because even if you move, it looks good everywhere. But that's just a personal opinion.
Oh, and use screws, not nails. Get a drill and use the screwdriver attachment, or say goodbye to all functionality in your wrist.
Hi all! I just wanted to share the bookshelves my wife and I created. (Please excuse the mess) They are adjustable, and easy to make. Anyway, just wanted to show off. :)
Transferred from another thread...
My husband built these hanging bookshelves (30X36) for about $30 each, the crown molding was the most expensive part. He used birch or pine, remnants from furniture he made. The design is ingenious, and was originally used for mounting shelves. A 45 degree mounting bracket is screwed into the studs, and the bookcases matching 45 degree bracket plus gravity hold them securely in place. We hung these in the basement office, and love the free floor space for chairs and storage. They also work nicely hanging behind a couch or chair where the floor space is not available. Best of all, they come with us when we move.
I line my painted shelves (and some of the stained shelves) with archival paper or unbleached muslin.
Greetings! I'm a newbie to the group and thought I'd make a contribution. You can view the construction of wall-to-wall-to-wall bookcases from bare walls to completion at this link:
I had these bookcases built over four years ago. Since then, another seven bookshelves, each seven feet long were built on the other bare wall for Phase II of my library; however, no additional photos were taken at the time. I recently completed Phase III, which consisted of placing three store-bought bookcases in the adjoining closet. Photos of my completed library to follow once I move my books around a little bit more.
Nice bookcase for a small, yet tall, space:
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