chipboard bookcase

Hello,
I am thinking of making a book case or should I say shelf unit, as I may use it for cds and dvds too.
Based on my experience of this house, the walls appear to be 8'x4' plasterboard that is only supported by 1.5"x1.5" wood at the edges, yes that's right, 4' centres! The plasterboard seems to be re enforced by splashing some plaster on the inside of the wall and pressing cardboard squares into it, to give the appearance of something resembling an egg box with square holes.
As the studs are very insubstantial and few and far between, I don't think screwing to the wall is a good idea. Though I could demolish and rebuild the wall, I think a free standing unit might be a quicker and cleaner way to do things.
If I use melamine faced chip because it's cheap and readily available, unless you have a better idea?
What's the best way to fix the sides to the shelves? Would you just butt them together or should I be routing/mitering bits out?
IIRC chipboard likes coarse screws like those used in plasterboard, so I could just screw through the sides. I am not too worried about having screws on show. I could always tidy them up with caps.
Or would you do something more elegant with hidden dowels?
Is there a magic method to make sure hole and shelf line up or is it just a case of measuring twice, drilling once?
Thanks in advance, Stephen.
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It sounds like you have one of the partition wall systems. They are two sheets of board bonded together by a cardboard honeycomb. They are very strong for what they are made from. However books are heavy, you need to put the load down to the floor and just fix it to the wall to stop it toppling if someone pulls on it. Any of the standalone bookcases sold flat pack in B&Q, Ikea, etc. will do. Just choose one with thick shelves so they don't bend. A batten fixed to the top and into the wall should be enough to stop it toppling and be invisible if you have a tall bookcase.
IME you won't get away with fixing cantilevered shelves to it and then loading them with books whatever fixings you use.
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wrote:

Thanks. the problem is above is the loft and I don't think there is 2.4m headroom so I couldn't drop a batten all the way down, and knowing my luck, I'd hit it off centre and it would burst through the wall!
Thanks, Stephen.
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Stephen wrote:

Just keep tapping in shorter sections one after the other until the bottom one is far enough down. But try to arrange things so that the screws won't be going in near the ends of any of the battens.
There's not much danger of the battens breaking through the sides of the panel unless you do something very drastic, they just follow the internal surface.
--
Mike Clarke

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On Wed, 17 Nov 2010 12:32:34 +0000, Mike Clarke

Thanks. I didn't realise I could use short lengths. I thought I would have to go from floor to ceiling. Presumably the longer the better, as it would share the weight over a larger area?
Thanks.
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snipped-for-privacy@nowhere.com.invalid says...

For books, think solid wood - think how much a shelf-full weighs. Your (full) bookshelf will be very heavy and very shallow. One nudge in the wrong place and ...
If it will be standing on the carpet, how level is the edge?
Some fixing to the wall is essential for stability - but note that the wall is not taking the weight!

Take a look at 'Billy' bookshelves from Ikea - real wood veneer (mine are oak and look superb) and no exposed screws!

Plastic fixing blocks - the 3 hole variety - have rounded edges and are virtually invisible if the melamine is similarly coloured (white, brown or magnolia should be easy to find.)

Melamine faced chipboard is usuaslly only about 15mm thick, so you won't have much support above the screws - and books are heavy!
I'd use the plastic blocks if I were you!
(The Ikea shelves are 18mm and the hidden fixings are off centre, so most of the board thickness is above.)

Not necessary if you use the plastic blocks!
Seriously, I couldn't find the a suitable computer table a couple of years ago. Apart from anything else, my wife is left handed and I'm right handed, so the pull-out keyboard shelf had to be longer than usual so that she has room to move the mouse.
I said I'd make one; she said we'd buy one, so we wasted a couple of weekends looking at all the unsuitable ones ...!
So, medium oak melamine faced chipboard (cut to size at B&Q), mid-brown plastic fixing blocks, two sets of runners (the second is for the printer shelf under the keyboard shelf at one end and makes it easy to get to all of the printer when it jams!) and we now have an excellent piece of functional furniture, rock steady and stable (although I'm not the greatest DIYer by a long way!).
I'm not a shareholder in Ikea but you really should look at their Billy shelves - try pricing up all the materials you need to build your own for comparison: you might be surprised at how it all adds up!
--

Terry

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Having been moved into a homeworking role recently, I needed to free up some space to fit a desk in. I got rid of our 6' wide 4' high bookshelf, for a 6' tall 4' wide "Besta" unit from Ikea (79 + 6.00 for an extra shelf). Absolutely brilliant quality. Very solid - easily takes all the books. But follow the instructions about fixing to the wall at top.
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I use black PB screws, having tried the SF carcass screws and decided there ain't much difference.

If you're having supports between the shelves, use a couple as "spacers". Clamp them to the side pieces so that the shelf is kept in position for fixing. For heavier loads you can fix the supports to the side pieces, thereby creating a groove for the shelves. Main thing is, the pieces have to be precisely cut so, unless you have a chopsaw, I'd get them cut to size at a merchant.
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On 15/11/2010 10:48, Stephen wrote:

Unless you need bespoke sizes, this may be a case of you not being able buy the materials for the price of a decent flat pack bookcase. If you hunt around a bit you can usually find some solid examples with real wood veneer that don't look too nasty.

All depends on the load you expect to put on them and the amount of effort you want to go to.

Screws through the sides into the end of the shelf it the quickest, weakest, and least attractive solution, but it is quick and easy enough. For light duty it will probably do the job. You will need a back on the case to stop the whole lot "racking" and folding flat though.

Dowels are hard to align and take more effort than they are worth IME (unless you have a nice CNC machine to position all the holes for you!) Biscuits are a much better suited DIY solution quick and simple to sink, and you only need worry about spot on accuracy on one axis. I often use them for smaller cabinets etc. Such as this one I did:
http://wiki.diyfaq.org.uk/index.php?title=Small_bookcase
A pocket hole jig is a step up from screwing through the side of the cabinet as well.
Bigger cases are probably better with a dado[1] chopped into the uprights for the shelf to sit in. You can still screw through the face to fix, but now the load is carried by the dado and not the screws. This is a much stronger construction, that won't rack as much even without a back.

Making a jig or template is really the only way. Handy if you want some moveable shelves supported on the little plastic or metal "L" things that poke in holes in the side. A small hole drilling jig with a peg in it that indexes into the previous hole, will let you drill the next hole a fixed offset from the first each time.
[1] Cutting dados is probably an article in itself... the common ways of doing so being with a table saw or a router - but there are lots of variations on the exact method.
--
Cheers,

John.

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On Mon, 15 Nov 2010 11:52:25 +0000, John Rumm
I could buy some Billies. They wouldn't fill the gap completely but I could get the nearest combination. I would like to add doors though to make it a shelved cupboard rather than an open bookcase though.

I hadn't fully appreciated that. Thanks. So the weight of the shelf pushes down and the screws burst through the top?
Are those tiny plastic blocks any stronger? After all, they are quite small. I thought they were not liked in these parts?
Sorry, I've not quoted it but you mentioned a back. I was going to have a back to stop the books falling out and to give rigidity. I've noticed some shelves/cupboards just use hardboard. Is that enough or should I use the same material as used on the sides and shelves?

Thanks. That's what I was trying to saw but I didn't know dado was the correct word. I'd only ever heard of dado rails before which have nothing to do with slots, or is it that you cut slots into the rail to make it attractive?
You said dados were a long topic, so I won't ask too many questions. I presume I could just cut straight lines with a router, the same thickness as the shelf.
I would think the deeper the dado, the more support it would give but I image that there must be a magic fraction: if you cut too deep would you weaken the side by going through it? Would it be right to say the ideal depth is a third of the thickness?
Are there any good books or web sites so I don't have to pester everyone here?
A dado on the back would support the shelf on three sides, so I would only have to support the front to prevent sagging.
Thanks, Stephen.
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On 16/11/2010 12:51, Stephen wrote:

If it's a cupboard you're after (a shelf unit with doors :-))you might consider kitchen units cut down to whatever depth you want, with added shelves to suit.

Not a problem if you're screwing into the centre of the board edge, but an unholy mess if you're not spot on. I built a huge cd rack from "real wood veneer" contiboard and plasterboard screws, with shelf supports every foot or so but, as I said, the pieces have to be precisely cut.

I'd rather see screwheads on the ends than modesty blocs on the inside. They take up shelf space and IME can be a bugger to locate and fix accurately. Size 4 screws aren't much fun

Hardboard is fine for rigidity. You'll have some ugly edges if you use anything thicker

Slots are often cut just to make locating the shelves easier rather than to increase strength, so don't have to be that deep.

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On 16/11/2010 12:51, Stephen wrote:

Nothing stopping a mix and match approach - ready made flatpack carcass, and bespoke doors etc.

Partly that, and it also is very difficult for it to resist any sideways "racking" force that would tend to push your shelf to look like a parallelogram rather than a rectangle.

They are probably slightly stronger, but actually not that easy to use, and ugly to boot.

Hardboard is fine (probably a bit better looking if veneer faced) - as long as its fixed around all the edges it keeps the whole thing square.

You could also use rebate, rabet, mortice etc - various terms can be used for the same concept.

Not sure on the origin of the term. Its probably more common with US furniture makers, since a dado set on a table saw is a very common way of cutting the things there.
e.g:
http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/DADO-BLADE-STACKED-DADO-SET-RADIAL-ARM-SAW-8-IRWIN-UK-/290484154430?pt=UK_Home_Garden_PowerTools_SM&hash=item43a234703e
However a router is also ideal for cutting slots like that.

Long topic in the sense that there are lots of ways of doing them. If you have a router, then you can use that. One solution is to do as you suggest; mark out carefully, clamp a guide to your upright and route a shelf thickness slot across it. Repeat etc as necessary. This assumes you have a cutter the exact width of your shelf. You can get a bit more sophisticated and do a "stopped" dado - i.e. one that stops just short of the front of the upright, and then chop a corner out of the leading edge of the shelf. That way you don't see the slot in the upright and the shelf appears to abut the upright at the front rather than slot into it.
My personal favourite for these sorts of cuts is using a top bearing guided cutter.
e.g:
http://www.axminster.co.uk/axcaliber-flush-trim-cutters-top-bearing--1-2-prod829112 /
Lay your upright down, and offer the shelf to it in the desired position. Now use a couple of upright depth offcuts and place these flat on top of the upright either side of the shelf, and slide them up tight to it. Clamp in place and remove the shelf. You not have a gap between the two offcuts that exactly matches the thickness of your shelf, and you can use a cutter with a top bearing to follow it. It also means if you want to allow a little wiggle room for paint etc, you can slide a sheet of paper in as a spacer when using the shelf to set the guide positions.
Although I would not bother in chipboard, you can get really posh and do sliding dovetail dados, with a matching profile on the shelf ends, and the slot cut with a dovetail bit - here the shelf slides into position and is locked into the upright by the profile of the dado.

Yup - no need for more than a third, a quarter would be plenty.

There are, although pestering here is not a bad thing - that way everyone learns, and sometimes the more interesting threads can get turned into wiki articles etc.
(I will find some book recommendations in a bit!)

Yup, although that is getting a bit more complicated, and also means you need a back of more than just something thin. Much the same can be achieved by simply nailing through the back into the shelf - it gives it some extra support in the centre.
Other options include intermediate uprights.
You can also use front lipping on the shelf to add depth and strength. A hardwood lipping routed with whatever profile, facing on to a real wood veneer chipboard shelf can look very effective. Keeps the cost down while making the shelves not only stronger, also also look far more substantial.
--
Cheers,

John.

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John Rumm wrote:

<SNIP>
I'm surprised nobody has mentioned 'The Sagulator' yet. http://www.woodbin.com/calcs/sagulator.htm
Or maybe they have & I missed it?
--
Dave - The Medway Handyman
www.medwayhandyman.co.uk
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On Tue, 16 Nov 2010 15:12:07 +0000, John Rumm

I thought they went into a radial arm saw, and since I don't have one of those, I didn't look any further into it. If I were to do any, I think it would be with a router. I assume you have to chisel the end to make the round end square?

Thanks for the long post, it has given me lots of options to consider. If you do think of any books, please let me know as I can ask for them for Christmas.
Thanks, Stephen.
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On 29/11/2010 21:12, Stephen wrote:

You can use them in a radial arm saw, and also on a table saw (assuming its arbour is long enough to take the thickness - some EU models are knobled due to the elf'n'safety requirements for spin down time - and a short arbour that won't take a heavy blade set is cheaper than electronic breaking!)

If you are routing "stopped" dados, then you could - or alternatively just cut the matching bit of the shelf such that it is shorter than the dado by the router bit diameter - then you won't need the rounded bits of the slot.

Oops - never did that did I!

This is not a bad one:
(Amazon.com product link shortened)
--
Cheers,

John.

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The stuff finished with timber veneer might give a better look to the finish product.

I've not done it, but my Dad made a bed headboard, cupboard thing using dowels to join it. You can get jigs that make the drilling off holes in the right place easy enough. Though some movable shelves

But unless you really have the urge to build it, or want it to fit a particular place etc. you might want to look up the prices of decent flatpack ones compared to the cost of the boards. Cheap ones from Argos etc. can be pretty rubbish. But the IKEA Billy ones are strong and sturdy, and quick to put together. Unfussy and do the job well.
E.G. A 200x80x28 cm unit in wood veneer is 49, in white, black or coloured melamine faced board 30.
<http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/categories/departments/living_room/116 85/>
The Benno tower is good for CD/DVD/video and matches with the billy bookcases (shallower,narrower, more and thinner shelves)
--
Chris French


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snipped-for-privacy@familyfrench.co.uk says...

I should have pointed out in my previous post that the screws (actually specially made fixings but you do screw them in!) are only used to clamp the shelves to the sides to make the structure rigid - the main fixing is two dowels in each end of the shelf so, as Chris says, strong and sturdy.
I think the veneer is sealed with a melamine product, unlike veneered chipboard you would buy, which is just unfinished veneer, and it certainly makes the veneer strong as well as looking good - I have a swivel chair near one of mine and have accidentally caught it against the front edge of one of my cases on numerous occasions with no sign of damage, let alone chipped veneer.
--

Terry

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yup, they use those cam fixings, which pull everything together nice and tight, whilst being nicely hidden.

According to the webpage, it's an acrylic lacquer.
The shelves are rated for 30kg, and are plnety good enough for 90% of the books we have them. It is possible to over do the load on the shelves, if you have a shelf full of large heavy books, I relocated a shelf of my wife's medical references to the bottom shelf when I noticed a small amount of bowing.
But any DIY shelf made with similar boards would probably be worse.
--
Chris French


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chris French wrote:
[Billy bookcase]

Has anyone else noticed that they seem to have changed to plastic for the cam part, making them a little less strong?
Chris
--
Chris J Dixon Nottingham UK
snipped-for-privacy@cdixon.me.uk
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Yup, I noticed that when I put 5 together earlier this year.
Though in the context of where it is used I can't say that any less perceived strength is an issue.
--
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