I'm looking to construct this bookshelf out of wood:
The one in the picture is some kind of structural foam, but I'm
thinking good ol' 2x6's. All the angles are crazy though, and I'm
brainstorming about the best way to join everything together. I'd
prefer invisible joints, but at the very least the joining apparatus
should be flush with the shelves. And it has to be strong enough to
hold 100-150lbs of books. I can use a flat back piece to fix all the
shelf walls together at the back, but they still need something up
front. Recessed brackets of some kind? Really strong glue? Better
I have a miter box, so I can get whatever angles I need to form the
component pieces. I'm also planning on painting over the whole thing,
so the joints don't have to be flawless. I'm really interested in
keeping the front nice and clean like in the picture. I don't have a
lot of power tools, just a drill really, so simple is good :)
On Thu, 15 Oct 2009 01:27:19 -0700 (PDT), NathanielC
If the dimensions of the bookshelf are anything approaching the width
of your example, 2x6's will pretty much fill in a large part of the
space of the bookshelf maybe making it a design piece but mostly
useless when it comes to functionality.
I'd suggest making the sides and top out of 3/4" plywood or 3/4" pine
and the 'shelving' out of 3/4" pine. If you're going to be putting
150lbs of books on it, you're going to have to make the dimensions
much bigger than the example you've given and the 'shelving' part will
have to be arranged so that it's more self supporting.
It sounds like you might be a little new to woodworking and if that's
the case then I'd suggest you make it easier on yourself by making the
shelving connections, straight 90 degree butt joints and not have them
all extending out from the location of other joints, if you follow
what I'm suggesting. When it comes to constructing it, I'd make a
centre shelf of some un square shape and then add attachment pieces
until it's finally fixed in place on all sides.
You'll probably get some other suggestions so take your time and
decide what works best for you.
I would go with 3/4" pine (plywood tends to splinter a lot more than
To start, I would cut long strips of paper, the thickness of the
material you plan to use. Then, on a large flat surface (a floor would
do) I 'fabricate the layout' as your imagination allows it. The front
view of the completed unit. Tape the whole model together then cut the
corners/angles with an Exacto knife into 'cuts' that are within the
parameters of the mitre-box's abilities. No point in cutting the
angles into 100-degree angles if your mitre box won't go that far. A
cheap protractor from your local office supply store will help you do
some geometry. (YAY MATH!)
You could start by building the outer shell first. Trace IT onto a
sheet, then do the layout of the inside, on the flat, with the paper
Or you could download a free copy of SketchUp and do it all in there.
Can't be THAT difficult as a lot of the guys in here are using that
program *grin, duck and run*
To assemble... if you are getting good joints, just glue, I would try
the stuff you can sand. The outer parameter shell, butt-joints and
screws...pre-drill, fill the screw-head holes with filler, sand and
150 pounds of books is nothing for that design you showed us.
Since you are going to paint, use epoxy thickened with Cab-o-Sil, micro
balloons or even talc.
Epoxy will be plenty strong and requires no clamping. The problem you'll
have is holding pieces together while the epoxy sets (takes hours, not
really hard for a day or two). Easiest would be to nail temporarily (drill
for nail hole).
The purpose of thickening the epoxy (make it like vaseline) is so it will
bridge gaps. If any squeezes out, scrape off and use lacquer thinner to
remove any residue right away.
With all the work involved to build that, are you sure you want to put books
in there? That could not possibly be good for the books.
If you can get access to a table saw to cut the angles (or even a
handheld circular saw with a rip guilde, although the table saw would be
preferable), you'll have a much, much easier time of it than trying to
cut them with a miter box.
One thought that comes to my mind is to use a bunch of piano hinges to
hold things together. If recessed flush with the surface of the wood,
they wouldn't be too obvious, I suspect, especially if they didn't
extend all the way to the front. It wouldn't be perfectly clean
looking, though, and the divisions would probably have to be laid out to
form a rigid truss.
Ordinary wood glue of a good quality and butt joints would, I suspect,
be plenty strong enough if the joints are tight and properly clamped.
Getting the joints tight and especially clamping them well at all these
odd angles is tricky, though. One fairly straightforward way to add
reinforcement would be to drill a few of holes through each joint and
glue in a dowel once the assembly is done. Planning ahead to make sure
you have drill access is, of course, a necessity. Drilling and doweling
after the initial assembly ensures that the dowel holes remain collinear.
The idea of thickened epoxy is a good one; but epoxy can be a bit
expensive and icky to work with. Looking up information on "stitch and
glue" boat construction should prove helpful for making epoxy joints at
odd angles. (Fiberglass reinforcement is unneeded for a bookcase, of
course, unless you somehow need it to be watertight as well.)
(I do agree with what was written regarding this being rough on the
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot
On Thu, 15 Oct 2009 12:00:53 -0400, Andrew Erickson
If you examine the picture closely, you can see that all the books
piled on this shelf are smaller books. I'm guessing the carpenter who
designed and built the shelf chose those books for staging and
appearance purposes only and not for actual reading use.
I wouldn't want that thing in my house, and if it was I'd hide it in the
pantry and use it to store bags of potato chips and pretzels. I
certainly wouldn't put *books* on it.
Any given amount of traffic flow, no matter how
sparse, will expand to fill all available lanes.
Got that right--it's not supporting them properly and they're going to end
up, well, I'm sure that librarians and bookbinders have a technical term for
it but "messed up" is the best I can do politely.
Unless you want to build this simply to be able to say, "I built
this", I'd pass and buy one.
The only thing that makes any sense is fiberglass, especially if it is
going to be painted.
Hope your trigonometry skills are up to speed since you are going to
need them to build the molds.
Coming from the prospective of having built a boat, building this
project would be a total PITA.
Don't want to rain on your parade, but building this is not a simple
In the enlarged portion of the lower right hand corner, I've drawn some
lines and numbered three of the pieces. The lines represent where I would
cut the boards to give the maximum surface area for adhesive. The rough
perspective view to the right shows what the board might look like when cut.
I would use 10 minute epoxy as an adhesive, starting by gluing in board 1,
allowing time for the initial cure, then board 2, wait, then board 3. Scrape
off any excess before it totally dries. (you can sand any remainder off
prior to painting.)
As others have said, I believe the hard part will be cutting the angles
Hope this gives you some ideas.
Yep. Looks to me like you could make a layout drawing on large
format paper, then make triangular rods for each joint, and dowel
the sides of the rods into the boards. All your prisms would have
endgrain showing, but the boards could be in the usual
orientation. Finding the correct angles at the board ends, and of
the joint prisms, can be done by Cartesian geometry, measuring
off the paper layout. A drafting table and T square, or drafting
machine, will help.
Is this description clear? It can be analyzed so each three-board
intersection is a triangular section plus canted-end boards...
For inspiration, rent the video of "The Five Thousand Fingers of
and admire the sets for that fine movie. Nary a right angle nor a
straight line anywhere...
Thanks for the feedback everyone! Especially to everyone whose first
piece of advice wasn't to not build it, haha, and ESPECIALLY to
evodawg, who at least cracked me up. Short and simple, I like it.
Btw, this is what happens when engineering grads finally have enough
time on their hands for art projects -- geometric monstrosities :)
I downloaded SketchUp and I'm already hooked on it. I ♥ Google. I
also really like the idea of making a to-scale paper model, that
should really take the guess work out of cutting angles. Thanks for
the figures Digg! They made me realize I can get away with using 90-
degree angles for 2/3rds of every internal joint. Cutting it so all
boards to join at a common point gets pretty tricky. I played around
with the angles my miter box gives me, and there's only one way to get
three angles to add up to 360 degrees, and that's two 135's (using
22.5 degree cuts) and one 90 (using either two 45 degree cuts or a
22.5 and a 67.5). This doesn't allow anywhere near the freedom I need
to make all of those odd internal joints, so I'll probably go the
other route. I'll just have to make sure to put the two 90 degree
cuts on the low side of the joint whenever possible to give all all
downward forces as stable a support as possible.
As far as the actual joints, I'm leaning towards wood glue and
dowels. I'm thinking if I drill the holes a bit bigger than necessary
on one side of the joint it will give me the play I need to keep
everything at the intended angles. Clamping will be tricky, I haven't
figured that out yet.
I agree with everyone that this will be hard on the books that sit on
angled shelves, won't do their bindings any favors. I've got a
collection of beaters in mind though, so I'm prepared to sacrifice
them. Also I'm not buying one because they don't make them anymore,
not to mention that they were asking $400, screw that.
Another possibility is to make finger joints (like the familiar cigar-
Instead of mating '0101010101' with '1010101010' fingers, you'd
be making '010010010010' and '100100100100' and '001001001001'
fingers, to make a three-way mesh. Getting a little fancier,
you could also radius the ends and drill the axis so when three
ends come together, the axial hole down the joint lines up (a bamboo
skewer would keep the pieces together while the glue dries).
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