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Tuesday, July 03, 2012
How to Make Your Own Diagonal Bookshelf
The bookshelf in the picture above took 20-30 hours to build and $200-250 in material costs (using poplar wood). For a general idea of how to do your own custom diagonal shelf, here is how I did it.
- I chose to do a full-wall shelf, both in height and width. In my case, this meant going up and around a hallway, and since the other side was too skinny to really employ a diagonal shelf, I made that portion a typical straight shelf. I measured all of the primary outside dimensions and then modeled the shelf with 3D CAD software, from which I could then pull dimensions for all the boards, as well as be able to play around a little with the design. For example, pictured in the image below is an option with corner cupboard doors. *NOTE: If you send me the overall dimensions of your bookshelf idea, I could quickly model it up for you.*
- Once I had my overall dimensions, I had to choose how to space the individual shelves and how deep to make the bookshelf. I chose to make each shelf “compartment” 12”x12”, which is a little large for most books but allows pretty much all normal books to fit (as you can see above). Making the compartments smaller will mean more compartments which means more space for books, but it also means more notching and thus more work. Originally, I planned to make the shelf out of 1”x10” oak boards, but in order to save about 60% on material costs, I chose 1”x8” poplar boards instead (real dimensions are ¾”x7¼”). Almost all books are less than 7” deep, so this ended up working well. A couple things to consider though: 1) an 8” nominal depth may not work as well if you choose to include any cupboard storage space; 2) if you’re using a lighter colored stain for the bookshelf, poplar may not be a good choice as it tends to come a bit discolored and has an uneven grain. It works great, however, if you stain it dark as I did.
- I chose to stain the wood prior to making any cuts, though this was primarily due to schedule considerations. In hindsight, it may be best to make all the cuts and notches prior to any finishing work. In my case, I had to go back and do a little touch-up with stain on a few pieces, and then covered it all in polyurethane finish prior to final assembly.
- I cut all the angled miter ends with a Skil-Saw set at a 45 deg angle. Once this was done, I measured and marked the centers of the notches.
- I made all the notches with a router using a ¾” straight dado bit, which worked like a charm. To cut the notches straight, I clamped a square to the board to hold the router against. It was easiest to make the cuts by making three router passes per notch. I had to take care to notch all like-sloped parallel boards from the same face (either front or back), and notched them a little more than halfway through the board. Since the boards ran a tad thicker than ¾”, I had to go back and use a Dremel to widen the notches slightly and smooth out the notch edges.
- For the non-diagonal shelves, I notched the vertical boards ¼” to give better support for the shelving.
- Once all the boards were cut, notched, and Dremeled, I did a test fit-up to verify that all the boards fit together prior to putting on the polyurethane. Where necessary, I used the Dremel to fix any tight notches and interferences. Some of the boards weren’t perfectly aligned on the sides or top, so I had to cut a few of them slightly to align the ends. Because of the size of the bookshelf, I found it necessary to assemble it near its final location in the house. Once all the diagonals were fitted together, I used wood screws (with a pilot hole to avoid cracking the wood) to fasten them to the perimeter boards. From there, the bookcase was easy to tip into place.
- The boards initially weren’t all aligned depth-wise, so I used a couple clamps to pull them into alignment and then screwed several steel brackets across the back of the shelf to hold the boards in place.
- I stabilized the bookshelf with some small wood shims under the baseboard, and then used two 3” steel angles, screwing them to the wall and then to the shelf.