Gwnewch y pethau bychain


Ever since we moved to our new apartment in July, there’s been one important thing missing from our otherwise perfect home:  our books.  Due to a lack of adequate shelving, our books were all out in the garage in boxes, which made me sad.  Unfortunately, when you have the number of paperbacks we do, shelving becomes a problem — you simply can’t buy bookcases designed to provide maximum paperback density.You either have to stack them two or three rows deep on big shelves designed for hardbacks, which offends my library-raised soul, or you can build them yourself.  But building shelves yourself is a four hand job, and I preferred to have an extra pair of hands that were good with tools and building things.  Fortunately, I know vila_resthal; unfortunately, just as I was asking him about helping me on this project, he was in an auto accident that left him with a broken collarbone.  So, we’ve been waiting until he healed up sufficiently to be able to tackle the construction.

Sunday, he and his wife lindsey-cita drove over from Athens, and while she and kitanzi visited, we made ourselves busy in the garage, turning 15 8′ 1x6s and three boxes of 2″ #8 wood screws into the most essential piece of furniture in the house.  And they do look lovely!

Here’s a picture of the left unit, with the doorway in the picture to give an idea of the height::

And here it is full of books!

Of course, the books are currently on the shelves in no  particular order, which those of you familiar with my personal brand of OCD will realize that sooner rather than later I’m going to have to do a massive re-org.  But that is, for now, another day.



Some of meeze, some of moze…


Just some pine and some oak and a handful of Norsemen…


  1. I’m stuck at work late and going through my friends list for amusement…I can’t remember how I came across you but I’m pretty sure I added you and never bothered to introduce myself. Whoops. Hi! 🙂

    Your bookshelves look great (yay books!!!)…but check out what I’m definitely going to have if I ever get a house with stairs. And, oh, win the lottery:

  2. Congratulations


    I am such a geek -- I find myself turning my head to the side trying to read the titles.

    I wish I could come help with your reorg. Dunno how you could stand it this long, not having your books!

  3. My personal brand of OCD won’t let me shelve hardcovers and paperbacks in separate places, lest the whole where-things-are thing get confusing, but still, wow, pretty shelves!

    • This is a constant struggle for me, especially as our hardback fiction collection outgrows its space, but the paperbacks have loads of space left over. Shelve them all together? Keep them segregated? I can’t decide!!

      • I don’t want to always have to know which format I have a book in, so I just feel a need to keep them together. My partner does them separately, and that works for him.

        (I’m weird in other book-ways, too. I have sections of my library marked “Fiction”, “Short Stories”, “General Non-fiction” and the like, but there’s also the “Stuff by people we know” shelf, and the “Race/Class/Gender/Sexual Expression” shelf, and the ever-popular “WTF?” shelf. 🙂

  4. Yay, bookshelves! I need more shelves for my room. Or at least taller shelves for my room. But just at the moment, I’m not sure where I’d put them. Though I have given in and started doing the two-deep shelving. (but I either do it with shelves deep enough that you can do hard covers in back and soft covers in front or I do it with books where I have lots by the same author so I know more or less what’s back there.

    • In our old place, we put up wall mounted shelving (The kind where you mount two tracks on the wall and then put brackets in the track to lay the shelves across.) This had the advantage of being able to put shelves *over* other furniture, like the dressers.

      I didn’t really want to do that on a large scale here, though we may eventually do it again in the bedroom if we’re forced to by lack of space.

    • We discovered that square poster mailing tubes laid across the backs of too-deep bookshelves prop up the back layer enough to see what’s there. 🙂

  5. I have to admit, they look far better with books on them than they did empty. I’m glad that Lyn and I finally were able to make the time to come visit & construct. But remember, I couldn’t have built them without you. Even with all my tools, I wouldn’t have been able to do it alone. Give yourself some credit! I just ran the saw and the drill. If it weren’t for your Herculean strength, those shelves would have been as warped as my sense of humor.

    BTW, that cat we were worried about Sunday? She went into labor today. So far she’s had 4 kittens. We expect at least 1 more, possibly as many as 3 more. Rascal is tired, but doing fine. Turning out to be an excellent first-time mother. Miss Kitty is jealous, of course, but has been looking upon her Grandkittens with pride.

    Lyn sends hugs to you and Kitanzi, as do I.


  6. Very nice!

    <tries heroically to suppress alphabetization itch>

  7. Awesome!

    (You know, I have the same needing a clueful extra pair of hands issue… )

  8. First -- looks fabulous! Well done on all counts!

    Second -- you built paperback-specific bookshelves, with two people, a saw, a drill, some wood, and some screws? Dude, I want DETAILS. I just might be able to round up a second pair of hands to accomplish a similar feat here, and we sure could use the shelf space. But having specs to start with would be a huge help.

    • I’ll second the call for details, as the paperbacks are rapidly overflowing any and all available shelf space (the hardbacks are close behind them, but I can deal with that later!)

    • Pretty easy.

      You need:

      15 8′ 1x6 boards. Try to select them for straightness. Obviously, you can spend as much as you want on the boards, but I just buy the cheap white pine for about 4.50 a board.

      3 boxes of 2″ #8 wood screws. This will give you 150 screws. With luck, you’ll have some left over. 🙂

      A drill with a small drill bit and a phillips screwdriver bit.

      A Circular Saw.

      A T-square and a pencil.

      A pair of vice-grips (these are for backing out screws that go bad and the heads get stripped.)


      Take 4 8′ boards and set them aside. These are your uprights.

      Take the remaining 11 boards and cut them into 4′ pieces. Try to make the cuts as even as possible. (There’s a bit of a margin for variation, but not a huge one. more than 1/4″ and it becomes problematic.

      Take one of the 8′ uptrights. on one end. make a line 3/4″ from the end. This is the bottom shelf. Measure from that line 8″ and make another line. Then 3/4″ from that. This is the first shelf. Continue until you’ve marked all the way up the board. There is no top, to allow the books on top to not be cramped. You should have 11 3/4″ spaced parallel lines, 8″ apart. Repeat this for all four boards.

      Using a small drill bit, drill 3 holes between each set of parallel lines. On the side of the board you expect to be the outside, you’ll want to redrill the same holes, countersinking the hole slightly if your drill allows you to.


      Now, take a 4′ board and place it at the bottom of two uprights, on the first line you drew. Drill 3 screws through the drilled holes into each board. Make sure that you keep straight in order not to have the screws come out of the board — since the plank is only 3/4″ wide, you don’t get much room to work with. 🙂 Once you have the bottom board in place, do the topmost shelf (the set of parallel lines about 8″ from the top of the board.) Once the top and bottom are in place, you can stand the structure on its side, and it’s much easier to get the screws into the other shelves. Place each shelf where it belongs according to the lines you marked, and repeat until all the shelves are in place and have 3 screws in each shelf (on each side).

      Then, do it all again to build the second shelf.

      Place the shelf against the wall, and the find the studs in the wall using a studfinder. pick a shelf just below eye level, and drill a hole at an angle from the underside of the shelf into the stud, then drive a screw through the hole, anchoring the shelf to the wall. I put 2 anchors on each shelf.

      I think that’s all of the secret recipe. Let me know if you have any questions. 🙂

      • That is the pattern we used, yes. If you’re OCD about having a top to the shelves, you’ll have to buy one more 8 foot board, but then you’re only going to be able to put CDs on that top shelf. Or, you can have the space between each 3/4 inch shelf board measured out to 7 and 3/4 inches rather than the 8 inches ACat quoted. That would give your top shelf *almost* as much clearance as the rest. (The exact measurement for *exactly* equal shelf spacing is 11 shelves @ 8.72 inches rather than the 8.75 we used, but my tape measure doesn’t go down to hundredths of an inch. And you might find that *some* of your paperbacks wind up being too tall for any of your shelves.)

        The drillbit you use to drill the holes in the uprights should be slightly smaller in diameter than your screws. And if you don’t have one of those nifty countersinking attachments, a second drillbit that’s the size of the heads of the screws will do. Just be careful not to drill the countersink holes too deep. About a quarter of an inch will do nicely.

        We could have stained or painted the shelves, and put my trademarked Four coats of clear polyurethane on top of the paint, but that would have meant making the job last two or three days -- most of it waiting for paint and polyurethane to dry. Since ACat and I live about 100 miles apart, I’m rather glad that he chose to forego this option. 🙂

        One last tip: If you’re stuck for cash and have to get the cheapest boards you can, expect most of them to be warped or twisted. Then make sure that you buy an extra board. You can cut two 1 foot pieces off of it and attach them to the rest of that board with several screws, leaving a gap between the short pieces -- So that it looks sort of like a tuning fork with six inch prongs. What you want is a tool to torque the shelf boards around with. The gap between the prongs will be just right to slide over the shelf boards when you are doing the screws through the second upright, since you made the tool with the same sort of board from which your shelves are being made.

        Oh dear, I sound like such a geek… I am not a woodworker. I am an old guy who grew up on a farm. I just learned how to make lots of stuff that there was no money to buy. 🙂


      • You could use the same basic design for hardback shelves with a few modification:
        Buy 1x8 boards instead of 1x6
        Adjust the shelf interval to 9″ (your top shelf will have 8.25″ clearance to the ceiling, not a full 9″)
        Use a shorter shelf span length: 24 to 30 inches.

        • Absolutely. The basic shelf design is pretty flexable, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. In my case, I wanted specifically to fit the most standard paperbacks as I could manage. Your deisign would allow it to fit most trade paperbacks as well, at the sacrifice of a fair number of total shelf-feet.

          It ultimately depends on what kind of space you have and what your goals are. The advantage of building it yourself is you get to decide precisely what you want and then build to suit, rather than trying to make some commercial product work for you.

  9. I am so happy you get to have your books back, Sweetie! 🙂

  10. Nice units. We have our books in one room of our house. In the middle of that room is a book shelf so we can put the paperbacks in from both sides. Unfortunately we have a small house with small rooms so our library is also full of other stuff. And we have too many books, or not enough shelves. (Never too many books.)

    Being a woodworker, I could build and install book shelves by my self. If you ever move to South Southern California…

  11. Yay, book home! They look lovely, even if they’re still disorganized.

  12. It was a joy to see you both again! Although next time we visit, you’ll no doubt find me in the computer room often, pondering the ‘je ne c’est quois’ of lots more book spines =) (Well, there *is* just something about them..) The pics of the *SHELVES* filled with books look awesome, though! Can’t wait to see them fully filled in person!

    Thank you and your lovely Kitanzi; I truly enjoyed my day!

  13. Oh well done! And YAY bookshelves! *hugstight* 🙂

  14. Unpainted Furniture Centers carry a line of “video shelves” that would also be the right density for paperbacks. They go up to 7 feet tall, though you’d have to special-order that height.

  15. THAT is ALOT of BOOKS!


  16. That looks a lot like our living room! We used leftover boards from a store that was closing and put them on brackets in tracks. I loved being able to set the height of the shelves to just fit paperbacks.

    • Yeah, that’s what we had at the old place, but we didn’t want to make that many holes in the wall here, so we opted for the more traditional approach. (These also have the advantage of, when you moe, they’re much easier to erect than the brackets, which require a lot more work to set up in the new place. 🙂

      But yeah, the convenience of movable shelves is an appealing feature of the brackets. The other is being able to put shelves *over* other furniture. 🙂

  17. To paraphrase one of kitanzi’s userpics -- if you have some wall space, you don’t have enough bookcases.

    Ann O. 🙂

  18. Cool! The last bookshelves I had that were shaped like that I needed to buy metal braces (with a turnbuckle assembly at the middle) to go diagonally — I think I went top to near-bottom on one side, and bottom to near top in the other direction — or they really wanted to collapse sideways.

    My other solution to the 2-deep (mitigated by the too-tall nature of most bought-bookshelves) is to put a several-inch square tubes behind the front layer of books in order to see the top several-inches of the back-layer of books. These can be styro gleaned from shippings, or corners cut off of boxes… Started doing that during my Modern Starving College Student period when I was utilizing milk crates.

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