Switchback Bookshelf

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Project by rweitz posted 10-12-2011 01:02 PM 4103 views 33 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I was looking at bookshelves to build for my daughter’s first apartment and came across this:
Switchback bookcase and showed it to her. She loved it, so I told her when she moved out I’d make it.

Well a few months later she’s out and I reversed the design in Photoshop and Illustrator to make this build. It’s not the same as the proportions of the original, but it worked out good for my project. I had to make some tweaks to the cuts when I finally built it, but overall it fit together just as planned. Never thought that would happen on the first try with this – it looks too crazy to work at all.

I did not do all the fancy dovetails, just 1×10’ – 8 foot pine from HD, it took 5 of them to make this so the whole thing cost about $50. It is a bit tall a just over 6’, so if I were to do it again I’d lose one of the levels. If I do that I might be able to get it down to 4 boards.

Since it was so tall – on the install I screwed in a couple “L” brackets on the top back shelf to hold it to the wall. I cut 10, 20, and 90 degree dados where needed, cutting each angle on all boards with one setup for each degree setting, left all the ends square, sanding them out at the end to match those degrees as needed. Next time I think I’ll need to get one of those angle cube thingies to measure the blade’s degree more precisely, that might help with the final fit also.

The shelves run about 9” deep and its about 18” wide so it fits through doors and into rooms and it’s pretty light made in pine. I’m planning on making a second one to mirror the design and make a matching set where the protruding edges mate up.

I used a gel stain, as I’d heard that helped with pine and the pitch and such, for the base coat of brown, and then went over that with a black stain to match her existing decor, then two topcoats of poly wipe on. She loves it, and so does the cat! :)

-- You cannot build a reputation on what you are going to do. - Henry Ford

14 comments so far

View Paul Pomerleau's profile

Paul Pomerleau

301 posts in 1731 days

#1 posted 10-12-2011 01:33 PM

Very unique… I love it.
And the cat carving at the top looks so real :)
Well done.

-- Close to Ottawa Ontario Canada

View KnotCurser's profile


1929 posts in 2107 days

#2 posted 10-12-2011 02:02 PM

This is very cool – I love the no-bookend design.

I think I may be using this for inspiration for one of my own!

The cat can just walk up the switchbacks to get to the top – no leaping! ;-)


-- Robert Rhoades WoodWorks / Email: /

View gillyd's profile


136 posts in 1684 days

#3 posted 10-12-2011 02:36 PM

Very cool, think I see some fantasy novels in there, Wheel of Time series, etc.

View uutank's profile


72 posts in 2649 days

#4 posted 10-12-2011 03:39 PM

now that is too cool..if my daughter sees this I’ll be making some myself

-- Ray,VA

View Rustic's profile


3206 posts in 2634 days

#5 posted 10-12-2011 04:16 PM

love the design

--, Rick Kruse, Grand Rapids, MI

View Ken90712's profile


15847 posts in 2227 days

#6 posted 10-12-2011 04:40 PM

Great job I can see why she loved it!!!

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View spunwood's profile


1194 posts in 1874 days

#7 posted 10-12-2011 06:01 PM

What a cool design…nice execution.

-- I came, I was conquered, I was born again. ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν

View DS's profile


2141 posts in 1459 days

#8 posted 10-12-2011 06:14 PM

That’s an incredible shelf! It looks like it would topple over at any moment!
Way cool that is needs no bookends! Good job!

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View A Slice of Wood Workshop's profile

A Slice of Wood Workshop

926 posts in 2212 days

#9 posted 10-12-2011 08:49 PM

Now would you make picture frames level or have them tilted to match the bookcase? Cool design.

-- Tim-; Twitter-@asliceofwood; Facebook-

View SASmith               's profile


1788 posts in 2025 days

#10 posted 10-13-2011 12:55 AM

Unique shelf.
Thanks for sharing.

-- Scott Smith, Southern Illinois

View scueplain's profile


42 posts in 1480 days

#11 posted 10-15-2011 03:46 AM

Nice job , I like it

-- Dave,Portland OR

View aviad mishaeli's profile

aviad mishaeli

93 posts in 1447 days

#12 posted 10-28-2011 09:25 AM

i like it . there are meny versions for Library books in terms diagonal . this is one of the best i seen !!!

View SawTooth1953's profile


282 posts in 2344 days

#13 posted 11-04-2011 07:47 PM

Very nicely done… I like it.

-- Spence in Skokie, IL

View Gabe C.'s profile

Gabe C.

288 posts in 1379 days

#14 posted 12-28-2011 11:37 PM

That is really cool. Very eye catching and unique. Going to have to build one for my girlfriend’s recently teenage daughter.

-- If I could just get this whole "Time/Money" problem figured out...

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