Hungarian Shelves

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Project by John Olsen posted 158 days ago 1757 views 6 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I inherited a large number of books this winter, so I needed more shelf space. I built another set of shelves like this one on the opposite wall several years ago, so the process went pretty smoothly. Differences on this set were one less shelf so taller books would fit, and I used oak edge banding on the oak veneer plywood instead of sawing and gluing solid edging to each shelf. It was my first try with the iron-on edging, and it worked really nicely.

The finish is 3 coats of clear poly.

You can see in one picture how I notched the shelves about 1 inch, and the supports 1 1/2 inches. The supports are 6 foot 1×3 solid oak, so actual size is 3/4×2 1/2.

The supports were all screwed down to the shelves before tilting the whole thing up as a pre-assembled unit, and screwing it onto the wall into the 2-foot spaced studs. It was easy to balance against the wall by putting it on top of a couple of folding chairs. I wanted it a little taller than the chairs, so my daughter figured out I needed two books of the tan set visible on the top shelf for each chair and one kid’s book that we happened to have two copies of. Who needs rulers?

Normally, this sort of shelf is put up with wedges underneath rather than screwing the shelves into the supports, but I wanted them to be permanent.

On the last picture, you can see my near-miss. Since I put the vertical supports right on the studs, I lucked out with my aim. I didn’t check this spot under the bottom shelf until I had all 12 screws holding the shelves tight to the wall.

8 comments so far

View Ken90712's profile


14878 posts in 1822 days

#1 posted 157 days ago

Wowza, thats alot of books… Nice work….

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

View BillinGa's profile


20 posts in 583 days

#2 posted 157 days ago

Great! This is an elegant solution to a problem that I also have; not enough shelving for my books! You did a really nice job.

View Greg In Maryland's profile

Greg In Maryland

388 posts in 1632 days

#3 posted 157 days ago

I have the 23rd book from the left on the 4th shelf. What a great read.

You designed a great set of shelves!


View robscastle's profile


1646 posts in 838 days

#4 posted 156 days ago

Heeeeyyy good work!! ......wait is there any wood working books included? I tried to Zoom in but only saw lots of DVDs

Where does the Hungarian terminology for the shelves come from

-- Regards Robert

View gsimon's profile


485 posts in 747 days

#5 posted 156 days ago

nice job – the shelves don’t make the room look smaller either because of the open concept

-- Greg Simon

View John Olsen's profile

John Olsen

16 posts in 224 days

#6 posted 156 days ago

The rumors on the name are that a Hungarian physicist designed a set of shelves like this after determining the forces involved would not break the shelves even though the notches on the back are pretty small. You can see several examples by searching on the web.

Robscastle, everything there is books except for audio CDs on the black shelves to the far right. The DVDS are below the CDs in the dark brown bookcase you can just barely see the top left corner of. :)

I should have added the picture of the full library with the Hungarian shelves on the opposite wall for the full effect. The thing I like best about them is that it leaves the carpet free below the shelf.

View Fishinbo's profile


11217 posts in 809 days

#7 posted 151 days ago

It looks great and holds a lot of books. Like the design, how you install and that the lowest shelf doesn’t touch the floor. Great job!

View helluvawreck's profile


15623 posts in 1500 days

#8 posted 151 days ago

This makes a great library. Nice work.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away. Henry David Thoreau

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