Interested in building this bookshelf, but not sure how...

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Forum topic by mattm58 posted 08-06-2013 07:25 PM 1765 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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15 posts in 1938 days

08-06-2013 07:25 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I’ve been asked to build a bookshelf for my kids school auction. I can’t do a plain one, obviously. :)

I really like the design in this one:

My question is how it’s built. I’ve found the same shelf on several different sites, but it’s always the same view, and never any close ups. It appears that it’s multiple layers glued together. I’m trying to figure out if there’s an economical way to build this, yet still have the curved corners on the branches.

I haven’t found anything that gives any dimensions, but if I assume this is maybe 4’ wide and 4’ high, then you could get two layers out of a sheet of ply. To build up a shelf that’s say 8” deep I’m looking at least 5 sheets of ply, and then have to deal with the plywood edges…

Since this would most likely be used by children, I’m also concerned about it tipping side to side. Any ideas on how to address that?

14 replies so far

View GerardW's profile


44 posts in 1852 days

#1 posted 08-06-2013 07:39 PM

I’m no expert, but to my eye that seems to be a miniature and not a bookshelf to scale. I’m guessing that the layers are actually plys in the plywood. The “books” don’t look real either.

Plus building this from a seamless piece of wood as shown would be really difficult.

That said, I imagine you could jigsaw 3/4 ply to shape, then laminate several more pieces on and use a flush trim bit to snug them up to get the thickness you want. It wouldn’t be stable- would need to be anchored to the wall. But again- I’m no expert.

-- Gerard in Bowie MD

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102 posts in 2433 days

#2 posted 08-06-2013 07:41 PM

looks to me like it is 3 or 4 separate layers of glued up plywood, similar in appearance to the Nelson bench. There is a brace of sorts in the split in the trunk that runs between the layers. It also appears to be 3 separate units, left fork, right fork and a base. I’m sure there are corner brackets that attach it to the wall (hidden behind the books). Best guess for size would be about 84” tall and 84” wide. Each branch looks to be about 3” wide. All these dimensions are based on what would appear to be a Octavo sized book (6”x9”)

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276 posts in 2636 days

#3 posted 08-06-2013 07:55 PM

Why would you have to build all of the layers from solid ply? Could you not build the face of the tree then build the rest of the tree from the same sheet by rough cutting pieces, glue and screw them from the back side and cut flush with a router. Just offset any butt joints by a foot and you should be more than strong enough. Could you incorporate screw keyholes on the back to fasten?

View mattm58's profile


15 posts in 1938 days

#4 posted 08-06-2013 08:31 PM

Woodendever – that’s a good call, I hadn’t even thought of that. Any ideas of what to do with the ply edges though?

This will have to be free standing at the auction, so a thought I just had was to attach the base of the shelf to a to a half circle of ply that was covered with a green shag rug to look like grass…

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3194 posts in 1898 days

#5 posted 08-06-2013 08:42 PM

Woodenendeavor wins. Nailed it.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

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276 posts in 2636 days

#6 posted 08-07-2013 11:56 AM

I think I would personally try and mask off the face and paint the exposed plywood edges flat black. It would add a shadow depth to the piece and make it jump off of the wall some more. Just an opinion

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893 posts in 2705 days

#7 posted 08-07-2013 02:29 PM

I’m seeing 4 layers with spacers….is that so?

5 layers won’t get you to 8” obviously, so are you planning on using spacers too? It would make it half the weight.

Personally, I think this design could be vastly improved in form and function. The base is too small, unless you fasten it to the wall, The limbs are all the same size, it would look cool to maybe taper them like a real tree.

It would be much stronger if the two sides were attached at the bottom. It doesn’t look like it holds that many books either considering how much room it takes up.

Here’s a wild idea….make it more like a forest with multiple trunks. The limbs could hold books below and gather at the top to hold a 10” shelf at 4 ft. tall x 5 ft. long. Make it 9” wide with 4 layers of 3/4 ply with 2” spacers.

That way the base could be over three ft wide, plenty of room for books or displays on top….no?

keep in mind, cheap plywood is full of voids. The only way to get a decent edge will be to use a router/ template with a new flush bit.

looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

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8211 posts in 2606 days

#8 posted 08-07-2013 02:51 PM

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879 posts in 2471 days

#9 posted 08-09-2013 03:26 AM

That design looks more like a mutated reindeer than a tree. I like the one Wahoo just posted if you are going for a tree/branch look. Easier build too.

-- Randy -- Austin, TX by way of Northwest (Woodville), OH

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3677 days

#10 posted 08-09-2013 04:48 AM

Don’t do it. Tons of work, lots of waste. You may be
dismayed at what it sells for in the auction. Make some cutting
boards or something like that every household can
justify owning. You’ll put in less time and raise more
money for the school.

View bondogaposis's profile (online now)


4770 posts in 2380 days

#11 posted 08-09-2013 01:40 PM

I think that this is night mare of a project. It is only going to appeal to a select few people. I would go w/ a more traditional bookcase. A lot less work and wider appeal.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View joeyinsouthaustin's profile


1294 posts in 2101 days

#12 posted 08-09-2013 10:07 PM

It doesn’t seem that hard if you think paint grade, and 1/2 in baltic birch. for safety I would attach it to a large backing sheet to become the background and allow it to be free standing. Jigsaw or band saw you first form in pieces, tack it together and start copying with a router till you have the pieces. I would think you would need to be willing to donate 3 days of your time and 2 to 3 hundred in material… so get a donation receipt, write it off on taxes (while you still can) and make sure the school sets the reserve at $450…??

Or simply make the donation in cash… write it off??

edit: We made versions of this in three dimensions for a clothing shop… So that is how I got the time estimate, however we charged about 2 grand a piece.

-- Who is John Galt?

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David Dean

608 posts in 2928 days

#13 posted 08-10-2013 02:40 AM

1+ bondogaposis If it was me get some good pine board’s and make a good solid 4 shelf book case somthing that will stand up to the test of time but thats my 2 cent.

View mattm58's profile


15 posts in 1938 days

#14 posted 08-16-2013 11:46 PM

All the replies have me seriously rethinking this design. I’m not sure what I’ll end up with, but whatever it is, making sawdust in the shop is always fun… :)

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