Sunday, March 9, 2008

Stashing Books

I was inspired to post a few bookcase pictures after reading this post about treacherous book piles on Eliose by the Book Piles, one of my favorite reading blogs. Elly and I have been in our home for nearly 20 years. We have gutted the house and completely rehabbed it. Well, not quite completely. I figure we’ll have the job finished in maybe another 20 years...

Here are the first bookcases we built. Believe it or not, the previous owners ripped out the fireplace and everything else on this wall. (You have to wonder about previous owners, sometimes.) Fortunately, we were able to find a period fireplace mantle appropriate for our home. Comparing it with other fireplaces in the neighborhood, it is difficult to believe it isn’t original. Anyway, we built out the entire chimney wall and then added the built-in bookcases. This picture was taken last fall after Elly and her mom did fall theme arrangements for the living room. The illumination is very warm tungsten lighting, and I haven’t gone to great lengths to color correct it so the actual shade of yellow is a lot milder than how it appears here!

We worked a lot of books, including Sherlock Holmes, Jules Verne, etc. onto the dresser in our bedroom, which is more or less done in Empire style. We’re planning to add additional Sherlock Holmes touches to the room. The small set in front is a delightful edition of Washington Irving.

The rest of these are quick and dirty attic bookcase projects. Converting one of our rooms into an actual library is on the project list for this year, as soon as we finish our day room and laundry room (but that is another post).

We made these bookcases of MDF (Medium Density Fiber board) which is inexpensive and readily available from U.S. home improvement centers. One trick is to use sheet metal screws instead of wood screws to attach the shelves to the case sides. Wood screws taper and will split the MDF material. Sheet metal screws are cylindrical and don’t cause this problem. It is still a good idea to predrill though. I cut spacers out of scrap to set the height of each shelf from the next lower shelf, which made the job go very quickly.

I used 1/4-inch hardboard for the backs, and attached them with a bradnailer (which took about 60 seconds per unit). This is quite sturdy. Dados or any sort of shelf support are not necessary, but the cases must be narrow to prevent sagging. These are about 24-inches wide.

Here are several shelves thrown up with little ceremony over an attic work table. We used premade particle board (Low Density Fiber board) shelving and metal brackets. Because of the way the original stud wall was constructed, we couldn’t put a bracket in the middle, which causes the shelves to sag as you can see.

Here is the view down the attic staircase, one side of which is lined with book shelves built from the same premade particle board shelving, which comes in different widths. The shelves are quite long, maybe 8 or 10 feet. The shelf brackets are more appropriately spaced, so there is no sagging. The bookcases on the landing are made from birch plywood and were more complicated and deeper. Were we building them again, we would probably go the MDF route.

The MDF bookcases were built one weekend over two afternoons. The staircase shelves were installed in about two hours. An advantage of installing shelves in a little-used area is they don’t require elaborate finishing, which generally makes them quick and easy to install. Not to mention less expensive.


Eloise said...

This looks like a dream - one day I hope to have a book collection as orderly as this. If I posted pictures of mine it would probably make you weep! I keep promising the books that they will have a home that befits them one day (although the twenty years you mention in your post is sounding about right for us too!)

Fiske said...

Eloise: Well, *some* of our books are living the dream... :-)

One of the secrets of eventually getting your dream home is not to move! This is our first house. Also our last house. Some houses on our end of the block have had 4-5 different owners since we have lived here. Twenty years isn't that long, either. Our next door neighbors moved to a retirement community a few months ago, after living in their house for 56 years. I thought that was a long time. Then I talked to a lady one block over. She and her husband have been in their house since 1944! Fiske