Easy Cardboard Bookcase Instructions

Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast

If you just bought a computer or a piece of furniture, you may find yourself suddenly in the possession of a lot of sturdy cardboard. You could easily put it at the roadside for recycling. Or you could transform it into a unique-looking case for your books or DVDs. (I use mine for both.) Cardboard has a lot of virtues. For one, if you live in an apartment, you can't just go out to the garage and make wooden shelves. You can't start cutting wood in your apartment either or you will annoy the neighbours. Cardboard is very easy to work with and, as you'll soon see, capable of becoming quite sturdy. It's also a very light material, environment-friendly, and FREE. You can also be sure not many people will have a bookcase like this.

You can be very certain not many will have this particular bookcase, because I designed it myself. I had just bought a computer, had more DVDs than space to store them, and no motivation to taxi out to Wal*Mart. So, I pondered what design might make cardboard strong enough to hold DVDs and even books. This is what I came up with: edgewise, it's nigh impossible to bend cardboard. You can rip it, but not bend it. If we place a few slices of cardboard edgewise, we can store anything of sufficient length along the edges.

Enough with the life story. Let's get to the instructions!

Materials

  • Lots o' cardboard - sturdy cardboard
  • Scissors/a knife/a boxcutter - you could in theory make this whole case using scissors, but you'll need strong hands. I used scissors and a bread knife myself.
  • Measuring tape/a ruler
  • A pencil
  • This hub!

Cutting the Pieces

For the design I came up with, there are only three basic kinds of pieces.

1. The shelves:
These are the longest pieces. The length is really up to you and may be dependent on the length of your cardboard box. I cut mine to 21.5 inches in length, 2.5 inches in length. So they're essentially strips.
Because you just can't support books on the flat of cardboard (it'll fold), we're going to turn the cardboard slices lengthwise. So to make a substitute surface out of lengthwise cardboard, we'll need at least four on each level. Since we're only doing three levels (top and bottom included), we'll only need twelve of these strips.

2. The dividers:
These are the second-longest pieces. They keep the shelves apart. You don't want these to be too long, because the longer they are the more prone their middle will be to folding. I recommend 15 inches in length and 3 inches in width.
Since we'll be using four dividers on each side per level, we'll need sixteen.

3. The joiners:
Joiners are the most integral part of the case. The shelves and the dividers will all connect into the joiners. Because our shelves have to be on edge, they have to be slotted into something to hold them up. This is what the joiners do. They also slot the dividers, which are also on edge, width-wise.
There are two type of joiners. Those at the top and bottom are to be 10 inches in length and 2.5 inches in width. Those in the middle, however, must be 10 inches in length and 5 inches in width.
We'll need eight of the 2.5 inch variety, and four of the 5 inch variety.

Slots

The great thing about cardboard is you don't have to use adhesive or nails. Slots is all you need to join the pieces together. The width of all slots should be about 1/10 or 1/5 of an inch if we're to have them fit snugly.

1. Shelf slots. On both ends of the shelves cut two slots, the first one inch in and the second two inches in. They slots are to be exactly half the length as the width of the shelf. So half of 2.5 is 1.25 inches.

2. Divider slots. On both ends of the dividers cut two slots. Since the ends of the dividers are 3 inches, it's simply a matter of cutting a slot one inch in from each side. The length of the slot is to be the same as the shelf slots: 1.25 inches.

3. Joiner slots. This is the tricky one, because the top, middle, and bottom joiners are all different. Draw a ten inch line down the middle of the joiner. If you recall, the joiner is 2.5 inches in width, so each side is 1.25 inches. For the top 2.5 inch joiners, cut a slot at every inch, so you have nine slots in total, all on one side. For the bottom 2.5 inch joiners, cut a slot at the first, second, fourth, sixth, and eight inch marks on one side, the third, fifth, seventh, and ninth inch marks on the other side. For the 5 inch joiners, on one side you'll cut, from left to right, at the third, fifth, seventh, and ninth marks. On the other side, you'll cut, from left to right, at the first, second, fourth, sixth, and eighth marks. (Since the middle joiner is 5 inches, you just draw a 10 inch line on both sides 1.25 inches in and repeat the same procedure.) Each slot is, again, 1.25 inches.

Pieces and Joining

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Putting it all together

Once you have all of your slots cut, putting the case together is just a matter of fitting all of the pieces together correctly. See the diagram and photographs of what that should look like, because it's difficult to describe. You may also watch the video demonstrating my case and pointing out a few pitfalls to avoid. (Unfortunately my microphone didn't work as intended, so you'll have to turn your volume up some to hear the video. But the video isn't necessary. The article and diagrams should be sufficient to guide you.)

Optional

Backing:
I leave my case completely open, but I've included a slot in the joiners (the slot in the first mark on the second side) on which you can install a back to the case. This will make the case a little sturdier, but I think a little less aesthetically pleasing.

If you do want a back, just cut two single pieces of cardboard the length of the shelf length and the width of the divider length. Cut slots on top and bottom one and two inches in, both ends. You can install these just as you install the dividers.

Decorating:
I made no effort to paint my case, but cardboard can easily be painted with egg tempera paint.

Stacking:
As you can see from the design, you could easily make another layer by producing another set of four 5 inch joiners, four more shelves, and eight more dividers. The bottom dividers should be able to sustain the weight so long as you're only storing DVDs or something lighter. For books, I wouldn't risk another level.

Widening:
If you want a significantly wider case that's still sturdy, you could double the number of shelves and joiners, and cut an extra eight dividers. On the ends of the shelves that meet in the middle, cut only one slot, so they will hold only one joiner each. Then the dividers will unite the two sides.

Demonstration

Ta da!
Ta da!

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Comments 19 comments

Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 5 years ago Author

Note to my HubPages Friends ('followers' sounds too dictatorial): This is not my usual kind of article, as you know, but I'm proud of my cardboard carpentry and wanted to share the wealth.

At any rate, I'll be writing one of my usual comedy articles soon.

Cheers!


Christopher Price profile image

Christopher Price 5 years ago from Vermont, USA

Very cool.

But if I try this at home I'll need a set for the car 'cause my wife will toss me out and that's where I'll be sleeping. Might be worth it if winter wasn't so near.

CP


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 5 years ago Author

Hey Christopher,

Yeah, I have the virtue of living alone, being unemployed and not having enough money to buy a bookcase. Actually, it doesn't sound much like a virtue when I put it that way.

Cheers!


Green Lotus profile image

Green Lotus 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Very organic Arthur and well thought out. I would expect no less from you! I also liked how you alternated the grain of the cardboard to create rigidity. The video demo is good but must say, I missed seeing a final "ta-da" shot of your bookcase actually being used for books and/or DVD's. Perhaps you'll add a photo? Voted useful


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 5 years ago Author

Hey Green Lotus,

So good for you to drop by.

The design was well thought out, but this hub wasn't. I made a mistake! Fortunately only seven people have even looked at this article and three of them are me. haha

You're right, I need to add a picture of my case in use, to prove that it's not necessarily an eye-sore. But I have to wait until tomorrow to get the photo, for reasons not worth explaining. Soon!

Cheers!


DoorMattnomore 5 years ago

This is awesome, really. I have tons of cardboard and books in boxes with no closets in my house. Looking forward to the final pic. Thanks for the super easy to understand instructions.


Lee B profile image

Lee B 5 years ago from New Mexico

This is really clever! My "day job" is in retail, and I break down hundreds of cardboard boxes a day. Nice to know of a practical use for them. I recommend using a box cutter or utility knife, perhaps with a metal straight edge, for cutting up cardboard.


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 5 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

Let us know how long the cardboard furniture lasts Arthur. It sound very ingenious, but be very careful you don't spill any water over your creation or you will be left with a soggy mess!


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 5 years ago Author

Hey DoorMouse,

Thanks! If you make your own, you have to send me a picture. It'd make my day.

Cheers!


Jane Bovary profile image

Jane Bovary 5 years ago from The Fatal Shore

Hey Mr. Windermere, welcome back. I didn't realise you were so practical. This bookshelf looks far more stylish than the stolen milk crates I used to use when I was a student.


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 5 years ago Author

Hey Lee,

Yeah, cardboard is an interesting medium. I hope to come up with some more ambitious designs in the future.

You're absolutely right: a box cutter would make this task much easier, quicker, and more precise.

Cheers!


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 5 years ago Author

Hey CM,

Yes, definitely no good as a bathroom magazine rack. This is why I recommend egg tempera paint. I think anything else might be disastrous to the structural integrity of the whatsit.

Cheers!


Arthur Windermere profile image

Arthur Windermere 5 years ago Author

Hey Jane,

Yeah, "practical" and "Windermere" go together like "cardboard" and "furniture". I do indeed like working with my hands. All testosterone over here, I tell ya.

Cheers!


epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

.....half the time I really don't know if you're pulling our leg - or not - and that is in your comic genius - you can take simple, ordinary and banal subjects and turn them into a miracle of witty anarchy - and with your tongue firmly in your cheek - great images and videos as always - so welcome back and I hope your 'other life' is working out so you don't have to say 'yikes!!' any more .......


SilverGenes 5 years ago

Well I'm impressed at the ingenuity and superb craftsmanship and yes, the manliness of forgoing the box cutter and using scissors.

This is really genius - seriously. Much better than bricks and planks!


the pink umbrella profile image

the pink umbrella 5 years ago from the darkened forest deep within me.

where was i when this was written? totally doing this.


flourdevour 5 years ago

Looks badass!


drehud 4 years ago

Great tutorial! I must have missed a step with the middle joiner though because the top side was supposed to have nine slots and I had fewer, but I just cut the slots as I was assembling and it turned out great. Thanks!


Steel Engineer profile image

Steel Engineer 4 years ago from Kiev, Ukraine

There should be far more "awesome" votes on this hub. Do people not know how to click? voted up.

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