Easy Cardboard Bookcase Instructions
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!
- 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.
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 JoiningClick 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.)
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.
I made no effort to paint my case, but cardboard can easily be painted with egg tempera paint.
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.
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.