Maybe you’ve got a lot of books. Maybe you’re tired of your old boring desk. Maybe you saw one of a plethora of memes (which is what sucked me into doing it) that demonstrate creative way to utilize your book collection. Well, whatever your reasons, I’m here to tell you it’s actually quite simple to do. If you have a few hundred books, a little over $50.00 and a spare couple of hours, you too can have your own desk made out of books! So without further ado, here’s how to build a desk out of books:
- 1/2″ x 24″ x 48″ sheet of plywood
- .080″ x 24″ x 48″ clear acrylic sheet
- Small ton of books
- Contact paper (optional)
Step 1: Make sure you have a lot of books to choose from because you’re going to need ’em. I used a combination of hardcover and variously sized paperbacks. Make sure you use books that you won’t mind looking at all the time, but that you also won’t be needing in the near future.
Step 2: (Optional) Plywood is kinda ugly and rough. I purchased black contact paper and used it to cover the edges and the underneath side of the plywood where my legs and knees would probably brush up against it. Then I used clear contact paper (since it’s cheaper and I ran out of the cool black paper) to cover the remaining spots. This will now help keep my books from being scratched and roughed up over time.
Step 3: Measure. I used my existing desk and simply measured how high up the desk top itself was, which turned out to be 27.5″ high. So now I knew how high to stack my book columns.
Step 4: Now I could figure out how many actual columns of books I needed. I ended up using 10 columns in total. 6 columns of hard covers, 4 along the back of the desk for added support, and 1 column in each corner at the front. Then I used 4 columns of paperbacks, 2 columns of mass-market paperbacks and 2 columns of trade paperbacks for added support on the sides.
Illustration of where I placed the columns and what I used –
Step 5: Place the piece of plywood on the floor where you’ll be building the desk. Then use something (I used a mechanical pencil and drew little lines on my floorboard.) to mark on either side of the plywood, so you’ll know where to initially place your columns. Once that’s done, stack your back row columns. As you can see in one of the photos below there’s an ugly cable cord that I had to work around, so they aren’t spaced evenly, but that’s okay, it’s still very sturdy.
Step 6: Get out your level and make sure all 4 columns are level with each other. Take into account the fact that weight from the plywood, and whatever you plan on putting on top of it will push down on it. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but get it as close as you can, because if there are gaps (and trust me, there will be), you’ll need to have access to smaller books that you can use for shims. (I’d like to thank Rudyard Kipling, Graham Greene, Alan Bennett & Stephen King for having some really tiny paperbacks in print.)
Step 7: Stack your two main left and right front columns.
Step 8: Carefully place your plywood on top. Use your level and make sure it’s all good. Now put your paperback columns in place. As you saw in my earlier illustration, I used 2 columns on each side. 1 column of trade paperbacks that faced spine-out, and on the inside I used mass-market paperbacks, spine-in. This is where things get a bit tricky. Be sure to have some thin books on hand to use as shims. There’s no point in using these columns if they aren’t supporting the weight of the desktop so use those thin books as shims and then rinse and repeat for all columns. This process took the longest, because while I could shim up one column, it would move another out of alignment so take plenty of deep breaths and remember, when a column comes crashing down – this is fun! (Right?)
Step 9: Get out your level again, and check it. If you’re happy with it, move along to the next step.
Step 10: This was the hardest part of the whole process for me. I was going to arrange mass-market paperbacks stacked two high across the top of the plywood then put the acrylic sheet down on top. Talk about frustration. Even though I had over 300 hundred paperbacks at my disposal, the majority of them were not the same height, so I could never get it level, and obviously if the desk top isn’t level, nothing you put on the desk top will ever be level either. Eventually, I came up with a solution. I collect a series of hard-boiled crime fiction paperbacks from Hard Case Crime and I realized that not only did 31 of them match each other in height but they all had some truly spectacular book covers! Problem solved. I arranged one level of the paperbacks on top of the plywood desktop, then placed the clear acrylic sheet on top. Voilà, a desk built out of books!
As you can see from the photos, I added 3 small columns on top of the finished desk top to support my monitor, speaker and nick-knacks.
In total I used 291 books. 145 hardcovers, and 146 paperbacks. Total cost for materials, $51.23, not including the cost of 291 books. 🙂
If you have any questions, lemme know, and if you build one yourself, I’d love to see it so send me a photo when you’re done!