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Monday, June 22, 2015

More shelves are better shelves! Check out my new bookshelves!


For a long time, I've been making due with two small 3-shelf Mainstays bookshelves from Walmart. They were still usable and sturdy (I bought about a dozen of them when we moved into our first apartment in 2000, and they've been repurposed everywhere since then), but I wanted more space. Over the years, I cobbled together additional shelves to put ON TOP of these shelves (two of them came from the estate of a deceased coworker; weird, I know).

Mainstays 3-Shelf Bookcase, as seen in any college dorm or starter home

I thought about my options - did I want to buy premade shelves? Did I want to mess with the standard and bracket of it all with ClosetMaid?  I wanted to be able to maximize my small area, but I couldn't afford the ClosetMaid.

So, I decided to just upgrade my Mainstays.  I have a 5-shelf in the kitchen and another in the dining room. I've put together about a bajillion shelves in my day. No big deal.

Mainstays 5-Shelf Bookcase, as seen in my kitchen, dining room and home office

But...

As you can see, those shelves are spread wide apart.  Paperbacks are small and I didn't want to deal with the loss of space between the bottom of the shelf and the short books.  I would need 4 shelves to hold all my books if I did that!

Wait! Eureka!!

How about I just add more shelves!?!

After buying the two shelves at Walmart ($27.84 each, plus tax), I took one of the MDF boards to Home Depot to see if I could find some boards about the same size and thickness.

I settled on a long board ($14.74 each, plus tax) that I had ripped down into 4 boards, and 2 remnants (to use as tiny display shelves later).

I also bought a gallon of white paint ($23.97) so they would match the existing shelves- I could have gotten away with a quart, but I wasn't sure how much I needed, and some shelf support pins ($3.94) to hold up my new shelves.

So, after a week long purge of books - where I took about 250 to the local Friends of the Library donation box - it was time to begin!

The picture is decieving - this had THREE layers of books, so about 100 books.
Plus more bags up front (and some more in the back that I didn't photograph)
First, I put together the two shelves. As you can see, one of them is not square.  Hubby 'assisted' me with one of them, and I did the other on my own. I'll let you decide which one of us put the good one together...

Luckily, it's not so UNsquare as to annoy me, and frankly I could just screw them together, if I wanted to.

Pro Tip - Organize everywhere (there's an Over-the-Door 7 shelf behind the door!)

Anyone who has ever put cheap bookshelves together are familiar with the rows of holes. Well, as you can see, there are sections of the bookshelves that didn't have holes.  Turd. I wasn't expecting that... That puts a damper on this plan!

Welp... What seemed to be a very simple project just became a bit more difficult
DIY to the rescue!  I remember seeing somewhere (who knows, I watch too much TV and surf the internet way too much...) people using wax paper as templates.  So, to the kitchen I went and grabbed my wax paper and found some blue painter's tape in the storage room.

I ripped off a piece of wax paper and taped it over the existing holes to use as a guide.

I decided this was bloggable about halfway into the project - I'd already done some holes here
Using the existing holes, I colored the wax paper with a Sharpie to show where the new holes should be.

Top two holes will be drilled, the other holes are the pre-made ones

Then I moved the paper (either up or down, depending on where I needed the holes) and aligned one set of drawn-on holes with THE EXISTING HOLES to ensure that the remaining holes would be evenly spaced.

Using more blue tape, I very scientifically measured the depth of the shelf pin - by holding it up to the drill - and putting a piece of tape on the bit itself. This was to ensure that I went the proper depth and no further (spoiler alert - sometimes it didn't work).

Don't drill any deeper than the depth of the pin, or your drill will shoot out the side of the shelf!
Once the drawing and taping was done, it was drill baby drill time.  Drill 3 rows, move the template. Drill 3 more, move the template.  The templates were side-specific, so that took more time to deal with (couldn't just have one template and blaze through it all!)

I really wish I'd thought of this plan BEFORE putting the shelves together - it would have been much easier!
Here you can see how I drilled THROUGH the wax paper, and the dots representing more holes below
Once all the holes were drilled, I could install the shelves! 

Well, wouldn't ya know it - the shelf pins I bought don't fit in the pre-drilled holes; they only fit in the holes that I drilled. That kind of puts a small damper on my plan, because I can only put the new shelves in the new holes with the new pins, and the pre-made shelves in the pre-made holes with the pre-made pins. 

After some Tetris-like fitting, I was able to get the shelves assembled more or less to my liking.  They aren't all the same height because I wanted to accommodate taller books on one shelf, rather than interspersing the taller books within the small paperbacks. I organize my books in alphabetical order, just like a library:  Michael Connelly A - Z; Stephen King A - Z; Dean Koontz A - Z; etc.  If I tried to fit 11/22/63, for instance, amid all the other paperbacks, there would be wasted space. So the tall books are up on the top shelf.

Ugh, all that sawdust... But the shelves look pretty good!
Now, it's time to load up the shelves!

I tried my hardest, when unpacking the shelves, to keep all of them in as close to alphabetical order as possible.  I didn't do a great job, but at least most of the authors were grouped together.

The daunting task of reshelving about 300 books. In alphabetical order.

I gotta say, this was probably the most tedious part of the whole job, but the most satisfying as well. I like order, and getting everying in spit-spot shape was cathartic!

Finished reshelving!  Tall books on top, everything else in alphabetical order.
Between the new shelves being much taller, and getting rid of so many books (many of which were duplicates!), I could have filled only one shelf, if I wanted to!  However, I didn't want the bottom shelf to be pack-jammed to the point that I couldn't see what was down there, so that shelf is only half-way full, and they are all unread books that will be donated once I've read them. Once that shelf is empty, I'll use it for storage for things like printer paper or other odds and ends.

Here is where I have to take an AA moment. Hello, my name is Lazy and I'm addicted to shopping at the Friends of the Library Book Sale. Two times a year, our library has a book sale. It's 5 days. They sell any kind of book you can imagine, including rares and autographed books.  Kids books. DIY books. Recipe books (too many of those to count have come home with me!) Fiction. Fantasy. Young Adult. Dictionaries. But also, VHS, DVDs, books on tape, vinyl and magazines. It's a bibliophiles mecca. The first few days are regular price - generally paperbacks are two bucks or so.  The fourth day is half price (so that same paperback would be a buck). If you are not picky, and love to just fill a bag with books, the final day is DIME DAY. Yes, you can buy a book for a DIME.  I go in, look at the back of a book and if it looks vaguely interesting, I buy it. I don't care about who wrote it or how old it is. I've discovered a lot of writers this way, including Perri O'Shaugnessy, Richard North Patterson, PJ Parrish, John Saul and Michael Palmer.  I try to keep a spreadsheet of what books I have so that I don't get duplicates, but it's not foolproof (as I saw after cleaning off my shelves!)

Anyway - so I have more unread books than I've had time to read recently, and I needed some way to note them, while still putting the books in order (because, after I read them, they will need to be added to the shelf!)

I ended up just using Post-It notes and stuck them on the front of the book.  Later, maybe I'll think of a better solution.

After I read them, I'll decide if I want to keep them or not. If not, they get returned to Friends of the Library!
So, there you go!  I took two basic off the shelf (ha!) shelves and turned them into better bookshelves with some extra wood and some extra time.  I have oodles of storage now for other things besides books too, including my (ever-growing) File Pile, CDs and other random stuff!

(2) Mainstays 5-Shelf Bookshelves $55.68
(2) Boards from Home Depot          $29.48
(1) Gallon Paint, White                    $23.97
(1) Shelf Pins                                   $  3.94
                              Total After Tax - $119.85, or $59.92 per shelf.