How to make an end table made of stacked books

Written by janet beal
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While some may frown on using reading material for furniture-making, the time may come when an inundation of old books makes this fun end-table a happy solution to an overwhelming problem. Your only required skill for this project is the ability to stack--and occasionally restack--in case of a hard bump to your temporary creation. A more permanent table can be made by following the steps below. Consider this when you have absolutely, positively finished your last page!

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Measuring tape or yardstick
  • Old hardcover books, ideally of similar height and width for stability
  • Découpage glue (like ModPodge) or white glue
  • Découpage sealer or clear varnish
  • 2 disposable 2- or 3-inch paint brushes
  • Cling film
  • Old telephone book or piece of plywood
  • Bricks
  • Glue-proof protection for work surface
  • Carpenter's level
  • Tabletop: single very large book OR piece of plywood and enough book-covers to cover, OR sheet of Plexiglas
  • Time for drying: 24 to 72 hours total, in stages

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  1. 1

    Sort and stack books in four stacks the same height. Hardcover books are easiest to use, but sturdy paperbacks may also be used. Your goal is to make the stacks exactly the same height, so it may take a few tries to get it right. Measure to be sure. Ideally, your stacks vary by no more than 1/4 inch. For final levelling, you can use any book covers you have saved (if you also plan a plywood top, reserve the best covers to découpage the plywood first). If you want an extremely small table and have large books, make a single stack as a pedestal, using two large books or one coffee table-sized book at the base.

  2. 2

    Place books on a glue-proof work surface. Coat each book thoroughly with découpage glue or white glue as you stack. Leave the top cover of the top book bare of glue. Cover with cling film and add plywood piece and bricks or phone book and bricks to press books together. Allow to dry thoroughly for 24 to 48 hours.

  3. 3

    Measure height of bookstacks again when fully dry. (Paper and cover materials may swell slightly or absorb glue in different amounts.) If stacks vary in height after gluing, fill in with book covers glued to stack top. Cover, weight, and dry again. Use the level to check your work.

  1. 1

    Cover dry pedestal or legs with découpage sealer or clear varnish. Let dry thoroughly.

  2. 2

    Arrange and glue book covers to plywood top, if that is what you have chosen to use. Allow glue to dry thoroughly, then apply two coats of sealer or varnish to make your top durable. If you are using a huge coffee-table book, follow the same directions. Plexiglas needs no preparation.

  3. 3

    Use more glue to attach plywood, big-book, or Plexiglas top, once all parts of project are thoroughly dry. Glue will go on opaque but will dry clear. Cover, weight, and dry. This is why all parts, including the top, must be completely dry before assembling. If you have any doubts whatsoever, wait another 12 to 24 hours, especially in damp weather, before final assembly. Once you're dry, you're done!

Tips and warnings

  • This project takes a lot of books. Be prepared to tinker with stacks to make certain they are even, and expect to emerge with a discard pile.

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