Bookcase Design Challenge - Configurable Shelves w/ French Cleats

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Blog entry by MattO posted 04-21-2008 05:51 AM 7716 reads 1 time favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I came up with my design when thinking of ways to make the shelves flexible in configuration and placement. I like the more modern “cubby-hole” look of shelving, so that different sized items can be easily stored and seen. (Not just books)

In the end, I decided on a common method for hanging cabinets- the french cleat. This allows for flexibility in how the shelves are configured. I then combined this method of shelving within a frame, to create the overall bookcase.

I drew up the plans in Autodesk Inventor (basically a 3-D version of the popular AutoCAD software package)

The dividers below each shelf are more than just dividers- they also function as the main support for the shelf. As you can see in the pictures, I did 3 “versions” of the same shelf. (Divider centered, divider left, and divider right) Note that you could also put a divider on top for additional flexibility. The different shelf versions can be mixed in many different ways to get the space configuration you want. (Maximum of 2 shelves per cleat) There are a total of 5 cleats to hold the shelves. I have the overall dimensions at 72” high, 42” wide, and 13.25” deep. (Shelves are 9” deep)

Given the height (6’) and potential uneven weight distribution, it would probably be a good idea to anchor the unit to the wall at the top. (I’ve seen bookshelves from IKEA use simple nylon straps)

The plans use standard dimensioned lumber (3/4” thick) The back panel and bottom panel call for 3/4” plywood, for strength. I’d probably use biscuits for joining the frame components. The panels could also be joined to the frame with biscuits and/or wood screws.

Thanks for checking out my entry, I really enjoyed participating in this challenge!

.ZIP file of (4) .DXF drawings can be found here.






6 comments so far

View Lip's profile


158 posts in 5392 days

#1 posted 04-21-2008 11:43 PM

Nice job Matt … I really dig the whole movable divider/shelf concept … good job!

-- Lip's Dysfuncational Firewood Farm, South Bend, IN

View Grumpy's profile


26812 posts in 5194 days

#2 posted 04-21-2008 11:57 PM

Great design Matt, good luck in the contest.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14193 posts in 5326 days

#3 posted 04-22-2008 12:00 AM

I like it. original thoughtful design.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Jeff's profile


1010 posts in 5437 days

#4 posted 04-22-2008 01:21 AM

Ingenius solution to to the need for flexibility presented by all the odd sizes of books.

-- Jeff, St. Paul, MN

View JerseyJoe's profile


67 posts in 4900 days

#5 posted 09-07-2008 09:53 PM

Matt, I just loaded AD Inventor and starting to play with it. Do you know of any tutorials that I can download that will help me learn this application?

Thanks Joe

-- Joe Massanova, Somerdale, NJ -

View alain's profile


73 posts in 4891 days

#6 posted 09-07-2008 10:07 PM

hi Matt, nice job, but why a 45° piece to hold the shelve, why don’t you use a tenon system, more simple to do to clean, same look, and no trouble when a elephant pass near the shelves

PS: i’m soory for the elephant comunity could be whales too !


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