Suspending Bookshelves From Wooden Beam

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Forum topic by CordWood posted 04-13-2018 04:31 PM 666 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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25 posts in 1325 days

04-13-2018 04:31 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I’m helping my in-laws open a used and rare bookstore in our barn. My father-in-law would like bookshelves installed between a wooden post and a steel support column. The goal is to have rare books facing the “office” area and regular, used stock facing the rest of the shelves in the barn. The upshot here is suspending back-to-back 8” deep shelves about 12” below the ceiling.

I thought it would make the most sense to suspend the shelves from the huge 6” wide beam that runs between the two posts. But, as someone who is used to building things that rest of the ground, I find myself puzzled by the best way to to do this.

My first steps were to create a sort of suspended set of studs using two strips of 18-gauge punched steel L bar and 1-1/4” 14-gauge punch square tubing, which you can see here:

My question now are:

  • Are these “hanging studs” the best approach or even a good approach?
  • If they are good, how should I design shelves to attach? Do I use L-brackets that attach underneath the shelves? Could I simply drill-through some milled 2”x8” stock and attach with 5/16” threaded rod? Should I build diagonal struts at either end that mate up with the shelf using dados?
  • If this design is flawed, what other approaches could I take to solving this?

-- "What man has done, man can do."

5 replies so far

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John Smith

2433 posts in 935 days

#1 posted 04-13-2018 10:22 PM

a lot of questions – thus a lot of options.

If I were doing it, I would use the method of your photos for support.
build two separate bookcases and bolt them together through the metal braces, cut off excess bolt.
use “L” brackets at the bottom, or something that will prevent the cases from moving front to back
should a customer get a little over zealous and pushes too hard and books come tumbling down.


-- there is no educational alternative to having a front row seat in the School of Hard Knocks. --

View Lazyman's profile (online now)


5410 posts in 2160 days

#2 posted 04-14-2018 04:13 AM

I am curious why you want to suspend them rather just have the shelves just sitting on the floor?

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View runswithscissors's profile


3099 posts in 2798 days

#3 posted 04-16-2018 02:54 AM

Those 18 gauge angles look very flimsy to me. Also, I would put the lags much closer, even right over, the vertical tubes. One thought about the shelves: you might try simply running rods through the holes, side to side, and resting the shelves on them. Don’t know whether those are 3/8” or 5/16” holes, but I’d definitely want 3/8” even if it required drilling the holes out. And I wouldn’t use threaded rod, as the threading cuts in to the diameter too much, weakening them. There might be a bit of flex—just need to try it and see. The spacing between your verticals is close enough to support the weight of books pretty adequately.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View CordWood's profile


25 posts in 1325 days

#4 posted 04-16-2018 03:27 AM

What do you think of This idea?

  • Attach the 4 or 5 of the 12” punched bars to the beam directly, oriented horizontally, perpendicular to the beam. Use two or three lags in each.
  • Suspend 5/16” threaded rod (or rod with treads at either end) from the punched bars.
  • Build a shelf from two 1”x8” pine boards. Join them to a 1”x6” pine board to serve as a backboard to each.
  • Reinforced the shelf with ribs running underneath, probably made from dimensional lumber that’s been cut down.
  • Hang the shelf from the threaded rods at either side using large fender washers to attach the rods at either end of the aforementioned support ribs.

That would give me support on each side. I also thought that I could protect the books from the threaded rods by covering them in rubber shrink tube and shrinking the tube tight to the rods. Then there’s no book wear.

This will be rustic, but this bookstore is in a 250-year-old barn with much of its original post and beam construction still visible, so it just needs to be sturdy and not hurt the books.

-- "What man has done, man can do."

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5410 posts in 2160 days

#5 posted 04-16-2018 05:58 PM

I just realized that you are planning to put just a single shelf up high not suspend multiple shelves (bookcase) from above? I assume that the shelf will have a back on it so why not just attach a cleat on the back and attach the cleat directly to the square tubing. I suppose you could just put carriage bolts through the back without a cleat. If you make the shelf sort of like an open box with dividers every few feet, that should help provide strength to the shelf and also act as bookends.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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