EDIT: I added my SketchUp model of the shelves to the 3D Warehouse. You can download it here. —CS
Continuing in our tour of simple fixtures in the Lost Art Press shop (last week, I posted the tool walls), above is a picture of the wall o’ books in what we call the Covington Mechanical Library.
These are pieces of screwed-together 2×12 (which start off at 1-1/2″ thick, and have been planed until pretty). If I recall correctly, there are three, maybe four, screws into the top and bottom of each upright, through the horizontal pieces, all sitting on a screwed-together base. The shelves are secured to the wall with many L-brackets that are bolted to the masonry wall. A lot of visitors bring their children to the storefront, so we wanted to make sure the unit could be safely scaled by a gorilla.
And while they looked ridiculously capacious when Brendan Gaffney finished constructing them from Christopher Schwarz’s drawing, they were full up with woodworking tomes in just an hour or so.
The drawing below – plus knowing that the pieces are from 2x12s – should provide enough detail for you to easily adapt such a system to your own library wall needs.
25 thoughts on “Covington Mechanical Library Shelves”
We would appreciate it very much, in future mini-tours, if you could be standing next to the object, doing your best Vanna White pose. We thank you in advance.
Great write up! Perhaps my eyes deceive, but those boards don’t look like they are 1.5″ thick. More like 3/4″. Did you use 1x12s, resaw the 2x12s in half, or plane them down to ~1″?
Your eyes deceive you. (Except for the “plinth,” which is 1x wrapped around the bottom.)
Fitz. I agree with Jesse Griggs. And maybe my septuagenarian “eyes are deceiving” me. But the shelving thickness, as compared to known books of varying thicknesses sitting on top of the shelves, really looks like the wood is considerably less than 2” thick. Not being contrary, but there are books on the shelves that are @ 1” thick and they look to be about the same thickness as the shelves. Just use metric measurements next time and most readers would still be working on the conversion to inches. 😉
Well it is – a “2×12″ is only 1-1/2″ thick, then the boards were dressed to suit the maker, so they probably are thinner than 1-1/2” (but they are 2x12s!)
Thanks Fitz, that explains it.
Thanks, Megan: You answered my question and inched me that much closer to buying an electric planer. “Inched?” Reasons are as plentiful as blackberries.
Fitz said it in the article: “These are pieces of screwed-together 2×12 (which start off at 1-1/2″ thick, and have been planed until pretty)”. To get a 2X pretty to my eyes means to remove the rounded-over edge which would definitely leave the board closer to 1-1/4″ thick at the most.
Thanks Steve, but to be fair, I edited the post and added that parenthetical in response to the first comment re thickness.
The civil engineer in me is bothered by the offset verticals – are the 56″ spans sagging in the front at all? I would have been tempted to lop off some of the shelves on the side to allow for the occasional tall book – but that might offend someone’s sense of design. But, it certainly looks nice and if it is working for you – great!
We don’t have any southern yellow pine around here, so I haven’t worked with it. Obviously it is doing a great job and hasn’t sagged at all. But I wouldn’t dare try a few of those spans with the crap SPF dimensional lumber we have around here. That many books are heavy.
I used the Sagulator ( https://woodbin.com/calcs/sagulator/ ), assuming that the shelves were 1.25″ thick after planing down 2×12’s, and that the shelves were Eastern White Pine (unlikely, but this is a worst case scenario).
With these parameters, a 56″ span would deflect a total of 0.03″ under a load of books (30 lb./ft.). Seems acceptable to me. The other pine species result in a deflection of 0.02″.
When you’re at the lumberyard or big box store, how do you tell what species is on hand?
Construction lumber is all stamped, and has quite a bit of information, including species. More or less. Hereabouts it is “SPF,” meaning one of Spruce Pine or Fir. It’s almost always spruce. Find a stamp, and you can use Google to find out what the shorthand markings mean.
Thanks so much. I guess I can use my phone to google the information, once I have the stamp. Bless you.
With longleaf pine (which is the species we used), the sag is .008” over 56”.
I had to move a bookcase recently, and decided to weigh the contents of a couple of shelves. The bottom shelf with the tallest books weighed 164 pounds for a 35 inch shelf. The next tallest was 138 pounds for the same length. The shelves are 7/8 maple, with sliding dovetails fixed to the case sides, and screws through the back into each shelf. No sag at all.
I still wouldn’t use the dimensional lumber available here. It’s not remotely as good as what Chris uses.
Something tells me these folks might know to account for the load values of their lumber when figuring out their spans. Just a hunch. 😉
Of that, I never had any doubts.
I read “Covington Mechanical Library Shelves” expecting some Victorian cast-iron behemoth with a geared movement to rotate the shelves, bringing the desired books to eye level.
This is cool and functional and makes way more sense than my idea… But I kinda wish I’d been right 😉
For the Aussies what measurement in mm is 2 X 12
I’d be interested to know what the stock dimensions of lumber is available, equivalent to our 2×4, 2×6, etc.
Needs some color…
Looks like a great idea, however, I’ll have to wait a bit to duplicate. I recently bought a 2x12x16 feet and paid $76 for it!
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