Sunday, June 19, 2011

Attractive Cinderblock Bookshelf - all grown up and ready to shine!

I know what your thinking... a cinderblock bookshelf? Attractive? Yeah right!  

Well, that's what I thought too, until...

One summer afternoon, I randomly caught an episode of Design Star, and one of the contestants, Emily, made this cinderblock bookshelf for her cubic glass room.  Let's just say it was love at first sight, and I knew we were a perfect match.

I think this is my favorite DIY project that we've done because we pretty much made it up as we went along, and the finished product really is beautiful. It definitely gets the most compliments out of everything in our home, and people are always surprised when we tell them we made it.  

Here is what you need:
Wood (sizes and measurements listed below)
6 Cinderblocks
Pre-stain wood conditioner (if using a softwood like pine, cedar or fir)
Wood Stainer (we used MINWAX Polyshades Stain and Polyurethane in 1) in Mission Oak Satin
Rubber gloves
Brushes or cloths (for applying conditioner and stain)
36 Wood nails

1.  Get the supplies

Usually I wouldn't list this step as part of the process, but for us it really was a huge deal.  Because Emily doesn't really explain how to make it on the show, we spent a lot of time (I'm talking hours) deliberating
in the aisles of Home Depot, reading about wood and stains on our iphones, and calculating how much wood to buy.  At Home Depot, you have to buy big sheets of wood and they will cut it for you according to your measurements.  We ended up buying pinewood, which is a softwood, because it was way cheaper.  Softwoods soak up the stain in a blotchy way if they are not treated with wood conditioner first.  Pre-stain wood conditioner pretty much fills in all the holes, so when you stain the wood, it stains more evenly.  After finishing our calculations, we picked out enough sheets of pinewood to make the whole bookshelf and brought them to be cut.

To give you an overall picture, the bookshelf we made ended up being 50" tall, 11" deep and 72" wide.

The wood pieces we needed were:
  •  4 pieces of wood cut to 11" X 72" 
    • These are the shelves.
  • 18 pieces of wood cut to 9 3/16" wide X 15 5/8" tall 
    • These are to cover the front and sides of each cinderblock (we did not cover the backs of them because our bookshelf is up against the wall).  If you want to cover all four sides of the cinderblocks you need 24 pieces instead.
    • A cinderblock's true dimensions are 7 5/8" X 7 5/8" X 15 5/8" (just 3/8" short of 8"X8"X16").   Because the wood we bought was 6/8" thick, we made sure the pieces were the same height as a cinderblock, but wider so the front panel would cover the front of the cinderblock AND the 2 side panels.
TIP: Home Depot would only cut the shelf pieces for us because they said the other 18 pieces were too short for their machine to cut.  So we had them cut us strips that were 9 3/16" wide and we brought those to a local hardware store where they cut them into the right height for us.  Since I don't own a circular saw, I always go to a local hardware store if I need something cut, and they are usually happy to do it for a small fee.  

We found this article to be really helpful throughout the whole process...ehow: How to Stain Wood

2.  Sand & Condition

We lightly sanded the wood by hand with sandpaper and then applied wood conditioner.  Next, we got rid of all the sawdust and then used a brush to generously apply the conditioner.  Make sure to go in the direction of the grain.  About 15 minutes after you apply the conditioner, wipe off any excess with a cloth.  Within 2 hours you should apply the stain.

3.  Stain

We followed the directions on the stain can.  We applied two coats and did not need to apply anything afterwards because the stain we used was stain and polyurethane in one.  Once all the pieces were stained, we set them to dry overnight before assembling the bookcases.  The best way we could think of drying them was by propping them up against a railing or a wall.  That way, we could stain both sides without having to wait for one side to dry.

4.  Nail 

We made 6 cinderblock covers (6 nails in each - 3 down each side) by nailing the front panel to the two side panels.  It helped to do this while the panels were around the cinderblock to ensure that we made them the right size.

In the picture you can see how the front panel is
nailed to the side panels.
This picture gives you an idea of how the covers
fit over the cinderblocks.
5.  Build

First lay down one shelf and then two cinder blocks and then cover each cinderblock.  Repeat this until your bookshelf is complete!  I used a tape measure to help me line up my cinderblocks so I knew they were directly on top of each other.  This step was not fun for the perfectionist in me (but so worth it in the end)!

6.  Admire

Please let me know if you try this out.  I would love to hear about it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is amazing! But how much did it cost?