My Legendary Bookcase. Shelf.

Ladies and gentlemen…

… let me present …

My Legendary Bookcase

My Legendary Bookcase - 01

Actually of course it isn’t a bookcase at all, it’s a bookshelf. However I am inordinately pleased with it. For over a year it was entirely Mythical while no-one else thought it could, would or ever should exist. Since it is now manifest, it seems only right that it should be promoted to Legendary.

My Legendary Bookcase - 03It began its life as a twinkle in my mind’s eye early last summer when my neighbour threw out some pine floorboards and the council started digging up the by-pass.

Hmmm. Now that I write it, that sequence of cause and effect does look rather odd, even to me. I am sure you can see the relevance of floorboards to a set of free-standing bookshelves. The by-pass never actually came into the thing, but it was my Muse. When the workmen ripped out the old armco barriers they piled high stacks of wooden posts which whispered to me “take us home and use us to support the floorboards and make a bookcase”. Shelf. Bookshelf. They were rough and interesting and distressed and chunky bits of wood. They’d have looked fab. Now I am a socially confident woman, but stopping at the building site and asking if I could have the posts from the armco barriers was a complicated conversation I just didn’t feel up to having, so I kept on putting it off. Then one day they were gone and I thought I’d lost my chance.

I was telling a friend of mine about this and she said “oh, my neighbour’s got some flooring blocks she’s giving away” which was how I came by six bin-bags of flooring blocks, 3″ x 3″ x 6″, with pegs and holes to hold them together and bitumen on one side to glue them to the floor. These were blocks that had lived; some were burned, some were splashed with paint, some were heavily scored and had pieces of metal bedded in them, and almost all were covered in coal-dust. Who keeps coal in a room with a parquet floor? The bin bags also contained earth and some small creatures such as woodlice. I piled them in the car, took them home, invested in a couple of scrubbing brushes and a box of Lux flakes and started cleaning them. I’d worked my way through five of the bags when the autumn set in and it got too cold to sit outside covering myself with soapy water and mud splatters.

My Legendary Bookcase - 05My neighbours took a gentle interest in the proceedings and one of them pointed out that cheap pine tongue and groove floorboards would not hold up to the weight of books. He was right of course. He got me some bits of Southend Pier, but not enough for bookshelves. So once I’d finally cleaned the last of the blocks about six weeks ago and rearranged the living room to clear a space by the wall, I took myself online to look for floorboards. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find floorboards that are 8″ wide and 1″ deep? Don’t bother; it’s damn near impossible. I eventually tracked down a reclaimed timber yard about an hour from where I live. After much scepticism on their part and some delays on mine I went over there a couple of weekends ago. They didn’t have any suitable floorboards, but they did have pew seats. They were about 14″ deep, made of pitch-pine and very, very solid with bull noses, flat on one side and gently curved for pious bottoms on the other. They cut them into 5′ lengths for me, tactfully not telling me they thought I was mad all the while they did it.

And lo! After some considerable time knocking the flooring blocks together with their little pegs and almost as much time cleaning the dirt off the pews and fannying around with a tape measure and a spirit level, we have My Legendary Bookcase. Shelf. Bookshelf. A particularly pleasing part of the whole pleasing exercise is that I had exactly the right number of wooden blocks, which is all the more remarkable because I selected them at random from a pile of the things in the middle of last summer.

I really am pleased with it.

My Legendary Bookcase - 06

Apologies for the quality of the photographs, I took them as the light was fading yesterday evening, and the camera on the Ericsson 850 is noticably less sharp and crisp than it was when I bought it. I should probably clean the lens.

18 responses to “My Legendary Bookcase. Shelf.

  1. I read almost to the end thinking those big mamas were really floorboards and being totally impressed. Okay, I’m still totally impressed…they look great.

    I’m currently putting books in boxes, dismantling my shelves and wondering how many squintillions of pounds it’s going to cost me to recreate them in Britain. Thin boards will take the weight of books, but not forever. Mine began to bow a bit after a decade (thin boards interlarded with bricks set on end; perfect height for paperbacks).

    I’m going to have to find my local reclamation places and see what I can scrounge.

  2. I replied but it’s vanished in t’interweb somewhere, ho hum!

    What I was struck by was the appeal of the wood.

    Whilst on holiday I finished my books and moved on to my wife’s book, Naomi Wolf’s “The Treehouse” which was surprisingly good . . . less abrasive than Greer and more readable than Atwood (to my male mind).

    Her father delights in wood (so much so that varnishing is abhorrent, it’s “entombing” the wood) and delights in waxed or polished wood with the colours and grains. My wife’s wondering if we should replace the flooring in our old Georgian house since we’ve had to floorboards sanded but there’re many imperfections. But I like them, the wood’s old and lived with and imperfect, which resonates with me just fine πŸ˜‰

    Your book shelf case thingy looks to be a thing of beauty πŸ™‚

  3. What a perfect use for redundant pews – and how serendipitous that you had exactly the right number of blocks. It looks fab.

  4. Good luck with the move, Weasel. My mind simply boggles at the thought of what’s involved in up-sticks and emigrating. I know I couldn’t do it now.

    What a fascinating book, Shrink. You should prevent your wife from doing anything to the flooring other than polishing it occasionally. I despair of the way that people ram new materials into old houses simply because they “look” “nicer”. The whole point about old houses is that they show the history of the people who’ve lived there and the craftsmen who made them. Like women, they should be allowed to bear their scars and show their age proudly, because it is what makes them what they are.

    I’m glad you like it Teuchter. I had to bite my tongue in the wood-yard not to say that I’d make a point of finding my filthiest erotica to put on the shelves to make up for number of sermons they’d had to put up with!

    Thanks all for commenting.


  5. I must look more closely at your bookshelf next time I visit πŸ˜›

  6. That is stunning! I love it!

  7. I found a site that helps the environment by reducing the amount of postal junk mail you have. It saves a lot of trees too! It only costs $2.95 a month for this service. You can cut down on the number of credit card offers, catalogs, flyers, sales promotions, and inserts. They will even plant a tree on your behalf when you sign up! Let’s all do our part to help the environment. Here’s the URL.
    [URL Removed and replaced with: : which is free].

  8. Thank you Mary. Hope all is well with you.

    Justin, the only reason I haven’t zapped your comment as the spam it is, is because it is a good thing if people can reduce the amount of junk mail out there. I’ve therefore cut the link to the chargeable service and replaced it with a link to a free list of advice about how to prevent junk mail if you live in the US.

    This is one of the many reasons I prefer living in the UK to the US: here you own your own letterbox – it is free to register with the Mail Order Protection Service – link here:

    If anyone wishes to advertise on my blog, then contact me and I’ll arrange for you to pay to advertise here. If anyone is going to profit from my words it’s damn well going to be me.

    Cheers everyone


  9. I read an article years ago about a man in the Pacific Northwest of the US who signed himself up for all the junkmail he possibly could and burned it in his woodstove. Free heat, delivered right to your door!

    Though there is a certain happy irony in a junk comment about reducing junk mail.

  10. Your hard work paid off. I think it looks fantastic!

    An innovative form of recycling and a great home for your books.

    Well done Aphra. I’m truly impressed. Legendary indeed.

  11. Aphra, would you mind if I saved the main picture of the finished bookshelf and posted it on my blog with a bit of a write-up about your recycling efforts and innovation etc.? Will make sure full credit goes to you etc…

    No worries if you’d rather I didn’t.

  12. As newly weds, Buff and I were bookaholics with little spare cash. Our bookshelves were concrete bricks separating thick slabs of pine. Not very elegant, but very 70’s along with the bean bags and the Philips radiogram πŸ™‚

    We dreamed of a bookcase as neat as yours has turned out.

  13. I think your book shelves are truly legendary, They look so solid and substantial and like they belong to a serious, no nonsense reader. I think you did a wonderful job and very creatively too. I does give me food for thought. I am new to your blog, but it all looks very interesting and I will be coming by on a daily basis to see what you are up to. Ciao…

  14. What fun shelves! Love the look of the varied pieces of lumber and blue paint splashes. Great look!

  15. Awesome. Truly awesome.

  16. Pingback: Eco-Shelves « Earthpal

  17. Your book shelves are wonderful. They remind me of the ones I grew up with that were made of stacked bricks and boards left over from building our house. Eventually my folks ended up with so many books that all bookcases were built in and we had two whole walls of the livingroom lined with books in bookcases. All those books are still in the possession of my parents and now that they are getting old I have started wondering what in the world I am going to do with all of them when they die. Of course, it isn’t all up to me, I have three siblings. But still. I could start lining my hallway with book shelves like those you built.

  18. When all my crap comes out of storage I will post some pictures of my recycled book cases. They hang on the wall and are made out of old pallets (with the other half being a van driver, large quanities of free pallets are always available).

    In essence, they are pallets cut in half with every other slat prised off and nailed on top of the slat below. Of course, pallet slats are only about 3 inches wide, so the books overhang a bit, but so far all the paperbacks I’ve ever shoved on there have stayed put, so I’m happy.

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