Cardboard Bookshelf

Shelf models
The planets aligned a couple weeks back. My wife was out of town for a couple days, which meant lonely evenings and less concern for tidiness: a great combination for a large craft project. This coincided with move-in/out weekend at my apartment complex, which equated to substantial amounts of cardboard in the recycling bin, which I gladly rescued.
We have been needing a solution for the toys that find themselves downstairs. Upstairs we still use the Tetris shelves I made a couple houses ago. They are still holding up.
I’ve been on a bit of a cardboard kick lately [see some previous posts].
I figured the cubbie-hole style would allow the cardboard to hold more weight than trying long shelves. The holes needed to hold toys so I made them 14-inch cubes (theoretically; more on that below). I estimated that 4 corrugations thick would be about 5/8 inches and would be sufficiently strong. You can see from the sketch the form of the six internal interlocking pieces and the four external pieces.
Shelf sketch
I wanted to alternate the locking because I thought it would be sturdier, but I didn’t anticipate how difficult (but clearly not impossible) piecing together would be.
Most of my pieces ended up a bit fatter than 5/8 because I found most the large boxes used doubled corrugation. Therefore I ran the doubles on the outside with matching direction and used a single in the middle with opposite corrugation direction. I think the design would hold the pieces together with no glue, but gluing makes cutting much easier. I used hot glue, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Some white or wood glue would be better, I think, but I didn’t have it on hand (plus, it dries more slowly). To keep the shelves square I needed to fix in two bracing pieces 14×14 inches with 5/8×2 inch tabs, as shown in sketch. I ended up just finding some very stiff cardboard and going with a single layer (same for the front pieces (though the front is not so stiff)). The back pieces I glued in. I added some glue to the external boards as well. I think longer connectors would have helped and could be trimmer later if need be.
Finished Unfilled Shelves

back brace connectionback brace

end connectioncorner connection

alternating interlocking boards
The personalized covers were fun but can be a bit tricky to put on. I wanted covers so the kids could have some autonomy in storing their junk (they collect a lot of junk) without Tiffany and I needing to look at it. Because my boards were thicker than 5/8, I cut the front squares 13 7/8 so they would fit better and notched the boards ¼. The big kids chose their fonts from a list of stencil fonts and told me the color they desired (I had to mix the Princess Else-inspired light blue).
Finished Fill with covers
Plus, if you happen to have six covers, you can show how two consecutive triangular numbers add to a square number.


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