Organizing books in box sets is tidy and neat and easily displayed. You shouldn’t have to miss out if you do as I do and collect your book sets one by one from thrift shops.
Here’s a way to build a box set book case that will help with organizing books and keeping them dust-free and ready to binge-read.
Organizing Books with a DIY Cardboard Book Case
You will need:
1. all the books you want to box. I box complete sets, but I also box incomplete volumes that just go together–my Norton Anthologies from college, my three Harry Potters translated into Icelandic (super nerd, I know…), etc. If you want to keep a few books permanently together, especially if you have a million books, as I do, then a DIY book case is a great solution.
2. sturdy cardboard or mat board. Cereal boxes won’t cut it here–for this project, you need thick corrugated cardboard. Mat board is a less eco-friendly option, since you can’t get it from the recycling bin, but it’s what I tend to use when boxing my own personal books.
3. rulers, self-healing cutting mat, and T-square. The rules and cutting mat are standard; you’ll want the T-Square to make sure that you’re forming accurate right angles.
4. x-acto knife. This will cut through even the mat board, if you give it a couple of passes.
5. Paint pens and markers (optional). My kids always decorate their box sets.
1. Measure the panels for your book case. On a scratch piece of paper, draw a 3D rectangle, and then measure and label on your diagram the following dimensions of your stacked and lined up book set: length, width, and height. Use this diagram to help you measure the dimensions for two side panels, a top and a bottom panel, and a back panel for your book case. You want the measurements to each have a very small amount of literal wiggle room–one extra tick of the ruler should do it.
To the top and bottom panels, add 1″ to the side-to-side measurement and .5″ to the front to back measurement. To the side panels, add .5″ to the side-to-side measurement. You will use this extra length for tabs.
2. Cut the panels from cardboard. Use that T-square! Perfect corners are what make this project look good.
3. Prepare the tabs. The top and bottom panels will have three tabs–one on each side, and one at the back. The two side panels will each have one tab at the back.
Use the ruler and x-acto knife to cut partway through the cardboard at the half-inch mark for each tab, then peel away some of the top layers of cardboard, if possible. Mat board has layers that you can peel away, but for corrugated cardboard, you’ll want to peel off the top layer and then use your ruler to mash down the corrugations. This will give the necessary room for each tab to bend.
Fold and crease each tab the proper way, so that it will bend correctly when you assemble the box.
4. Assemble the box. In the boxes that I make, I put the tabs on the outside of the box. This looks less neat, but it’s easier to assemble and it keeps the books from snagging anything inside the box. This box will also assemble correctly with the tabs on the outside, however, and that will leave the outside faces of the box completely clean for your own embellishment.
Beginning with the bottom panel of the box, dispense a generous amount of hot glue down one tab, then press each adjacent panel onto its tab, leaving perhaps a millimeter of space between the panels so that the tabs have room to bend. Make sure, when you assemble the side panels, that you have their tabs each facing the same way, towards what will be the back of the box.
I think it’s easiest to glue the bottom panel to all its adjacent sides, then glue the side panels to the back panel, and then glue on the top panel.
5. Embellish, if you like. Neither cardboard nor mat board take well to paint or glue, but all do fine with markers, colored pencils, and double-sided tape. If you’d like to keep your embellishments looking pristine, you can coat the outside of the box in a very light coat of spray sealant, although this is not an eco-friendly supply, alas. Better, I think, to let your work fade away naturally over time.
When the hot glue has had time to set and the embellishments, if any, are dry, you may insert your books into their new case. You’ll know that you’ve done a good job if they fit snugly with just enough wiggle room that you can shuffle a book out of the case without pulling it by the spine–we must NEVER pull books by their spines!