better homes & gardens

How to make a bookshelf (tree style)
How to make a bookshelf (tree style)

Gather your supplies

  • 2400 x 1200 x 15mm plywood (1)
  • 42 x 19 x 230mm pine spreaders (15)
  • 3mm bending plywood (3 sheets, 1220 x 810mm)

You'll also need

Dulux Weathershield Low Sheen in Aviva and Venus Flytrap; Selleys 3 in 1 flexible sealant, filler and adhesive; wood filler; 20mm flat-head nails; nail gun (optional)

Here's how


Step 1

Using the Book Tree Diagram (below), mark out shape of tree in bottom left-hand corner of 15mm plywood sheet. To do this, first mark in a 100mm grid, then mark on grid where tree trunk and branches cross. Join marks freehand. The tips of limbs should be 19mm wide to match thickness of spreaders. Place plywood on gluts, then cut around tree shape with a jigsaw. Carefully follow outline of tree, especially where diagram is shaded, because you’ll need the plywood between limbs to get both cut-out trees out of 1 sheet. Also avoid cutting through area to right of tree as you need a 900 x 260mm piece of plywood for base. Flip over cut-out tree, then use it to mark out second tree. Move it around until you clear the cut-out sections. Cut out as before.

Step 2

Screw together cut-out trees with 4 or 5 screws. Sand edges so the trees are close to identical. The trees are separated by spreaders at tips of limbs. To fix them, predrill clearance holes 20mm from limb ends while trees are screwed together.

Step 3

Unscrew trees. Cut spreaders, then glue and screw them to 1 tree. Make sure they are flush with top, bottom and ends of branches. Once 3 or 4 are screwed on, you can stand the tree on its spreaders and work from top to drive in rest of screws.

Step 4

Glue and screw other cut-out tree to spreaders in the same way.

Step 5

Trees need bark, so cut bending ply into 265mm wide strips. Starting with bottom of trunk on 1 side, clamp a block to end of branch and push plywood in place to trunk shape. Mark length, then cut to size, using a fine-toothed saw.

Step 6

Clamp another block to other end, apply glue to tree edges and spreaders, then push plywood in place. The plywood is slightly wider than the tree, so overhang it each side, as this allows you to sand plywood smooth once everything is fixed in place. It also gives some play. As bottom of tree turns in a little, nail bottom first, using flat-head nails.

Step 7

At ends of limbs, start nails, then hold a second hammer under point you are nailing. This helps stop bouncing and vibration in thin timber while trying to nail. If you have a small nail gun or brad nailer, this is a lot easier as the nail will go in in one hit. Keep nailing and adding more plywood, using clamps as needed to hold plywood in place. The whole process takes a bit of time (after all, trees take time to grow), so take the time to get it right!

Step 8

Fill all screw and nail holes, as well as any small gaps, with wood filler. Wider gaps may have opened up in crotches where branches join tree trunk – don’t fill these gaps with wood filler, leave them for later. Allow filler to dry, then sand faces smooth, so overhanging bending plywood edges are flush with tree faces.

Step 9

Trees need roots, so screw 900 x 260mm base to bottom spreaders of tree, which will keep it stable.

Step 10

Use Selleys 3 in 1 to fill larger gaps where plywood joins in crotch of limbs. This is a flexible sealant, filler and adhesive all in one. Squeeze into joint, then smooth off with a finger, regularly wiping your finger clean on a rag. Finish off bookcase by first painting the shelves and sides of trunk with 2 coats of a neutral greenish-beige (Aviva). When dry, paint back and front faces green (Venus Flytrap).