Woodwork Wednesday: Collapsible Easel Bookshelf

Have you guys been dying to know what project I have been working on and posting teasers about on Instagram? Well its finally here! Its a two-tone collapsible easel bookshelf. During our most recent move, our ladder bookshelf was broken in the shuffle. Until now, we haven’t had time to build a new one. But we did this past weekend!It was a blast to build – fast – and really easy! It took just one Sunday afternoon from start to finish. It probably would have been quicker if we did not have our new pup to watch and play with occasionally. We started off by going to Home Depot to buy our supplies. The total price came to under $35.00!


Lets all remember the old adage, measure twice and cut once. We didn’t make any mistakes on this one; but we have in the past and its a bad feeling. The lumber that we bought: one 10 ft 2×10 and two 8 ft 2×4’s. The 2×4’s were used as the sides of the easel, and the 2×10 was cut into the shelves. We used about 6 ft of the 2×4’s which totaled to about 5’10” in height. Then we found some awesome 70% off discount lumber, where we got a FREE 1×4 scrap piece that was used as the top of the support legs, and across the middle on the back as support. This was the dimension that fit for our living room; if you need it smaller or bigger you will have different lengths of the 2×10 and 2×4’s. It’s all about flexibility right?? The only hardware that we needed to use were 2″ screws, 16 7/8″ cup hooks, about 12.5 feet of chain and 8 light weight drawer hinges.


My husband cut the shelves while I started to sand them down. I like to bevel my edges slightly; that way they are nice and rounded so things don’t catch on them. An electric palm sander makes this is really easy. It can be done with a manual sanding block, but it will take a long time! Beware, the electric sander makes your hands tingly and itchy! Gloves help tremendously.


Normally, the next step would be to put sanding sealer on the clean boards. I like to skip the sanding sealer part, as it helps the stain really soak in and show the grain. You don’t end up with the super shiny and glossy exterior, but you do get great detail of the wood itself. That’s up to how you want your bookshelf to look! I like just regular stain and regular quick dry polyurethane. Pick a warm, sunny afternoon and your items will dry in a jiffy! I like the two tone coloring of this bookshelf, however most of my furniture projects are pine to match our home. We used Bombay Mahogany colored stain on the easels supports and the front edge of the shelves. (I should note that a can of this is typically $10, but we had some at home already)

Make sure to wear old clothes just in case you spill. Stain will not come out! We leaned them against our fence to dry; and it took little time in the hot Montana spring time sun. Once it was dry – and I mean really REALLY dry – we assembled it in our living room so little rocks and pebbles from our driveway wouldn’t gouge the wood.

The photo on the left is the collapsed version and the photo on the right is the open version without the chains. The hinges go below the shelves so that they fold downward when moving it or transporting it; the placement also plays a vital role in the easel function. When you lean the shelf against the wall, you need the shelves to rotate downward to make them level!


These are the same hinges that we used on Bubba’s Puppy Gate. Use the screws that come with the hinges, as it’s not necessary to have larger ones due to the support chains, small screws are OK. Next, we pre-drilled pilot holes for the cup hooks (they were very tight trying to put them in without holes). If you want a general rule of thumb, find a drill bit who’s diameter is equal to (approximately…) the shaft of the screw; e.g. ignore the diameter of the threads. Then seat it in your drill so that the length of drill bit that is sticking out is less than the length of the threaded part of the hook. BE CAREFUL: when drilling, do NOT let the drill chuck touch the wood – it will ruin your finish! Once you’ve done that, screw the hooks in! Make the hook on the shelves face open end down, and the ones on the supports open end up.

When going to pick your chain lengths, give yourself a little play room – the angle of your shelf with respect to the wall will change the lengths of your chain! What my husband did was while the bookshelf was on the ground and the shelves were upright, he eyed a length from the location of the support hooks to the shelf hooks by holding the chain to it, then added an inch or two and cut the chain with his Leatherman. Any old chain cutter will do with a small gauge chain like this. Watch out though, add too much and you might have too much hanging down for your tastes!

Finally, when you stand it up to where you want, use a level to make the shelves sit right for the angle you chose!

If you don’t have little ones like puppies or children – or live in an area with lots of vibration like near active railroad – you won’t need an extra support bracket up on the top of the easel. However if you live under any of these circumstances, you will need to use a bracket of your choosing the secure the shelf. Since we have a puppy who is very active it was a no-brainer for us! Using a simple L bracket we anchored the shelf into a stud (using a stud finder, this is about equivalent to the one we have: Stud Finder at the Home Depot)


And voila! A finished two-tone-collapsible-easel-bookshelf. Find the instructions, materials, and pictures below to build it! Woodwork Wednesday Bookshelf

Be sure to comment with questions or your own builds!

Stay tuned for Freebie Friday and next week’s Woodwork Wednesday!