Turn in order: rotating bookcase

By Ryan Shervill

RotatingShelf_CHW_0212_b_SUP

Photo by Felix Wedgwood

In a small room, the most overlooked (and underused) storage area is the corner. Trying to find corner-efficient furniture can be frustrating, so we often end up filling that space with whatever will fit. I set out to build this rotating bookcase to address this problem. With a footprint smaller than 2′ square, the bookcase doesn’t take up a lot of floor space but offers a tremendous amount of storage, thanks to its round layout and ability to spin 360°.

Skill
2

Instructions

Cutting Circles

The shopping list for this project is a simple one: two-and-a-half sheets of 5/8"-thick medium-density fibreboard (MDF). If you pick a retailer that offers cutting onsite, I suggest having the sheets cut into 2' x 2' or 4' x 2' pieces to make handling easier.

Once you’re back at the shop, the first step is to cut out the many circles that make up the layers of the shelving unit. To make my circles, I used a shopmade circle-cutting jig mounted to my bandsaw to make the process as quick, accurate and dust-free as possible. You need nine circles to make up the shelf. First, cut out the three 23 1/2"-diameter circles that make up two parts of the base, as well as the top disc. Next, adjust your jig to cut five more circles at 22" for the dividers between each section. Before removing the jig, cut one more circle at 22 7/8", but this one has a twist: after you make the main circle, draw another one inside it, 21/2" smaller. Using a jigsaw or a scrollsaw, cut out the middle, leaving a doughnut-shaped ring. This ring is where the lazy Susan’s bearing will be hidden later. Finish up by rounding the edges of all of the discs (excluding the ring) with a 5/16"-radius bearing-guided roundover bit in your handheld or table-mounted router.

Straight Ahead

Now, it’s time to start making the 48 straight-cut pieces that form the shelves and backbone of the unit’s body. Begin with the four large boxes for the spine of the unit. On the tablesaw, cut eight pieces measuring 13 1/4" x 19" and another eight measuring 7 3/4" x 19". Use those pieces to build four four-sided boxes measuring 9" x 13 1/4" x 19".

To make the boxes, use whatever joinery method you prefer. Glue and pocket-hole screws driven through the top and bottom pieces, dowels or biscuits all work; even countersunk and plugged screws or glue and finishing nails are fine. Strength isn’t critical here; only alignment. So, take your time and build nice, even, square boxes.

Small Boxes

With the large boxes built and set aside for the glue to dry, move on to the eight smaller boxes that make up the remaining shelves. These are built exactly as the large ones, only this time you will need 16 pieces measuring 5" x 7 3/4" for the tops and bottoms, and 16 more measuring 5" x 13 1/4" for the sides. If you wish to add shelves to some or all of these small boxes, now is the time to do it. I cut extra 5" x 7 3/4" pieces and secured them in place with some finishing nails and glue as I built the boxes. Space these shelves to suit your books or knick-knacks.

Assembly time

OK. You have nine circles, four large boxes and eight small ones. Time to assemble, right?

Well, not quite. There is still the matter of making the bookcase rotate. To do that, you need to complete some modifications to a few parts. The secret to a large, heavy bookcase rotating smoothly is a strong lazy Susan bearing. For this project, I chose a 17 3/8"-diameter aluminum bearing rated to 275 lb. It has the strength for this shelf but still needs mechanical modifications.

The bearing comes with a series of plastic feet on each ring, but has screw holes only in the inner race for attaching it to a surface. Because you need to attach the bearing to two surfaces, you need to add holes of your own. Fortunately, this is an easy task. First, remove the feet from the outer ring with a pair of pliers. You won’t need them anymore. When the feet are removed, you will be left with a series of flat-bottomed holes in the ring. Simply continue these holes the rest of the way through the ring with a 11/64"-diameter bit, and then countersink them on the exit side with a 5/16"-diameter bit to 3/16" deep. The countersunk holes will allow the attachment screws you’ll put in later to sit flush.

With the bearing suitably modified, start building the base. Glue the MDF ring to the lower base disc, taking care to centre the ring. Hold it in place with a couple of brads until the glue dries. The next step is to drill a 1"-diameter hole through the lower base disc, centred 4" in from the outside edge. This hole allows you to drive the screws that attach the lazy Susan bearing to the rest of the unit during assembly later.

Next, centre the lazy Susan bearing assembly inside the MDF ring with the countersunk holes you drilled in the outer race facing up. Attach the bearing to the lower base disc with eight #8 x 1" wood screws. Set everything aside while you build the main body.

Body Builder

The easiest way to build the body is to start with the five 22"-diameter discs and the four large boxes. Centre each large box on a disc with glue applied to the bottoms of the boxes. Next, reinforce each joint by laying out, drilling and countersinking holes for screws that will pass through the bottom of each disc and into the side panels of each box. Into each hole, drive a #6 x 1 1/2" screw, but be careful—it’s all too easy to split the MDF. If a split appears, apply glue into the crack with the screw in place, and then back out the screw slowly. The crack should close completely on its own, but clamp if required. Drill a new hole a couple inches back from your first hole and repeat. Don’t worry about filling these screw holes, as they will be covered in the next step. Continue this process, rotating each box by 90° to the one below it until you have the whole assembly together. Don’t forget to attach the remaining large base disc to this stack of boxes and shelves.

At this point, you can insert the small boxes. Apply a bit of glue to the top and bottom surfaces of each small box, and slide each one into place so it butts up against a large box, covering the screw heads from the previous step. Secure the small boxes with a couple of brads, wipe away excess glue with a damp cloth and allow the glue to dry.
Now, it’s time to install the lower base disc, which has the lazy Susan bearing and ring attached. With the shelf body sitting upside down, place the lower base disc in position and centre it. Rotate the lower base disc on the lazy Susan bearing until you can see a screw hole through the 1"-diameter port you bored earlier. Use that hole to drive #8 x 1"-long screws into each of the six holes in the inner bearing race, anchoring the lower base disc to the body.
Finally, turn the entire assembly upright and sit the third 23 1/2"-diameter disc on top of the unit. Secure with a layer of glue and a few brads.

As an extra touch, I added a few small, pie-shaped shelves to bridge the area between the large and small boxes and break up some of the taller spaces. These came from offcuts cut to fit and are attached with glue and brads driven through the box sides and into the edge of each pie-shaped shelf. Position your shelves to suit what you’ll be placing in the unit. Feel free to get creative with the number, size and locations of your add-on shelves. There’s really no wrong way to do it.

Finish Up

Go over the entire unit and fill the nail holes, then sand everything to get ready for painting. You can use a high-adhesion, latex primer and regular latex paint for this unit (sanding lightly between coats to remove any fuzz) or, if you are so equipped, a spray-on finish is easier. I sent my shelf out to a local kitchen-cabinetry company and had them finish my shelf in their spray booth with a few coats of snow-white lacquer. Hiring out finishing can make a lot of sense for the home workshopper. Taking your project to a pro can be more practical than trying to deal with finishing in a small, dusty shop. The prices for this work can be quite reasonable.

It’s now time to take your rotating bookcase for a spin, after loading it up with books, keepsakes and other treasures.

Tools & Materials

Part Material Size (T x W x L*) Qty.

Large base discs 5/8"-thick MDF 23 1/2"-diameter 2
Top disc 5/8"-thick MDF 23 1/2"-diameter 1
Shelf dividers 5/8"-thick MDF 22"-diameter 5
Lazy Susan ring 5/8"-thick MDF 22 7/8"-diameter 1
Large box sides 5/8"-thick MDF 13 1/4" x 19" 8
Large box tops and bottoms 5/8"-thick MDF 7 3/4" x 19" 8
Small box sides 5/8"-thick MDF 5" x 13 1/4" 16
Small box tops and bottoms 5/8"-thick MDF 5" x 7 3/4" 16
Small box middle shelves (optional) 5/8"-thick MDF 5" x 7 3/4" 8
Corner shelves (optional) 5/8"-thick MDF 5" x 5" 8
Lazy Susan bearing Lee Valley #12K68.17 1



* Length indicates grain direction

Recommended Tools

Bandsaw

jigsaw/scrollsaw

18-gauge nailer

drill

router

Plans

1 comment

Sort order:

Oldest Newest

Napoole23

Jun. 15, 2013

4:29 pm

I am having trouble finding 5/8" thick MDF unless I special order it. Has anyone tried this using 3/4" instead? Seems like the only difference it would make is a little bit with height and storage capacity and weight. Any suggestions if I decide to do it this way? Any help is appreciated. Thanks!



To leave a comment, please log in

Don't have an user account? Register for free

Poll

How do you heat your home?

Loading ... Loading ...

Recommendations