Scaffolding board bookshelves – Part I

I recently used some old scaffolding boards to make some bookshelves for an alcove in our bedroom. I documented the process for anyone considering a similar project.

The scaffolding boards came from Gumtree. I think I paid about £4 each for them. They were pretty scruffy – caked in old plaster and paint with some mould, cobwebs, etc. I’d recently acquired a new (2nd hand) car and I think the guy selling them took pity on me and although I’d brought a dustsheet to save my new seats, he offered to drop them over to my house. Half an our later a trailer full of scaffolding boards arrived at my house.

A word about scaffolding boards

The thing with old scaffolding boards is that they’re generally stored outside, have seen quite a lot of building sites over the years and are usually quite damp. I stored mine in my garage for a few weeks while I figured out what I was going to do with them – this gave them time to dry out, which is important. One of them split along its length when drying out. The other thing to note is their weight – to be honest, they’re probably not ideal as shelves because of the extra weight they add but I like their chunky feel and with some minimum sanding and varnishing I think they turned out pretty well.

© Jonathan Brennan

Board drying in the garage.

First I measured my alcove – it’s beside a chimney breast – the opposite alcove side has a built in wardrobe from the previous owner. I measured the width and the depth of my alcove. The depth happened to be almost exactly the same as the width of the scaffolding board – perfect! Then I cut the boards to size using my trusty circular saw (from Lidl). The blade was just wide enough to make a clean cut to the underside of the board.

I then gave the bookshelves -to-be a good scrub with white spirits and an old dishcloth. I didn’t use water for fear of dampening the boards again. You might also find you have to pull out a couple of nails. The protective metal endings came out bright and green. I then let boards dry then gave them a quick sanding with my slightly temperamental orbital sander, also from Lidl. In addition, I sanded the edges a bit too to round off the corners. Finally I gave them another wipe with a dry cloth and gave them a single coat of matt varnish.

© Jonathan Brennan

Scrubbed, sanded and ready to apply the varnish.

© Jonathan Brennan

Applying one coat of matt varnish

© Jonathan Brennan

Nice green paint emerges

© Jonathan Brennan

Drying…

To install them as shelves, I held the first board against the wall and used a spirit level to make sure it was level. It helps if you have extra limbs at this point. A friend or family member will also do.

This allowed me to draw a level line along the wall with a pencil. The brackets were attached to the wall using rawplugs and screws (from IKEA). I laid the boards on the brackets once they were fixed to the wall and marked each screw hold with pencil. I then drilled pilot holes for the screws then screwed them to the brackets.

A word about the brackets

The nickel coated brackets I used were from IKEA – sadly these have been discontinued at the time of writing. I was really disappointed about this because I think they look great. IKEA had two left in their showroom but wouldn’t sell them to me! However, you can find something similar in B&Q, if not quite as nice.

For now I’ve only added one bookshelf – it’s replaced my crappy chipboard beside table / locker. I may add more… I’m really happy with the result. Long live the humble but mighty scaffolding board! [Edit: I did add more – you can read about it in Scaffolding board bookshelves – Part II.

© Jonathan Brennan

The end result

© Jonathan Brennan

The end result – detail

© Jonathan Brennan

The end result – detail

© Jonathan Brennan

Bracket