Finding creative, unconventional ways to look at an old or unused piece of furniture creates opportunities to repurpose pieces into something new. One way to skew a traditional piece of furniture is to transform an old bookcase into a bench, and rescue it from the next garbage pickup at the same time. Working with a solid wood bookcase, the results can be a fantastic bench with cubbies underneath for storage; a delightful addition to a mudroom or an entryway.
Cutting and Preparation
Lay the bookcase on its vertical side and mark the desired height of the bench from the floor. Use a tape measure to measure from the floor up. Mark the seat height 16 to 18 inches high with a pencil, and repeat this mark along the now horizontal length of the bookcase to draw a line across.
Lay the bookcase flat to position the pencil line that marks the height of the bench upward. Cut the line with a circular saw all the way across, from end to end and through the wood boards at both ends of the bookcase – the ones that made the top and bottom shelf of the unit. For built-in, immovable shelves, this cut will go through the back of the shelves as well.
Turn the unit over, mark the same line position on each shelf, and cut through the front of each shelf. If the circular saw's cut does not cut all the way through each shelf, then use a jigsaw or reciprocating saw to cut into each shelf until the entire unit comes apart as two separate pieces. Sand the edges of each shelf with a palm sander to make them smooth.
Set aside the part of the bookcase that will make the bench.
Liberate the other long board that made the other vertical side of the bookcase. Use a crowbar or flathead screwdriver to separate the shelf pieces from the bookcase's side, if they were built in. This long board will form the bottom of the bench.
Attach the long board to the base of the bookcase bench. Lay the bench piece with the top on the floor and the shelf pieces standing up in the air.
Apply wood glue to the top of each vertical piece, and place the long board on top, aligning the ends and sides to be flush with the rest of the bench.
Drill pilot holes through the wood at both ends, and screw the wood into the vertical shelves, with three evenly spaced screws for each shelf piece. Repeat for the middle shelves until all shelves are screwed into the side boards.
Reinforce and Finish
Lay the unit on its back, to reinforce the top of the bench, and apply wood glue to the seams between the top board and the shelves, if you can. Stand the unit upright, and nail a few finishing nails with a hammer through the top and into the old, now vertical shelves.
Reinforce the back of the bench. The bookcase's backboard acts as the structural support for the bench, but this should be reinforced with a few heavy-duty corner brackets at each corner.
Nail the backboard into the frame of the bench all around, and then screw the flat, 90 degree corner brackets through the backboard and into the wood.
Finish the bench. Sand the edges and surfaces until they are smooth. Apply a stain, paint the unit or leave it with its old finish. The bench can function for seating, and the old shelves make the walls of the cubicles beneath that offer extra storage.