This was one of the most fun projects I have done to date. The customer showed me a picture she had found on the internet of some suspended bookshelves. She was unable to find them anywhere or even get any more information about how to build them so I had to do a little reverse engineering to come up with a design. The biggest challenge of this project was how to make certain that the shelves were sturdy. Obviously, books are heavy and seven or eight shelves worth of books are really heavy. Not only did I not want the shelves to sag, but because of the lean design, I had to be concerned about safety to ensure the whole thing wouldn't come tumbling down.
First, I drew a model in SketchUp to make sure the proportions were right and also to figure out how many shelves to make. It was important in this case to take a look at the customer's book collection and measure some of the biggest and smallest books and space the shelves accordingly because the shelves were going to be fixed in place. Here's the SketchUp model:
As I mentioned, making these shelves as sturdy as possible was the number one priority. Because the customer was already remodeling the part of their house where the shelves were going, I decided it would be best to open up the ceiling so that I could add some framing to hang the shelves from. The other option was to attach a board to the ceiling that was the same size as the shelves and hang them from that, but in the end I thought having the rods just coming out of the ceiling would look better. Luckily, I also had access to the back of the wall (and the wall framing) so I was able to add framing behind the shelves as well so I could screw into the back of the them. There are other ways to deal with this if you don't have access to the back, but this worked out perfectly. Here is the support framing (see captions for explanations):
Once the drywall was all patched and the painters had done their job, it was time for install. The metal rod and fittings as well as the shelves were all prepped and painted/stained/clear coated in the shop before the installation day. And in case you're curious, the components of the hanging system are 3/8" steel rod, joined together by some brass compression tee's and couplings from the plumbing aisle at your local hardware store, as well as some other bolts and hanging brackets which are also readily available. The little black clamping collars that actually support the shelves I had to order special though. The shelves were made from 5/4 solid Red Oak (1" thick actual dimension), stained with Minwax Early American stain and clear coated with 4 coats of Minwax wipe on Poly.
Here are some pictures from the install. Read the captions for explanations:
The install was a long one and took almost ten hours but it went super well and I was super pleased with how it turned out. Here is the finished product: