DIYdiy projects

diy project: book bookends

by The BBB Craft Sisters

We grew up in a family of readers, and our mother saves every book she’s ever read. She has bookshelves everywhere, books stacked on the floor and a constant towering pile next to her bed. We got inspired to start organizing our own book collections, and came up with this idea when we found old hardbacks selling for 10 cents each at a book sale. We created these bookends made by, well, books! Our mom always taught us to treat books with care (no folded corners in our house), and we hope giving a new purpose to old books tossed aside counts! We love them equally as much without the paint, so with our next set, we will skip the spray paint. — bbbcraft sisters

Read the full how-to after the jump!


  • old hardback books
  • glue
  • small paintbrush (This is for glue, so don’t use anything nice; we have a pack of smaller craft brushes for projects like this.)
  • metal bookends from an office store (Nothing too big; get the smallest you can find.)
  • spray paint (We used black but thought hot pink would be fun, too!)


1. Start by deciding how many books you want on each side of your bookends. We did one side with four books and the other with five.

2. Stack the books in an order you like. Make sure that there are enough books to cover the bottom of the L-shaped metal bookends.

3. Keeping them in order of how you want them arranged, glue the covers of the books together. Leave the outside covers loose and open against the pages.

4. Lay the glued-together books on their side on top of a piece of newspaper. Paint heavy layers of glue on the sides of the books so that the pages stick together. This may take a few heavy coats. Be sure that when you let the books dry, they are lined up evenly the way you want them to sit.

5. When all the glue has dried, place the metal bookends inside the cover of the innermost book on each side. For the right bookend, it will be on the left-hand side; for the left bookend, it will be on the right-hand side. Glue the metal bookend into the books. Glue shut the open covers of the books on the opposite ends of the metal bookends.

6. Once the glue has dried, place the bookends on newspaper and evenly apply a coat of spray paint.

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  • Why paint them black? I love the idea but I think they were beautiful before the paint job. Perhaps it’s the graphic designer in me? Solid idea though overall, thanks for sharing!

  • This is not a pretty project at all. They look so sad after the spray paint. I almost feel bad for the books.

  • Agree with @Annie about the cute “Parul and Peggy cover” and agree with @Nicole about the black spray paint. LOVE the idea of doing this to all my Staples metal bookends, but I’ll pick hardcover books where I love the spines and leave them natural (using out of date or damaged on the inside books).

  • I don’t understand the utility of the metal bookends in this project. Can someone explain it to me? Wouldn’t just the books hold everything? Or am I missing somethins here?

    And, as everyone else, I wouldn’t paint them. But I sure did love this idea! ;D

  • I love this idea. a great way to give a new life on an object that otherwise might get thrown away. I do think it looks better without the paint but i also think they would look stunning painted gold!

  • I love this but yes, I’d prefer the look of old books to the black also. I’m such a sucker for bookends but don’t really have much use for them any more. My collection is either on a Sapien or in Cubitec shelving. The few bookends I have aren’t for necessity but just because I loved how they look.

  • I love this. I like old books too, but after going to any thrift store and seeing the multitudes of books destined for the trash I have no qualms about using them for a project. I think they look fun painted. White would be nice too, depending on your style.

  • @Marina I think the bookends they’re using just stabilize the entire thing, but the metal bookends I got at Staples look exactly like these, but there is a tiny outcropping on one side to go under a few books – which I really like because the books don’t shift at all.

  • This is so ugly! why on earth would you paint them black? I like the natural look…and as well, 4 or 5 books for a book end? I barely have any room for a regular book end on my shelf; I have too many books!

  • Neat concept. I wouldn’t have the heart to paint and glue the old books however. I instead like leaving the books loose and stacking on top of each other to create natural book ends for the other upright standing books. It’s fun to play around with different arrangements on your shelves for visual interest as well as function.

  • I think that this would have been a great opportunity to wrap some rattier old books in gorgeous paper (you know, the kind you buy and then can’t part with so it’s hoarded for a special project?)… unless they were old outdated textbooks or something useless I could not bring myself to glue them together. At the very least, I am inspired now to cover some not so attractive books. Grazie!

  • You could make the exact same thing without gluing anything, by just using that metal bookend and hiding it inside the last book. Ta-da!

  • I love a room full of books. I could only paint or glue a book I really didn’t like. Perhaps those books American Express sends to me that I really don’t want!!! I just finished a goodie I have to share: Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. Amazing!

  • I agree with most of the others… especially the ‘tacky’ comment.. I’m sorry, D*S. I usually love your DIY features, but this just seems like it falls short. The books did look much more beautiful before and I guess I don’t think it’s that “out-of-the-box” to use books as bookends. From a designer’s point of view, one of the most important principles of design is variety. Perhaps, wrapping a sphere or a form with old pages of books or newspaper and paper-mache-ing it, then piercing, adding weight, and securing it to a base might be a less literal approach? Love your site 99.999% of the time.. hehe:)

  • How awful! What a shame and I’m horrified that you’d treat books this way especially after declaring that you loved books so much. This is horrifying and I really have to ask myself what has happened…. Why glue them? Why paint them ..and destroy them? Why not just do as Carolyn has suggested? Do you realise the value of books to those who don’t have them? Clearly you have more stuff in your lives than you realise. Give the books away to some one would relish them for what they contain a book and not an object.

  • That was a crime !! … the old books were so beautiful before all this process … also I don’t understand where is the novelty about to support books with other books … sorry.

  • I always feel sad when I see books being torn for artwork… yes, it is a DIY project, and perhaps it might look pretty to some, but books are SO important to be destroyed like this! Old covers ad texture to a book, ads age and character. Please don’t paint them :-(

  • Hi guys! I just wanted to jump in here and address the book reuse question. As a former librarian, I can state unequivocally that many many books end up in landfills – discards from libraries or schools, former best sellers or book club books. And while I would never suggest anyone destroy a first edition “Leaves of Grass,” I think projects that encourage creative reuse of mass produced items are valuable. In reality, this project is no different from painting an old chair. You want to be sure that you don’t destroy an 18th century antique or a work of art, but there are a lot of chairs out there, and it’s worth saving something from a landfill and turning it into something you love and will enjoy. -Amy A

    • I do agree, I had the unlucky job of clearing out my mothers house of hundreds and hundreds of books. Most were not acceptable to resale shops. I even tried the Heritage Society for the family books from the 1800’s and they weren’t interested! While it hurts to do this I find it a better solution than a landfill! And of course my bookends are going to remain unpainted! They’ll make some great gifts!

  • Agree with Amy. I do have qualms when I use a book in a project, but knowing that it will end up in a landfill otherwise, I persevere, lol. I try to use books that have been water damaged or have in some way been rendered unreadable–makes me feel a little better about it.

  • Way to flex those creative muscles! Yea, I personally wouldn’t paint them black either, but I loved the gold idea someone had. And wrapping them in paper, or even different fabric. Just my taste. And you know, the last two times I’ve been to the thrift store there’s been a copy of treasure island laying around. The thing is we are blessed to be surrounded by beautiful books everywhere. Some of them are going to end up repurposed which is better than landing in a trash heap like Amy here said. I think my foremost grievance about this is that we failed to encourage our fellow artists for just trying something new. Thanks for sharing.

  • oh my, covering all of those classics…Treasure Island, The Yearling, with black gloppy spray paint and glue. This is the ugliest DIY I have seen on DS. I am usually crazy jealous of all the creative minds out there but this one is a stinker.

  • Ugh what a waste. I mean, aren’t there stupid business books or like, biographies of Rush Limbaugh to spray paint out there? The Yearling! As someone who collects older prints of classics for her library, this just makes me sick. That one cover of Paul and Peggy! Argh!

    Also these bookends are ugly.

  • I agree with Amy and Linda’s comments. A great use for old, damaged books (minus the paint).

  • I actually really like these!! People seriously need to realize that old books are a dime a dozen at the thrift store…(almost literally).

    I even like the black, it adds a bit of substance to the idea of them being “book ends” instead of just more books. Could also use these to add height to a centerpiece with flowers or candles on top. :)

    Awesome job, thanks for the ideas!

  • You could even then do a silhouette on the outside of say: Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, Alfred Hitchcock, or whatever your fav thing is.

  • Speaking from the point of view of a library assistant, GOOD, GREAT WONDERFUL use of OLD books.Paint, no paint, these books are for the most part unwanted. Sometimes pulled from a musty basement, no one wants to reread 50 year old average books. All the better to recylce an old item. If your books are beyond salvage, please do not leave on the door step of your local library but tear the hard cover off, discard and place in your community recycle bins. Paperbacks can go straight into the bin. Thanks so much!

  • I think the “novelty” comes from the painted books looking like they were cast or otherwise sculpted. What’s the point of using them as bookends if you’re not going to set them apart somehow, like they do here? It would be cool to use a stack of painted books as a centerpiece too. Fun project!

  • these bookends looked so much better as a collection of color coordinated vintage books w/o the garish paint. i love to collect aged, pretty vintage books w/classic titles that i may or may not read. i get that there are a lot out there and they’re not expensive but the books in these pictures are just darling (before the paint). and while i get that not everyone likes the vintage look, this project screams DIY in a really tacky way–not at all hip, or modern!

  • So, regarding using the old books…get over it peeps, there are a ton of books out there; old and new. A fewglued/spray painted books are not going to kill ya.

    However, spraying them black to look like burned weenies in a campfire? Hid-e-ous. They look like they were dipped in hatred and sprayed down with shame and humiliation.

    Moving on. Now, who styled this monstrosity?

    When the books are lined up and crammed onto a shelf end to end, you.don’t.need.book.ends.to.hold.them.up. Generally book ends are used to hold the books vertically when there is nothing else around for the job (i.e. the side of a book shelf). Also, the books look like they caught fire and the middle books were the only ones spared.

    I second the comment from LS, stick the ugly metal book end into the outside cover of the last book (like in picture 5) then slide it up under the other book and SHAZAAM! you are good to go…if you really feel like you need to keep that outside cover from a-flappin in the wind, put a little sticky tack or whatever won’t ruin the inside cover of the precious book and stick it to the metal book end.

    Good luck to you all.

  • I’ve never had so much room for books that I could take up that kind of space just holding the rest of them up.

  • I love this idea! Some old. The spray paint gives them a nice new look that can be put in a more modern decor or for the older look, leave them unpainted. My personal prefance is the black. It’s classic! Thanks for sharing :)

  • As a current librarian, I have to agree with both sides. I do think the bookends would have been cuter not painted black, maybe each book painted a different color.
    I always encounter people that don’t want me to throw away the old books because of the pictures, however when I say “you are welcome to take them with you” people start backpedaling. If we keep all the books with pretty pictures, there is no room for the newer ones that people actually do checkout and read.

  • I’m sorry but, as much I love being creative, destroying literature is not ok. Why not read them or use them as a centre piece on a hall table? They are far more beautiful when they are able to be read as this is there purpose. I don’t think you can say you truly appreciate books and other people’s literature if you can do this to them. I can also tell from the before photo that they were popular vintage books, most book lover’s would love to get their hands on. Some how I feel like you’re stopping the joy of these books and the journey of where they’ve been and where they might have been going. The fact they survived this far was great and now it’s like BAM Never to be read and enjoyed again. They were already art in my eyes, without the glue and paint!

  • No qualms for using old books. There are SO MANY out there, might as well use what would’ve otherwise been discarded. I love a gorgeous vintage tome as much as the next girl, but c’mon, people. Don’t be so whiny. :p

    I second Summer 100% on the effect of the paint. I see how a bronzed, metal-cast effect was the theory, but the result was charred marshmallow. Not cute.

    But you’re on to something! This idea would be nice for a row of books on a shelf without sides, or on top of a bookshelf, or somewhere else where a bookend is a necessity. May I suggest gluing the pages together ONLY at the back to keep the pages from flapping (since that’s theoretically against the wall anyhow–it’ll keep the top looking intact and preserve the “magically holding itself up” charm), glue or sticky-tack the covers down, & voila?

    And I’d stick to 3, max. Too many feels like a waste of space.

    If you really want a fun use of the “SIKE! Not actually bronzed!” bookend thing, check out these awesome dollar store plastic animal bookends:


  • paint job aside…as a frequent buyer of old books, i think this isn’t a bad idea. a lot of these old books are so musty that they aren’t very pleasant to read so re-purposing is a good idea. i think these would look better if the books were stacked on top of each other and then glued. this way the book end would be more easily distinguished from the other books.

    i admit when i saw the yearling painted over, i felt a bit of shock but i think we need to detach emotionally a bit here. these books were probably not useful as books anymore. i can’t tell you how many books i’ve bought where the glue is so brittle that they basically fall apart if you open them.

  • I agree with Martha, and with the styling commentary (regarding bookend usage) as well.

    Perhaps the paint would be less strange if the books weren’t cloth-bound. I wonder how a coat of white-lacquer spray paint would turn out (on plain hardcovers)?

    I also second the question about the bookends. Why wouldn’t you glue them the other way? If the stability guess was right, are they not stable enough on their own?

    Also, where did you use the Coccoina glue? On the sides of the book? Does it work? I’m asking because my paste seems rather thick to brush on.

    Personal thoughts aside, I think I may make a set of these (with one book each and the bookends reversed) for my cousin. He’s apparently decided to be a writer, so these’ll probably fit nicely on his desk (and smell like almonds, to boot).

  • I always tell my readers to read the comments’ section, because it is often as or more interesting than the project! Love a spirited debate! My mom helps run the League of Women Voters’ book sale every year and at the end they are essentially giving away books, carting them off to be distributed to third world countries’ libraries etc… and there are still PILES of unwanted books. I’ve already commented: good project idea, bad paint job, and I would definitely do this DIY (again, without the paint that seemed to soak into the books making them look wrinkly and fake).

  • With or without the paint over the whole book(s), I have seen and admired books dressed up by adding small decorative elements to the spines. The spines can be ‘painted’ or glazed before adding small pieces to the spines. Really dresses up plain book spines.

  • I am a book seller and book lover but I am also a book recycler. I can assure everyone that reads this that the supply of books that will never be read is, for all practical purpose, endless. A way to turn old books into a functional piece of art is an excellent use of them.

  • Oh get a grip! Old books that are falling apart are headed for the trash. I’m a librarian and am in love with repurposing old books. I even rip the pages out to make wreaths and use in Modge Podge projects. Great reuse of an item headed to the dump!

  • I also LOVE books, but there are too many unused or outdated (who would read DOS for Dummies?).

    I like the idea behind the idea. Use your old books for decor in any manner you feel is appealing! Just because this idea may not be your cup of tea, look how many new ideas arose in this discourse! :-)

    It sparked my imagination. I have FAR too many books for this smaller apartment I moved into recently, so decided I HAD to reduce in all areas (except my precious, shall we say “portable studio?”). I realized if I donated them to one of the resalers that most of them would end up in the the over-filled dumps.

    So, remember, we all have diff taste and style, and books literally are a dime a dozen, and considering the rapid move to electronic everything, books will become trash more rapidly (I agree that is a shame!).

    But sometimes, or maybe oft times, something on D*S is not for everyone! Give the craft sisters a break; if nothing else, they did spur conversation and more ideas (I didn’t care for the black either, but I thought of no less than 3 ideas because D*S published this idea :-) ).

  • I think people should stop criticizing this project. You do not have to do it the same way if you do not want to and I personally think they look sophisticated with the paint and it also helps separate them from the books they are supporting. I say books (and everything for that matter) are not just for reading and it is extremely creative the way she has decided to use them. It’s not like we’re getting all Fahrenheit 451 and burning them, get a grip.

  • I totally agree with Amy A on this one. I found some water damaged books recently that had kind of smelly covers at the thrift store. The covers were stuff I had no interest in and others obviously weren’t buying because of the damage. Before glueing I painted half of my books black and the other half white. I loved this project and feel good about repurposing these books. With leftover books I stacked them (no paint) and made a side table. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Would it be possible to use just one book on each end, with the metal bookshelf acting as it usually does and sliding underneath the books the shelf is made to support? Otherwise its seems rather bulky. I’ve spray painted books – trashy hardcover novels from the fifties (seriously tawdry; I thought of using the inside pages for a project and they were just too inappropriate) – in gold and silver and that has turned out incredibly. The metallic sheen really takes well.

  • I like this idea…but I think I will use a clear gloss and also…cut out the pages in a square for a place to hide a few items like my reading glasses….there are thousands of unwanted books out there….go to any thrift store or goodwill….many go to the dump…I think this is a great way to use the unwanted books and make them wanted agian. I have shelves that need bookends.

  • Not much into destroying old books. Of course many of them aren’t worth keeping. I don’t think its the ruining of the books but rather that they don’t look any better. Maybe a clear lacquer would have been better. You could have put new dust jackets on them, but of course you could have to find a better way to attach them…. Good idea, just needs rethinking.

  • Why paint them though? Don’t see that it adds anything at all to the design and makes the whole project look much heavier and less pretty. I thought the idea was that the book ends would blend in?

  • OMG. Coolio!
    I’m a young (Like, still in primary) artist and I love DIY!
    Enough about me. I LOVE THIS!!!
    You have an awesome brain, person I don’t know!
    BTW, ever tried making plant pots or sculptures out of lego? (With glue, too)
    Idea I had. Gonna make some as well as these awesome book ends ^ – ^
    – Rachy

  • i love books and i love reading but let’s face it. we all have a few books which we have no intention of reading and they just sit on a shelf doing nothing for years. their just objects really. but I agree that black doesn’t look very good but if they were left natural it wouldn’t look like a bookend it would look like 3 books. i love the idea. thanks

  • I think this was a fantastic idea. Think of all the old books that get dumped in landfills (not even recycled!). This little project marries necessity with reuse which is one of the best kinds in my opinion.

    So they spray painted them? Big deal. They’re intended to be *bookends*, not books to be picked up and read. I think the paint adds an interesting quality to them and shouts out “hey, don’t try picking this one up, it’s not a book anymore!”.

    Anyone who claims they would read the specific books being used here is either being disingenuous or has waaaay too much free time.

    I say kudos to those who came up with this idea. Incidentally, just because the photo shows them on the shelf, doesn’t mean that’s where they were intended to go, so relax, nitpickers. Also, the metal bracket is a must, otherwise the bookends will end up getting pushed around by their still-living neighbors. Again, kudos and don’t listen to the pooh-pooh heavens-no library police.

  • Okay, just noticed a copy of Treasure Island in that stack. I suppose I would hesitate before destroying that. Maybe use books that are not classics and are really not likely to be read by anyone ever…

  • I very much approve of the “use books to make book ends” idea! I am a retired teacher and my students ALWAYS made their own bookends….here’s how: select two of your favourite, tall, hard covered “Chapter” books [think Dr. Seuss size!]
    have an adult hot glue a solid metal bookends on the inside front cover of one book, and a second metal bookend on the back, inside cover. That’s it! The favourite book can still be read [put something heavy in its place when you want to read it!!] I am certain that adults can modify their reading choices. Best of all, no book is really “ruined” at all.!!

  • OK bibliophiles don’t panic. How many copies of Reader’s Digest hardbacks are wasted every day? Glue them together in stacks, paint them white and use them to support shelves. Saw this somewhere, don’t know where, but it was beautiful.

  • I used to agree that defacing a book was a sacrilege, but since we started a community book exchange that has changed for me. We get tons of books donated and often the paper is not acid free and starting to flake off, stained, or the binding is ripped. It is totally okay to use these books for art projects! Otherwise, they go to landfills. Lighten up with the harsh comments.

    • Lilylou you said just about all that needs to be said. Personally, I’ve been collecting disgusting Reader’s Digest condensed books which, being invariably unread and very sound, are great for construction purposes. I’ve seen them stacked rather randomly and painted with white latex, looking very beautiful. Some ‘special editions’ have gilded edges which beg for ‘special’ treatment. Furthermore, there are heaps of books (eg ‘Fifty Shades…’, etc) which deserve nothing better than recycling in some form or other, including flames.

  • I really liked this idea. I was thinking maybe I wouldn’t need to glue the pages together though.