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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  • 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.

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