The Book Project: Building the Frame

This is the second in a series of posts about designing and building the wall art for my living room. Read the first post about how I got the idea here.

I had to build the frame for the book project/wall art myself if I wanted it to be like I was picturing it in my mind. I am not handy. My mom owns power tools. I don’t build things. Unfortunately she lives hours away and I had to figure this out myself (the husband was busying himself with graduate coursework, tsk, tsk).

This is a really long post!

How Big Should We Make This Thing?

The husband and I agreed that we wanted it centered over the couch. We also agreed that we should use 1″x4″s, making the pieces of the frame 4 inches wide.

We stood on the couch with tacks and string and thought it out. We settled on 62 inches wide by 36.5 inches tall.

Very hard to see, but there is string on the wall marking the placement and size of the frame.

I’m not afraid to admit that we got lazy and left the string up there for several weeks until I was done building the piece.

A closer look. The string marks the outer and inner parts of the frame.

Trip to Home Depot

I don’t own power tools, so I had to design the frame carefully so there would be no fancy supplies required.

Here was the idea:

  • Get a thin piece of plywood cut to exact area that I wanted for the frame.
  • Cut two 1×4’s the width of the plywood.
  • Cut 2 more 1×4’s that would be the length of the plywood, less 8 inches (i.e. less the width of the other two 1×4’s that were just cut.
  • Glue the 1×4’s to the plywood, so the 1×4’s were flush with the edge of the plywood.

Sounds simple enough? It took me weeks to come up with that.

I knew the folks at Home Depot make straight cuts on their power saws for free. I came prepared with the exact measurements I wanted and they took care of it!

Thin plywood and 1x4s cut at Home Depot.

Laying everything together, the cuts were perfect!

An idea of what it will look like put together.

Sanding and Staining

I sanded all the pieces to prepare them for staining.

Wait, I thought she said she didn’t own power tools?

I don’t. If you live in a metropolitan area, check to see if your community has a tool lending library! Mine does!

Sand all the pieces and smooth out any rough spots.

This was my first time staining, so I read the directions carefully.

Wood conditioner and stain.

First, I applied a coat of pre-stain wood conditioner. This helps the stain adhere to the wood.

Apply the conditioner.

Next, I brushed the stain onto the 1×4’s. The stain looks darker than it is. The excess gets wiped off later.

Stain the 1x4s.

Then a helper showed up.

He thinks hes helping. Hes the neighbors cat but he thinks he owns our yard.

I conditioned and stained the edges of the plywood. Since the 1×4’s would be flush with the edge of the plywood, I wanted the edge of the plywood to be dark as well.

Condition and stain the edges of the plywood.

After the stain sat for a while, I wiped off the excess. I thought about doing a second coat, but I ended up liking the slightly distressed look with just one coat.

And I was lazy.

Good thing the husband concurred.

Wipe off excess stain.

Finally, Some Wood Glue. A Lot of Wood Glue.

I left everything to dry until I had time to work on it again. That was at least a week later.

We glued each 1×4 onto the plywood and then secured them using clamps and a lot of heavy books while it dried.


If that is a frame, where is the glass?

Nope, no glass. I wanted the frame to be open so people could touch the books and turn the pages if they wanted to. The original version I saw didn’t have glass either. It was just a bunch of exposed books inside a large frame.

Now I had the hard part out of the way.

Or so I thought.

Update: Visit Part 3 – Buying the Books


12 thoughts on “The Book Project: Building the Frame

  1. I love The Little Prince! This is exciting, I seriously can’t wait to see the finished piece. Where did you get all your used books and were they for a good price? The thrift stores in my area sell used books at retail prices practically – it’s insane.

    • Thanks! I hear you on the used book store thing. I actually found some used book retailers online and was able to get most of the books for $1-2 each and the profits go to charity. Win-win! I’m working on a post about where I got the books with links.

      Generally though, if you were in to this for just the art rather than the art/literary factor, you could probably pick up a ton of books at a library book sale. I made this much more difficult by insisting we use books we have read before. It ended up setting us back several weeks – that’s a story for another post.

    • His name is Bode. Does Callie have a tail? We are convinced Bode lost his because he’s too curious. Seriously, we can’t be in our yard for 30 seconds before he shows up and wants to know what’s going on.

  2. I’ll keep an eye out for that book post. I agree about the literary factor. If you are going to have art on your wall that makes a bold statement then it should be something you love and in this case it should be books you love.

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