Folding Campaign Bookshelf

Learn the tricks to making sturdy furniture that folds flat.

by Christopher Schwarz
pages 58-61

For those with mechanical minds, building furniture that folds into small spaces is great fun. Not only does the piece have to look good and serve its ultimate function as a bookcase, chair or bed, it also has to collapse into the tiniest form possible.

During the 19th century, the British became masters at making collapsible furniture when two things happened: First, so-called “patent furniture” became all the rage. These are household goods that transform into something else – the classic form is a chair that unfolds into library steps. Second, the British Empire conquered a huge part of the world during the reign of Queen Victoria and needed to send its citizens all over the world to manage its colonies.

As a result, folding or knock-down bookshelves were a common sight in the 19th century, and this example from E. Mascart & Cie of London is notable because it combines hinges that fold the ends flat, with a bottom that expands its shelf to twice its collapsed length.

Even if you don’t build this particular bookshelf, the lessons embedded in it can help you develop your own pieces of folding campaign furniture.

Blog: Learn how to make the leather belt for the bookshelf from the author.
Video: Watch a video of how the bookshelf folds up and see details of its hinges.
Model: Download a SketchUp model of this project from our 3D Warehouse. (to come)
Website: Visit Lost Art Press’s website for more information on Christopher Schwarz’s “Campaign Furniture” book.
To Buy: “Build a Campaign Chair with Christopher Schwarz” in our online store.
Website: Learn more about the many forms of campaign furniture.

From the December 2017 issue, #236