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For the December 2017 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine I built a pair of folding campaign bookshelves based on a 19th-century pattern.

Long-time readers of this blog know that I love mechanical furniture that folds up into tiny spaces and is durable. So 19th-century British campaign furniture is right up my alley. These examples have a Gothic look to them, but you could alter the profiles of the folding end pieces to be unicorns, Ford F150 trucks or even silhouettes of ear mites. I don’t judge.

What is ingenious about these shelves is that they telescope open and shut based on how many books you have. The telescoping action is regulated by a leather belt. I made my own leather belt, but you can use one of your own if you like.

The telescoping action is all about interlocking tongue-and-groove joints that slide in and out. They are fun to fit.

The ends of the bookshelf fold flat thanks to piano hinges. I took a 3’ length of piano hinge and hacksawed and filed the bits until they looked nice. It’s simple work with common tools.

Folding Campaign Bookshelves from Christopher Schwarz on Vimeo.

Finally, the ends are locked in place with simple brass door latches. These are available anywhere you can find decent door hardware. Sometimes they are called “Dutch latches.”

The video shows how these fold down, fold open and lock.

— Christopher Schwarz

If you like campaign furniture, check out the DVD on my Campaign chair via this link.

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Showing 8 comments
  • GyeGreene

    If you scaled it up, could it be a sittin’ bench?


  • bsrlee

    For some reason I keep getting the feeling that the belt could be set up so it holds everything neatly folded up so it could be carried with one or two fingers.

  • t.e.curtis

    May have to make one of these. Don’t need one, but it would make a great gift. Looking forward to the article.

  • 7-Thumbs

    Is the only purpose of the belt to keep the pieces from puling completely apart?

  • dpcrow

    Thank you for the video. I’m curious about the purpose of steel plate on the underside. Does it help keep things from twisting when open?

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