Furniture made out of used books

Designer Laura Cahill wanted to make art without wasting new material. She did a bunch of research, and found out that used books are the most common unwanted objects; they're also notoriously hard to recycle because of the kind of glue bookbinders used to use. So she took her second-hand book collection and turned it into beautiful pieces of furniture.

The bench is pretty self-explanatory, but for flower vases and lamp posts, Cahill uses a band saw to cut the books into desired shapes and sizes, and then wraps the spines around test tubes to make the cylindrical core. It's such a cool, eco-friendly concept.

via Dezeen

( Lisa Katayama is a guest blogger.)


  1. I remember learning how to make vases like that in my 6th grade art class. I guess they are coming back.

  2. Uhm… Hard to recycle because of the glue?

    As someone who’s done some printing, my immediate reaction is “Use an industrial paper cutter to chop off the spine — which should be where all the glue is — discard that and recycle the rest.”

    Or, for a more useful version of recycling, give ’em to your local library’s book fair — or to one of the groups which ships books to folks who can’t afford ’em. Unless they’re completely out of date, or in seriously damaged condition, they probably do have some residual value as (gasp!) books.

    Heck, if they’re far enough out of date they may be of interest to collectors or hobbyists. One shelf in my office is dedicated to displaying things like the a Manual Of Punch-Card Processing…

  3. If you;ve got 75 falling-apart copies of “hunt for red october” or “valley of the dolls”–have at it! make a lamp out of ’em. (although with the acidic old paper, it’ll shed every time you move it).

    I’d just say: at least do a cursory search of ebay to see if you’re about to take a band saw to something worth five hundred bucks.

  4. I worked at a bookbindery myself. We used animal skin glue and mainly “buckrum” vinyl covers for durable but ugly library editions. I imagine that stuff does not break down easily. An industrial trimmer plus someone to operate it all day probably gets expensive…

  5. This is some very nice stuff, IMHO.

    But… “Designer Laura Cahill wanted to make art without wasting new material.” ??

    An artist who is really creating a work of art shouldn’t have to feel like the materials used in their creation is a “waste”. That just seemed like a weird way to put the thought.

  6. I don’t really understand how you could cut books up. Yes, the actual mechanical aspect of it seems easy enough… but I have a hard time imagining cutting books apart would be any sort of fun for a bibliophile… and then living with their decimated carcases? The horror.

  7. Yeah, BenofBen.

    I was brought up to believe book destruction is sacrilege . I have rebound blank journals inside old hardcovers, so I am a sinner.

  8. Speaking as a bibliophile who cuts books apart for a living, it’s not that hard. Libraries discard so many old books every week, so when you look at it as a choice between throwing a book away, or cutting it up for art, it’s really easy. A few years ago, I rescued over 4000 books from a library that was going to throw them in a dumpster, because they couldn’t find any organization to take such a large donation.

    I, and every other altered book artist I have met, take great care to use books that are damaged, unwanted, or hopelessly out of date. Anything valuable, rare, or incredibly interesting gets saved and put into my personal collection. And, I recycle all the pages. I give lots away to other artists, use some for other paper projects, some stick around for reading, and the rest go in the recycle bin.

  9. Must be an entirely different set of commenters than we had a couple months ago when we had the freak-out over people buying books for their bindings to look good on shelves.

  10. You know, even used books can be used again. They last for centuries! There’s no need at all to recycle them into dust-collectors.

    And if you got some twice, give them to someone who needs (and reads) them. Send a box to Africa. Sheesh.

  11. #3 – I seem to make a habit of getting such interesting out of the ordinary books myself… I just can’t bring myself to leave such gems to be picked up by someone else and used as a fire-starter or tossed away, never to be seen again. My hubby despairs, sometimes, at the books I gather, because our library is getting over-full… but knows better than to argue *grin*.

    I find it really hard to cut into a book, or ‘destroy’ it for use as something else, art or otherwise… but it does happen occasionally and I do absolutely adore seeing what others have done with them.

    #6, I can understand what you mean, but I am not sure if it was meant in quite that context… when ‘old’ resources are available and you opt for new instead, consuming resources when there is no need to do so, I would probably use the term ‘wasting’ in that context also, even though it would not be in reference to the final product.

  12. If books aren’t on the move, from shelf to shelf, from person to person, they die. I was a librarian for about 100 years, and I’ve seen this happen. But — If people valued books more, we wouldn’t have sent so many to the landfill. The question is: Where does the value lie? In the words or in the object? If the answer is “in the words” then the words are very often preserved today in digital format, or in someone’s memory as in Farenheit 451. If the answer is “in the object” then there is likely a taker. But, let’s face it people, a lot of books started out as trash and so they shall remain — unless an artist can elevate them to a higher domain. People used to take old magazine and make them into all kinds of wonderful papier mache objects d’art. But paper today doesn’t hold up as well. I’d love to know about new, improved paper re-uses, and I don’t care where you get the paper.

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