DIY Kids' Book Caddy

DIY Kids’ Book Caddy – Another C&B Knockoff

I’m back! (So soon?) Indeed. With yet another Crate and Barrel knockoff – well, more specifically, Crate and Kids this time.

You see, the book situation in baby J’s room was dire. I had a couple of wall mounted IKEA book racks that held a few books – they looked great before they actually needed to do any work. But nothing could have prepared me for the deluge of books about to drench kiddo’s room (and hopefully make him literate? who knows…) and spill right out of said book racks.

The floor was covered in books. And the best thing I could do to corral them was just to pile them up in “neat” stacks. There had to be a better way!

Naturally, some googling happened. And I happened upon this beauty from Crate and Kids – the Good Read Book Caddy:

But, as always happens, I balked at the price tag: $134!!!

This book caddy looked like a really simple build. Just a few pieces of wood would yield a very functional and sorely needed piece of furniture for baby J’s room. To change things up from past projects, I wanted to finish the piece with shellac only (non-toxic for when it gets chewed on) and leave the finish natural. Since I didn’t want visible screw heads everywhere and I detest filling pocket holes, I decided for the first time to dive into the world of dowels…

I picked up this dowel accessory kit from Home Depot (can’t find a HD link so it’s an Amazon link instead) for $7. This is a very inexpensive and very imprecise way of doweling. The basic concept is that you drill a hole just the size of the dowel on both sides you’d like to join, add some glue to the dowel, stick the dowel in the hole and voilà, your pieces are joined together. The tricky parts of this are 1) making sure your holes are matched evenly on both sides and 2) making sure your holes are drilled perfectly straight up and down.

To use this bare bones kit I purchased is simple but not easy. First, you mark where you’d like your dowels to go on one of your pieces (we’ll call it A). Then you drill your dowel holes in A only as deep as they need to be. The kit provides a stop collar for this purpose. You then stick the dowel centers (the metal bits with the points sticking out the middle) into your holes in A and line up your second piece (B) exactly where you’d like the joint to be. Smash A and B together as best as you can so you’re left with center marks for the holes you need to drill on part B. Drill those holes, and if all goes well, the dowels should align your parts perfectly.

In practice, it rarely works out perfectly, and in retrospect I wish I’d sprung for a more robust doweling jig to help locate and drill the holes. Lesson learned! (But I think things turned out ok anyway)

Before the build, I took to SketchUp to help me finalize my design and create my book caddy’s cut list:

Like I said, this book caddy is a simple build once you break it down! What I’d need:

  • one 8′ 1×6 select pine (~$20/each)
  • three 6′ 1×2 select pine (~$4.50/each)
  • one 6′ 1×3 select pine ($9.33/each)
  • one 3/4″ square dowel ($2.85/each)

Total cost of materials: under $50. But 40% of that is a single 1×6 – and that’s just for the planks lining the bottom shelf. If you’re ok with plywood there or narrower scrap boards you have lying around, by all means go for it. That’d bring cost of materials down to somewhere around $30 instead.

I also needed to buy the shellac ($14) and dowel kit/dowels (~$10) so all told this was around a ~$75 build for me. I expect to get more mileage out of the shellac, and the piece has held up extremely well, so I think it was a great investment.

Rough build plan:

  • Make all the cuts, rounding edges where necessary. The only sander I’ve got is a random orbital sander and I managed.
  • Put together each X assembly using dowels
  • Put together each side assembly using dowels
  • Use dowels to put the sides and X assemblies together – this was actually tricky because my dowels were too long. I cut them down (and rounded the new edges) and it worked fine.
  • Pick a spot for the shelf on the bottom. Use (shortened) dowels to attach the 3/4″ square dowel to the X legs and then glue the 1×6 planks on top.
  • Sand and seal!

Not going to lie, sanding this thing was a pain. SO many surfaces.

Look, ma, no screws!

But the shellac was super easy. I did three coats (sanding lightly in between each) and I’m such a fan of wipe-on finishes.

Yes, there’s a ton of junk in the garage. Sigh. Priorities.

Anyway, this book caddy has been climbed on/up/over constantly for a few months now and is no worse for the wear. I guess that’s one benefit to being late with the blog post – being able to share how it’s held up!

baby J approved!

To be fair, it usually only has a few books in it. Baby J’s favorite activity is throwing all the books on the floor one at a time. I don’t know how this photo exists!

5 Comments

  1. Another practical, attractive knock-off that J will soon appreciate for more than as a repository for books he can throw.

  2. Having seen this darling book caddy in person, I can attest to its sturdiness. The fruit of your efforts will survive Jack, any future siblings, and probably future generations. Well done!

  3. Is there a more detailed plan for this with cut list and such? I want my husband to build this for our grandson but he is new at this and needs a little more guidance.

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