Invisible Bookends

Turn discarded books into invisible bookends for a streamlined bookshelf display.Bookends are a great way to add a bit of style to your bookshelf, but what about when you don't really have room for a big ol' bookend? Or maybe you just want to keep things simple on your bookshelf. I had that problem recently. I needed a way to keep my books standing up at the end of the shelf, but didn't want to clutter things up with bookends, or ugly them up with thin metal bookends like the ones you see at the library. I just wanted my pretty books to shine in all their glory.

Then the thought occurred to me— Why not turn a pretty, forgotten book from the thrift store into a bookend, solving all my bookshelf problems? It's the perfect thin shape, looks great, and is a nice way to give new life to a damaged or discarded book.

Turn discarded books into invisible bookends for a streamlined bookshelf display.See? No, you don't see, do you? That's because my bookends are practically invisible! They blend right into their environment while adding a bit of classic style to the ends of my bookshelf. A wonderful solution. Check out how easy they are to make!

Turn discarded books into invisible bookends for a streamlined bookshelf display.Supplies (for two bookends):
-2 books with 1" spines
-2 thin metal bookends (I used these)
-1×6 board or a board of another dimension to fit your book (see notes below)
-super glue (I used gorilla glue)
-craft blade

Selecting Your Book and Lumber Size: My books measured about 5.75" deep, 8.25" high, and 1" thick. It's important to find a book depth that will correspond with lumber standard widths, so you don't have to do any unnecessary cutting of the lumber later. This is why I used a book with a 1" spine. I used a 1×6 board to fill the inside of my book, which really measures .75" x 5.75". This board fit my book dimensions perfectly! How did I know that would happen? Well, I brought my book spine to the lumber yard with me! There's a first time for everything.

If you can't find 1" thick books and need to fill out the inside of your book more, you can also find thinner sheets of lumber below the standard lumber sizes at places like Lowe's. Just stack and glue the boards to your desired thickness.

Turn discarded books into invisible bookends for a streamlined bookshelf display.Step One: Use a sharp craft blade or razor to cut away the contents of the book from its spine.

Feel free to read the contents later! Or discard the pages as I did. I was able to do this guilt-free, because I found my book at the thrift store and figured it was unloved and needed a new life.

Turn discarded books into invisible bookends for a streamlined bookshelf display.Step Two: Wrap the book spine around your lumber to mark where to cut the lumber. I left about a 1/8" gap at the top to achieve a more realistic book effect.

Step Three: Cut the board to the length you marked. If you don't have a saw at home, you can do this at the lumber yard. They will make cuts for you for free.

Turn discarded books into invisible bookends for a streamlined bookshelf display.Step Four: Cover the wooden blocks and metal bookends with moderate amounts of Gorilla Glue, as shown above. Don't get too close to the edges or it will seep out. Gorilla Glue foams and expands as it's clamped, which makes for a strong hold, but a messy final product if you're not careful when applying the glue.

Step Five: Once everything is all glued into place, use clamps to press it all together as the glue sets up. You should use scrap lumber as a buffer between the book and the clamps or the clamps will leave indents in your book. I made the mistake of not doing this, and got some pretty visible denting, especially on my orange book. Thankfully the dents aren't noticeable on my shelves. Whew!

Turn discarded books into invisible bookends for a streamlined bookshelf display.Here are my invisible bookends in action. It's as if my books are saying, "Look, Ma! No hands!" –Mandi

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Stella from the Signature Collection.

  • I love this idea. Another way to do this to save the vintage book is to glue and envelope inside the front cover of the book and slip the bookend into that envelope. This way you do you not glue the book to anything and it’s a 2 minute project!

  • So pretty! love this. could use the discarded pages for decorating journals/notebooks/traveler’s notebook inserts/a base for a cool drawing or art project. Thanks!

  • this is lovely… however, i would LOVE to have this copy of the luckiest girl… one of my longtime favorite books! I hate to see it gutted and trashed. 🙁

  • Thank you! It’s actually a vintage print originally from Sears Roebuck (according to the label on the back) that I found at a local antique mall. -Mandi

  • This is definatley now on my list of things to do in the holidays! Love this smart idea!

  • So cute, I love it! I’m gonna try it right now, it’s such a rainy day…

  • These invisible bookends are way too cute Mandi, and perfect for my cookbooks! I don’t want a lot of clutter on my kitchen shelf, so having other books hold up my cookbooks would be perfect! The best part about this entire thing is how cheap and easy it is! I already have all of the materials, now I just need to make it.

  • I love this. I’ve been looking for bookends for a while now and this might be the perfect solution.

  • I love this idea! I’ve always done something simpler (and not as damaging to those amazing vintage books!) by simply stacking a few horizontally on each side. This also creates visual breaks on my shelves.
    I also wanted to let you know that I’m reading this in mobile, and the formatting of the photos is way off. I’m seeing photos from other entries intermixed all over the place.

    • Scarlet, this is from years ago but as someone with a huge collection of books, this is a great idea! Yes, stack some books horizontally if you don’t have a single hardcover book that will stand up on its own with no modifications! THAT is what I would look for at a used bookstore. Then if someone comes along… I don’t know. I would be disappointed to find fake bookshelves especially in small apartments or other smallish spaces where there is not much space for decorations.

  • I’ve always had such a love for those old type of vintage books that smell funny and are gorgeous colours and the cover feels all fabric-y. If you didn’t have an old book that you wanted to glue up, you could even just do this with an old book you still read and put the book end inside and just stand it up (without the glue). Love it!

  • This is such a great idea! I really like these bookends because you would have no idea that they were actually bookends. It seems like they are a fairly easy thing to make, which is really nice. I would love to make these for my own library that I have in my bedroom. However, my husband has been looking for some bookends, and I think he would like to get some that are more unique and interesting, instead of some that just look like regular books! Thanks for the great how-to 🙂

  • Love this! And that poster/painting next to she shelves? I WANT IT. Where can I find it?

  • Well that’s my next bit of spare time sorted! What a fab idea!

    Honeybourne Line

  • Oh, I didn’t know that it was possible to order plants from amazon. Maybe this changed my whole buying-from-online life 😀

    tsiou from

  • I wish I was more of a crafty person, this looks great!


  • This is perfect!!! I hate the look of bookends, and since i don’t want to spend money on those cute ones, i just… stuff boxes in my bookshelves. This is perhaps the best DIY project ever! Thankyou 🙂

    X, Carina
    Running White Horses | Fashion + Travel

  • This is so pretty! I personally use heavy books as bookends. Love!

  • Very cute! I love books so I am always looking for nice bookends!

  • Love the idea, so cool great DIY to try out.

  • This is so clever. I love the clean look it gives but I don’t know if I could bear to do this to a book- even if it was rescued from the thrift store!

  • Yes, I’ve been doing that for years. (I’m very old!). You don’t really need to take any pages out. Just ensure the pages are all on the inside of the metal and one cover only is on the outside. Hope I’ve explained that right .

  • Its a genius idea! Though like Maruusa above, I ll weep if I have to destroy a book. That’s what happened with me and diy book clutch. I still want a book clutch though

  • Oh man, this might just be the perfect solution to the books that keep crashing over on my one shelf!

    Love it, thanks!

    xx Sabrina

  • This is such a great idea! I love the covers of older hard-bound books.. perfect for this project!

  • This is such a fun project! I want to try this on top of the bookshelf in our living room!


  • Aw I have some many books, I cannot believe what a great solution you found!
    I will definitely go ahead and do this DIY.


  • What a great idea! I could definitely use this in my office space too.

  • Always makes me a bit sad to see a book demolished though, even if it is from a thrift store.

  • They’re called “string of pearls,” a type of trailing succulent, though I had trouble finding them locally so I ordered a couple of plants on Amazon here:


  • I love this idea! I’ve been thinking of getting those floating wall-mounted shelves to put my cookbooks in my kitchen. I love these as a similar alternative for a traditional shelf!

  • I decided not to leave all of the pages in tact because I wanted a sturdy bookshelf, not something that would be flopping around. I wanted it to be just like a bookend that looks like a book, but doesn’t feel like a book or act like one. With the wood center, it’s now solid and secure. If you’re not wordy about sturdiness, then I certainly wouldn’t bat an eye at going the easy route! 🙂 -Mandi

  • Wow this is so clever! I’m definitely going to have to give it a go!

    Liv |

  • thats a great idea! thank you! i usually don’t fancy bookends / or havent found ‘the ones’ for me… might try this as soon as my renovation reaches my living room!

  • I have tons of books just lying on a new bookshelf in need of a proper arrangement. So, this D.I.Y project was posted at the opportune time. Thanks for the tutorial, Mandy 🙂

    Happy Monday!

  • Oh this is fun! And perfect since my tiny plants don’t hold up all the cookbook piles.

  • Really, really cute. We don’t have a formal bookshelf in our apartment, but our book collection is growing so perhaps it’s time to add one (with these to keep everything neat!).

    Always, Anita

  • I came to the comments to see if there would be anything about why she didn’t do it that way. I’m sure I’m just missing something.

  • These are perfect and so pretty – this would be such a fun way to spend an afternoon with some girl friends!

    Warm Regards,

  • What a great idea!! I’m definitely going to have to try this!

    Desiree @ Love Desiree

  • This is such a cool idea I would have never thought of!! Rest in peace, beautiful thrifted book. Your book cover is living a happy life. Maybe those pages can be used for kindling but I don’t want to add insult to the injury hahaha 😀

    xo, Naomi

  • that’s what I thought. I wonder if it would work…would def make this project even easier 😉

  • This is a such a great idea! I am personally not a huge fan of bookends, so I like that these blend in with the rest of the stack!
    Latest – Beauty Hacks for Travel: How to Fit Your Favorite Toiletries into a Carry On

  • Because I’m lazy… I LOVE this idea, but it seems as though it would be a whole lot easier to put together if instead of taking out the entire contents of the book and replacing it with wood, only maybe the first or last 15-20 pages (at a guess) were cut out to make room for the vertical metal piece, which could then just be glued to the inside cover. Am I perhaps missing something?

    • Perhaps the wood is added for support. You wouldn’t want the book to open and the pages to fan out. Maybe another solution could be to glue the pages together then those pages (on one side) could be glued to the cover. The other side would just have the metal piece glued in between the pages and cover. Just an idea. I don’t know if it would actually work

  • Wow!! I love this. Definitely going to try this out.

  • Love this – was trying to figure out a way to do this – perfect timing!

    OK – my mum and grandmother had those plants when I was a little girl – are they called Baby Tears? Oooh, I would love to find one. I forgot how sweet they were!

  • I love the idea of invisible bookends! Reminds me of harry potter!

    What’s in my handbag 2015 + CARTIER GIVEAWAY

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