Scottish Elm Revolving Bookcase

A bespoke rotating Scottish elm bookcase and fireplace

WE WERE APPROACHED after a suitable recommendation from a local architect, to undertake what was to be a very challenging project for a new house in Comrie, Perthshire.

Revolving Bookshelf

Design Brief

We were asked to build a bookcase, approx. 2m high x 2m wide x an appropriate depth, which would double as an undetectable doorway. It was to be built in the same design as a fire surround we had recently made and fitted, which had no straight edges and should also be safe and easy to move, even when fully loaded with books.

The Process

We came up with a design based on a simple car bearing, which would be fitted top and bottom of the solid framed bookcase, allowing it to rotate about its central axis. By adopting this concept we were able transfer all the loading through the framework and into the bearing which was securely bolted to a concrete footing we had installed in the floor.


bearing detail


We produced a set of engineering drawings which we gave to a steel fabrication company based next door to our workshop. The bearings we selected for the job are capable of carrying 2.5 metric tonnes, self-levelling and self-lubricating, all of which, we hope will make it lifetime maintenance free.

Kiln dried elm was selected for its natural edge, colour and strength. The outer framework was constructed from 40mm stock with the two central supports in 30mm stock and the removable shelves in 22mm stock. The backing was in 15mm v lining.




In order for the bookcase to be visually undetectable as a doorway it was necessary to build a curved box framework which would maintain a maximum 2mm clearance as the bookcase rotated into it. The curve was made using bendy ply glued over an accurately cut softwood framework. When fitted in place the framework was continued to the ceiling, plaster boarded, plastered and painted to match the room’s decor and a natural edged facing fitted around it with our dove logo and date inscribed. Ball catches were fitted top and bottom to locate the bookcase when not in use.

In the opposite room the back of the bookcase was plaster boarded and decorated to match the room. The bookcase can rotate fully into the opposite room giving an added dimension when required. We also made elm flooring which is laid below the bookcase allowing carpets to be fitted up to it on either side without it snagging when it is opened.

We received a letter from our clients shortly after completion which they have kindly let us print.


“We are absolutely thrilled with the fire surround which in itself, has been much admired, but of course the bookcase – people just stand and look at it and then give it a gentle push!! – absolute amazement. Thank you for all your work and hours you have put in – your craftsmanship is well appreciated. We wish you every success in the future. “

— Norman & Angie Harwell

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