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The problem is that I have just moved into a new flat (upstairs) and my expensive wooden bookshelf won't make it up the stairs and around the corner into the flat. It can't make the turn by a matter of inches. It measures around 7ft x 3ft x 2ft.

I have dismantled the shelves and backing, but the hard dark wood frame is glued and fixed together. I can't "pull" it apart without breaking it. However I figure that I can saw the 3 inch legs off the bottom to achieve the result, but then need to reattach once in the property (and remove again in the future should I move).

As it seems such a trivial job, it feels that getting someone to do this for me will be almost as much effort as doing it myself. However, I would prefer not to completely bodge the effort. What are some solutions?

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    Most legs are screw on for this purpose. Try turning them. Also check above the legs for any round plugs that might hide screw heads(not as likely).
    – crip659
    Aug 18 at 11:14
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    Can you edit a few pictures into your question, so we can see better, legs and bookcase. Most legs screws are in the centre of the top of the leg, so will not see them, but a few are really not separate pieces. Would rather see if parts of bookcase can be taken apart, before having to cut it to pieces. Some screws can be hidden behind wood plugs.
    – crip659
    Aug 18 at 11:28
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    You might consider posting to the woodworking site: woodworking.stackexchange.com
    – tnknepp
    Aug 18 at 13:21
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    Depending on how much value you put on the bookshelf, will it fit through a window, or via a balcony if there is one? Taking out a pane of glass and hiring a crane is less destructive than carpentry.
    – alephzero
    Aug 18 at 21:04
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    Can you bring it in thru the window?
    – Willk
    Aug 18 at 22:13
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Really need pictures.

That said, a few more things to try.

You know how to "hook" a table through a door, when you put it on edge, then 2 legs through, then the top and then the other two.

Can you do that with the book case. Invert it so the legs are in the air, and two legs go under the top of the door.

This is likely to only gain you an few inches, but that may be enough.


Will the book case go diagonaly through the door?

This isn’t always a win, as the bookcases is a rectangle about a foot wide and the height of the bookcase.

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This shouldn't be a major task. Use a saber saw or similar so you get a straight cut. After you get the unit into place, use some dowel screws to reattach the legs to the cabinet. Just drill pilot holes in the cabinet and legs and screw them in. See below for a picture. When time to move in the future, just unscrew them.

enter image description here

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    Hey JACK. The only complaint I have with this is these will be unstable. Sliding the bookcase across the floor puts a lot of torque on the legs and I'd be concerned with these screws tearing out or splintering the wood. I don't see a very appealing path forward for the OP, but these screws might be "good enough".
    – tnknepp
    Aug 18 at 13:26
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    Two per leg would be better than just one, but that makes screwing them in... difficult. Dowels would probably be better to help resist twist/torque, and they can get glued into the leg & just slide dry into the carcass
    – FreeMan
    Aug 18 at 14:02
  • @tnknepp Why would he need to worry about sliding the bookcase after the legs are re-fitted? Not that these would be any issue at all if the right size is used - no different in that sense to screwing the leg in from above with a normal screw. Aug 19 at 8:58
  • @MikeBrockington I agree that this is effectively the same as screwing the leg in from above with a normal screw. I still wouldn't slide the bookcase across the floor (especially over carpet) even if the legs were originally designed to screw on. If they are steel legs, that different. The point is the OP is moving away from a solid, continuous piece of wood, part of which made the legs. All of the torque induced by sliding will be evenly distributed over the entire leg. After cutting/screwing most of the torque will be on the screw itself. Great opportunity for splintering and shear.
    – tnknepp
    Aug 19 at 12:39
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    @tnknepp With all due respect, I don't think many people slide bookcases, furniture across a floor. It's usually lifted or "walked" across a room. Plus, the bookcase will be empty. These dowel screws are not going to shear and if tightened up against the surface area of the cut, there won't be any wobble.
    – JACK
    Aug 19 at 13:21
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At face value this is a simple job. The problems will be in the finer details. My first recommendation is to ensure the bookcase will make the turn if the legs are removed (this is simple trigonometry). If it cannot make the turn even without the legs, then no need to remove them.

Here are some considerations:

Are the legs straight, or is there any curve or taper to them (i.e. do they get narrower at the bottom)? If they are not straight, then any cut you make will be obvious after you reattach the legs. You will lose a saw width of material when you cut so the two pieces will not match perfectly when reattached. Ideally you will make every cut at the same height (and straight), otherwise it will look wonky.

You said you want the legs to be removable so you don't run into this problem again. This is doable, but the result will not be as structurally sound as what you have now, or if you were to glue them back together. Another challenge here is making a straight cut. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it cannot be completely wonky either. Since you propose to do this by hand this may be a challenge (but hey, maybe you cut better than I do).

Some recommendations (assuming the piece will fit without legs)

If this piece is special in some way (e.g. family heirloom or is good craftsmanship...not something bought at a big-box store) and you are determined to get it in the apartment and reattach the legs then wrap the legs in masking tape (this will limit splintering from the saw), mark the legs where you want the cuts made. Make sure each mark is at the same height and, if possible, draw a line around each leg where the cuts will be made. The line will provide a guide to help you make a straight cut. The Japanese saw recommended by gabz is a good choice. Ideally, whatever saw you use, will be thin and have a lot of teeth (the more teeth the better the cut). Take time cutting the legs off then drill holes (as straight as possible) into both pieces, insert dowels, and hope for the best. NOTE: this will be inherently unstable and you should avoid leaning on the shelf or sliding it across the floor.

If you can live without the legs being reattached, then follow the procedure above but don't put them back on. You may not need to cut off all of the leg (maybe you can leave an inch or two). This will be more stable, but may not look right.

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I think you will be ok by sawing it off, if the hole structure is glued together, probably , you will encounter a plug or a dowel.

  1. Saw the legs as close as you can from the structure ( if you want to, you can use something called "japanese saw" is a kind of saw made for delicate and flush cuts )
  2. Drill both ends ( the structure and the leg ) to receive a proper sized dowel
  3. Glue everything back together ( you don't need to damp the pieces in glue, just enough to cover both pieces ( dowels end and holes ) - and here you have the option to glue just one side , so you can remove the other end, or , glue everything back, but, as stated from other users, if so, when this happens in the future, you will need to redo all this again to remove the bookcase...

If you want to, you can provide some pictures so we can better understand what we are telling you to saw =)

Good luck in the new place =)

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    If he wants to remove this at the end of the rental, I'd be tempted to just glue the dowels into the legs, and let the weight of the unit hold it together while in use.
    – DaveM
    Aug 18 at 12:46
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    Presumably the OP will need to remove the legs when moving out as well. Gluing the legs will require another cut (I'm assuming a "good" wood glue would be used). If a glue like Tightbond is used then you have a better chance of breaking the wood than just breaking the glue away.
    – tnknepp
    Aug 18 at 13:23
  • Yup, once reglued, there's no chance of them coming off without sawing again. Otherwise, good answer. Gluing the the dowels into the legs only wouldn't be bad - that way they can come off when moving out and the added length of the dowel is removed from the carcass - the legs should be short enough to fit into a small box, even with the dowels sticking out. I'd suggest 2 dowels per leg to help prevent twisting, but again, pics (and dimensions) from the OP would be critical in knowing this.
    – FreeMan
    Aug 18 at 14:01
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    I would use "Dowel Screws" rather than wooden dowels and/or wood glue, then they can be removed again when the piece needs to come out again. Aug 19 at 8:56
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You mentioned this this was "expensive". It's going to lose a lot of its value once you start modifying it, so you have to take that into consideration when considering cost. As others have mentioned, there will likely be unavoidable side effects like a visible seam or reduced structural integrity.

What you're asking to do is possible, but it's probably not the best solution to your problem. If you go that route, I highly recommend hiring a carpenter who specializes in furniture to modify the piece. They'll be able to get it done while minimizing the side effects. They'll also know how to do things like make sure any visible grain markings still line up after the legs are reattached. They may also suggest a less destructive method of disassembly, like sawing through the glued joints and re-assembling in situ. Modifying it runs the very real risk of doing permanent damage that makes it unusable, so I don't recommend trying to DIY this if it's a piece that you genuinely don't want to lose.

Depending on your situation, it's likely easier (plus cheaper and faster) to leave the bookshelf as-is and modify your approach instead. Removing the trimwork around a door can buy you a couple of inches. Try avoiding the stairwell entirely - particularly if this is an exterior stairwell. I've seen people in similar situations who rented a scissorlift for a couple of hours and lifted furniture up to the second floor and over the railing at the top of the far-too-narrow stairs. You could also lift it directly to a window or a balcony (which frequently have wide, sliding doors). Building your own "stairs" out of painter's scaffolding is another option, but you'll likely need a few helpers to help pass furniture up. In college I witnessed some neighbors hoisting up furniture using a pulley they mounted to the balcony above them, but that seems a bit on the dangerous side.

If you add a photo of the bookshelf in question and a diagram of the stairs/hallway/obstacle, we may be able to offer you advice more specific to your particular situation.

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If you really do need to saw off the legs, here a few more ideas that are similar to JACK's answer.

Hanger Bolts

Use these to reattach the legs and have them removable for when you move out. These are half lag screw and half bolt. The lag screw side gets screwed into wood on one side of the connection (usually with a pilot hole drilled first to prevent splitting). The other side gets a nut screwed on. With this being a leg you are reattaching, it would probably need to be a wood insert nut screwed into the wood (again with a pilot hole drilled). These tend to be very sturdy, fairly inexpensive, removable, and can be tightened down fairly tightly to help prevent problems with sheer forces, like sliding the bookcase around. Because this involves screwing the leg back on, you can only use one of these per leg. Depending on the size and shape of the leg, that might be ok or it might be a problem.

Example hanger bolt: https://www.homedepot.com/p/Hillman-1-4-in-20-x-3-in-Hanger-Bolt-12-Pack-44947/204775253

Example wood insert nut: https://www.homedepot.com/p/Everbilt-1-4-in-20-tpi-Solid-Brass-Wood-Insert-Nut-2-Pack-818798/204806598

Cam locks

You could instead go with a cam lock/screw/dowel system. These are typically what you see in low end furniture that you put together yourself. The connections are actually pretty sturdy, even if the furniture itself isn't. This would allow you to have more than one connector per leg, but if you want to slide the bookcase around, these can work themselves loose.

Example cam lock dowel: https://www.lowes.com/pd/Hillman-6-mm-x-45-1-2-mm-Silver-Zinc-Plated-Binder-Interior-Binding-Post-Screws-2-Count/3231534

Example cam lock nut: https://www.lowes.com/pd/Hillman-5-Count-1-4-in-x-1-2-in-Zinc-plated-Joint-Connector-Nut/3234405

Installation

Both types of fastener can be tricky to install correctly, but the hanger bolts are a bit easier to deal with. If you get the alignment off, you can often just twist things tighter to make it work. But if they aren't at a straight 90 degree angle to the surface of the wood, you have a problem.

If you get the distance of the cam lock off, you might have to do a bunch of re-drilling and filling holes, so it can get messy real quick.

Side note

As good as they are, they aren't as good as solid wood, so if you plan on sliding this bookcase around, you might want to think about adding sliders under the feet before you load it up. You can get them in plastic or felt, depending on the load you are putting on it and the surface it'll be sliding on.

Example plastic sliders: https://www.amazon.com/MAGIC-SLIDERS-02516-Self-Adhesive-Sliding/dp/B00MAGS892/

Example felt sliders: https://www.amazon.com/Yelanon-Furniture-Pads-182-Pieces/dp/B07RNCDVZ5/

Disclaimer: There are obviously many stores, brands, sizes, and other variations of all the products I suggested. I just used the first good examples I found. I'm not recommending stores, specific products, or anything else.

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