For many of us, the moment we learned that a 2×4 board is actually 1.5 inches x 3.5 inches was simply mind-blowing. The reason for this apparent contradiction is that the board has been planed down to eliminate irregularities. At one point, many years ago, 2x4s actually were 2 inches x 4 inches, but their rough surfaces made them difficult to stock and handle. The old terms, such as 2×4 or 4×4, are still used, and are known as the “nominal” size of the board. These nominal sizes are used because they are easier to say and they stick to tradition. Now, thanks to a lawsuit, most big box stores list the nominal and actual sizes of lumber.
To corral shelf-dwelling books or DVDs that like to wander, cut 3/4-in.-thick hardwood pieces into 6-in. x 6-in. squares. Use a band saw or jigsaw to cut a slot along one edge (with the grain) that’s a smidgen wider than the shelf thickness. Stop the notch 3/4 in. from the other edge. Finish the bookend and slide it on the shelf. Want to build the shelves, too? We’ve got complete plans for great-looking shelves here.