Monday, June 21, 2010

Works in Progress

It's tempting to say that getting my home the way I want it is taking a long time because I'm trying to balance the desire to get things just so with the desire to be able to entertain people, and that might be true, but it ignores the much larger considerations: a) I'm really not that picky, and b) I'm lazy. Or I have other priorities: take your pick. Regardless, I have been making some progress, and the areas of progress include a couple of things that I built myself.

Despite having done my best to cull the herd before moving, and despite the losses suffered in the basement flood of '09, I still have some books, where "some books" means more than most people but a shockingly small proportion of what I used to own. Still, they needed to be housed, and rather than give yet more of my money to Ikea (which probably doesn't need it as much as I do), I thought I would build something.

The idea of something other than more bookshelf holding up one's bookshelves is not original to me, of course. In college, I had planks of wood layered with cinderblocks. Immediately after college, I had the same thing, when more affluent people had moved along to glass bricks. Glass bricks still make a great, albeit costly, support, of course, but the last time I was living on my own (maybe six years ago), I decided to try other things for supports. I considered all manner of options before arriving at bottles. The environmental and aesthetic benefits of bottles are fairly obvious, but I was also glad to have an excuse to buy expensive seltzer water.

Back in the day, I used Blu Italy bottles, and they were very pretty, but not long after I bought this house, I happened to find myself in a Costco in Northern Virginia, and I came home with a case of Acqua Panna, a very tasty Italian water that comes in very attractive bottles. I regularly purchase, mostly for EFU's benefit, Pellegrino, and between a case of the AP and two cases of Pellegrino, I had plenty of bottles.

The construction on these shelves is extremely simple, but it still took a while, and only got finished when I decided that I really did like the look of unfinished wood, after all. I'm sure I'll find another use for the quart of stain and the quart of clear acrylic, though.

Aside from the bottles, the only things necessary to build these shelves are some wood planks, a dowel, and wood glue. I originally wanted a tight-fitting dowel, so I purchased a dowel just slightly larger than the inside diameter of the bottleneck. And then I began to sand, and I sanded, and I sanded, and I sanded, and I went back to Home Depot, and I bought a dowel just slightly smaller than the inside of the bottleneck, and I came home, and I cut, and I marked, and I glued. The planks are six feet long and ten inches wide. I wanted the ends of the shelves to stagger somewhat, so I glued a pair of dowel pieces four inches from one end and twelve inches from the other end of each plank. I flipped half of the planks around when the glue was dry. Then I yelled for YFU, and together we started assembling the shelves. Alas, I was a bottle short for the plan I wanted, so I had to regroup, and then I had to reassemble the shelves when no one else was around. That part was a bit dicey because the shelves, which are extremely stable once loaded with books, give the impression of wanting to jump when they're empty. But I persevered, and I soon had six shelves together, without major incident. At least until I put the books on, at which point it became clear that I needed another bottle in the middle of each shelf, to counter bowing. But that was pretty easy to do, and I soon had a set of bookshelves that I'm very fond of.

Organizing the books, of course, was another matter entirely, and the "other European author" section is still horribly disorganized. Also, there are still more books in boxes, so they don't quite all fit, but I got at least 80% of my boxes empty and stored in the basement, so that I can actually walk around my office/library/computer room most of the time now, and that's a good thing.

Speaking of unfurnished furniture, behold my new bed. My old bed, which was due for replacement anyway, broke a couple of weeks ago, and I'm not quite sure exactly how that happened, even though I was there when it happened, and even though there was another witness present. Regardless, I considered my options and decided that the best way to balance economy with a desire to own more power tools was to build my own bed out of 2x4s.

I know nothing about building beds, of course, so I went over to the Instructables site and looked at what they had. And what they had wasn't exactly what I wanted, but I did get some very good advice from someone who had built a similar bed: don't overengineer it. So I made a sketch on a piece of scrap paper, and I headed to Home Depot with EFU and, more importantly, her station wagon, and I came home with a ten-inch miter saw, a sander, a box of screws, an assortment of bolts, and six eight-foot two-by-fours. I took everything to the basement, I measured, I cut, I drilled, I screwed, I swore, I brought partially assembled bed parts upstairs, I drilled and screwed and swore some more, and soon I had a frame upon which to affix the platform slats that I had saved from the prior bed.

The whole thing took about half a day, but I ended up with an extraordinarily sturdy bed. I still need to change out some of the nuts for locknuts, and I misjudged the height somewhat, but having to climb into bed is good exercise, right? Alternatively, in the future, I can always date high jumpers.

In addition to making a bed that is very strong, building my own allowed me to add some uncommon features. For example, at each corner, and in the center foot of the bed, instead of using two regular bolts, I used one regular bolt and one eye bolt. This gives me a place to fasten things to if I ever need to secure something to the bed. Like balloons, for instance. A bed should be a festive place after all.

I get that a bed platform made out of unfinished 2x4s isn't for everyone, but if you don't count the cost of the power tools, which I will use again (I already have projects planned), the cost of the materials for the bed was less than $30. So until I'm ready to spend the money on the bed of my dreams, this one is pretty cool.

1 comment:

  1. Would be pretty cool to insert lights into those bottles in the bookcase, and put them on a dimmer switch.