Wednesday, September 30, 2015

DIY Bookcases 4: Finishing

Yeah, when you get all the framing done there's this moment of panic when you think, "AAACCK! I have a little uneven gap!!" Especially if your house has had any time to settle chances are everything isn't perfectly flush. And then you have these screws that aren't perfectly flush...

Have I identified that I am NOT a carpenter?? If you didn't guess it you'd know now. This is an imperfect project. After all it was built by yours truly. That doesn't mean that it doesn't look good or I'm not proud of it but I do know that a skilled carpenter would not have made my myriad of rookie mistakes.

For the nails I used a whipped putty to cover the holes. For the screws, I used a wood putty. This is a great molding putty that can turn screw heads into looking like little wooden knobs or smooth the surface. Again, if you have a nail gun I think that's preferable and then all you have to do is cover the holes with a little putty.

After that it's my favorite part- CAULK. I have come to love vinyl caulk- it covers all manner of sins. Gaps? vinyl caulk to the rescue! It seals everything and makes it a smooth, cohesive unit. You'll need two bottles of this and I recommend asking a worker at the hardware store which brand to get. That plus a caulk gun and you'll spend under $15 to elevate your bookshelves and really make them look finished. Look at the picture and see what it looks like before and after- amazing, right?

Next, I bought some semi-gloss white paint. For some reason it did nothing so I ended up taking my leftover matte white paint from the ceiling and painted two coats. Then I went over with a coat of the semi-gloss paint. I'd recommend two coats of that though.

Another day spent organizing my books and there's the finished product! All done for about $350.00

DIY Bookcases 3: Framing

Sorry! Been on vacation and before that I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to get things done.

The most important part of making a factory bookshelf look custom is by framing. Make sure you place and anchor the bookshelves evenly, then measure, then re-measure, then measure again... for good measure. You want the boards to overlap by about 1/4" (lesson learned!) because you never know if there might be the ever slightest sway of a bookshelf on uneven flooring (again lesson learned!).

After you have your measurements bribe a friend with a truck or SUV for a day of fun at Lowe's or Home Depot. You want a 3/4" board and I chose poplar because it has less dark veining and will require fewer coats. One board should cover everything. They'll do the cuts for you there though I found buying an $80 circular saw came in very handy for getting the length of the boards cut perfectly. After you have that you can start adhering them to the bookshelves. Apply a line of wood glue (seen right) and nail or screw the board on. I chose flathead screws but that required a lot of pre-drilling. I would almost recommend a nail gun for finer tuning.

After those initial boards were put on it was time for the top pieces. I anchored a 2" X 4" across the top and (with the help of a friend to hold it) screwed in the top poplar boards. After that I nailed the crown moulding and trim (annoying little buggers and hard as plastic), as well as the baseboards. And then, voila! You have a framed book case. Next up- finishing.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

DIY Bookcases 2: It Takes a Village

There are two downfalls to doing a home project on yourself. The first is making sure that the materials fit into your car. The second is carrying said supplies to your home.

When I first went to IKEA I stacked 6 74" shelves onto a wobbly trolley. In a comedy of errors, I somehow managed to get these stuffed into my car. But even with the back seats laid flat and the shelves shove to the rear view mirror, this occurred BARELY.When I got home I sighed in resignation as I had to lug these up the stairs to my little corner nook. Then the villagers arrived.

The villagers in question are the two coolest kids in the world: Reese and Walker. These brothers are 11 and 8 respectively, very chatty and friendly, and the most thoughtful kids around. They always have a ballgame going on in the courtyard, help the neighbors with pruning and weeding, and pause the ballgame (played with a woofle ball) whenever a neighbor leaves their home, for fear of hitting them. See? Thoughtful.

I had carried the first two shelves in when Reese came down to help his dad unload the car. He looked at me balancing two more shelves on my shoulder and ran over to grab an end. Walker followed not long after and decided to get the middle of the shelves rather than help his dad. Sorry, but seeing our little Marine unit carrying shelves is kind of funny. Never mind that I ended up returning them and replacing them with bookshelves a week later, the help was still awesome.

Walker then begged to help me put them together. "I want to learn things. I want to do things," he said. So I put off assembling the bookcases until he had a free day. I went to Starbucks that morning and got myself a latte and him a hot cocoa. I had just assembled the first bookcase when he came in. I laid out all the tools, the materials, and the instructions and we went step-by-step together. He learned the difference between a flat-head and Phillip's screwdriver, how to paint, how to hammer (I started the nails off and he finished them off), and how to read directions. He also learned how to fix mistakes, like when you hit a nail crooked.

His favorite tasks were hammering nails in, which after about six nails he would rush into the kitchen for a cocoa break. Throughout he was willing to listen, learn, and apply what he learned. Great kid!

Most of all he learned how to break down a project into steps. I learned this when I first moved out as the only time I worked on projects was with my dad. Yeesh! Scary times. After the first five minutes of excitement he would follow-up with a bout of angry cursing, beating parts into submission, and eventual throwing of anything handy. Ironic, as those items are rendered un-handy when you throw them. I wanted Walker to have a different experience. Instead when Walker looked panicked at a crooked nail I just replied, "If this was going to be perfect it would have been made by God, not us." He got to learn in a relaxed environment and at the end he got to see the results of a job well done!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

DIY Built-in Bookcases

I like my little cottage place but it is little. It was built in 1940 and the closets are exactly big enough for a 1940s wardrobe: your Church dress and your work dress. There are many pluses to my place but square footage is not among them and making the best use of space still leaves everything looking cluttered.

I have a phobia of hoarders. I have family that fall into that category and I walk in and feel overwhelmed. That being so, I still have too much damn stuff! I donate AT LEAST twice a year. Result? Still too much damn stuff.

So I have a serious addiction... books. Yes my vice is literacy. An awful thing! Actually when you look at my bookshelves, yes it kind of is... See these are not all of my books. I also have 5 more bookcases around the house. Okay, but one is for cookbooks by the kitchen. Two are in my bedroom. One holds various DVDs and miscellany, and the last organizes all my important documents and this really cool old set of encyclopedias. Sigh, I'm a book hoarder.

Here is my before shot. You can see the cases buckling under the weight (they're double and triple stacked!):

So the first idea was to have floating shelves all the way across the wall. But even though I'm not an engineer I worry about the weight. It's a lot of books, after all! Yes you can reinforce with heavy duty anchors but still... So after having bought lack wall shelves and the paint to do an accent wall I realized that this would be a huge fail. Sigh, taking the shelves back.

What I AM going to do instead is line bookshelves up along the wall. Yes, new ones from IKEA, have 3/4" panels cut for the spaces and the top, and then add crown moulding. Voila! Custom built-in bookcases. I ordered the Billy Bookcases from IKEA and expect them delivered next week. Let the projects begin...