Monday, October 06, 2003

Braggy Home Improvement Post
Here's a couple of pics to give you an idea of what the library used to look like, back when it was called "the office":

Try to ignore the guy doing yoga.

Note the tall, dark shelves. This is a view from the door, so you can't really tell, but they really overwhelmed the room. It didn't help that there's just a hint of a tilt to the floor, which made them even more loomy.

This is the same view now, with the shelves repurposed (and no Theron doing yoga). I built a base to lift the shelves up off the carpet and get them above the molding, and because it looks better. Then I lopped the top and bottom off the shelf units (laminated particle board, so no high quality furniture was harmed in the making of these shelves), turned them horizontal, and put in holes for adjustable shelves.

I have a lot of mass market paperbacks, so I built tiered shelving for them. Three shelves with two tiers, and one shelf with three tiers. There weren't quite enough books to fill all the shelves, particularly once I stocked the reference shelf on my writing desk, so I built a little wooden piece to hold the partial shelf in place. This had the double effect of creating a nice tiered storage area and making sure that, as I acquire more books, I have someplace to put them.

Since I mentioned the writing desk, I'll go ahead and show it off:

It used to belong to my parents, but they didn't have a place for it anymore, and it was just too cool to pass up, with all those nooks, crannies, and drawers, not to mention that wonderful shelf, just the right size for whatever reference books I might want to put my hands on at a moment's notice. Finally, a permanent home for my Latin/English dictionary!

But an open-ended shelf needs bookends. I looked around, but everything I found was either too ornate or too expensive. I wanted something that looked halfway decent, but effectively disappeared. After all, there's not that much room. I had a perfect picture in my head of what I wanted. Brass, preferably, but any metal would do. A simple right angle with a brace across the back. Like this, maybe:

Notice how it disappears? Unfortunately, I couldn't find anything like it out in the world, so I went to the hardware store and bought two sheets of brass,two narrow strips of brass, and some two part epoxy. An hour or so of playing with the vice and some clamps, and I had what I was looking for:

Oh, and I put masking tape on the bottom so they wouldn't scratch the wood.

Finally, I moved a big comfy chair in from the bedroom, and a reading lamp in from the living room, neither of which was being used where they were, and sat down to read a nice book. Unfortunately, I had nowhere to set my tea. Not that I had tea, but I planned to have tea sometime down the road. What I really needed was a little tray, with short legs on it so that it could fit down over the arm of the chair. I'd seen that sort of thing on altars in Japan, so I thought maybe Pier One would have something like what I wanted. No such luck. I looked a few other places, but it was the same story.

It was time for another trip to the hardware store, where I bought a half inch dowel rod and a thick slab of pine. I cut off a piece of pine, then used the table saw to put a divot in the center of it. I wanted a rustic look, so I switched over to hand tools, using a plane to trim the sides, leaving the corners high. Then I took some 60 grit sandpaper to it. Somewhere in there, I mounted the legs, cut from the dowel rod.

The finish is a red oak stain, and it's sealed with vegetable oil. It's not polyurethane or anything, but it's foodsafe and gives me room to experiment with different finishes if I want to. Plus it gives nice depth to the wood, and refreshing the oil is a wonderfully sensuous experience, if you're as into wood as I am (I didn't mean that to sound dirty, but oh well).

There's one last thing. Longtime readers may remember the Frodo costume from last year. Well, I'd ordered a long-stemmed pipe, but it didn't come in time for the Halloween party. But I still have it, and have been jonesing for a place to display it. I had a little piece of fifty year old pine left over from making boxes a few Christmases ago, so I turned it into a stand:

It's not my best work, especially the copper fork, which didn't spiral quite as evenly as I'd have liked. But it'll do for now, and it'll be easy to replace it (the fork, that is). Oh, and the nail is just a galvanized roofing nail I use to tamp the bowl. If I weren't so damn cheap, or if I smoked the sucker more than four or five times a year, I might invest in an actual pipe nail. But I am, and I don't, so this'll do.

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