Sunday, September 02, 2007

Reasonable Stopping Point

One of the hardest things to do in any home improvement project is to find the line. There's a point where this project ends and the next one begins. If you're not careful, buying a piece of furniture can turn into a major remodel with structural. Today we seemed to see a reasonable stopping point in our current project and we jumped at it. It's not like we're completely done, but it should be something that can be finished in its own time without any kind of blitz.

To review, we were converting "the Superman room" which used to be Mrs. TANBI's office into something that could be a more comfortable guest bedroom, but would primarily be used as a reading/sitting room. Also, the idea centered around a set of shelves I found online.

So, here's the funhouse photo of where we started. That's the web-slinger, the Dark Knight, and the Man of Steel if you're keeping track.

Then we have me dispensing with Superman. Just call me Lex-Paintor. No, on second thought don't call me that.

Two coats of Kilz to get rid of the super heros, then two coats of color - but first a bunch of masking. We hadn't done a green room yet. This photo is a little more funhouse.

Painting done, I go to the shop for 48 hours to fabricate the shelving unit. Then we ship it to the house and do another 8 hours of installation and paint touch up. I've already published the installed shelving photo.

I should say something about the shelves. First up, you don't save any money doing these yourself against buying something from IKEA. So if all you want are shelves, this is the wrong way to go. Costwise that assumes you are painting and can use #2 pine. If you plan to stain and want to go d-select or to poplar then this is a real expensive set of shelves.

It's also a lot of parts to keep track of. There are 24 pieces, and when you consider which edge you want to be forward (so you can get the best face out) then they are all different. Even being fairly anal and labeling a drawing and every single piece I still had a few confusing moments. All of the cross joints are eggcrated half-laps. I did these in the shop using a router, a 1/4" mortising bit, and a spacing jig. The set up is crucial, because if one slot is off a whole board is trash. That part of the process was actually pretty simple, but nerve-wracking.

I did the painting prior to assembly so I could roll it on flat. This worked real well. I can't imagine how aggravating it would have been doing all of the cubbies if it were already assembled. The one down side, if there is one, was that the latex paint really didn't want to cure. Even with a full 24 hour dry time the boards still didn't want to be stacked to ship, and every little particle of dust stuck immediately. Painting pine just isn't the same as painting walls, and the paint behaves differently.

The install has a few wrinkles. The parts are big, and delicate, so maneuvering everything in the tight confines of the room is somewhat difficult. You wind up having to lay everything out face down and do the boards running one way roughly spaced and just sitting on edge - hoping nothing will fall over. This isn't too tough on the first cross where you only have to make three joints. Making eight is another story. I gave up gluing after two boards. First, the glue was getting all over everything. It would drip on the floor, or I would brush it on and the board would fall over - it just wasn't meant to be. Second, although the joints were fairly loose in the shop, after two coats of paint and a change in humidity everything was a fairly tight press-fit. I figured that, plus the still curing paint would be enough. I could be wrong, only time will tell. On making eight joints simultaneously; it's possible to do this with one person, but if I did it again I would want three.

Believe it or not, there is a squareness issue to be dealt with here. Although the entire piece is like one big diagonal brace, until you attach the side pieces it is possible for the thing to squish more one way than the other. I'm fairly certain that I got this wrong, as the final height of my piece is not what it should be according to the drawing. Truthfully I don't know where the height went. Also, I have one real lousy corner for square - and then the walls turned out to not be plumb or true to the floor, so even if I had been spot on it would have still made an ugly spot when it came to installation. This is one aspect of in-home work that I will never prefer to building scenery. All the matching and templating seems much more difficult than what we get to do on stage.

I didn't think of a very good way to attach the side pieces. When I started the project I ordered a compressor and a pneumatic brad gun. They arrived the Monday after I finished the install, so my original plan to use brads sorta had to be revised. In the end I used drywall screws for everything. I pre-drilled every hole to keep from having splits. Also, on the door side stile I screwed the piece on from the inside out. It made some holes in the cubby, but it left the exposed side with no visible fasteners. Probably more work than it was worth. Anyway, these joints are probably the weakest in the whole piece. They are true toe-screws without much wood to hold them. You can see just a little bit in the photo above how I was unable to use this to suck the perimeter boards flush to the interior pieces. I guess some of those boards were cupped a little. It might have been worth it to use d-select for those - or it might have been more expensive without making any difference. If I ever build another set maybe I'll try that.

Finally, I broke two boards during the install. From the start I was concerned about the 1x12 holding together between the slots. In those regions it just sort of a six inch deep tab sticking out unsupported. Anyone that's done some carpentry will know that configuration is just itching to split. I cracked off one piece while somewhat indelicately smacking it to try to line up a joint. The second one I broke while I was walking across the back of the unit laid out on the floor - works fine for flats or platform frames, less so with 12 inch deep shelves with 6" free hanging pieces. Fortunately both breaks were real clean, took glue well and went back together with a couple of nails installed sort of in pocket holes. You can see above one of the shelves dressed with JC to cover this repair. The 1x12 appears to be more than enough to handle the weight of the books without breaking, but were an enterprising youngster to attempt to summit the piece several shelves would likely be lost in the effort. I'm considering using the late arriving air tools to retro-brad every one of the shelves in that configuration. But I'm not sold on it yet.

Anyway, it looks a lot better after paint touch ups and with books.

We haven't moved all the books in, but I think we'll have just enough room to not have room for any more books. The alternating direction of stacking comes from the original photo research. I personally feel like it dresses up the piece, but opinions vary.

Anyway, here's the most funhousiest picture yet showing the current state of things.

The painting is done and the shelves are done. We also remodeled the inside of the closet, doing two oversized shelves for those ubiquitous plastic bins. We're leaving the desk for the time being, but it is destined for another room now, to be replaced by an armchair, ottoman, and an end table. We purchased a reclining love seat from a local furniture clearance center and scavenged a lamp from our living room to come right up to the line. So there's still things to be hung on the wall, and a little more furnishing to do, but overall this project is complete. And I think pretty cool - although it's no Superman room.


D Holcomb said...

Looks great. And here's what I like about your post: You went all the way to the end! In the summer of 2005, when we embarked on our major remodeling job, I started a web page to track the project. The energy it took to deal with the job left me with little remaining to post pictures of the finish project.

It could also be that we moved into the house before the construction was quite finished. That blurs the line of when it is appropriate to take "finished" pictures. When the work is done, and we've moved in, but before we've trashed the place by living in it. Well someday I may get around to finishing the web page.

Anyway, nice work on the superman room.

Scotty said...

Hey David,

I vote for you posting the video playing backwards!

Anonymous said...

I love this bookcase. I want one of my one but I fear I am not as skilled at carpententry as you. Would you be willing to sell this one or possibly make another one for sale? Please let me know if you are interested. Thank you.