While I was setting up my office at home I realized I have collected over the years quite a bit of materials, and other random supplies. For the sake of productivity and to help clean out my workspace I sketched up some ideas for a nice portable cart that my materials could live in. I needed the project to …
1) Stay in a pretty small budget (after all, this is just a container)
2) Go well with the 48″ modular I already have set up in the office
3) Hold not only the wood and metal materials (mostly sticks) I have on hand, but hold my paper materials which are larger format, as well.
I sketched out a pretty simple system that involved using one 4’x8′ sheet of laminated plywood and folding it into a u-shape using three planes. I built a framing and wheel assembly on the underside of the “u” and connected the two vertical planes with two inner trays using 1″ dowels as spacers. This helped to add a nice reveal in the cart to make it seem as though the two inner trays were hovering inside the “u” shape. It also was beneficial because I can stick smaller objects like rulers, and t-squares between the 1″ spaces at the two longer sides of the tray. The trays are set up just to act as partitions or dividers, and all the materials rest vertically while being supported in compression by the plane at the bottom of the “u”
I gave the inner trays a light finish and the outer planes a dark ebony finish. This was also to show a visual lightness inside the “u” shape, that in a lot of ways is a cradle for my materials and supplies. All in all, the project cost about $60 and was so worth it. It cleared out and entire closet in my apartment as well as a lot of the clutter around my desk.
Since I graduated I have had all of these left over scraps of wood, paper, stains, spray paints, and so on. The bulkiest items were a set of wooden frames I made with Anthony Morin in the Woodshop at school for a site model project that never really came into fruition. I have about 12 of these frames, well now 6… and, I finally decided to do something with them. The project was a to build a set of flush living room shelves to hold all of the bric-a-brac, magazines, books and, piggy banks (I collect piggy banks for some odd reason). I set my budget at $20.00 and one weekend I just laid all of these frames and wood scraps in the floor of my living room. I arranged them for probably three hours before I found an efficient and visually pleasing arrangement. As I was screwing the pieces of the wood together I started lifting certain segments of them off the outer frame by an inch or two. The intention was to….
1) Make the flat wall in our living room convey some sort of depth.
2) Maximize the usable area and space between the wall and shelves for some of the larger books and magazines that I needed to store.
Eventually, the whole shelf was screwed together and standing upright in the center of my living room floor. It was dark by now, and the sweat from this seemingly simple project was running down my face. I decided to give the rather inexpensive wood a rich look with a Walnut stain. This also allowed me to sit down for a moment a do just a simple meditative and repetitive task to help cool off. My thought was the darker the wood the more it would appear that the shelves were smaller in an already pretty small space. When they were all stained and finished it was then I realized that the walls in my living room had to have been made out of some child’s left over play-dough from the 1940’s. No nail, screw, or fastener was going to suspend this heavy shelving unit above the floor in my living room. A little bit of panic set in, as I scrambled to figure out what I was going to do with this giant heap of screw together scraps in my living room.
I remembered a few weeks back I had found an old particle board dining table with nice stainless steel legs. I took the legs off the table and screwed and fastened them to the bottom of each shelving unit (a total of three legs). This ultimately became the load bearing support for the shelves, and all I had to do to secure the shelves further was make a few pin connections into the wall for sheer strength only. This was done relatively easy with some small “L” shaped brackets screwed to the back of the shelves and then into the powdery walls of my living room.
When the whole thing was upright and fastened to the wall, I realized it looked a bit sparse and monotone. In the moment I grabbed three unfinished frames and slid them over the already stained and mounted frames on the walls. It was probably one of the best aha! moments I have had in a while. Not only did the light wood frames contrast beautifully with the Walnut backing it required no hardware, hardly any work, and it increased the overall depth of my shelves by 3 1/2″ inches.
The whole project took about 5 or 6 hours, and was totally worth it. I like the idea that a wall can be a usable cavity and that outside furniture is not really necessary with the right planning, tools, and materials… in this case scraps!