Tuesday, November 25, 2008

$40 built-ins

I've been meaning to post this for a while. We have been making some changes around the house, and Kristie decided it was time for the computer to have a new home. Until now, it has lived on our kitchen table, because I spent so much time on it for school, but didn't like being alone all day and night in the guest bedroom. Obviously, the kitchen table wasn't the greatest place either, so once school was over in summer, Kristie had the idea to build a place for the desk in a corner of the living room where we had a bookcase.

Here is what it looked like after we cleaned off the old book case. If you look closely, you can see the sweet handyman job I did cutting a hole for the stereo with a cordless drill like 8 years ago.

Ok, so now on to the new shelves and desk. The project was actually quite simple. to make the shelves you will need the following:

4'-0" x 8'-0" sheet of 1/4" furniture grade birch plywood.
1/4" x 2" poplar trim to cover the fronts
Scrap wood to cut into 1 1/2" segments to support the hollow interior of the shelves
Pin nails for a clean look on the assembled pieces.
Wood Stain/ Protectant
Wood glue
Screws/ Drywall Anchors

A band saw or jig saw with a guide for cutting straight lines in the plywood.
A pencil
A measuring tape (I am super exact and use a good ruler for the smaller measurements)
Clamps for glue-up/ assembly.
A hammer/ pin nailer (its good to have access to the school's shop.)
Staining Rags
Drill/ Screwdriver
Something that will give to a good right angle.

Begin by skecthing out what you want to do. try drawing the entire wall it will go on to get a feel of how the shelves will look in the context of the rest of your stuff.

Next, take careful measurements of the area you want to build in. don't assume corners are at 45 or 90 degree angles, either. A little time here will save you a lot of headaches later.

Before you go to your local home improvement store, consider reusing some leftover wood from another project or a pice of furniture that isn't quite working for you anymore. I've seen some pretty amazing stuff created from pieces that would have been thrown out. Also, you can offset your project cost a lot by selling old stuff that you are replacing with the shleves. We made back almost all our money by selling the old bookcase on craigslist.

Make a drawing of your project that lays out the components in the way that allows you to get the most from the material you buy. Waste material is wasted money, and you can avoid 80% of it by planning out how you cut up the sheet(s) you buy.

Finally, use the lowest grade stuff for the ares you won't see, like the interior supports and wall hangers.

Production pointers:

The most important thing here is to make sure your top and bottom pieces are the same. After you glue them up, use a sander to match up the edges. This way, you will have a nice clean edge for the front and side trim.

Try dryfitting them into place before doing a final sanding for the perfect fit.

Make sure you provide plenty of interior cross-support for wide desk sections. you want the lightness of a hollow desk, with the structural integrity of something solid.

Don't forget to leave room around the edges for the wall hangers to slide into.

Don't be like me, and forget to make a place for the cords.

Here is our wall with the wood hanger sections in place. You should use wood that will fit snugly in between the top and bottom sheets of your shelves, and try to run it pretty much continuously around the edges.

A few notes on installation:

You should mount desks to allow for 27-28" of clear space below. the surface should be at least 20" deep to leave room your legs.

Leave plenty of room above the desk below any upper shelves, so you can add a lamp/ other tall stuff.

Use a level.

The dry fit. I used scrap wood for the fronts and the supports for the hollow centers, and for the hangers on the wall. It took a few hours to get everything cut and assembled, and then a few more for glue-up and pin nailing.

We did the build before our trip, and Kristie stained it all when we got home. Here is how it all looks now.


hfl said...

It looks as good in real life as it does in this picture. Dad was impressed when he saw it and you know what a perfectionist he is when it comes to building things. Great job and much nicer than the table.
Love mom

Mamarazzi said...

AWESOME!! thanks for all of the details too. this is fantastic!

banananutmeg said...

looks good, guys! I like that you stained the wood, rather than painting, or covering with melamine. Our desk is in the kitchen now, because we too, got sick of having the laptop at the kitchen table, sofa, or sitting by ourselves in the other room when we used the computer.
I never even noticed that you had that little nook there before you built the desk there. It looks really nice.

natalie tenney said...

It look great! good job guys.

PetalsYoga said...

Okay, I'm impressed! I can't even hang a picture in my house!

Keep up the good work.