Monday, March 25, 2013

I Built That

We had a problem; we hated our bedside tables and couldn't afford any of the alternate ones we liked. We looked at several stores from Texas to Florida (this search took over a year) and all the ones we liked at all, we couldn't afford.

We were stuck with some dumb Ikea metal bookshelf things that were never meant to be anything at all like bedside tables. They were slanted back and were likely meant to hold potted plants, is my guess. But then one day Jan found an interesting design for a coffee table on the Internet. It looked like this:

We both really liked this, but we had an acceptable coffee table already. Could this be modified in some way to become a bedside table?

Using the above table as a reference, I whipped up the following options:

We went out and priced things, but we a little bit bummed to find that, when you added it all up, it was going to be more expensive than we thought. The priciest part by far was the 'flanges,' which if you look at the coffee table picture are the 'feet' sitting on the ground. Those would be the main connector pieces that would anchor the pipes to the wood. We also found that the pipe was pretty expensive and would need to be cut and threaded by hand in order to be affordable (it was $30 for like a 9' long piece of iron pipe but if you bought it in 12" increments it would be about $70). 

We preferred the one on the left but could only afford the one on the right, so we went for it. I found a website where we could buy the flanges for about $3.25 each rather than $11 each (their price at Lowe's, the only store in town with flanges that we found). Since we needed 16, this helped a lot. And we spent an entire evening and Lowe's one night when we had a guy cut our pipes into 8 separate pieces and thread them, and had someone else cut up the wood. Without a garage or a mitre saw anymore, everything would have to be cut at stores, and would have to be exact.

Jan stained the wood and we found a nice finish that was kind of more of a natural 'wax' type thing rather than a polycarbonate chemical finish; the result looked much more, well, natural. And we had to spray paint the flanges and the pipes in places so they would match better, but we left most all of the 'industrial' flourishes intact, such as words stamped on the pipes or flanges, etc. 

When it came time to assemble it, I found it to be much more difficult than I'd previously thought. I had to get the flanges on and have all 4 pipes for both tables to be exactly the same height. With the threads all completely different on each (remember, it was all done by hand by some guy at Lowe's who had only ever used the machine once before), it was a significant challenge. I then I had to get the wood assembled (used a connector plate and some wood screws) and had to mount the pipes and get them completely level, straight up and down. We added some casters and it was done.

Incredibly, it worked exactly how I wanted it to, other than that they were slightly taller than I had wanted them to be. I'm not sure why this was; I think I just had a hard time visualizing it. 

Picture another one just like this and you'll know what they both turned out like.

Detail of the casters and the bottom part.

Another unexpected twist: they both weight about as much as a mid-range Buick. Who knew iron pipe and 2" thick pine that's full of knots would be so dense?

Of course, with this project working out well, if over budget, I started to feel slightly over-confident. I was sure that I could improve our existing TV stand-another Ikea monstrosity that had made it through 4 moves in the last 3 years and was in very sorry shape. Ikea furniture is made to be assembled and then left to die somewhere, never again touched by human hands. That wasn't the case with ours. Since they're made of like compressed sawdust that is painted 'espresso,' if you even look at them wrong they will get severely and permanently scratched and scarred, and nothing can fix it.

Anyway, the TV stand. 

This one was going to be a bit easier, I thought. I had two original plans:

The first plan.
The modified final plan, incorporating some suggestions Jan made to try to make it look a little less traditional.

I budgeted this one out and figured it would cost no more than $60; a huge improvement over the bedside tables, which even with all the cost cutting turned out far more expensive than I'd initially thought. Fortunately, I came in exactly on budget on this, though the corners I cut would come back to haunt me.

First, I bought cheapie screws. I should have gone with nice deck screws with a 'star' pattern. Instead I went with normal exterior screws with a Phillips pattern. Big mistake: they strip whenever they come into contact with anything with molecules in it. I ruined, collectively, over 20 screws on this project because they stripped out before sinking.

Second, I wanted to put some decent feet on it, but got cheap ones that had no 'sticky' part on them and had no place for a screw. I should have sprung for something better that would have actually worked.

I assembled the long pieces first and then thought I could built it from the ground up, but it wasn't going very well. I took a break and took Maddie to a movie. When I came back, I felt like I had a much better plan: I would build the 'box' part first, ensuring all the key pieces would fit together tightly, and then I would go back in and build in the interior. 

That turned out to be an inspired choice, because it worked perfectly, and Jan can attest that we were both basically shocked when I went to install the final divider and it fight absolutely effortlessly. 

The project wasn't without its frustrations, though. A polite but stupid neighbor asked me to stop drilling it because he works nights. This was like at 2pm on a Saturday. When else am I supposed to do a home project? If I waited till the evening it would be ridiculous. So I brought the stand into the house and drove the screws in BY HAND. I pre-drilled a small # of the holes, but tried to keep that very limited because 1) the girls were sleeping in the other room, and 2) I was inside now and didn't want to disturb the rest of my neighbors. I thereafter only used the drill to make very limited adjustments here and there.

Work in progress. I did wind up waking up at least one of the kids.

I would up paying for that stunt today, when I woke up and felt like my hands and arms had become possessed by Pazuzu overnight. I had to be doped to the gills to make it through the day without crying. 

But it worked! It turned out almost exactly how I wanted it to, with only a few minor items that didn't go the way I planned (I slipped a few times and put some unexpected scratches into it, and one screw was stripped so badly that I had to cut it off with a hacksaw and will have to wood putty over it some other day). And it weighs so much it will likely crash through the floor, killing my stupid downstairs neighbor that complained to me. So it's still a success.

But for now, we have upgraded ourselves 1 TV stand!

Sorry, this picture is not well lit. But you get the gist of it.

Hooray! On to the next! Just kidding; Jan says I am no longer allowed to do projects for at least 6-8 more months. I kind of agree.


Heidi said...

Great furniture! I love the look of them. Sounds like you take after your Grandpa Hoopes just a bit with all that handman stuff going on--good for you!

Heidi said...


Hillary said...

Next time, just pass it off to Emmerson. She looks like she is a pro.

And at least it didn't turn out like Joey's TV stand.

Kevan said...

I am impressed...