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closet « Well that was… an idea

Archive for category closet

‘Quick’ custom drawers

The box shelves I built, so as to curb my daily wanderings into the living room for the purpose of getting dressed, did an excellent job of shelving things. But sometimes things should be drawered instead of shelved.

In my experience (and I once built a prop desk off of a three inch sketch, so I have at least some) drawers are boxes with hardware and/or framing that allows them to slide in and out. The box part should be exceedingly simple – it’s the functionality that requires some planning. Or, in the case of my never-ending collection of salvaged stuff, someone else’s planning that you save.

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All natural paint stripper

I keep a gallon of vinegar under the kitchen sink pretty much all the time. It’s an extremely useful cleanser, especially in conjunction with baking soda or a dash of salt as a mild abrasive. It’s also a weak acid (duh) and thus useful for loosening or degrading any number of things – like an old, thick coat of paint covering metal clothes hooks.

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Necessity is the mother of semi-permanence

Close readers of this blog (hi Ezra!) will note that my closet project had reached a midpoint, and said midpoint involved all my clothes in the living room. After standing in front of the now-bare closet for many a day, chewing on the end of a metaphorical pencil and gazing thoughtfully into the space, envisioning a huge range of possible shelving and hanging possibilities, colors, finishes, rewired light fixtures, and a use for that trap door, I determined that my clothes were still in the living room. The situation now growing untenable, I built some box shelves:

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The Great Bedroom Closet Project of Aught-Twelve

Wherein I start a project, discover a trap door, and eventually realize I need a better plan than ‘build some shelves’.

So in other words, Tuesday.

Years ago I cleared floor space with the brilliant discovery that an old dresser fit neatly in my bedroom closet. Between that, a tie rack discovered… somewhere, and existing hooks and nails, the closet had functioned fine, if somewhat unimpressively, for storing the bulk of my clothes.

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Oh look, there’s a closet in here…

An upcoming trend on this blog (should I manage to get back into anything resembling a habit of posting regularly) will be the Virtues and Varieties of Shelving and Storage. I’m not a believer in having tons of stuff – if I ever rent a storage unit, please slap me. I am, though, a believer in having the stuff you do have simultaneously accessible and out of the way. Shelves, appropriately sized and positioned, are a great way to do just that. Duh.

This is why I don’t write for the IKEA catalog. Anymore. Curse you, Lars…

Lets skip to the end for a moment. Here’s what I built:

The closet in my foyer is a small triangle, the result of doorways being re-positioned in the 50’s or earlier. Its size and shape make it so even a few items on the floor rapidly became a messy pile. It also presented an interesting planning challenge, namely figuring out the angle of the triangle’s apex so the shelf could fit as cleanly as possible into the back.

There’s probably a more technically-adept way of pursuing this, perhaps with calipers, or a degree in mathematics, but all my geometric scratchings just resulted in a worn pencil, so I went back to trial and error. I set the miter saw to what seemed like a good angle and made two cuts:

Then I trooped back and forth between the foyer and the workshop just fitting this one piece of wood into the back corner, and altering the angles needed until it fit ‘squarely’. I think I hit an acceptable fit on the third try – for many reasons, this is not an instance where extra time spent getting it justsoperfect gets you much of an improvement in end-quality.

With the angle noted, it was an easy job to knock out several more cuts using a tape measure and a combination square.

Same thing for the second grouping of boards, just without switching the miter back and forth:

This project was done mostly with two-by scrap for durability (how careful are you with the things you toss into the front hall closet?), because I had it around, and it’s easy to work with and forgiving (assuming you have an accurate enough saw). The rail is an easy cut since we already know the angle; I added a piece of scrap one-by to hold the stack together more cleanly.

The two-by rail could screw directly into the wall (if I knew where the studs were), but I went with a couple of simple legs made of two-by, and a ‘fancier’ leg cut from an old broomstick. Using a paddle bit, I set the leg about a half-inch into the shelf…

Then screwed in cleanly from the top:

Looks pretty, eh? This is why it’s nice to have piles of miscellaneous (sorted) fasteners, so you can find the right size and finish for the job.

Now I only planned on three legs – two two-bys on the long edge, and what turned out to be the broomstick – to maximize access under the shelf. I debated about the placement of the broomstick leg, ultimately deciding on the ‘front’ placement because I expected any unbalanced loads to be towards the front. Maybe this will prove completely wrong; if so, expect a lengthy report on the matter. In all likelihood, it won’t matter a lick – with the partial triangle shape, this is a stable design even though the leg isn’t placed at the center (if it was placed further ‘out’, tipping would be quite possible).

Next week: more projects that take longer to post than to complete.

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You know what’s useful?

These things:


Thanks to them, the new light in the upstairs closet is finally installed, and (since it’s mid-line on a circuit) the light in the laundry room is now back on.

And it only took an hour and a half (although fifteen minutes of that was searching for my wire strippers. Which still haven’t been located. Whatever – bedtime.)

This was the old fixture. Clearly it needed replacing:

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They’re unique, that’s for sure.

After staring at my closet for yet another day thinking how great it’ll be once I install some shelves and move the dresser inside, and get a bar of some kind to hand all my shirts on, I realized that I had all the prep work done and it was just pure procrastination preventing me from (alliterating apparently and) doing at least the first two items.

The custom shelf was pretty easy. It doesn’t have to support much weight, meaning the shelf supports themselves don’t have to support much weight, meaning this half-inch right angle piece I had in the back room would be fine tacked straight into the wall.

[Update 8/14 – should have mentioned all the steps here. First I pre-drilled the support at 4 places along its length; it makes the next several steps much easier, not to mention keeps you from splitting the support and teahcing your neighbors some new curse words. Then I tapped the nails into, but not through the wood – ‘porcupine’ boards also make the work go faster, assuming you didn’t pre-drill holes that are too big. Then: found my height, nailed one nail in part way to the wall, LEVELED the support (this is the sort of step I’d normally space on and have to pull out a nail), tapped in another nail, and then hammered all four nails in using a nail set to finish them off. Nail sets are wonderful, wonderful tools, especially when working with small nails and/or tight spaces.

You can try and measure from the floor to the support on both sides, or just use a piece of wood and the level to quickly find the right height. If you’re a little off for some reason, don’t sweat – these shelves are only 3’1″ wide, so a slight grade won’t even be noticeable.]

You can use whatever one-by wood makes sense for you – scrap is great if you sand or paint, or don’t mind how it looks. This is a bunch of old old tongue and groove that came out of a friend’s house and that I knew would be useful for something. In addition to having some character, it also comes apart in 3″ sections if, for some reason, I needed a little more clearance at the front.

If you’re doing something like this in an old house like mine, make sure to take multiple measurements. For whatever reason this closet tapers slightly. The slats are all cut the same, but the two closest to you in the picture have probably 3/16″ wiggle room, whereas the very back slat is jammed in too tightly (you can see where I accidentally gouged some paint on the right while putting it in). Measuring the way back as well as the couple of runs I measured elsewhere would have prompted me to cut one board a hair shorter.

Doesn’t matter much at all – it works great and looks nice as is. I’m thinking of putting a small rolling shelf underneath this one for my shoes.

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Daily log

I don’t know if this will help or just turn this into a mess of uninteresting posts, but I’m going to try posting daily (or close to it) even if that means only bulleting small things I’ve started or finished. For example:

Over the last three days:
– took down porch screen door
– prepped hinges for new (actually old) screen door to go up
– cut and hung molding for upstairs bathroom door frames (well, the verticals)
– cut old tongue and groove boards and two supports for shelving in my closet
– finished all pipe connections for washing machine

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