Monday, May 17, 2010

Move Over, Norm Abram

Recently our garage became the "NEW New Yankee Workshop". 

Awhile ago Tracy and I came across the blog, Knock-Off-Wood.  I'm addicted to this site, I believe.  So is my sister.  So is at least one of my neighbors.  We might have to start a therapy group soon.  Anyway - this lady posts furniture plans for free.  She bases a lot of these plans off furniture found at Pottery Barn and other nice, but out-of-our-budget stores.  I have now got a running list of plans I want to build.  Tracy and I already built a picnic table (see here and here) for her kiddos that looks awesome and was a good jumping off point.  I have been on the lookout for a great set of bookcases/hutches for our family room.  My problem was they needed to be at least 13-15 inches deep for our scrapbooks and I wanted them tall.  Also I wanted storage, so I didn't want scrawny looking ones.  I desperately wanted this bookcase to have doors on the bottom to hide miscellaneous things. 

I was given a budget by Mike which seemed more and more unreasonable as the weeks passed.  Then I found this plan (here and here) on Ana's site and went to Lowe's to price things out.  I was pretty sure Tracy and I could build it and discovered I could do it for a lot less than what Pottery Barn cost.

A few weeks ago I headed to Lowe's.  I'd completely drawn out cutting plans on graph paper for my 4'x8' sheets of plywood.  Our table saw was broken, so I had someone at Lowe's cut all my pieces.  He was so nice and spent at least 45 minutes making all my cuts.  In hindsight, I would probably have him only cut the sheet small enough for me to get home with it, but I'd make most of the cuts myself.  He did great, but some were a little off that I might have noticed on my own without a time constraint. 

I got to work on it on Thursday about 3 weekends ago.  I started the assembly of one of the bases.  Mike came out later that night to help me finish a little bit of it.  Tracy came over on Friday and helped me out all afternoon. 

You'll notice she's wearing safety glasses.  This is an improvement over building her picnic table.  Building that she got through about 75% of her cuts and realized the glasses were on top of her head.  I showed Tracy this jig (a Kreg jig) that drills holes so we could screw the top in from underneath.  Mike and I had used it to build our laundry room and I think this jig is so fun to use; turns out Tracy thought so too.  Now you know what you can get her for Christmas, Rob.  You're welcome. 

You'll notice I'm not wearing any glasses.  This is about the point where I thought, "This is dumb to not wear glasses," as I picked sawdust out of my eyelashes.

Tracy and I worked hard and we got one of the bases framed and the other one trimmed.  I was pretty proud of us!  Thanks mom and dad for watching her kids all day!

Saturday Mike came into the picture and helped out.  You'll notice the jacket.  Our garage door was shut but it was crazy cold the last couple weeks.  Ridiculous.

Anyway - we got the second base trimmed and started working on doors. 

Then things came to a grinding halt.  We could NOT get the right fit for the doors.  Admittedly, our base was not square - it was off by like 1/8 of an inch.  We didn't think this would be that big of a deal, but I guess it is.  Mike saved the day on this and we cut doors to mostly fit and then he trimmed it out in such a way that from the outside the doors look normal.  But, the inside is hideous. 

Then, once that was "fixed" we could not get the right hinges.  While looking at the second set of hinges at Lowe's, there was a lady next to us that was contemplating hinges for the cabinet doors she was building.  I got curious and asked where she got the plans for her project and she said she got them from the same website I was working from!  She is also addicted.  She will be invited to the meetings as well.

We ended up using butterfly hinges because we couldn't get the European hinges to leave a small enough gap.  We have some research to do on that still.

But, this turned into a family affair.  During the hinge installation, Jake came in to help out...

See!  So easy an 8-year-old can build it!

The Sunday of that first weekend Mike and I worked on building the hutches.  My redrawn plans called for a base 36" wide and a hutch 24" wide.  I thought this would give it a nice shape and not just be a big square.  This hutch went together so easily and I was extremely excited to get the hutch on top of the base to see how it looked.  So, we hoisted the hutch up and looked at it.

And I didn't know what to say.  I didn't like it.  It looked ridiculous in shape.  So I called Tracy who came over to give a second opinion and when she saw it she said, "Huh.  Nope.  That's not what I expected it to look like at all."

It was 3:30pm and I asked Mike if we could go to Lowe's to get another sheet of plywood and build a wider hutch.  He just looked at me and reminded me I had no clue what sizes to cut and that it was, in fact, 3:30pm.  So, building the hutch waited for another week.  By the following weekend I had everything sized, I had Lowe's make only two cuts and we did the rest at home (on our new table saw!).  These really went together fairly easily.  I added a backing and we added a permanent shelf to help stabilize (and square) it up.  The following week(s) we waited for rain to stop so I could paint. 

Can I just say - it's hard to paint black.  We have one 60 watt bulb in our garage.  You can't see what you are painting when it's black.  But worse?  Painting black while facing into the sun.  When the garage door was open and we had tons of light - it was too much.  My eyes would adjust to the darkness of the black inside these cabinets and then I'd move my head outside to paint and I'd be blinded and couldn't see anything.  Very frustrating!

But, by Saturday afternoon I was finished painting and we moved pieces into the family room.  Are you ready for the final result?

First I have to say, Maddie also helped in painting.  But, I couldn't get a picture of her painting because I was covered in paint myself and didn't want to ruin my camera.

Okay - now...are you ready?

Please pay no attention to the decorations.  Other than the scrapbooks and family pics, things will be a-changin'!  And someday there will be a fireplace between them.

I really had fun with this project and I'm so proud of myself and everyone that helped out.  Because it took a village to make these things.  And mostly I learned a few things:

1.  I'm not as afraid to use a table saw.  Mike still makes the really big cuts, but I rock on my own on the smaller ones.
2.  Squaring up really does help.  Who-da thunk it.  But I need a lot more practice in this area.
3.  I really don't mind painting (though black is currently not my fave color).  I hate painting, sanding, painting, sanding.  Consequently that process didn't happen.  Mostly I hate sanding if you didn't catch the hints.  I might have skipped that step.
4.  You have to measure a board in more than one place to ensure a correct size.  I thought a measure down the middle meant the whole board equaled that.  Hence the reason for not-square-bases.  Only we didn't realize this until after everything was glued, screwed and set.
5.  Nail guns with brads should be used on trims.  Not two inch exterior screws.  Just makes the finish nicer.
6.  I think 1x2s are kinda cute. 
7.  I love the smell of sawdust.  Seriously weird, but I hold it to similar happiness that fresh-cut-grass provides.

Bonus?  Even on the high end of what my estimate is for what this cost to build (I haven't tallied final numbers, but I have a general idea) this only cost us about 15% of what it would have cost to order from Pottery Barn...and that doesn't include shipping!  (And I'm under budget for what Mike gave me!)

Thanks, Ana, I look forward to building my desk from the same collection.  It's a summer project that will need to happen sooner rather than later.  Mike is eyeing the 24" wide hutch that didn't get used and claims it would work great in his workshop.  It's mine!


Tracy said...

Awesome!!! You guys did great! Build the desk in the summer so Maddie can watch my kids so I can help (and learn) some more! I'll pay her with gratitude and a blizzard :)

Sue H said...

Wow! You girls are the best. I am sooo impressed.

Laura Silvey said...

Hi, I followed you over here from your post on Facebook. Awesome job! Your living room is beautiful!

The Pats said...

Teriffic job!! Are you and your crew going to be taking orders for projects? Cabinets really look great!


Ana White said...

You are awesome! Love the pictures with the drill, and your cabinets are stunning! Nice work!

Alicia said...

I am hoping to make this media center as well, and LOVE yours. I was said that you squared out the hutch. what are the actual measurements, if you don't mind me asking. this will be my first KOW project and i'm a little nervous! thanks so much. and GREAT work! :)