Plans made, power issue solved, pre-laminated OSB nearby, it was time to start prepping for and then building the first part of the hobby room: the storage area.
The first thing I did was do a full four-page printout of my cut overview. I was going to need this for what was coming up next: I had to sort out the mess of panels. Because I had a lot of panels, in a variety of sizes, for all the various parts I’d be building. It actually took me over two full days (well, two or three hours, which is a full day for me) to measure everything. One by one, I measured each panel, then looked up a matching panel on my drawing. Since I’d labelled every panel with a unique identifier, I could use a soft pencil to write that identifier on the panel. I then split the panels into five piles in and around a spare bedroom that wasn’t being used – four piles for the pieces of the four main parts, and a fifth and final pile for leftover pieces. To help me keep the piles apart, I put small labels on the walls nearby with the part number on it.
When I was finally done with all of the sorting prep work, I could… do more prep work! Yeah, some days I felt like I would never actually start putting two pieces of wood together. But here’s something to consider: if you’re disabled like me, and you’re on a tight budget like me, it makes prep work incredibly important. I have a very limited amount of what I can physically do. But I can sit and think about things, and think through what I’m doing or planning, and help make sure that the time I do spend active, I spend efficiently and effectively. Perhaps counter-intuitively, it helps make sure that I can make reasonable progress, and it helps reduce the chance of me making mistakes (and wasting valuable materials). So the next thing I did was make a print of my design. I recommend doing this if you’re doing your own builds. Brains tend to forget things and it helps to have a reference. You can also make notes on the paper as necessary if you run into any issues, you take any measurements, or you make any last-minute changes.
Now, I could finally… finally begin building. For realsies! The first step for me was to get the three vertical panels (two side panels and one center panel) and begin drawing lines. Why lines, you ask? Well… I was going to have to put plank-carrying pins in the vertical panels. If you look at the image above, I used the small black rectangles to indicate where these should go. If you look at the small black rectangles on left side of the image, you might also just be able to see that there I added numbers to the drawing. These numbers indicate the distance from the top of the panel that the center of the carrying pin should be. In other words, if I put a dot there, and drill there with a 5mm drill bit, the 5mm diameter carrying pins wil be at the same height everywhere. But to be able to draw those dots consistently, I needed help lines. So I spent a lot of time… drawing a lot of lines… and drawing a lot of dots. I needed 40 dots for this particular part.
All of the dots are a set distance from the sides of the panels, but it’s worth pointing out that, for the center panel, I spaced them out differently.
Fun bonus fact: I ended up buying the 1-meter ruler you can see on the picture above just to be able to do this properly. I tried to do draw my lines by using my old 30cm ruler and moving it three times, but the result was never as accurate as I’d liked. Buying some tools like long rulers really pays off in the speed and accuracy that you can work at. It cost me about €12, but if I’d made any mistake as a result of not having this ruler, I’d have to spend at least that much on just a single large replacement pre-laminated board, and probably more… you do the math!
Once I was done drawing all of my dots, I started making holes for the carrying pins. I had 40 dots, and so I had 40 holes to drill. I was super-hesitant, as I’d pretty much not touched a drill before, but things went surprisingly well. I did learn three important lessons during this process. The first lesson was to let the machine do the work, and to avoid pushing too hard. The second lesson was to take occasional breaks, because the drill bits can heat up a lot. The third lesson was not to try to save money on the drill bits. Those three lessons were important. If I’d known them before, I could have probably avoided this casualty:
Crazy, right? The entire drill bit ended up completely deformed. It probably wouldn’t have happened if we’d used higher quality parts, I’d let the bit cool off occasionally, and hadn’t tried to push the drill into the wood as much as I had. Learn from my mistakes! After we had the drill bit replaced, I was able to continue working. Luckily I hadn’t damaged the drill itself.
Over a period of a week, I continued to plug in the 40 carrying pins. This was more of a nightmare than you might think. I’d ordered the pins I’d wanted, which were a transparent plastic, with a small metal rod in the center. They weren’t the cheapest, but they were still priced below average… and it showed. Of the 100 or so pins I’d bought, about 90 were poorly machine-cut, with all sorts of plastic bits sticking out every which way. On top of that, almost all of the rods inside the pins were loose and could just… fall out. I considered that a stability issue, and I didn’t want that. So I spent a full evening watching TV, using a sharp knife and a file to cut off all the excess plastic pits, then using superglue to glue all of the rods inside the pins. My hands were raw by the end of it…
When I was done with the pins and started looking at ways to put the panels together, I ran into yet another issue. It wasn’t necessarily a showstopper, but I felt it was important enough to take a break from what I was doing to address it. I was going to shove a lot of planks around on the floor there, and I helped put in that floor myself when my dad first moved in, so aside from not wanting to upset by dad by damaging the floor, there was also an emotional attachment component to me really not wanting to damage that floor by moving heavy furniture around.
I started looking into ways that I could protect the floor, but I wasn’t happy with most of the options I found. You can buy fairly cheap felt furniture pads that come in a variety of sizes, and even in rolls. They have have an adhesive on the back, and you easily attach them underneath furniture to protect both the furniture and the floor from damage while stuff is being moved around. I didn’t want to use the pads, though. They were going to cause an uneven weight distribution, since any part without a pad would suddenly no longer be able to support the weight of the furniture. I looked into the strips with adhesive backing, since if the entire bottom of the furniture had the same strip underneath it, it wouldn’t affect the weight distribution – but the only ones I could find were painfully expensive. It would have cost me well over $50, and I just didn’t have that kind of money to spend on this.
I didn’t know what to do, but then I had an epiphany as I realized that there’s nothing really … special about the felt strips with adhesive backing. It’s just felt. With an adhesive. And I had adhesives! And I was pretty sure I could find some felt that I could cut to the right size. I was already doing so much by hand, why not this as well? So I looked around locally and online. I didn’t have any luck in my area, but I did find a bunch of web stores that were more than willing to sell felt. Unfortunately, most of them only had a single shipping option, and that was as a parcel, with shipping costs between €6 and €10. I wasn’t going to pay that for something that could just be mailed in an envelope. Then I found Dairoosy, a website that sells all sorts of crafting materials – including felt – and had a standard envelope shipping option for people ordering small quantities. I managed to order four A4-size sheets of felt (one more than I’d calculated was necessary, just in case ) and even with shipping ended up paying less than €5 in all. About one-tenth the price that the ready-made option would have cost. It just goes to show that it really pays to look around for alternative options when you’re on a budget!
It also goes to show that not everything that looks simple, is. I should point out at this point that, as with so many of the things during this adventure, I’ve had absolutely no prior experience working with felt. I figured that I could easily cut the felt to length with a cutting knife or a pair of scissors… oh, how wrong I was! Cutting the felt was a certifiable nightmare. I still don’t know how people normally cut this stuff. Maybe I just had really poor tools, or maybe there’s a blood ritual sacrifice involved to do this properly… Knives were a complete and utter failure. Using scissors gave better results, but it was still incredibly difficult to cut straight line through the felt. It’s a really good thing I bought that spare sheet in case I messed something up! In the end, after a lot of trial and even more error, I managed to get enough wobbly strips to cover all of the panels.
I ended up using wood glue to glue these strips of felt to the bottom of my panels. It sounds a little crazy, but I’d tried various different adhesives I had lying around on one of my leftover pieces (see? it pays to sort your pieces!) and wood glue just ended up working incredibly well, bonding very well to the wood (not surprisingly) but also adhering very well to the felt, without hardening out the side of the felt that would be in contact with the floor (which would have been bad). I immediately put the felt on all the pieces that were going to need it, as wood glue dries slowly and I wanted to give everything a full day of drying to make sure everything was bonded super well. It then took me another two days to clean up all my wobbly-cut felt where it stuck out from the edges, which would not have looked very neat – I used a sharp scalpel-like blade for the bulk of the work. And I know that this is a lot of effort, and for someone like me this took a lot of time, but when you’re on a tight budget, you don’t often get to choose the easy road. Still, the end result was worth it, and would help to prevent damage to the floor as well as the expensive and easy option.
With all of those things out of the way, I could finally make some more progress. Rather than going with my initial design of using wood dowels to connect the two bottom panels with the three vertical panels, local super-cheap store Action had crazy-cheap super-strong galvanized steel 4cm brackets, and I decided to use those instead, as they would be more forgiving than the wood dowels would be (which are hard to get the position right for), and probably a lot stronger. I had to pre-drill the holes for the screws, but that wasn’t hard to do. I temporarily put the brackets into place with an ultrathin dual-sided adhesive tape, then put a cheap marker pen through the holes of the bracket to draw tiny circles on the panels to indicate where I would have to pre-drill. I could then remove the brackets, drill all the holes, and finally place the brackets back and screw them into place. The result, for the first time, finally, gave me the first look at what my furniture would look like when finished:
When I took this picture, the two bottom panels were in place and connected to the three vertical panels, but that was all. The entire thing was incredibly wobbly. I ended up putting two of the removable planks on just to keep the entire thing stable until I could get the top panel and hardboard back panel on. The top panel I did with dowels into the three vertical panels. I could have used the metal brackets here as well, but I really wanted to avoid using them as they’d clearly stick out, and it wouldn’t be as pretty. The others I used would be invisible underneath the bottom, so I didn’t care as much about looks there as I did about strength and function. I used nine dowels in total, but as I mentioned, getting the positioning for dowels right is an art all its own, and I made several mistakes along the way (which made me that much happier I went with the metal brackets underneath). Two dowel holes were too much out of what little error margin they had. One of them was in the middle of the middle vertical panel, and I figured that wasn’t all that important as long as the other 8 were in place. For the other mistake, I simply moved about the dowel hole about 5cm, then redid that dowel hole on the bottom of the top panel, and that time everything lined up perfectly, and the top panel went on very easily (although it did take a couple of good smacks of the ol’ fist to push it all into place).
I’d like to say that getting the hardboard back panel on was easy, but I’d be lying. All of this was a learning process, and I made a lot of mistakes a long the way at every step, and the hardboard back panel was no exception. The hardboard back panel for this part consisted of four separate pieces. They wouldn’t overlap, as that would look terrible, but they’d meet snugly in the middle, behind the middle vertical panel. The problem is that that panel, like all the pre-laminated OSB panels I had, was only 18mm thick. Dividing that into two leaves only 9mm, barely. My screws were 5mm and had to go in the middle of that 9mm area, leaving exceptionally little room for error. Rather than try to get all four pieces on one by one, separately, I decided my best best would be to first make one whole again from the four individual pieces.
I went with an improvised solution. I first duct-taped all of the seams at the back of the four pieces (invisibly from the front). Then put supporting duct-tape rows and columns around those. But for the second time in a short period of time, I ended up with duct tape that refused to stay stuck to the material it was used on (the duct tape was good, I checked it on other things to be sure). So then I did something drastic that I wouldn’t normally have done – but I figured the backside of the hardboard back panel would never be visible, so what the heck. I found a very large and very sturdy cardboard box, unfolded it as completely as I could, and glued the entire cardboard box to the back of my four taped-together pieces of hardboard. At this point I’d gotten a tube of adhesive caulking, and I first used that to make a caulking grid, then alternately put dabs of superglue and wood glue in the in-between spots. I had no clue which of these would hold the best, but I didn’t want to take any chances. I then put the unfolded cardboard box on top of my four glued-together pieces of hardboard, and let things harden overnight. Before I left, I put a whole bunch of extra panels on top of it all to make sure everything would be pushed down well and evenly. When I got back the next day, the entire thing was super sturdy. As far as solutions went, this was downright ugly and clearly showed that I had no clue what I was doing. But, then again, I did get there in the end all the same. After that it wasn’t too difficult to get the hardboard into place. I used a couple of leftover pieces and an old book and a newspaper to lift the hardboard to the right position so I could put in the first screws, and after that, my first piece of furniture was almost done.
The only thing I still had to do was make a small hole in the side of the top panel. The storage area will go into the corner near where the socket is, and that wire needs room to go down. I didn’t have a working rotational multi-tool at the time, so I improvised with a large drill bit and the drill. Hey, it rotates too, right? The result wasn’t pretty, but I managed to use a file and some sanding paper to clean up the result. With that done, I could finally put this piece of furniture into place, and put in a few planks. And the result? See for yourself:
Here’s another photo from a slightly different angle:
That was a heck of a lot of work but I couldn’t have been happier. I made this! With my own hands! It’s an incredible feeling. I’ve started referring to it as the Maker’s High.
This was an incredibly lengthy update, but there was a lot of important information I wanted to cover, and lessons I learned that I wanted to get across, so I hope you’ll forgive me. I promise the next update will be shorter, where I’ll detail how I worked on the corner piece. Thanks for your support!