Still On Vacation, but Returning Soon ...

27 Aug 2007

This is a long post. But, it's mostly pictures ...

Long as this post is, it would be 10x longer if I explained to you what I was doing at an ashram for the past few days. Especially in light of my rather godless attitude that so obnoxiously rears its head on these hallowed virtual pages. So, let's skip that part of the story. I was there to build bookcases (an odd talent for a marketing director / anarchist, but then again consider that I get to use highly dangerous power tools -- maybe that's the allure). Anyway, the locals referred to my task as "karma yoga"; I simply called it "carpentry."

My task was to install built-in bookcases. As is so often the case in life, we start with a blank slate -- tabula rasa, it's called. Or in this case, a recently painted room in a former industrial building dating to the late 19th century. Here's the "before" picture:


Pay attention if you're a homeowner ... These cases are a little time consuming, but are fun to build and add the value of "built ins" to your home. I've built a large set of these before, in my own home. It was easier in my house because we have standard 8-foot ceilings in the library. This meant I didn't have to brace the framing to any walls -- just screwed it into the ceiling and floor and went from there. In this case, though, the ceilings were about 15 feet tall. So, I decided to take them to the top of that stone archway, at about 85" tall. This meant I'd need to anchor the studs to the wall to prevent any imaginable disaster. So, I notched the studs and anchored them (into ungodly thick plaster walls!).


You may also notice in that top picture that the stud also conforms to the moulding already on the wall. Normally, I'd remove such a blocking element with a sawzall or something. But the blue moulding AND baseboard shown above is made of stone! Of course, I didn't know this going in, or I'd have brought along my scribe (also called a profile gauge ). I wound up doing this the more primitive way of holding a pencil and something else in my hand at the same time and tracing the wall, thus transferring the profile of the moulding onto the board -- and then cutting it out with a jigsaw. So, here's early progress framing out the left side ...


Those are 2x3" studs, btw. Saved a few bucks overall by going 2x3 instead of 2x4. Left side nearly framed out:


Next is a little more progress, and showing some of the outer moulding. (Funny story in a moment about the moulding ... See that vertical line in the top-left piece? I'll explain that below ... )


Of course, this all appears perfectly straightforward -- just frame out a 12"-deep area, cover it all in premium pine and moulding, and you're golden ... And it is straightforward in most new-construction scenarios. But, these "this old house" type situations are never easy. The stone moulding was a bit of a surprise, as I said. Also surprising was the fast that the archway itself wasn't centered, as I'd assumed. The left set of bookcases is 48.5" wide, the right set is nearly 52". And these old places are never square ... As in life, you constantly finding yourself compromising between what is there, what is visually pleasing, and what is true/square. That's my zen observation of the day, I guess ... A closer shot so you can see the moulding and decorative medallions better:


Oh, and the bottom ... Those small vertical elements are called plinths. You might notice that the plinths and baseboard are sitting about 1/4" off the floor. That's because it's subfloor currently. They're installing laminate soon, so I raised those elements to allow the laminate slats to slip underneath.


So, here's the left side, finished:


That vertical line on the top left ... Yeah, what happened was I accidentally fucked up that piece of moulding. But, instead of running out and spending another twelve bucks on a new piece, I decided to follow that old sage advice of computer programmers -- i.e., "it's not a bug, it's a feature !" So, I added that vertical line element, and then repeated the "mistake" on the opposite, top-right side of the other set, thus restoring balance, harmony, and karma to all viewers:


Wood shelves can look a little plain in a case like this, so all shelf edges are trimmed with a nice 3/4" moulding strip, stamped with an ivy pattern. (Sorry, didn't make up a close-up of that.) When it was done, it looked like this:


Took about 15 hours total, plus $360 in materials. (I still have to return to do the staining, though.) Tomorrow, I once again have to golf for work. Frankly, I'd rather be building bookcases ...

Original Comments

Below, are the original comments on this post. Additional comments may be made via Facebook, below.

On August 27, 2007, Beenzzz wrote:

Those are awesome shelves! You should be very proud of a job well done. Now, can you come to my house and build some of those? :)

On August 27, 2007, Evil Genius wrote:

If you were a true Zen master you would now blow them up. (With gas of course.) It is the only path to enlightenment!

On August 27, 2007, Reg wrote:

Nice work, PH.

On August 27, 2007, Chris wrote:

Mr. H, that is a spectacular job! I have built custom cabinets, floors, trim you name it, as my father in law built his home 7 years ago and taught me my carpentry skills along the way.

The great news is when he sold said house for a condo last year (retirement), he GAVE me his tools including full set of nailers/compressor, mitre saw, radial saw, table saw, 2 routers, biscuit joiner, etc.

I can TRULY appreciate how hard what you did was. Stone moulding???? wtf?

Excellent work. Color me impressed!

On August 28, 2007, Grant Miller wrote:

Jesus was a carpenter too!

On August 29, 2007, Kevin Wolf wrote:

I would love to have shelves like those in my place. Good work!

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