Object Guerilla on the Move

I did it. I moved again. A new place to live for the sixth time in six years. But, as moves go, this was an easy one. OG HQ moved just around the corner; the new building literally shares a wall with the old one. With a year in Chicago now, and steady employment wafting over me like a cool, comforting breeze, it was time for a little more space and a bedroom with a door you can close. 

The move coincided with my trip to Rabbit Island, which put a crimp in the whole unpacking-and-organizing dance that generally takes place in each new residence. However, since I had some time and space to plan things, I did have a chance to knock out a bunch of new furniture, and photograph some old furniture that deserved better representation. 

Moving each year is kind of a scorched-earth policy. You must be ruthless with your things, gutting the junk, eviscerating the sentimental, and slashing the useless. The continual shedding of things allows for growth. After years of nomadism and making do with temporary fixes (like milkcrate shelves and plastic cutting boards), I am trying to focus on making things that are still portable, light, and cheap but also are more permanent fixtures. I often moved and made do -- putting my mattress on the floor, for instance -- instead of moving with a precise suite of well-rendered nomadic solutions. After all, the most durable solution is frequently the most sustainable.

Now, I have two kitchen tables, a work table, a bed, and a set of bookshelves that come apart into flat-pack pieces, prepared for the next guerilla campaign. What follows is a photo tour of the new pieces, ready for action. Another post may follow as new things come into use.

The Knock-Down Shelves. 

Crafted from a single sheet of plywood, the Knock-Down Shelves offer 12 running feet of storage held together with 12 bolts. They go up and come down in minutes, flat-packing into five 4' pieces. 

A slightly tapered silhouette and bright yellow enamel on the cut edges make for a handsome, modern take on the bookshelf. They can be made in less that a day with nothing but a circular saw and a drill. They're also crazy sturdy, making a solid stepladder if need be. There is no back, and no diagonal bracing; each shelf is an open-bottomed box, making a rigid, structural member that uses a moment connection to the sides to become a solid unit. This cuts down on the number of pieces, bolts, and assembly complication.

Flush, tight, and solid.

The dark circle is a maple peg that hides the screw head. 

The back of the shelves comes up a little bit to prevent books from being pushed through, and the sides come up to create a built-in bookend.
In our previous apartment, over our work desk, the lady and I had a shelf made with L-brackets and a piece of alley wood. It was ugly, but it worked, holding scanner, speakers, and all sorts of assorted desk debris. For the new spot, I wanted something wall-mounted, floating, with no visible brackets or supports. It also needed more space to fit everything, and more than one level for organization. I popped in a cord-management solution and a picture-hanging wire just for kicks. 

It's made out of lower-grade plywood than the shelves, but with a few rabbets, some sanding, and coat or two of finish it turned out ok.

As a rigid, structural box, the shelf could be pinned straight to studs without any brackets or additional supports.

The picture wire is just a loop; on the other end, I stuck a little allen key in the loop and twisted it until the wire got tight.

We have been fortunate to always have had big kitchens, no matter how small the apartment. This time, though, what we gained in living and bedroom space we lost in the kitchen. There was just enough counter space for the microwave and dish drainer, with no food-prep room. So, I made a standing work table with a built-in cutting board, paper-towel dispenser, and pan storage. The legs come off, courtesy of threaded brass sleeves buried in the top, and the whole thing can be rendered into five flat parts and carted off. 

The top is laminated from old-growth fir and pine that had once been a gym floor in a school on the South Side. My old friends at RX hooked me up with a little discount. The wood is really nice, thick, and tight-grained, with the added benefit of having about eighty years worth of varnish already applied. The old stuff was pretty gnarly, and I had to scrape a lot of it off, but it provided a nice, heavy base coat for what has to be a supremely watertight surface. 

I ripped off the old tongues and grooves to get a tighter set of joints, then filled any chip-outs and defects with clear resin epoxy, sanded and coated with a half-dozen applications of polyurethane. The cutting board is also made of old flooring, and notches neatly into a rubber-lined recess so it doesn't slip-slide around. So far, it's been doing admirably for us.

And so it begins . . .

I added a hardwood edge to glue-up for durability and a nice, clean look.
Ye olde hand plane, always a wrist-crushing joy to use.


Beginning the cutting board recess.

It was a long, brutal process.

I added a piece of plywood for flatness and ultimate dimensional stability.

The rubber is glued down and also trapped in place by small strips of wood that edge the recess.
I had trouble getting a good photograph, as there isn't enough space to back away for a shot that captures the whole thing, but this picture does a reasonable job of showing how it works.


All that pesky bracing . . .

The cutting board has finally found a home.