Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mommy's new hobby

It's amazing to me that I can blog on a road trip but then not again for an entire summer. I apologize for being so off and on!

You probably know that the Johnston family moved once again. We decided this very last minute just before our big road trip. An apartment came along that was much more accessible for Joseph and much lower rent than where we were living. When we got back to New Jersey we had two weeks before moving help came and another three weeks after that to clear out of the old place. The long, protracted move was not fun and we are still unpacking. Part of my hesitation in blogging is that every time I think to snap a picture I'm embarrassed by the total chaos that will appear throughout the background.

And after all this time, this post isn't even about the kids it's about me, me me! I've had a few requests for this post and I finally had time to put it together.

Last spring I stumbled across a really fantastic blog called Knock-Off Wood. The blog author, Ana White, is a stay-at-home-mom in Alaska who helped her husband build their own house. In her spare time she started tinkering with tools and scrap lumber and discovered a talent for building furniture. Less than a year ago she started posting her furniture plans on a blog and now she's got 20,000 fans and counting. Ana has a real knack for easy-to-follow plans and fostering a supportive community so that people like me who had almost never touched a power tool suddenly want to refurnish their homes with hand built furniture.

I really wanted to get in on the fun and was thrilled to receive this bad boy for my birthday in May:

Beginning woodworkers can get lumber cut for little or no cost anywhere that sells lumber but I figured I'd want my own saw. With that and Eric's drill I dove into my first project just before we moved into the new apartment.

We'd been housing our books for the last several years in a mismatched selection of bookcases from Ikea and office-supply stores. After several moves they were in rough shape and trying to place them around a home in an aesthetically pleasing way was getting difficult. Our new apartment also has 10-foot ceilings and limited storage. So I had the bright idea to build an entire wall of bookshelves reaching all the way to the ceiling. And it actually worked:

I'm impressed at the sheer size of my first building project, though shelves aren't that difficult. I modified this plan of Ana White's but changed the dimensions considerably. Because of a mathematical error (on my part) I had to build the shelves in two sections so that the top two shelves are a separate unit. This turned out to be fortunate as I would not have been able to handle the building of the units all in one piece. I also left off the back panel and added lips to the back of a couple of shelves. All the pieces are screwed directly into the studs so that we won't have any of these sorts of accidents again.

These shelves really make the room and they are the first thing you see when you come into our house. Here's Margaret welcoming you:

This last week I finished two more (much smaller) projects. When we moved we realized the kids really needed a bigger dresser so we passed mine on to them. That left Eric and I with one small dresser to share. A bigger dresser wouldn't fit in our room, anyway, but neither did our clothes fit anywhere. The closet is long and narrow and had space for something. I wasn't sure about tackling a full-fledged dresser so I built this set of cubbies:

The bins hold some of Eric's things and will also hold baby clothes before long. The bottom cubbies are for shoes. A simple, functional piece I was able to build from real wood for way less than the particle-board versions are selling at the stores.

My third project was a side table. We use the front room where the bookshelves are during the day because it's a nice room with great light. It's the coolest room in the house in the summer and in addition to housing most of our books it also contains the piano, the kids' toys, and Joseph's school desk. We set up the old family roll top for him which is working really well. My rocking chair is near the desk and I use that rocking chair a lot when I'm pregnant and caring for a newborn. Once school started I realized I'd have to quit using Joseph's desk as my side table and get something else.

It just so happened that right across the room was an actual side table that would perfectly suit the space and my needs. It had been unceremoniously dumped next to the futon the day we moved in. When school started here a couple of weeks ago, Margaret announced that the table would be her desk. This is cute and all but I wasn't wild about her storing her crayon collection and precious notebooks right at William's height and, besides, I wanted my side table back. I offered to build Margaret all sorts of cool desks and she steadfastly refused to use anything but this side table.

I'm adaptable so I decided to build this nightstand for myself. After two sets of simple shelves I felt ready for something more challenging. I thought that the drawer, in particular, would be a learning experience on this piece. Here is my version, drying in the kitchen:

I'm really happy with how this turned out. I see a million mistakes in it but I did learn a lot and had fun building it. The drawer is a good fit and actually works! Amazing!

Of course, once this was finished Margaret realized that a school desk with a drawer would really be just the thing for her. I acquiesced and moved the side table next to my chair:

And let her take over the nightstand for her school things:

Everyone is happy.

I am really enjoying working with wood and have a few other projects up my sleeve. It is, honestly, not the most kid-friendly hobby. But Eric is supportive and entertains the kids on the weekends for me and otherwise I pop outside during naps to make a few cuts or do some sanding. The huge shelves were all done before we moved in while Uncle Ben was here to help with the kids.

So, enough from me! I hope to blog more about the kids before long.


PDunn said...

That's impressive!

Heidi said...

Please come to our house and build some bookshelves for us!! Cool projects and thanks for posting.

Emily said...

Awesome!!! Way to go Susan! I am impressed but not at all surprised that you have yet another hidden talent :) Love the bookshelves - Andrew will be so jealous. You really should come visit this can help us re-do the back room!!

Christopher Hagen said...

My esteem for you just sky rocketed. Awesome.

Robyn said...

Who are these people reading your blog?!! I know Emily (I think)...but look at this following!

oh. AND...I'm sooo impressed by your building. I have NO idea how you do that. NONE. Amazing!

ginger said...

I am totally impressed!

melanie said...

That is so cool! Your projects look great.

It's been a while since I've been on here and the kids look so big! Congrats on a great life. =)