The Console: Part 1 (The Bad News)

Some projects are effortless. A flurry of ideas swiftly edited into a tight vision, executed on budget, within a succinct time-table. Specifically, as this relates to DIY projects, for this to occur one must realistically acknowledge one's own DIY abilities and limitations. This is the moment where I must hang my head and admit I will most-likely forever fail in this regard.

After the initial walk-through with Allen and Bethany one of the first areas I wanted to address was the space beneath their TV. All of their electronic components were nicely nestled out of the way in the adjacent built in shelving and their flatscreen was mounted. They didn't need a storage unit to house anything, but it felt off balance without a structure below to ground it all.

I checked out Ikea, Target, West Elm and all the other reputable big box stores for an affordable media console. The catch was it had to be inexpensive enough that I could feel good about painting it the cobalt blue we'd settled on. No luck. Good design at a low price is a hard sell. I also obsessively perused Craigslist hoping I'd stumble upon a mid century piece with good bones, the perfect measurements, but in a not-so-nice condition so I wouldn't piss off the wood purists if I painted it. No luck.

Here's where I got ahead of myself. Instead of altering the vision I decided that fate had forced my hand and the only option was for

me

to make the perfect media console for the space. The thing about DIY projects is when you finish one you sort of feel this brazen arrogance about your accomplishment and forget to acknowledge how glaring your inadequacies were made throughout the whole process. I do this

EVERY TIME. I mean, who do I think I am? People spend entire careers perfecting the art of cabinet making. I am not a craftsman. Still, I went for it.

After googling "how to build a media console" I stumbled across a few plans that seemed relatively manageable. The two that most inflated my confidence and highly influenced the design were

this one

and

this one

. I thought, "I have a kreg jig! I can totally do this!" What I didn't have was a saw. So I drew a plan for each of the specific cuts that needed to be made on one 3/4" sheet of 4x8' plywood and hoped some kind soul in the lumber department at Lowes would take pity on me. It's sort of strange to know that because I am young and relatively attractive I receive special treatment at these stores. However, it's also awesome. After a few hours working with the best and most patient employee I left with all the individual pieces necessary to put together the cabinet frame. Walking to my car I thought how eerily similar it was to Dexter starting out with such a sizable sheet of lumber, but leaving with tidy, transportable parts.

The cabinet went together relatively painlessly within a few hours. Then I moved on to the base and things got dicey. Comprised of 1x6s attached to a 1x3 I used the cheapest wood at Lowes (I think they call it "white board") and the results weren't pretty. I don't know if it was because of the lesser quality wood or because the density was different than the plywood, but I could not get the pocket holes/screws to go in the wood correctly. They'd either stick out too far, go in crookedly, and more importantly wouldn't securely connect the boards. Finally, in a fit of frustration I just screwed straight through the ends of the boards leaving visible screw heads on all the corners. Not pretty and it totally split the wood, but the connection was tight and I was banking on wood filler coming to my rescue. The same issue arose when I started on the trim for the frame so I skipped the screws altogether and just used wood glue. Yes, that's tape holding my seams as the glue dries. I still have yet to purchase clamps.

So this is how it sat in my upstairs landing as I vacillated over what to do about the doors. I liked the basic design of the Ana White plan, but I preferred the look of completely closed storage. I went back and forth between what type of doors I should do - inset, partial overlay, full overlay. I was really into the idea of using brass hardware and exposed hinges with the cobalt blue cabinet. I just wasn't in love with the idea of inset doors because it would look a little too colonial or turn of the century. I could still use exposed hinges if I did partial overlay doors, but that seemed sort of 90s. So I landed on full overlay doors as it would be clean and modern even though I'd have to give up the exposed brass hinges for hidden ones.

After that excruciating decision was made I quickly measured the face frame area, divided by three, shaved off a few 1/8" here and there to account for door opening/closing etc. and went back to Lowes to get my doors cut. My haphazard approach to measuring for the doors was a big mistake, but I wouldn't know it for a while.

I decided to go with 1/2" plywood for no good reason other than I couldn't find a lot of info on door thickness online. My kitchen and bathroom cabinets appeared to be around 1/2" thick and generally 3/4" thickness seemed excessive. Unfortunately the hidden hinges I bought were made for 3/4" thick doors so I did have to go back to buy a set of shorter screws later on. When I got home and temporarily placed the doors in front of the cabinet I let out a shriek of happiness because IT WAS PERFECT. In that moment I also sort of understood the wood purists and had a fleeting second thought about painting it because it really was so pretty.

Despite the already referenced mishaps, up to this point the process had been running fairly smoothly. I then entered the painting phase of the project which was so much harder than it should have been. Maybe not hard, just time-consuming/frustrating/boring as it stretched on and on. In the end I did three coats of primer and four of the top coat. But the doors and the base each had to be flipped over every time another coat went on so it was almost like 14 coats! Wake up put a coat on, come home from work flip doors put a coat on, day off put two more coats on, flip doors again, sand, coat, flip, sand, coat, flip...

Then one beautiful day the sun came out, the painting was over, and it was time to attach the doors. But this, this is where all the sad and angry emoji faces belong. I followed the instructions, I measured carefully for my hinge placement, but no matter what I did I could not get the doors to hang correctly. I'd attach one, then the other wouldn't meet it. So I'd reposition one and then, bang, now they'd overlap and hit each other. Over and over, repositioning, more holes in the cabinet, different holes on the doors, so many choice words, and still nothing would work. !*$#!*$!!!!! So I thought, ok, it's because I'm trying to do this by myself. I just need another set of hands. The following day armed with reinforcements (Luke) I tried again. Nope. Same story. It turns out doors require meticulous measurements. I didn't have them. And finally I just had to call it.

I have no pictures of any of this because I was too busy internally raging, then subsequently panicking. Convinced I'd wasted all that time and money and would have nothing to show for it, I kept racking my brain trying to come up with different ways to salvage it. But I was in such a frenzy that no good or reasonable ideas would come. And that brings us up to real time. So this is where I'll leave you hanging on the edge of your seat, fretting, and biting your nails. What will she do??? The good news is I've got a plan, but since it's in the process of being executed it's still unclear whether it will actually work.                                        

Dining Room Table

Well, hello. Did you miss me? I'm still working on figuring out the balance between projects/photographing said projects/blogging ad nauseam about my accomplishments. I've got a few under my belt and a healthy number in the queue so here's to a more steady stream of posts. 

Last year, a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, I determined it necessary to build a large dining room table to host Luke's parents and my brother for Thanksgiving dinner. While the round tulip table we'd been using would have been sufficient (a little crowded, but sufficient) I'd already made up my mind and so it was to be. I had this image of a huge rustic table filled with people and rich conversation and amazing food. It didn't matter that it's just Luke and I, no kids, and I can't cook. A fantasy is not easily overcome.  

Having no previous experience with woodworking or furniture construction I thought it best to start simple and use what so many bloggers and DIY enthusiasts had used before me: plumbing pipes. Turns out, I get the appeal. It's just so freaking easy to create something sturdy and relatively cost effective with plumbing pipes. Once I settled on the material I started sketching out basic structure ideas for the base. This quickly escalated into A Beautiful Mind territory with multiple drawings in various stages of scribbled, scratched-out and started-over scattered everywhere. 

When I finally did land on the design I spent several more days cross-legged in the aisles of both Lowes and Home Depot attempting to ensure the plumbing fixtures would actually work the way I needed them to. It took a couple of weeks for me to accrue the necessary parts and configure the base. By then it was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and I had a gargantuan pipe structure in the middle of my dining room and no top.   

I was really digging the idea of a plank wood table top and after reading this post felt confident enough to swing by Lowes on the way home from work and have five 2x10s cut to size. Sidenote: having a station wagon is the best.

This was a quick job. On the underside I used 1x4s and way too many screws to attach the planks together. No glue. No clamps. No real understanding of wood joinery. It all came together pretty fast and because it was so close to Thanksgiving I chose to simply throw some tablecloths on top to protect the unfinished wood.  

If you're wondering why all of this took place last Thanksgiving and I'm just now blogging about it, I'll tell you. My unfinished table sat in that state for almost an entire year. Oh the shame. I really did have the best intentions and tried to keep it covered with table cloths until I could finish it. Of course, after spills and laundry and general upkeep I lazily gave up on the table cloth idea leaving it naked and exposed to fend for itself. The amount of spilled white wine and coffee rings that poor table endured is innumerable. It also quickly turned into my work bench and was used for many wood cutting, staining and painting projects. Eventually, because I didn't join the wood correctly in the first place, the boards all started to separate and raise and lower over time. In fact, I think the only thing my poor table wasn't exposed to was actual food as we continued to eat in front of the TV despite the large unfinished and ignored structure looming in the other room.   

Shortly after finishing my living room design, I started looking for my next project. And I knew it was time. I had to finish the table. I mustered up some zeal and began the process of removing the table from its base and then the 1x4s connecting the planks. During this step I decided to remove one of the planks altogether. Originally I had chosen to make the table with five planks because odd numbers and stuff. But, I mean, it really was huge.

I then solidified my design blogger status by purchasing a Kreg Jig and used it to make pocket holes to join my planks together. Ah, the Kreg Jig, how you make woodworking accessible. Some wood glue and pocket screws and I had a table top again!

Then it was time to sand. Up to this point I'd been working on the construction in my dining room. There was absolutely no way I would be able to carry the table outside to sand it (it's a beast). It was also cold. So I did what any conscientious wife would do and threw random tarps and sheets over my husband's piano, guitars, and other expensive music-making paraphernalia, then started sanding away. It appears I forgot to take photos of this process, but you get the idea. Early morning before work sanding, late at night after work sanding, all day, everyday, sanding. This went on for sometime and we lived with sawdust in our socks (and our lungs) for over a week. Oh yeah, and all that surface abuse my table had previously undergone was now arrogantly mocking me as I tried to sand out the imperfections. I've since convinced myself that it just adds to the "rustic" charm. 

Once I had the table oh so smooth, all the tarps came down and were moved to the living room floor. I needed an area I could stain the table over the course of several days without the worry of a rogue glass or piece of half-eaten food landing on its unsealed surface. To be safe I started on the bottom of the table and only had a minor panic attack when I realized the first stain I picked was red! My second stain attempt, Golden Oak, was much better (thanks, Erin!). Three coats later and I was ready for poly. 

Unfortunately, this is when I noticed the table had started bowing. Because I'd joined the planks together with the pocket holes and screws I mistakenly assumed I no longer needed the 1x4s. However, it turns out what I did need was more support. I reattached the boards under the table and (success!) I had a flat table again. 

After three coats of polyurethane I moved it back into the dining room and officially called it done.