Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Toy Shelves

This is one of the bittersweet moments of woodworking.  My very first project that I ever designed and made was a set of book shelves.  This was over 17 years ago.  Two years ago it was re-purposed to hold toys in the toy room. 
Last year we were at Ikea looking for some things.  I don't remember what we were buying.  I know that many people think that Ikea furniture is cheap and will fall apart over time.  I believe in you get out of something what you pay for it.  So here is my little rant on Ikea.  Yes, a lot of their particle board low end furniture is cheap.  It will last one move and then fall apart.  However they have some really nice things that cost more.  These are not meant to last forever but they will last longer, the quality is better and the look is nicer.  What Ikea does really well is optimize yield of materials, and and standardization.  That being said, Ikea is a great for:
  • Idea generation
  • Non furniture related items
  • One hour of free babysitting 
  • Random items that seem to be expensive everywhere else, like cutting board oil.
I had heard that Ikea does a fantastic job of maximizing board usage and designing to be assembled by the end user.  I am not a real fan of ready to assemble (RTA) furniture because it does not hold up well.   This was the main reason that I got into woodworking. 
 TROFAST Storage box IKEA Fits in TROFAST frames. Can be stacked when completed with a lid.
Now moving on with the story.  We found these buckets that would be perfect to fit a lot of the toys and would look better than the re-purposed book self.  So we purchased a couple of the bins and I said I will get around to making some units to hold the bins.  After 8 months I finally finished them.  I made six in total out of birch ply and maple.  This is where I discovered that Ikea really does maximize their material usage.  Without even trying all the parts fit on 2 sheets of 5'x5' Baltic birch plywood.  The depth of the bins was perfect.  I literally had a 2" waste rip cut and a 4" waste cross cut on both boards.  I could of had less on the cross cut but I wanted to stay at 29" tall.  There are also four different sizes of bins.  All the holders are at 5" centers and there all the bins are equally centered in the unit.  Ikea may have a bad wrap for some cheap furniture but they got so many things right in terms of manufacturing.
This week I cut up the book shelves that started me on this incredible journey.  Hopefully in the next few weeks I will be able to ceremoniously burn the solid wood pieces.  It lasted 17 years and I am surprised it lasted that long.  I really liked brad nails and drywall screws at the time.  The funny thing is that I specifically  remember buying the  fine thread drywall screws when I was tearing the face frame apart.  My son help cut the sides down and throw the pieces away. 
Here are a couple of interesting tidbits about this project that are fun facts.  The height of the units are 29 1/2" tall.  This is the standard height of a desk.  In the near future I will be putting a top on them.  Each of my kids will have a desk when they are ready.  I pre-finished all the parts.  This was a pain to mask off all the grooves and edges but it paid off in the end.  Sanding everything in the flat was a huge benefit even though it took up the entire garage to finish them.  I used plastic barbed dowels in the back rails.  This way I could use my clamps to hold the face frame in place.  And the most interesting parts, at least for me, was this project cost me less than the original book shelves including the bins.  The toy shelves have more storage space.  Here are the key reasons for the cost difference, I buy my lumber at a lumber yard not a big box store, I now know more about yielding material, and I use 1/2" ply instead of 3/4" ply and that saved a lot on weight.

This is what my kids did to the shelves after they were put in the toy room:

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