Thursday, March 21, 2013

Paper-leaf branches, two ways





Spring and Easter decorations are very popular here in the mostly grey-weather Netherlands. I saw this idea in a supermarket magazine - they had put the leaves into corkscrew willow branches, which are also very popular here.

I wasn't going to spend a cent on this idea, so I used some recently-pruned linden twigs.
If I'd known I was going to need them , I'd have selected some nicer, branched ones - but they'd all been cut up to fit into the garden bin.

I had some thin wire in the garden shed, (but see the wire idea of the more sophisticated version below) and being a magazine junkie, I had plenty of source material for the leaves. In fact I used pretty sweet wrappers, a cornflakes box, old maps and bits of fashion photos from a junk mail brochure, even the inside of the envelopes the bank uses.. Any colourful printed matter will do. Other than that, you need scissors, glue and wire clippers.


If you find it difficult to work out if something will make a good-looking leaf, cut a leaf shape out of white paper and slide it over the pictures/patterns/print you're considering using. You'll soon get a feel for the colours, patterns and the scale that looks best. Even cinema listings in green and black type on a white background look great - they just show as stripes on the leaf.

 I chose clear cheerful colours and patterns for a Spring look .

Cut squares or strips of paper, double the width or double the length of your leaf , or cut leaf-sized rectangles if you want to have the back and the front different and equally presentable.

Cut the wire into lengths. Twist a longer and shorter length together if you want a four-leaved sprig.   (for three leaves on one side of the twig, and one on the other).
Glue the paper rectangles and sandwich them over the ends of the wire.
With small scissors, cut the leaves out of the rectangles. This method means the back and front of each leaf will be exactly the same size - much easier than cutting leaf shapes out of the paper.
Wind the wire around your twig - above a bud is a secure position.

See if you can stop..my branches got fuller and fuller..it's a lovely relaxing pastime to do on the coffee table whilst watching television. 
And I hope they'll  keep us cheerful as we wait for Spring.


A more sophisticated variation: 

For this look I used baking parchment, newsprint and sheet music for the leaves. For the wire, I wanted something thinner and black - and free. I used the wire in the plastic ties you get with black garbage bags. It's impossible to get the wire out of the plastic, so in a WET metal sink I set fire to the plastic with the gas lighter - not too much at a time, and I'd suggest don't involve children - it's just the sort of semi-dangerous thing they'll try on their own later. It works a treat - leaving the wire black and clean.

Then follow the same principles as above. I thought it looked good against a sunlit window.






















Basic Ikea bed to pull-out bed / Rykene bed to PS 2012 pull-out (sort-of).



The finished product, without mattress(es)  




Closed (single bed) -without mattress(es)



Halfway open

Fully open (double bed)

We bought our Rykene bed second-hand.It was painted grey, had Sultan Lade slats and its headboard had already been sawn off by the previous owners. So basically we just had wooden sides and legs, slats and two 70 X 200cm mattresses. Fine for a tiny spare room.

When the Ikea 2012 PS collection came out, I fell in love with its pull-out bed. The pull-out method is really smooth and clever and better than that of the Hemnes, but also comprises two slatted single beds where the slats of one slide into the gaps between the slats of the other.
I couldn’t justify the cost for the spare room, and to save every centimetre would have had to remove the curving headboard – and we already had the two 70cm mattresses.
This is not a serious attempt to copy the PS 2012 bed (why don’t they name the items in the PS collection?), but more a thrifty tribute to its great retro looks and clever design.

There are things I would do better if I were to make this bed again (they are mentioned in red). Learn from my mistakes and read about the improvements before you cut the wood..  


Essentials and optional extras:

You need 2 extra pieces of wood for the head and end of the pull-out half  - each 72cm long, and 9cm high and about 2,5 cm thick. You want its top to be at the same height as the top of the original head and end boards when it’s resting on the original side and middle supports, and on the Sultan support slats.

You’ll need a  +/-200cm long slim batten to link the slats which get pulled out, and stop them from sagging.  The screws which attach it to the slats need to be countersunk, to stop the mattress snagging on them. I bought a hardwood one with tapered edges.

I bought 2 metal corner brackets to use as stops –to stop the pull-out half of the bed pulling right out.

You’ll need an electric screwdriver (pretty standard kit, I think) lots of screws,– shorter ones to attach the slats to the side supports and long strong ones to screw the sides together. Torx screws are hugely recommended – specially if, like me, you’re not vastly strong. Take care not to let them twist your wrist off when they tighten!  

I used a radial arm saw and a table saw to cut the planks and to cut the left-over planking and legs into new legs. I made extra thick legs for the middle support beam – in retrospect, rather use the original legs/headboard to make these legs – they’re thick enough.  
I set the radial arm saw set at 10 degrees to cut slanted legs, and used a bit of oak and black plasterboard screws for the front of the legs that you see in "front" (which is actually a side) .
You’ll need wood filler for hiding the screw heads and filling holes needed for the original assembly.
I painted the bed with one little sample pot of Le Noir & Blanc extra mat in Long Island Grey. Mat is great – it looks chic, I think,  and the lack of reflection is really forgiving – imperfections disappear.   


Get going: 


Dismantle everything.
Re-attach the slat supports, but line their bottoms up  with the bottom of the side planks (so a little lower than they were).
Cut the top and bottom planks to 72 cm.
Pre-drill, glue and screw on (with 3 screws) the now 72cm bottom and top to one of the sides.At this stage, I found it useful to rest everything on a flat floor. Line up the top edges of tops and bottoms by putting the first slat in position on the slat support batten and the original middle support. Temporarily screw the inner top and bottom to the outer top and bottom. This makes working alone so much easier. Line up the other side plank and attach the inner top and bottom to it in the correct position (between the green lines in the photo below) , again top edges aligned, again 3 screws, pre-drilled and glued.  





So the outside length measurement is 200cm, the inside length for the static side(the side that stays put when you pull out the pull-out side) is +/- 195cm, and the inside length for the pull-out side is +/- 190cm. I thought my 200cm foam mattresses would squash up to fit in, but it was a squash too far, and they kept popping out and in the end I cut 10cm off the mattresses. Re-sewing the mattress covers wasn’t fun, so if your mattresses are 200cm long, I’d recommend cutting the top and bottom planks 2,5 cm longer (74,5cm) and attaching them to the sides so that the inner length is 200cm for the static bed, and +/- 195cm for the pull-out one.   
You can see now that the inner width of the closed [single] bed is 72cm – just a little large for the 70cm mattress. Fully pulled out, the slats overlap +/-4cm, so the double-bed width is 136cm – each mattress can easily squash up 2cm in width- in fact the tension keeps the bed nice and stable.  

Now you can also screw/glue the original middle slat support beam to the static bed top and bottom planks so that it sits right next to the slat support batten of the pull-out half when the bed’s in this fully-closed position. The top of this middle support beam should be level with the top of the side slat support battens. I found that this meant that its lower edge was fractionally lower than the lower edge of the top and bottom planks.

Re-attach the original middle foot to the middle slat support. This leg determines the height of all the new legs.
Attach 2 new extra legs to the middle slat support about 10cm from each end. Screw/glue from the top, through support slat. 

Attach the new side legs made from the old legs by gluing and screwing through the top of the slat support battens, lining the legs up flush with the sides.
I did the side legs (the ones you don’t see) differently – I made then from left over sides and attached them to the insides of the side, to save even more space in the room – this way the legs don’t butt up against the skirting boards. I wouldn’t do this again – the differences in thickness of the legs on my bed look a bit silly. If you have the Rykene headboard, you’ll have plenty of potential leg wood.

With everything still temporarily screwed together lay down the slats (removing the ribbon and staples was a tedious part of this otherwise fun job – perhaps it’s not utterly necessary to remove them, but it is neater). Depending on the length of your bed(s), you may have to play with the spacing or cut the last slat narrower. Don’t fit them snugly. I did and had to re-do them. Use something –those plastic criss-cross tile spacers or  cocktail toothpicks – something you have lots of and which give appropriate spacing, and put them between the slats at BOTH ENDS. Cocktail toothpicks are the minimum spacing. Otherwise you’ll be cursing and struggling when you pull the beds apart. Those Sultan Lade slats are not perfectly regular, so you have to make allowances. Screw the slats down with one screw each, into the appropriate side support batten (alternating left and right).

Place the slim long tapered edge batten along the edge of the slats on the pull-out side.  Mark the middle of each pull-out slat on the batten, Pre-drill holes for the screws and use a countersink attachment make space for the screw heads.

To stop the pull-out half of the bed pulling right out, attach the metal corner brackets to the insides of the pull-out bottom and top. Saw a space, the width of the metal, in the middle support.  The metal slips into this cut in the middle support beam, and then cannot pull any further. You may have to cut a little space in the slat support batten of the static bed too, so that the metal bracket doesn’t stop the beds from sliding fully together.
Fully pulled out, showing the overlap of the slats and  the top edges


in the closed position, showing top of wall-side leg


If you are buying the extra head & bottom planks, you might consider approximating the neater system the PS bed uses: buy two thinner planks, cutting one in half lengthways, so that when you attach them together you leave a long groove in the middle of the outer side. You can then put a peg (use the wooden plugs) into each inner side of the original head / bottom planks, which slides in the groove and the beds slide out. Block the groove at the correct (fully pulled out) position. This will stop the pull-out half of the bed pulling right out, and stop it from lifting.


Fill up the screw heads and any old holes with wood filler. 


Sand and paint the bits that show. (Remember matt paint forgives.) I left the middle leg of the middle support beam unpainted, so that it doesn’t stand out.  Screw on your choice of decorative leg front.


We tested this bed in its double-bed state before releasing it onto guests. By testing I mean we slept in it… All was well – it is no more or less solid or comfortable than the original Rykene bed.  I do think with both mattresses on the single bed it’s much too soft and bouncy to sleep on, but that depends on your mattresses and preferences. It looks neat and works well in our tiny spare rooms.
pulling out...


Hope you enjoy making it, too. Do ask if confused.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Ikea Expedit drawers

Of course Ikea does sell neat drawer sets to fit the Expedit blocks. But compared to the bargain that Expedit is, they’re pretty expensive – and the sliding mechanism and surround also take up a relatively large amount of space -  leaving one with a pretty puny drawer.
Given the maximum size that a drawer in an Expedit block can be, it’s unlikely to have to be mega strong. These MDF drawers which run smoothly and snugly on felt pads provide maximum storage and are plenty sturdy enough – we store shoe cleaning supplies in one, and vacuum cleaner / dustpan stuff in the other.
Here’s what the finished drawers look like (the ones on the right, duh) next to the Ikea ones:
The completed drawers (right) with Ikea drawers (left). 
  
Interested? Read on for the simple directions:
I used 8mm thick MDF (that’s fiberboard, supawood or medium depending where you live). A small wood supplier / hardware shop who will cut to size for you is ideal for this, as you generally don’t have to buy a whole 244 X122cm sheet of wood from them.
The top drawer sits on an inverted U-shaped support which the bottom drawer fits inside. For this support frame – which needs to fit snugly in the Expedit block, I used 5mm thick offcuts which I happened to have lying about. This means that the width measurement of the bottom drawer is 10mm less (5mm + 5mm) than the top drawer. With thicker or thinner wood, or indeed thicker or thinner felt, the measurements should be adjusted.
Here’s a picture showing the support frame in place, so you get an idea of what I’m talking about : (Photo 2)
Photo 2 - showing U-support, felts (Drawers stacked sideways on above)

The height of the gap for top drawer (measured from the top of the U-support- see the bright green line on the photo 2) should be half of the height of the Expedit cavity (so 16,75cm - see), and the support should not reach all the way to the front. This is so that the drawer fronts (which fill the whole space) will fit in. You don’t have to be too neurotic about the height measurements because the drawer fronts can be positioned a little further up or down on the drawer carcasses to allow for any [small] discrepancies in the height allowance for the top vs the bottom drawer.
So for the U-support in 5mm wood, the measurements I used were :
16,2 X 33,4 cm (X2) for the sides and 33,4 X 33,4 for the top
I glued the U-support together. I wanted it to be secured in the Expedit, so it doesn’t slip around when you pull the drawers. But I wanted it to be removable, too – so I stuck a strip of masking tape to sides of the Expedit, and glued the support to the masking tape. So far so secure. I guess flat double-sided tape would work, too.
For the drawers themselves, you need (all measurements in centimeters, all wood 8mm MDF) :
31,5 X 14 cm  for the back of the BOTTOM drawer
32,5 X 14 cm for the back of the TOP drawer
31,5 X 37,8 cm for the base of the BOTTOM drawer
32,5 X 37,8 cm for the base of the TOP drawer
37 X 14 cm (X4) for the sides of the drawers
33,3 X 16,5 (X2) for the drawer fronts

Glue, clamp, staple, nail everything together.  The sides sit ON the bottoms. Attach the drawer fronts last after trying out the carcasses in the U support, with the felts attached – this way you can position the fronts exactly in the cavity, and adjust their positions relative to the carcasses.
You can see from Photo 2 how the felts work – I used about 4mm thick sticky-backed felt that you get either in a sheet you can cut to size, or in circles or squares, that you peel off the backing. On the bottom and sides of the cavities the drawers fit into, you stick felt pieces close to the front.  On the carcass of the drawers themselves, you stick the felt pieces at the back end. You must stick the felts on the drawers at a different level to the felt pieces on the cavity, so that when the drawers slide, the felt pieces do not collide, but slide past each other. They are positioned like this so that both the felts on the cavity and the felts on the carcass are in always contact with a surface, even when the drawers are pulled far out.  I find they work perfectly well for drawers that are not in constant use (like in kitchen when you’d want them to slide back on their own).
Being a lazy sod, I didn’t paint the drawers, but stuck easy-wipe plastic sheeting in the insides. I screwed (with tiny screws) label pulls on the fronts.
See how much these drawers hold than the Ikea drawers – though perhaps it is comparing apples to oranges / onions to shoe cleaning supplies..


  

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Oak chest of drawers - old and tired to retro office

This is a smallish oak chest of drawers I bought via Marktplaats (Equivalent to Ebay in the UK or Craigslist in the US). I really like it now, but was a little sickened at paying EUR 90 for it when I bought it. I want a course in dealing with the very personal business of looking at someone's furniture in their home, just you and them, and then being unable, I feel, to insult them with a low offer.
It looked like the kind of cheap dark-varnished oak furniture cleared out from old relative's homes.
But it did have a lot of handy, bigger than A4-size drawers for filing all our paperwork that clogs up the dining room table (also the fruitbowl - that's my beloved's bad habit - freaks me out).

So I set to one sunny afternoon in the front garden, sanding the whole thing. Very zippy little Bosch blue sander - almost too powerful for my hand - and difficult to press the off button, but works a treat.
Blond oak emerged. Occasionally the wood under the oak veneer (sides and top, but drawer fronts are solid) emerged. Be careful with cheap stuff that is probably veneered!



I wanted handes with labels I could write on . Eight drawers, one can't be expected to remember what's where. I still love the Ikea handle on the 3rd drawer. Only have one left, don't remember the name, and Ikea doesn't sell them any more. The other two were the best option I could find at the hardware warehouses (Hornbach this time). The labels are temporaily stuck on with blu-tack / plasti-tak / poster buddies (depending on where you are in the world). I use it a lot for DIY - for getting an idea of placement / holding things in place while I drill / screw.
Then, serendipity: I got it into my head that the sandpaper pads for the Bosch we'd bought at a smaller specialist hardware shop (Enorm Veentstra), were the wrong size. I was wrong - I'd forgotten that they just stick on with velcro - they aren't meant to be large enough to clip around the ends of the sanding foot. But Veenstra had the handles I chose in the end. Actually they had the same handles I'd already chosen - but cheaper. So ever thrifty ( I was going to take back the pricier ones) ,  I was selecting them from the back of their cupboard, when I spotted the leftovers of old ranges.

Of course they only had seven - but they had labels in the same range without the pull, so one drawer- the top one has no pull, but it's easy enough to pull it open from the sides of the drawer front. I suppose this proves that I favour looks over convenience.
To mark (and pre-drill) the holes for the screws to hold the handles, make a template with a bit of cardboard. A stiffish flyer delivered that morning worked for me. Use a handle stuck onto the cardboard, and if, like here, there are old holes from central handles, use them as a guide, too. One of the old hanfdle holes turned out to be off-centre - use your eyes and common sense, too!

Because this stands in our sitting room, I didn't want it to look too office-y, so the labels are written or typed in smallish font but repeated over and over, to create a graphic blur rather than an obvious label.

Aren't the tulips beautiful? At this time of year in North Holland, the tulips cultivated for bulbs  are mechanically beheaded- great swathes of colour reduced to stubble.. but there're always a few that are slow growers and escape. These are sold at the roadside sometimes, and these were some of those.