Right Angles are Our Friends
Thanks for doing this with me, Dad!
You might recall I posted some months ago about my comic-book collection and its steadily oozing expansion that threatens to consume a whole room in my home. As discussed then, I found some videos on the Interwebs from people that have built themselves some customized storage units and set out on a similar undertaking.
I drew up some "plans," which is a generous term; they were adequate, but not especially organized. I sought out the materials I would need. Then I left it alone for a while while other things came and went.
But last month I drove down to see my dad in Palm Springs, Home Depot gift cards in hand, thinking it would be fun to do this project with him and a good excuse to visit for a couple weeks. Which it was. Dad and I built four cabinets with three drawers each to house roughly 2,500-3,000 comics in total.
It was a learning experience as well as a good time; I've done a fair amount of tinkering and improvising things in my day, but never a start-from-scratch building project like this. We made some mistakes.
First off, we bought wood that did not match my plans' specifications — I planned for half-inch thick boards, but I got wood planks that were slightly less than half an inch thick and did not make any corresponding adjustment to my specs. Thus, we made drawers that were ever-so-slightly narrower than spec and drawer housings that were not uniformly wide. So a number of them had to be "MacGyvered" to work properly by shimming the rails with whatever was handy (metal washers, wood scraps, cardboard).
Almost half an inch isn't actually half an inch. Multiplied enough and you need a quarter-inch of shim.
More annoyingly, I didn't think through a proper way to attach the front panels of the drawers. They were intended to overlay and extend beyond the face of the drawers by a half-inch on all sides, but every attempt to attach them was off-center and/or crooked. In order to get them all to fit, we ended up trimming a number of them rather than continue to try over and over to reposition them properly.
Also, though we had a fantastic table saw for the smaller pieces, we didn't have a good way to cut down the larger ones. We improvised something that seemed to work adequately, but then in the process of assembly realized that many of the pieces we cut were not cut straight; the bottom edge would end up being shorter than the top edge, that sort of thing. Not by a lot, and in and of themselves, the pieces worked fine, but in the overall assembly, there were enough weird angles and slight slants to things to cause frustrations and some funky weirdness to the finished product.
In the end, they are completely functional and, I think, more than adequately appealing. But as my dad said while trimming one of the crooked drawer fronts to make it fit alongside the two others in the unit, "at least when anyone looks closely at these they'll know they were home-made."
I'll eventually paint or stain them, but that's something for another day; I don't plan on staying in my current abode all that much longer, so that'll wait until I know what my new place will look like. Plus, I still have a ton of overflow; I'll want to build more of these then, too. With more attention to measurements and right angles.
Of course, now I have an elegant solution for how to position the front panels to attach them properly.
Maybe I'll find it worth the hassle to remove and reattach them later.
The sides of this drawer are cut at a not-quite-right angle, making the front attach with a bit of a warp.
Far, far better than the endless sprawl of cardboard boxes I was previously dealing with, but even when thinned out—the cardboard boxes on top plus a couple out of frame are slated for eBay—I still have 2½ cardboard longboxes and 4 shortboxes (center) full of comics and I can't seem to keep from buying more every month. More building to come!
I started collecting comics when I was around ten years old. I organized them, tried to keep them in shape, and struggled to find a way to pile them on shelves that didn't warp them or leave them vulnerable to fading and discoloring or random cat frenzies knocking them over and denting them. Eventually, I learned about the existence of longboxes and bought one, but that soon was outgrown and I improvised other boxes that became ugly and unwieldy.
A couple years later my mom was having our kitchen remodeled, so there were carpenters and other workmen in the house a lot, and one day Mom asked them if they could build some kind of cabinet for my mass of comics. (She did this without any prompting from me, too, which is the sort of thing I try to remember about her rather than the ugly alcoholic stuff that came much later.) So they did, and it was OK, but not really ideal -- just kind of a deep shelf unit turned on its end -- and after a time I maxed it out anyway, so one day Mom again said, "why don't we have them make a better one," and I sketched out what would be better. And by the time we moved into a new house not too long after that, I had a pair of long wooden drawer cabinet things that doubled as furniture and storage.
Those things are great, and I still have them today. They held most of my collection for years, with only a couple of longboxes supplementing, but as needed I would get another box and tuck it away somewhere.
My overflow now exceeds what fits in the cabinets.
Now, though, things are out of control again. I occasionally put some comics on eBay and try to thin the mass some, but the incoming stuff always outnumbers the outflow of eBay dumps (and really, I should just put a lot of the chaff in some bundles and sell it for pennies if I really want to make space), and my library room is in a constant state of disarray. I've cleaned it up some of late and tried to organize, but the conclusion is that, since I can't seem to muster up the will to sell off half my collection, I need more of what my mom suggested for me during her kitchen remodel.
But I'm a grown-ass man now (allegedly; I mean, this is about thousands of comic books) and I don't need to hire contractors to build things, I can do it myself. So I will.
I used The Google and determined that, as expected, my mom was not the only person to conceive of such things and others have built similar units and documented them. One fellow even recorded some of his construction work at the time as well as the finished product. I'm going to come up with something that is a kind of cross between what my mom had made from my teenage sketches and what this "cougarcomics" fellow has done.
I'm putting this up here mostly as a reminder to myself and as a public declaration of intent so I won't blow it off; I don't know when I'll get to it, in some ways I think I should start right away because I have time and I tend to have less work in the winter than the rest of the year. On the other hand, sometime in the next year or so (?) I intend on moving, and do I want to move even more heavy wood furniture than I already have? Maybe better to wait until I'm in a new place. But, who knows, it might take longer to find a place to move to, and in the meantime the problem continues, and when I do move, I'll have a lot of stuff still in these crappy cardboard boxes that could get dropped or dented or whathaveyou. So ... probably ought to do it sooner.