Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dad50 #7. Bookshelf

One of the most powerful devices you have to get your kids to anticipate and enjoy bedtimes is a piece of technology that is thousands of years old: the book*. Building book reading into bedtime is a fail-safe tactic for superglue-strength Dad-Kid bonding. The magnetic attraction between kids and books has another side effect, the accumulation of cubic yards worth of books. When space becomes limiting, Mom's will often automatically re-prioritize existing shelving, consigning material with overly-manly titles to boxes for you to haul to the attic (ED: you weren't reading them anyway). Once this process has begun, the clock is ticking on an unavoidable conversation. The "It's time to build a bookshelf" conversation (ITTBABC) can have several outcomes, but the "get rid of some books" Option A that 80% of Dad's favor** is typically not one of them. The acceptable quick fix is to get a simple stand-alone bookshelf from a hardware store such as a Home Depot or Lowes. After his very first ITTBABC, and realizing that Option A was that in name only, Dad U went and bought the largest flat-pack bookshelf he could haul home in a small car. It was big (ED: so big it needed to be hooked to the wall to prevent it toppling over if a child climbed it), had more than enough shelving and was guaranteed to solve the problem. Several years and several kids later, the "book magnet" effect became more like a "liquid-cooled super-magnet" effect, and the bookshelf was crammed to bursting. A second ITTBABC occurred. Dad U resolved, with some "encouragement", to build an entire wall worth of bookshelf, and thereby drawing an "overflow = out the door" line in the sand***. My first resolutions were to (a) make it sturdy enough to hold an exceptional number of books; but unlike the opportunity I had in my own room as a kid, (b) not close enough that it could be climbed repetitively and used as a launch pad for diving onto a bed from the height of the ceiling wearing a mask and cape.

A bookshelf project looks like a big job, but if you are only a carpenter in your dreams (ED: Yes, full disclosure!), you have two great options for covering up your mistakes: caulk and paint. Dad U built the monster bookshelf out of 3x2 studs, covered by thin plywood. The front face was surfaced with higher quality pine or poplar, and pine boards were used for the shelving on the sides. It solved all the book storage issues, for at least 1 year. Inevitably, Dad U's books were relegated to the most inconvenient upper left corner. A third ITTBABC has identified the next target site.....

Free tip #1 learned the easy way: If you are organized, take the measurements with you, and act all cool whilst you casually recite them, the big burly guy covered in sawdust may rip the plywood cuts you need in seconds.
Free tip #1 learned the hard way: Use stain-killing primer to prevent bleed through from the plywood. (ED: when are you repainting the bookshelf? It's got these yellow stains...).

*Includes stone tablets and scrolls
**Non-scientific Dad U polling of a highly limited subset of Dad's. OK, it was just a guess, but I'm sure I'd be right.
***Since ignored.

Dad U
-just read it

1 comment:

  1. I love built-ins. My grandfather could build anything, but I think I missed that gene. I had some great built-in shelves in a previous home, and they were wonderful. But I didn't build them. 'Fraid I'm just going to bolt my daughters nursery bookshelves to the wall, and hope I never need to move them. LOL. Have a great evening.