Dis-carded

The studio is teetering on the brink of being finished. It is almost, but not quite, there. So, today I am going to show you something I have been dying to share for months, and although it nearly killed me not to show you before now, I have been patient and waited for this particular moment. It has been almost-finished since November, but needed my studio to be ready to be finally done. And done it is.

Way back in September last year, I was wandering through a consignment store and my eyes landed on this:

It was a card index, and I HAD to have it

Those of us who have been around since the olden days (as my teenage children like to point out) will immediately know what this is. For all those digital-age kids it is a card index. Before computers kept all our stuff sorted for us, information was written (yes, by hand!) or typed (with a typewriter!) on cards, which were organized into a system and filed in a card index like this one.

Back before google, you would use this to look things up. Libraries used them so you could find where certain books were, or books by a particular author, or on a particular subject. I think mine must have been in a school:

There must be 1 000 000s of these around the place, discarded card indexes, clogging up landfill, lurking in storage. Rendered obsolete by the smart phone, the computer and the internet.

I was so excited to see this one in the consignment store, and I had to have it. I knew exactly what I wanted it for.

Although, at the time, we were still trying to find our own place, and setting up my studio seemed like a far-off dream, I knew this would make perfect studio storage for me.

Besides, how could you resist all those drawers? There is something magical about multiple compartments. I get the same buzz from them that I get in hardware stores, or art supply shops or stationary stores. All that potential creativity and making neatly laid out, organized and begging to be be used. What a rush.

With this card index I could have my own art supply, hardware and stationary store all in one. The drawers were long and shallow, perfect for pencils and brushes and screwdrivers and chalk pastels and paint tubes, all ready to hand, ready for making. Happy sigh.

There was one slight problem. To organize the cards and keep them in order, each of the drawers had this metal contraption in it:

Clearly these had to go. I got my screwdriver out, and set to work removing them. All 60 of them.

removing insert

This left me with a long narrow hole in the bottom of each drawer. And a hole in the front. I’ll come back to the the latter hole later. But what to do with this big hole, the one right in the middle of each drawer? The drawers were not much use as they were.

Now what was I going to do about that hole?

How to cover that hole was something of a dilemma. Anything too thick was going to impose on the already limited height of the drawer. Besides I didn’t fancy cutting 60 drawer bottoms out of ply. Thick box card would be an issue if I was storing paint or pens leaked, with moisture damage. What to do. What to do.

I was wandering the aisles of the hardware store (as you do) when I came across rolls of aluminium flashing. You use it as a weather barrier when you install windows. It is easy to cut with tin snips, strong enough to support the weight of whatever I put in the drawers, and waterproof. P-e-r-f-e-c-t.

I set to work with my trusty snips and some time later had 60 drawer bottoms.

Bottoms all ready to go

I tried one for size to make sure it would work. And it did!

Yay! That is going to work!

Before I installed the bottoms, I needed to refinish the wood on the drawers and the cabinet itself. It was in pretty bad shape, and had obviously been exposed to moisture at some point.

The existing finish was pretty bad, and needed remediation

With 60 drawers to contend with, refinishing this cabinet was not for the faint-hearted. The first job was to sand them all back. Every single last one of them. But before I could do that I had to remove all those handles.

It is way easier to sand drawers without their hardware, even when it means you have 60 handles to remove.

Sometime later I was all done, and the drawers were ready to sand.

I set to work with my trusty detail sander.

60 x Sanding the drawers

Eventually they were all sanded:

Sanding done

After the drawers were sanded, it was time to get to work on the cabinet itself. It wasn’t in particularly bad shape, just not in very good shape either. Nothing that a bit of clamping, gluing and sanding wouldn’t fix.

Due to all the dust from the sanding, I decided to do this on our front porch, rather than in the garage.

Then Treadwell came along to help out:

Treaddy helps out

And eventually the cabinet and drawers were ready for finishing.

To paint, or not to paint that was the question? Anyone who has read more than one of my posts knows that one of my mantras is: it is amazing what a coat of paint can do. But this time I decided I was going to leave things as they were. There was a groovy Danish modern vibe about the blond wood of this card index, one I wanted to keep.

Besides, I remember they had a bank of them exactly like this one in our local library. Mum used to take us most Saturdays to change our books over. I can still remember the first time a librarian showed me how to look books up in them. It was for a school project. I remember the sheer magic delight of knowing how to find out anything I wanted, all by myself.

Something we take utterly for granted these days.

I decided to simply varnish them. Partly to keep working the Danish mid-century thing the cabinet had going, and partly in homage to those card indexes of my childhood.

I chose to use a water-based polyurethane finish. Water-based because I cant cope with the fumes of oil-based finishes, even with a fume respirator on. And polyurethane because I wanted it to be able to deal with anything that might get thrown at it in its final location in my studio.

I set to work putting two coats on the drawers and cabinet.

Varnish in progress

After the drawers were dry, I had one more thing to do before I put it all back together again.

The metal contraption originally inside the drawers was held in place by screws, but also by a long metal rod that threaded the length of the drawer, and then emerged from the front. Removing them left a hole in the front of each drawer.

You can see the rods on the left of the metal contraption heap in the image below.

My choice was to either leave the holes as holes. Ugh. Or fill them in, double ugh. Or do what my beloved suggested: cut the knobby ends off the rods, drill them, and then tap them so the holes were threaded, which would enable them to be attached as if they were regular handles. Umm, thanks for that sweetheart … I think. Sounds easy when you say it.

It actually wasn’t that hard, just repetitive, like everything else on this upcycle. Doing anything 60 times over is enough to drive you nuts.

I set to work with my dremel and chopped the ends off.

Chopped off and ready for drilling

Then I made up a jig, so I could hold them still and straight for drilling. This was simply a scrap piece of wood with holes in.

Jig for the knobs, flip it over, then drill.

Drilling in progress

After all the holes were drilled, I set to work tapping them to give them a thread.

Threading the holes

Then it was a simple matter of installing them into the existing holes, using bolts and washers.

installing the knobs

Knobs on, now for the handles

It looked so great with them on, what a fantastic idea from the beloved. After this I got to work and reattached all of the handles.

replacing the handles

I inserted the drawer bases I had cut earlier.

And finally the drawers were ready to be re-united with the cabinet. And then it was finished. Except it wasn’t, not really.

It wouldn’t be really finished until it was in my studio, with my stuff each and every one of those drawers, each neatly labeled.

The months passed, and we finally found our lovely house and moved in. And 3 weeks ago I started working on remodeling the garage into my studio. Finally I did what I had been longing to do, and I got to put my stuff in those drawers.

And for those of you who wondered if I could possibly find enough things for every single drawer, the answer is yes. Yes I did.

Yesterday each drawer was full, and I was ready to label. I sat down and made a list of what each drawer contained, set up a template in photoshop, then created my labels using courier, which is a suitably typewriter-y looking font. I printed and then cut them out, using my nifty paper slicer thingy.

Cutting the labels

And then slid them into the slots.

Finally, my card index upcycle was complete! Before I show you the details, here is reminder of what it looked like before:

Card index before

And here it is now, fabulous studio storage:

I love my new studio drawers. I can’t wait to start taking things out of them and using them. They look cool and I love how they have gone from being something run down that no longer had a use, to something that is so useful for me.

No more digging through a tool box to find a regular screwdriver amongst all the Philips head ones. No more trying to find a spool of thread in the tangle in my thread box.

Next up will be finishing the studio off, and then, finally then I can start making some art. And that will feel best of all.

6 responses to “Dis-carded

  1. Sweet.
    I love the way you spell color wrong!!

  2. That is SO cool!!! Big job, but worth it.

  3. Pingback: Studio a gogo | Quirk Street

  4. Pingback: Full Metal Jacket | Quirk Street

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