Lucy and Ethel Build Shelves


Bit by bit, the Great Study Remodel of 2010 is approaching conclusion.

In February, I dragged everything out of the study. I patched the walls and ceiling. I primed. I painted. I whined.

All that stuff I dragged out? It’s been sitting in the upstairs hallway plotting ways to do damage to my body as I tunneled my way to the master bedroom. It’s been sitting there devising diabolical plans lo these many weeks.

Amongst the flotsam and jetsam was the world’s ugliest dresser used to store sundry computer crap dating back to the early 90s, various plastic containers housing yet more junk, boxes of old college papers and unfinished short stories, and my son’s taekwondo stuff. There are boxes of cards sent to me, boxes of old photographs, and a box of all my reading glasses from the olden days when I used to coordinate such to my wardrobe. (Alas, they are now all too weak to correct my eyesight.)

And books. Lots of books. Feet and feet of books. Some of the books were shelved on the world’s ugliest bookcase.

After I dragged all the crap out and put it in the hallway thinking this would be a quick project, I began painting. After finishing the painting, I was stunned by what an attractive room it was. A room that didn’t need to be cluttered up. A room needing to be somewhat spare, yet housing all my treasures.

I vowed (yes, I did) that 90% of the crap I hauled out was not going back in there. In fact, all that crap was going to a landfill.

And functional. I want the room to be a correctly appointed room for me to do Something Worthwhile.

[That’s a tricky thought. The past couple of years the study mostly served as the place where I scan photographs and stare out window while drinking coffee. I have high hopes of doing something constructive in there once I get done.]

Still. Even paring down to what I consider bare essentials was going to result in a lot of surface clutter. I also vowed that ugly dresser and ugly bookcase were not going back into the room. I also pondered how to get the computer crap off of my 1920s library table.

I peered at the closet.

I measured.

Almost After

I decided. Oh, yes I did.  And it was a good decision. I hate looking at computer equipment when it’s not in use and stuffing it all in the closet seemed like a stroke of genius.

By mid-March, I was down to 3 tasks – build shelving and a desktop into the closet, shampoo the carpet, and sort through all the crap only dragging back into the room that which I truly loved. Oh. And stain the leather chair brown – more on that later.

The first project was to complete the shelving in the closet to turn it into a miniature office. First it was too snowy and then I was too busy and then I was sick and then it was too rainy and then I was too busy and then I couldn’t summon any ambition.

Ambition welled during this 3-day weekend when I have much more time than usual.

Today, my mother (69) and myself (50), dragged out old shelving left over from the Great Master Bedroom Remodel. The plan was to cut it to width, cantilever it on the walls with wood laying around here and there, touch up the stain and paint the supports. [Cantilever is not the exact term I want, but I can’t summon the correct one. Trust me, a true cantilever is way beyond anything I’d ever try to do.]

Two old-ish women bearing bifocals and hot- flashing in 90F weather shouldn’t be allowed near power tools. Nevertheless.

The first three shelves we tortured on the table saw were too short. (Twinky tape measures, sweat and astigmatism are anathema to good carpentry.) We eventually prevailed without (a) a trip to the emergency room, or (b) angry words spoken to one another. [During this stage of the adventure, my father ambled out to see what all the noise was about and quickly returned to the safety of his study.]

We couldn’t find screws long enough and when we did they weren’t wood screws. We dug through workshops, toolboxes, and kitchen junk drawers collecting wood screws one by one. It’s difficult to explain exactly why, but attaching wood to walls with a corded drill required both us to stand on the ladder at the same time – one to hold and one to drill. It’s a small closet. We’re full-grown women. The ladder was a traditional size. I looked at Mom and said, “Lucy and Ethel build shelves.” We both got the giggles and had to sit a spell while we discussed which of us is Lucy.

Future Brown Chair

We  did, in fact, attach shelving to the walls.  We also put a shitload of books on one of them to make sure future concussions were out of the question, and declared the project done. Before we could gather up the debris, we got the  bright idea to cut a hole in the desktop portion (actually two shelves shoved together) to pass computer cords through. Playing with table saws and hand-held drills was exciting enough, but finagling the drill press was especially exciting.  You kind of had to be there.  Picture Lucy and Ethel at the candy factory.

We did not do any of this in a way a carpenter would recognize as best practice. Still, there is shelving on the wall to house books and a desktop to hold the monitor, keyboard and printer. There’s room under the desktop for the CPU, the ensuing rat’s nest of cables and, perhaps, a box of junk or two. [I have to be realistic – there will most assuredly be absolutely useless crap that I can’t bear to trash, but don’t intend to use.]

I’m tired. I’m hot. I’m sweaty and there’s a thin layer of sawdust in my hair and on my glasses. It took way longer than I had anticipated. I had expected to have everything done today except for weeding through the crap in the hallway.

Tomorrow I will touch up paint and stain the shelving and shampoo the carpet. I hope to at least begin the Great Purge of the hallway. The Trash Guys are going to hate me.

[As for the leather chair – I have a blue wing chair that is Entirely The Wrong Color for the study, but which I love. Back in February, I dabbled some walnut stain to the bottom of the seat cushion to see What Would Happen. It wasn’t bad, but it took a couple of weeks to dry. I’m going to do the whole chair. Not today. Or tomorrow. Or even next week. Eventually.]

8 thoughts on “Lucy and Ethel Build Shelves

    • What? Watch the video again – they managed to stuff their innards and outards with a boat load of chocolate!

      But yes, I’m feeling very virtuous. This project has dragged on far too long, but the end is in site. Surely, by Saturday morning it will be done. I’m looking forward to journalling in my well-appointed and pristine study – even if I have to do so in a blue chair. 🙂

  1. This post was a great rendering of the art of “do-it-yourselfing.”

    It also reflected the extremely unusual ability for two closely related people to remain harmonious during the process.

    Congratulations for a job well-done!

    • Thanks! I’m a little fearful the whole mess is going to come crashing down, but time will tell. The fluorescent lighting messes the colors up and there is more shelving than it looks like. I’m pleased other than the fact that at present neither the monitor nor the printer works. As for the former, I think something’s gone haywire with the graphic card. The printer problem is a mystery – it won’t even power on.

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