Finished bedroom cupboard and shelves

DIY cupboards and shelves – Part III

Unexpected peril?

This final instalment of my loft bedroom storage DIY project trilogy should have been an account of how I wrapped up the project simply and quickly, with some lovely pictures of the completed project, all styled nicely so you can nick it for Pinterest for some ideas of how to redo a room.

But, as parts I and II should have proved beyond reasonable doubt, I am an idiot, with no experience of this sort of thing.

Cupboard carcass dry assembledWhilst I’d got the bones of the cupboards sorted out, and the shelves stained ready for installing, I still had to make cupboard doors, hang them, put handles on them, and work out how the hell to balance a 10 and 8 foot plank by inch thick rope.

I’d been thinking about the doors for a while (obviously, this was taking over my life!) and the easy option would have been a simple one piece MDF door, either trimmed with mitred beading, or with thinner MDF framing around the edges.

However, the walls have v-groove cladding for a coastal type look, and I thought it would look better/nicer if I could replicate this in the doors.

If a jobs worth doing, and all that…

Ideally, I’d just have used pre-made v-groove MDF panelling sheets which could be framed to make the door thicker/stronger, but all I could find was butt and bead that didn’t match the rest of the room (and which I thought was weirdly pricey, but I don’t make it, so what do I know?).

The next, and would probably my preferred option, was using a router to make my own either out of MDF, ideally wood, but as I don’t own a router, that wasn’t going to happen either.

After (too) much pondering, I decided to fashion them out of the very same cladding that was on the wall, framing them with MDF.

To make sure they were all the same size I had to get the old table saw out… since I’m missing a bit of finger from an incident with this a while ago, I still only use it occasionally, and always with some trepidation, which probably makes things worse.

To help me feel more confident – both in terms of safety (not sure how many more fingers I can afford) and quality, I knocked together a simple ‘sled’ to help cut the lengths of cladding.

This is basically a piece of flat wood on rails that you slide along the grooves in the table towards the blade. It has a back piece which you clamp the wood you’re cutting to so it stays square to the blade and doesn’t move, and a ‘stop’ on one side which you butt the piece being cut against to make sure you’re making the same length cut every time.

I had to cut 30 of these, and what would have taken ages by hand was achieved in minutes.

Rough homemade doors for loft bedroom cupboardI then cut the ‘framing’ out of MDF in the same way, and began the arduous process of putting each door together. It wasn’t that it was complicated, I was just gluing the frames onto the cladding backs, and only have a limited number of clamps so could only do one as a time.

Once these were done, I had to have a play to see if they fit (I’d done the maths myself!) which they seemed to, so then it was onto another round of sanding, sealing, and painting.

In the meantime, I had shelves to put up!

I picked up three large hooks (another Hutchings Timber find) to attach to the joist at the top of the wall, and armed myself with a hacksaw, electricians tape, and 10m of jute rope for reasons I’ll explain soon, but I like to think you’re getting some weird pictures in your head.

To work out how much rope I’d need for two shelves, I divided the gap between the ceiling and cupboard top in three (giving me the heights each shelf needed to be). I’d need to cut four times (up and down) this length, plus extra bits for four knots, (two per shelf).

To get an idea of how much rope a knot would use, I tied one in the loose rope and measured how much it used up, then added four times this to my earlier length. As I had 10m, I had a bit (but not loads) of room to be generous with my guesstimate (and one of the three drops would be in the eaves, so wouldn’t need quite as much).

Hanging shelves in loft bedroomI used a spade bit to put three pairs of 24mm holes along each shelf at evenly spaced intervals (I’d used the middle of the longest board as my starting point, then the end of the shorter one dictated the distance from the centre to the other ones).

Cutting the rope involved winding electrical tape around the rough area I wanted to cut (to stop it fraying and falling apart) and simply sawing through the tape and rope underneath.

I then threaded the lengths through the ceiling hooks, then fed the end ones through the shorter board with rough knots to get it airborne, before tinkering (a lot) to get it to the required height, and level.

Once happy, I repeated with the bigger board and quicker than I expected, I had two hanging shelves!

I have to say that whilst a bit rough around the edges (I’m not a seaman or scout, so I did a normal ‘knot’) and as they were a late addition to the loft project party as they were the inspired solution to an unforeseen problem, I am quietly chuffed with how they came out. Once the ends were trimmed a bit (again, using tape to prevent fraying) I think they make the whole thing work!

Since they were done, it was back to the doors and a problem I’d been avoiding for some time – hinges!

Unhinged bedroom cupboard and shelvesI’d assumed I was going to use kitchen hinges, but was having trouble finding enough that didn’t cost almost as much as the rest of my materials put together. I also couldn’t decide on whether I wanted them set inside the frames (which would require a little bit of trimming) or outside.

Thankfully, by now I’d reached the point where the visiting relative was arriving, so I parked the problem, and tidied up the room – leaving the doors artfully resting in the soon-to-be new homes.

In retrospect, it was good I got to leave it alone for a few days, giving me a chance to try to forget about it and revisit the issue with fresh eyes.

Eventually I decided to go with back flap hinges with the doors sitting outside the frame, but not flush with each other. Luckily, there’s a Wilko near work that sells them for a decent price so I picked up half a dozen, and remembered I’d need magnetic catches to keep the doors closed, so grabbed a handful of them while I was there too!

There was a bit of faff and cursing getting them on (the doors did need microscopic trimming which made me want a router even more!) but eventually I got them up.

They just needed handles so you could open them.

Now, if you’re got kids, and live near enough to the sea to visit it pretty often, you might be familiar with accumulating piles of ‘beach treasure’. As well as shells and sea glass, we also have a collection of small bits of driftwood (and I’ve got a couple of larger bits that might become something one day).

Driftwood cupboard handlesI thought it might be an idea to try to turn these into handles, so had a sift through a stash I’d previously soaked in bleach and rinsed in cold water to get rid of any nasties (and stale seawater smell!).

I did a test one using the hand drill (more control, plus v therapeutic) to put a couple of holes in the ‘back’ in which I glued a pair of nuts (stop sniggering at the back) ready to take bolts. Once cured, the glue worked ok, but I realised I needed to be careful where I was drilling weaker into the wood as there was a risk of brittle bits splitting.

I had some help from The Boy drilling the rest (he loved that the pale weathered wood was ‘chocolate inside’) to give him a play with the hand drill, and glued the nuts in. To avoid the glue expanding and clogging up the nut , I kept gently screwing the bolts in a bit as it cured, which was a faff, but worked.

Installing them on the doors was just a matter of eyeballing where I needed to drill holes for each handle (the gaps between the two bolts  varied slightly on each handle to take account of the unique knobbles of each piece of wood) and attaching nuts on either side of the door to stop them wobbling.

And that, my friends, was that!

I’d like to say it’s all clear and tidy up there, but it isn’t. There’s still a stash of offcuts under the bed, and odd bits of tools etc I need to get back in the shed (which needs a phenomenal sort out!).

Overall I’m pretty chuffed with how it’s come out – there are some bits I’d change/do differently but I’d be surprised if I didn’t do that to be honest.

It’s shown me that with some (a lot of) thought and preparation, I can do more than I thought.

But it’s also highlighted that it would help with future projects that I’m pondering if I had a few better tools – saws are my main concern (hand and power), but even only having one drill to both put in holes and take the brunt of screwing in duty was a bit of a faff (constantly changing from drill bit to screwdriver bit was tiresome).

I may also need to rethink the shed layout to make it more ‘larger project friendly’, or stuff will only get done in summer.

That’s something to worry about another day, for now, I’ll just enjoy the fact I managed to get it cracked.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading – hopefully my brain dump hasn’t been too boring, and you might get some sort of inspiration for cracking on with something yourself.

I’m now going to dig out my little brown book and work on some more doodles…

Finished bedroom cupboard and shelves driftwood handles

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