Alternately titled, Tim goes design crazy with old shelves at Heidi's insistence.
The past couple of days, we (meaning I say, "I think we should...." and Tim says, "ok....") have been working on cleaning out the garage and trying to get rid of things we don't use. Craigslist and the Salvation Army thrift store have both been visited!
Whenever possible, I don't like to throw things away but I also really don't like to have anything around we don't use either. Since I'm not that much of a DIY instructor, I didn't think to take step by step pictures of the refurbs he did so you only get to view the finished products. I'll do my best to talk you through the hows and whys, but if you have any questions feel free to email me and I'll explain better (or I'll have my husband chat with your husband!).
Project 1- Toddler Sized Shelves
Start with a narrow bookshelf such as this one (this is the one we used)
Take out one of the shelves and find some other use for it. We had already moved one to the bottom and it was just sitting there not doing much, now it is officially in our scrap wood pile.
Find the center most (as close as you can get...it wasn't exact on ours) set of holes (the ones for the adjustable shelves).
Using a small drill bit, drill from the inside to the outside of the shelf, through the correct holes. The advantage to using the existing holes instead of measuring the exact center is that you know your shelf will be level and vertical when you are finished. Saves big time on time! (Or at least, so I'm told)
Then coming from the outside, drill a screw through each hole to the inner shelf.
Turn the shelf on its side and viola! You're finished!
Some people are doing this with those cube shelf units, but if you don't have any and don't want to spend the extra money on some, these small bookshelves are usually pretty cheap at garage sales and thrift stores. They are out there, I promise!
But, Heidi, couldn't I just leave the shelf upright and get the same effect?
Well, yes, I suppose you could, but let me share some information from the good old days when I got paid to do this stuff!
When the shelf is vertical and a child pulls up to it, they have less room to move their upper body around. They are literally hanging onto the shelf and trying to balance and manipulate the materials to remove them from the shelves. The child's center of gravity is higher because their arms are in a less natural position above their waist. All in all, it's clumsy. Have you ever seen a child stick their belly out to balance on a couch or higher bookshelf while they played with something on top of it? Kind of like Caleb in this picture. His whole body is leaning forward shifting his weight onto the balls of his feet and his armpit is leaning against the toilet.
Lower the shelf, lower the arms, lower the center of gravity. The child has better balance and more room to move and manipulate their environment. The top of the shelf makes a very natural work space and a child friendly height and is great for the development of balance and coordination. Different child, same age...completely different posture at play. See how her hips are directly above her feet? Several times today I looked over to see her just standing there without holding on at all. I don't think she even realized she was doing it.
Have I convinced you its worth it? If not, I will add the obvious visual benefit to having the child's things right there on crawling eye level. Have a walking toddler? The lower shelf will give them practice in stoop and recover movements. Not to mention the visual order and organization provided by the separate spaces. Plus, don't they just look neat? I'm looking for a framed nature print of some variety to hang right at Kylee's eye level above her shelf.
Onwards and upwards...
Project 2- Montessori Infant Coin Box
This time we start with a square shadowbox shelf like this one from Target. Ours came from Target too, but was natural wood toned in color.
Cut a square from thin wood approximately 1 cm wider (all the way) around than the shelf. We used a shelf backing material (1/8" plywood) leftover from another project. 1/4" plywood would work, but the shelf and lid would just be heavier. Sand the edges smooth and use small brad nails to attach to one end of the shelf. This is the bottom of your box.
Cut a square the same size as the shelf. Sand well.
Use small hinges to attach the lid to the box. Tim used an epoxy putty of some sort because the lid was so thin and he didn't want screw ends sticking out. You can see it in the second picture.
Add a handle for lifting the lid using a drawer pull knob.
Cut a slit in the lid of the box. This is the most challenging part. Tim used a variety of Dremmel attachments to get the finished slot. If you don't have one of those, he recommends a jig saw or a drill with a grinding disk.
For coins, Tim used a circle cutting drill bit (technically called a hole saw, I am told) to make wooden disks out of the same material that we used for the top and bottom of the box. After I had him do that, I realized that poker chips would have been the perfect size. The wood has a nice feel though, so I'm going to stick with our wooden pieces.
Sand and seal as needed and viola!
Of course...if you don't want to go to this much work the same effect could be had from metal juice lids in an old coffee can with a slit in the lid or poker chips in an ice cream bucket, but what fun would that be? I don't think the effect is really the same, though. Despite each option being made from all reused materials, can an old ice cream bucket or coffee can really look as beautiful as this?
Or bring as much joy as this?
A photographer I am not, but hopefully these instructions will be adequate for anyone hoping to try their own un-used shelf creations!
Have fun and don't tell your husband it was my idea!