Blog : Posts tagged with 'DIY'

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Brute Force And Ignorance

In which an Ikea Antonius takes rather more effort than normal


Hurrah! A week after it was ordered, our connection to the Internet is all jumpered up and working again. We are connected to the outside world; it’s just a shame that there’s all that unpacking and sorting out to do still.

Talking of unpacking and sorting out: well, it’s not just that. We have new rooms, different storage, so there’s new furniture to buy and arrange. Because of this, my hands are now rather sore-feeling. Not because of the furniture in general, though: because of one particular thing that was slightly harder than normal.

I always thought I was quite good with Ikea furniture. Give me a LACK table or a LERBERG shelf unit, and I can slot it together in minutes. The other day, we put together a HELMER filing cabinet with no problems at all, even despite the metal-bending skills required. So, I thought an ANTONIUS system shelf unit would be a doddle, particularly as we were trying to create the simplest type of ANTONIUS there is, a small rack of shelves to fit under the kitchen worktop.

The thing itself, when you take it out of the packaging, is indeed simple. Two side frames, rectangular, made of rectangular-section steel tube uprights joined with U-section drawer runners. Four bars, made of the same stuff, which join the two sides together. Each bar ends in a pair of Zamak* corner pieces. The product web page should make it clear. The assembly instructions are just as simple: hammer each of the corner pieces at the end of each bar into the ends of the uprights, then screw the feet on.

So, nothing particularly tricky. I find some chunks of wood to stand it on so I don’t wreck the floor, and pick up one side and one of the bars. I try it as a push-fit: it doesn’t go. Not really surprising: after all, you want it to be a nice tight fit so the thing stays together. So, I bash it with the hammer. Nothing apparently happens, other than a loud bang.

I look carefully at the work. A bit of paint has chipped off the inside of the upright, but other than that, nothing has moved. The Zamak connector has a half-inch-deep block of metal that has to be hammered inside the tubular upright, but it isn’t going anywhere. I give it a few more (loud) bangs, and take another look. The connector has budged maybe a millimetre or so, and the paint is a bit more chipped.

Maybe that paint on the inside is getting in the way a bit. I hunt around in the tool-cupboard, and find a needle file and a file handle. A few strokes with that, on the inside edge of the upright, should get rid of the errant paint. Bash bash bash, again. Still barely any movement. I give it another good hard stare, and I can see where the edge of the upright has started to cut into the connecting block, and shave metal off its edge.

To cut a long story short, then: to get the thing together took much more work with a flat file. Each of the 8 Zamak blocks needed each side filing down to get the thing vaguely close to fitting together; I didn’t take measurements,** but I’d say each block needed to be taken down by about a quarter of a millimetre overall in each direction. With only a little needle file, that took some time to do; and without a proper workbench, I jabbed my fingers and hands a few times in the process. Eventually, I’d filed off enough metal that the connectors could be hammered home. It still took considerable hammering to do it, and they’re very firmly in there; I have no idea how it was supposed to fit out-of-the-box.

Maybe the connector castings didn’t shrink as much as the mould-makers expected. Maybe the thing was designed with Swedish sub-arctic temperatures in mind, not a hot English June evening; and I’d have had more luck if I’d left the sides in the sun for a few hours and put the crossbars in the freezer. Maybe I just had one of a bad batch. I was still rather disappointed, though. As I said, I’m used to Ikea furniture fitting together Just So; I wasn’t expecting to have to start filing down castings to make them a reasonable fit.

* Or Mazak, if you prefer to call it that.

** I haven’t seen my vernier calipers since the house-move-before-last.

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I do not understand economics

In which we work out the surcharge for custom service


Browsing through the rope-and-chains aisle in B&Q* yesterday, fiddling about with the reels, I found some reasonable-feeling polyester rope. 5mm, cost 90p per metre. Affordable. I know B&Q is usually a horrible rip-off, but I wasn’t feeling active enough to find a better supplier.

Before bothering an assistant to get some cut for me, I looked at the lengths of precut rope they had nearby. The same stuff, the same colour, on a plastic reel. I checked the price: 50 feet 15 metres, for about £9.50. Or, in other words, about two-thirds the price of the same rope cut to whatever length you like.**

I’m sure the only thing this shows is that B&Q’s legendary exorbitant markup really is as bad as I’ve always thought: where they think they can get away with it, where you won’t bother to do the sum yourself, they’ll take you for as much cash as they can. And I suppose their main market isn’t people who want to buy the stuff in bulk, it’s people who pop in for a couple of metres at a time. Next time I need some rope, though, I’m going to do the legwork, maybe call the manufacturers, and find somewhere that’s slightly less of a rip-off.

* You can tell someone in their management must have picked up early on how important domain names were going to be.

** I would demonstrate this by giving links to their website; but their website is horrible, horrible, horrible to navigate.

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A stick of rings

In which we show off something we made


Back in the mists of time – well, June – I posted some in-progress photos of my mysterious Secret DIY Project. I suddenly realised, the other day, that although most of the Secret DIY Project was finished a while back,* I’ve never shown you what it looks like completed. So, yesterday, I took them out into the garden with the camera.

Secret DIY Project Secret DIY Project

As before, if you don’t know what they are, feel free to guess in the comments box. If you do know what they are, feel free to make silly and misleading suggestions instead.

* Two of the three items I was making were 90% finished in June and 100% finished by December, when I first got to play with them. The other remains at a pitiful state of incompletion, because it’s too big and awkward to paint easily.

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End of term feeling

In which we prepare for a break


It’s not only Friday again, but it’s my last day in the office until July. Hurrah! Come Sunday, I’m off down to London for a week, to mooch around museums, go to a Shimura Curves gig, do some geek-shopping, and generally get up to nefarious stuff. I’ve already arranged to meet a few intimidating internet people, who, I suspect, are not to be trifled with;* but if anyone else would like to stalk meet me, get in touch.

Fertility Newsflash: there are now two regular readers of this place who are expecting babies around Christmastime. Congratulations to Archel and Matt, the latest to announce their pregnancy.** Clearly, this is a good thing: regular Symbolic Forest readers are bound to be far more intelligent than the average, so if you have children, they will be smarter too. I’ll shut up now before I turn into Robert K Graham.

Big Dave is away too at the moment, having gone off camping in the Lake District. As he’s never been camping before, and I have, he asked me what advice I had.

“The top piece of advice?”

“Yup.”

“It’ll piss down. No, really. You’ll go off, set up camp, and it’ll piss down the whole week. Take plenty of books.”

I hope his tent isn’t leaking.

Oh, the other pregnant reader is still a secret, by the way. But as she never leaves comments on the site anyway, and doesn’t hang around any of the bits of the internet that most of you readers come from, there’s no point me telling you who she is.

I seem to have lost interest in anything political at the moment. I’m back at my default state of “meh, they’re all awful,” which means I really don’t care to blog about any of it. Which is a shame, because there are so many terrible things about the state of politics in this country. Both parties are but a shiny layer of media gloss covering an authoritarian heart of darkness; Tony Blair’s shiny paint has pretty much worn off now, but Cameron’s is still fresh and tacky. There is so much I could be doing, too; so much campaigning you can do from your own home. I need to pull my finger out a bit.

Talking of fresh paint, the Secret DIY project is coming on with leaps and bounds. The big bit (that you didn’t see) is taking a bit longer because it’s awkward to handle, but the short bits (that you did) are ready for their final coat of paint. More photos soon, but probably not now until I get back from my holiday. Keep coming up with guesses as to what it is – my favourite so far is “an actual Ugly Stick”.

Blogging will start off on paper, next week, sitting in a café with a cup of coffee and a notebook. Very civilised. I’ll try to get online regularly and keep updating, though. A week of sitting in cafés, with coffee, cake, and … well, all the other stuff you get in cafés, will do me the world of good.

* The Plain People Of The Internet: “Hey! No more private jokes that we don’t understand!”

** Well, Archel’s pregnancy, at least. It’s not like you can take turns to incubate it for a week.

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Can you guess what it is yet?

In which we make something


Hard at work lately on my mysterious Secret DIY Project. I’m not telling you what it is, but I will show you what I’ve managed to build so far.

Two Thingys A Whatsit

Feel free to try and guess what I’m making.* A few hints: the shortest one is 1ft 11 1/2in long; there’s a third, too big to go in the photo; and they will have more of those rings on them when they’re finished.

* Unless you already know, in which case it would be cheating. Because you already know the answer. Feel free to post plausible-but-wrong answers in that case, instead.

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