Thursday, September 23, 2010

L U C I M A vs. The Box

In the spirit of geometric objects parallel lines etc. I decided to make a wood box to stuff models in. I saw a picture on Google Images and I wanted one just like the one in the picture.

So I sketched out a box. I assumed so many wonderful things, such as the following:

-I can cut straight edges and create 'square' boards
-I can fit 4x8' wood boards in the trunk of my Yukon
-I can lift 4x8' boards by myself
-I can do basic math and figure out how many screws I need

Here's my sketch:

I thought I was so smart, I would offset each side of the board "over and under". For example, the left board would sit on top of the bottom board and the right board would sit to the side of the bottom board. This would occur around the box so that it would retain its square form.

So I go to Home Depot and for boards I narrow it down to 2 choices, melamine boards ($35) or drywall ($9). Fearing I would screw up with melamine, I decided to try drywall first. As I was checking out at the register, I suddenly realized this was a horrible horrible idea.

Did I this was a horrible idea?

Of course that didn't deter me from actually trying this harebrained idea with drywall.

Did you know?

First of all, drywall is flaky. It doesn't hold screws. And it weighs a LOT.

3 hours later, I was up to my eyeballs in drywall powder. I had cut all pieces I needed. I had screwed 4 out of the 5 pieces together. All I needed to do now was to put the top on the box. Unfortunately I couldn't reach the top of the box because it was sitting on top of a table (so I could get to the bottom of the box). Upon carrying it off the table on which it was set, the entire thing fell apart. The screws ripped right out of the drywall.

What was I thinking?

This was very upsetting. 3 hours of work down the drain. To top it off I wasted 3 hours of my assistant's time too.

24 hours later, I was ready to try again. That's the thing about me, I want what I want. I know when I'm out of my league but I can't help but try.

Went back to Home Depot, this time buying the melamine boards that I wanted (I kicked myself for not doing it right the first time). Understanding that the melamine was mounted on particle boards (which aren't even as strong as MDF), I decided I needed stronger/longer L brackets (tie-plates) so I bought 8x8" metal L brackets. This of course required me to buy stronger/longer screws. All in all I was $300+ in the hole (including the drywall):

Back at the studio, it took nearly 10 minutes to just unload the first 2 boards. When we tried to get the 3rd board out, we realized it was wedged between the spare tire steel brace on the left and underneath the plastic molding (where it connects to the carpet) on the right. Seriously wedged. No amount of prying and pulling/pushing would do.

So I did what any sensible person would do. I cut a hole in the plastic molding with my Milwaukee circular saw. This pretty much destroyed the interior lining of the Yukon's trunk but I was in no mood to play games.

My next challenge cutting the boards. As a result of my economics background, I assumed I'd be able to create 5 square boards in my fairy-tale diagram. Yesterday's drywall dry-run revealed otherwise. Besides, the geniuses at the melamine manufacturer decided they'd be nice and give us an extra 1" on each edge, thus creating a 49x97"board. I assumed I'd be buying 48x96" boards and I was planning on cutting down the middle to create five 48"x48" boards. So much for that idea.

Rationally I decided that if I cut down the middle, I'd still have perfect cuts on the other 3 edges of the board. Theoretically, I would wind up with five 49x47.5" boards.

Of course, this isn't what I wound up with :)

Fast-forward a couple hours I've got 4 of box's sides connected. Think cube (well almost) but missing the front and back. The problem is that with my awesome cuts, the back of the board needed to be 49" tall BUT it needed to be 47 5/8" in width on the bottom and 47 9/16" in width on the top. Basically tapered slightly.

Did I have any faith whatsoever that I could cut with 1/16" or even 1/4" precision? Hell no.

Look at my tools. Sure, I'm using
Milwaukee 18V cordless tools but I've and a plastic table and a doghouse as sawhorses. I've got my whiteboard as a straight-edge ruler (because my actual ruler is warped). I can't cut a straight edge to save my life.

But you know what? I think the gods figured that I'd had enough with the broken screws, stripped screws, drywall in my lungs, particle board on my eyeball and said "You know what? We'll let you have this one". After cutting the board, it fit perfectly. After strapping them into the tie plates (L brackets), there was virtually no gap anywhere on that side. I was stunned. Literally stunned.

So here's what I wound up with:

Basically a $300 wooden box that took 8 hours to build that I could have probably gotten at Ikea for $20 in 1 hour.

Were the splinters, destroyed trunk interior, and white hairs worth it? We'll find out tomorrow.


  1. lol! I can't wait to see some images featuring this box :D

  2. The model in the box stuff looks great!! Bravo!