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I’m often asked about the tools I use in my projects. I have accumulated quite the collection of tools over the years and every Christmas/Birthday/Mother’s day brings something new.
As I was working with my dad a few weeks back, I was reminded that there are a small number of tools I end up using on every single project. Most are real basic – tape measure, square, electric drill and my trusty miter saw. But there is a tool I use regularly that is not so well known: the Kreg Multi-Mark Measuring Tool.
During every project this thing is in my pocket. I have many pictures showing the use of this little tool on a wide variety of projects. I first got it when we were building the entertainment center. I haven’t stopped using it since. While we were building the bookcases it went from my hands to my dad’s hands and back to my hands. It was used every step of the way. It makes measuring simple. Tape measures are great for certain type of measurements, but this tool works best in hard to measure areas and its easy to read.
After working with my dad for the week I’m convinced he needs to start bringing his down when he comes to help or I need another one!
The hardware for the bookcase doors (or Murphy doors as they’re also referred to) are relatively simple. The bottom hardware is a ball bearing and the top hardware includes a metal pin. There are no hinges. It seemed as though it would be a relatively simple install. But it wasn’t. In order for the hardware to function properly, everything had to be exact – with little to no wiggle room. We were dealing with pretty square bookcases in a somewhat square opening. Not to mention the entire wall leaned in. We worked and readjusted and tried again. It was late, we were frustrated and finally – the bookcases fit into the hardware. And they opened – which was my biggest fear the whole time.
I mentioned earlier that we decided to install the face frame after the bookcases were installed. Here’s why it was a stroke of genius…
We figured it would be near impossible for us to get the bookcases completely level with each other within this space. But in order to look good – they needed to be spot on. We knew we wouldn’t be able to adjust the bookcases once they were installed, but we would be able to adjust the placement of the face frame. There was a significant face frame overlap on all the edges so we were able to adjust the frame so they were completely level with each other. Mission accomplished.
See how nice and level these are?! They would not look like that had we installed them before installing the bookcase. It would have been all sorts of messy.
Once the face frame was attached, we had to cover the side gaps with trim moulding. The moulding is attached to the wall – not to the bookcases. This allows them to swing open freely and still gives it a finished look. We also added a trim piece to the left side bookcase to cover the middle gap. The gaps are necessary in the design in order for them to open properly. This means the left side will always have to be opened first.
With all the trim in place and the adjustable shelves in – the space looked completely different.
I’m beyond happy with how it turned out. It’s exactly what I wanted. Now if I would just dedicate some time to styling the shelves, we would be in business. But styling isn’t my strong point. They might look like this for a while and even then it’s an improvement from the crooked bi-fold doors!
Years ago after we opened up the wall to the office (which was once a bedroom), I realized a design flaw in my plan. With the wall opened up, now when you walked in the front door, you immediately saw the bi-fold closet doors of the bedroom/office, it wasn’t pretty or aesthetically pleasing. It was one of those things that the minute I realized it, I knew it bothered me. But I didn’t have a great solution. We needed the closet space for storage. After living with it for just a bit, I came up with the solution, bookcase doors. It could be pretty and functional. But as I searched on how to do it – I couldn’t get any clear instructions. So I tabled the idea and got used to the bi-fold doors.
Fast forward 4 years: With my dad’s annual trip approaching I was prepping some projects for us to work on. Figuring out the bookcase doors was high on my priority list. I contacted an expert in hidden doors and passageways to see if I could purchase hardware from him. He pointed me to a company called Murphy Door Hardware who sells DIY hardware kits. The company also sells the bookcases complete – but what fun would that be for my dad and I to work on. I purchased the hardware kit.
Let it be known – this was not an easy project. Yes, they sell hardware but it doesn’t come with great instructions on how to build your own door. I spent hours creating my plans on the computer and then making sure the two doors would swing the way I thought they would. I was several hours in before my dad even showed up to lend his helping hand and expertise. Here’s the process we took:
We started with a closet with bi-fold doors. The original plan was to build a jamb for the rough opening. But I wanted the door to the right and the bookcases to be of similar height and if I built a jamb it created even smaller bookcases, we already had a finished opening to work with…yada, yada. We skipped that step and my dad and I would both agree now – build in the jamb. When it comes to installing – our walls weren’t entirely square (which we knew) and it made for a tough install.
After we decided to skip the jamb – we went straight to building. The bookcase was 11″ deep and we routed the back edge of the sides so the back wood panel would sit flush. We also cut all the shelving pieces.
With the worst timing ever, my paint sprayer stopped working and was out of commission. It’s been a while since I hand painted a project like this and I was missing my sprayer. Knowing that it would be easier to paint flat pieces, everything was painted before it was put together. This lengthened the process of the project because we were often waiting for paint to dry in between coats.
Using my kreg shelf pin jig – I drilled all the holes on the sides of the bookcases for the adjustable shelves. We then started the assembly process, making sure everything was as square as could be. For stability, one shelf was screwed into place.
We made all the adjustable shelves using the 3/4″ plywood with a 1.5″ maple face – glue and a nail gun.
Everything started to come together and I was excited because things were coming together so smoothly. We hadn’t made any emergency runs to the hardware store for needed supplies and the process was straightforward. Build a solid bookcase. We attached the back 1/2″ panel. Typically you could go thinner – but we really needed strength so we went with 1/2″
As we started building the face frames (the wood to cover all the raw edges) problems started to arise. Wood was splitting and getting them square was proving to be difficult. What should’ve been a quick step ended up taking an entire afternoon.
We were ready to install the face frame on the bookcase – but we decided to unconventionally attach the frames after the bookcases were installed so we could mask our imperfections. This was a crucial decision. Although when we made it, we didn’t understand how important it was. (I’ll explain more of that later).
Late one night with most everyone in bed, we installed the threshold (bottom piece running across the bottom of the floor) and the bottom hardware to our kit. By the time we got to this point, I naively thought, “Wow – we’re almost done!” Our bookcases were built and painted. The face frames were built and painted. All we had to do was install it. How hard could it be?!
My dad leaves tomorrow, which means all the projects we’ve had in the works for the past week are wrapping up. I use the words “wrapping-up” loosely because it implies the projects are complete. We’re almost there. I’ve got some nail holes to fill and some painting to do. Trim to install. I wish I could say they will be complete in the next week but the minute I put my dad on the plane, I’ll come home and try to put life back together. Piano lessons need to be given. Laundry needs to get done. My design work clients are stacking up. Everything has been on hold for the week.
In the meantime my garage looks like this: Hunter and Bennett’s closet organization. The boxes have been built and the drawers are stacked for ease of painting. Four days ago the garage look similar but it was the closet bookshelves sprawled across the floor. Have I mentioned my paint sprayer has been out of commission at the worst possible time. It’s been a while since I’ve hand painted this much wood – coat after coat, late into the night.
I’m hoping tomorrow morning these boxes and drawers are no longer sitting in the garage and that they make their way upstairs to the boy’s room. Fingers crossed!
My dad is here this week which means I have a well-orchestrated list to accomplish! I have spent the last year since Briggs was born on a building hiatus – it was just a little difficult with a needy baby – but I’m ready to come out of retirement. I need to come out of retirement! And my dad’s visit is just the ticket to get me started. Today was our first day on the job – poorly planned as it was a day off of school for the kids.
So there was some building. Orange juicing. Movie watching. Excitement of our big playhouse slide arriving. And serious disappointment when the slide went back on the truck because it was delivered damage. More excitement when my table saw arrived. A trip to the hardwood store. A little more building. And finally some painting when the kids were tucked in bed. My garage smells of primer. How can tomorrow be as exciting as today!?