Got splinters?

Many Saipan Tribune readers are part of the SOHO (small office and home office) world. I’m a long-time SOHO guy myself. As the new year rolled onto the calendar I was mid-stream in a project to custom-build some furnishings for my office. The big question was this: Can a total carpentry know-nothing produce functional SOHO furnishings?

I finally have the answer. It’s “yes.” Sick of your office? You can probably fix a lot of it yourself.

Let’s make that a qualified “yes.” My current SOHO is a get-your-work done sort of office, as opposed to a more polished meet-with-clients sort of space. Functionality, not professional polish, was my goal. I will, however, note that everything came together square, level, and tightly fit. I can deal with simple. I won’t, however, suffer shabby.

It took three basic power tools (a circular saw, a cordless drill, and a jigsaw), along with various accouterments for measuring and marking, to get this done. And if I can do it, then anyone can.

I’ve taken two steps. The first was to build a four-tier console that covers an entire wall from top to bottom. It serves as a bookshelf, as a platform for a printer and stationary, and as a storage area for boxes of office supplies. The second step was to build a long, narrow table that runs along a wall.

The long table is supposed to provide a surface for arranging documents so I can do impressive things. Somehow, though, it got covered in my collection of Merle Haggard CDs.

Come to think of it, I haven’t done anything remotely impressive since 1982. So I’m thinking that impressive can wait a little while longer. There’s no need to defile a fresh new year by trying to force things.

Anyway, the next, and final, step will be to build a desk that will tie together the ensemble. That’s a great word, “ensemble.” It adds some class to my entirely classless operation.

I did my marking, sawing, and sanding in the garage. Then I carted everything over to my SOHO workspace where I screwed everything together using the cordless drill as a driver.

During the entire process I didn’t encounter any big problems, but everything took a lot longer than I anticipated. This didn’t bother me, since part of the reason I embarked on the project was to putter around at a slow pace and ignore the demands of the fast-paced world.

For example, when I assembled the first three parts of the wall console, it took me about an hour to set the pieces square before I fastened them together. Lacking any coherent methodology for this situation, I addressed it with my true specialty: blunt-headed trial-and-error.

And so I patched things together, took measurements, shook my head in dismay, took the pieces apart, then started all over again. I did this dozens of times. When, by pure dint of randomness, everything finally jibed, I held my breath and fastened the pieces together. Everything else went smoothly from that point on.

When I was in the cutting phase I marked the lumber to show where the factory cuts were. This was under the theory that they’d be more square than my cuts were. After all, a newbie with a circular saw ain’t exactly going to give Pythagoras a run for his money. This extra degree of pessimism allowed me to strategically match things together during assembly to make the early fits as square as possible.

On the fastener note, before I got the project rolling, I did some experiments with scrap wood. The types of screws you’d use with a normal screwdriver (slotted- or Phillips-head) didn’t work nearly as well as the star-headed ones (“Torx”). I also experimented to get a feel for how small my pieces of wood could be before they’d run the risk of getting split by the fasteners.

Having realized that fasteners were going to be an important part of the equation, I ultimately wound up spending more on screws than I did on my circular saw. As for the smaller pieces of wood, I drilled pilot holes in them before driving the fasteners and this prevented splitting.

Well, such are the highlights of the project. I encountered no pitfalls, no jokers, no bad surprises. In summary, this stuff is doable.

To my fellow SOHO operators who are contemplating improving their spaces, I say: Come on in, the water’s fine.

Ed Stephens Jr. | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Visit Ed Stephens Jr. at His column runs every Friday.

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