Monday, November 22, 2021

Another mini project

A cropped version of the photo
I shared on social media.
I recently completed another mini project, or the first parts of one, anyway. It took forever for the thing I ordered to get to me (photo at right), and then, after that, it took me a few days to finalise the mini project—and then realise it was only the beginning.

Last month, as Lockdown dragged on, I started opening some boxes that were originally in the garage, until I put them in the house, where they remained. Among the things were all our DVDs.

Nigel and I had collected the DVDs of all the series of “Star Trek”, and they used to be displayed on top of some bookcases that were in Nigel’s office at the house we moved out of in 2017 (and have been boxed ever since). Those shelves are now in my office, and I decided I wanted to put those DVDs on top of them again. But that was only the start.

I realised that the DVDs told a story about us—the things that interested us, the entertainment we liked, and I also could tell the ones Nigel had chosen, the ones I chose, and the ones both of us wanted. I knew that some had been expensive, while others were on clearance. Most of the DVDs came from here in New Zealand, but some came from the USA (about which, more in a different post). I decided I wanted to put all those DVDs out on shelves near the TV.

First, I stood up all the DVDs and measured them, and so, I knew I had about 2 shelf-metres of DVDs, which isn’t a lot since that included box sets. Next, I had to work out what sort of shelves I wanted.

I looked online at various shops to see what I could get, but most of them weren’t appealing, and all were over $100, some by a lot. I considered putting up hanging shelves, as I’d done in the kitchen, but the cheapest options were working out to more than $200, and I didn’t like that option because the shelves would stick from the wall (because of the vertical parts that hold the shelf brackets). I knew this would bug me because I’d see that when I watched TV. So, I considered buying wood and then notching them out so the shelves would sit flat against the wall—but that was a lot of work when I really just wanted some shelves that could kind of be in the background.

I ultimately decided on some shelves I’d have to order from a place in Auckland: Some IKEA Billy shelves (Note: This is NOT a compensated mention – I paid full price). This was the first IKEA item I’ve ever bought, so I didn’t know what to expect, except that I was paying more for them than I’d have liked.

The higher than usual price was because IKEA doesn’t operate in New Zealand, though supposedly they’re coming here eventually (Side note: To this day, I’ve never been in an IKEA store). The place in Auckland imports IKEA stuff from Australia, marks them up (of course), and then ships them to NZ customers (important since Lockdown meant I couldn’t go to the shop in person).

I ordered the shelves on October 25, and they told me they were being shipped from their “offsite warehouse”, which I now think means Australia. The shelves finally arrived at my house on Friday, November 12—eighteen days after I ordered them.

The extremely long delivery time was only slightly longer than smaller packages can take to get from Auckland to Hamilton (maybe an hour and a half drive…), but the bigger issue was cost: Shipping cost me $75, meaning the shelves ended up being the most expensive option (but only by around $40). Until the shelves got here, I was thinking that I could’ve picked them up myself, were it not for Lockdown, however, it turned out the box was 2 metres long, longer than the cargo space in my car, so shipping was the only option, anyway.

The notch.
I chose those shelves for several reasons, including the size of the unit and number of shelves, but there were other things, too. First, there’s a notch at the base so the unit can sit flat against the wall, with the skirting board running under the notch). None of the other shelves I considered had such a thing, and while I may have been able to cut one out of others, that’s always a bit risky without knowing the quality of the fibreboard used.

The final reason I chose the IKEA shelves is that they’re rated at 30kg per shelf (roughly 66 US pounds), and most of the other similar shelves I’d looked at were rated at 10kg per shelf (roughly 22 pounds). This strength mattered because of what I’d decided about the shelves before they got here.

I decided that if I hated the shelves, I’d move it into my master wardrobe to replace some smaller shelves I have in there (one can never have too much storage in a wardrobe). However, if I liked them, but just not there, I thought I’d buy more and use them to replace the shelves in my office, which have books on them, and the greater strength would be needed.

So the big, heavy box arrived, and I set out to put them together. I’ve never assembled anything from IKEA, of course, but the tales are legendary. It turns out, it was extremely easy to do, and took me less than an hour—it almost took me longer to get into the box! In fact, I found the assembly easier than many shelf units I’ve assembled over the years. I saw a good tip in a YouTube video: The pictures of the screws, etc., in the instructions were nearly actual size, so it was easy to be sure to get the right part. I’ve mentioned this previously, but before I begin assembling anything, I always count out the parts first to make sure they’re all there, and that tip was helpful for that. The instructions themselves were all pictures, no words, which at one time would’ve been hard for me, but most assembly instructions are wordless now (or should be, in some cases…).

Left: IKEA corner guard. Right: From the kitchen shelves.
I was very impressed with everything about the shelves. First, it was very well packaged to prevent damage, and all of the packaging was recyclable—no polystyrene, and only two plastic bags for the parts (both of which can be recycled here in Hamilton). All long edges of the box were covered with rigid cardboard that reminded me of corner moulding, and all 8 corners had plastic covers that were clearly stamped with a large recycling code. All the shelves I put in the kitchen had plastic guards on the corners of each shelf, unlabelled, and so, probably not recyclable (I’ve found ways to re-use them).

The quality of the shelf materials was outstanding. The melamine-covered shelves and uprights were noticeably thicker than the ones in the units I’ve bought in the past, and so, part of the reason they’re stronger. The shelf supports for the adjustable shelves seemed a bit more robust than usual, and the unit came with brackets to attach the top of the unit to the wall. That’s to prevent the shelves from toppling over—a good thing in itself, but it’s even more important in places like New Zealand that have earthquakes. This is the first time I’ve ever bought shelves that included them; normally, people have to buy angle brackets at the hardware store to do that, so most don’t.

The only thing I questioned was that the cams used to grab the metal pegs for the fixed shelves were plastic, not metal. That’s clearly not as robust, but it seemed to be relatively strong plastic (each fixed shelf also used wooden pegs). I have an open mind about it, but I’d have preferred metal.

I put the assembled unit in place, but didn’t put the wall brackets on because I wasn’t sure the unit would stay there. Then, I started putting the DVDs on the shelves. Over the next couple days, I played with rearranging them until I got something I was happy with (for now). Here’s the before and after photo:

After sitting with the shelves for a few days, I decided that I like the shelves there, but I think I need to get another set of shelves for the other side of the window (probably for CDs, because, reasons). I also may have my TV mounted to the wall (a project I won’t do myself!) so it sits back farther so that corner doesn’t feel so crowded. There’s no urgency for that, though; if I do buy some for my office, I’ll probably order them all at once, and it would be only after I sold the shelves I have now, something I wouldn’t do until after Auckland’s border opens up (a story in itself).

So there it is: I bought some shelves as part of a general household project, gave myself some leeway to make other decisions, but decided I liked it as planned, and it’s now leading to even more household projects. At least my part in this project didn’t take much time—and it was inside with the air conditioner running. Wins all around.


Roger Owen Green said...

Doesn't sound all that "mini" to me!

Arthur Schenck said...

Heh. Well, it was meant just to be about some shelves, but I had to research everything thoroughly, first. At its core, though, it really was mostly about the shelves.