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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Best Bad Idea

Do you ever wonder why no one makes animation desks out of those cool metal mesh shelves? You need only put them together according to your own pattern and put a wooden desktop on it. You can add or rearrange shelves when you need them.

I thought it was a great idea. Then I started the project.

The first thing to remember when trying to do this, if anyone else is mad enough to do so: Never buy the metal shelves on Ebay. There is something wrong with them if you do. My shelves were subtly warped. This may be symbolic of animation, or of the owner of the desk, but the upshot of warped shelves were: sometimes the posts wouldn't go together, and the shelves had interesting tilts when they were assembled.The little black sleevey things that are supposed to keep the shelves tight to the posts kept popping off. I swear that once one of them jumped about six feet, projectile style.

The next thing to remember is to put a shelf at the bottom. I did not do so, and my spavined shelves threatened to collapse like something out of a Laurel and Hardy movie until I slipped a shelf up the legs like a pair of pants, held it where I wanted by placing it on a pile of books, and attaching the sleevey things, then kicking the books out. The result was about as pleasant as a public hanging; after retrieving the sleevey things, I managed to stabilize the bottom of the shelf.

My old animation desk top needed to be attached with O rings and S hooks. Trouble is O rings don't self-thread. They would not drill into the desktop, no matter how hard I tried, and since they were designed for metal they wouldn't have held anyway. I wound up using the S hooks and some cup holders. That's right. They're the ones you see hanging down in old kitchen cupboards, except that these had a spring closure designed for California earthquakes. (My tool box has a lot of earthquake picture mounts, etc. left over from my time in LA.) I then tied the whole mess together with aluminum wire.
(Update: I changed the cup holders to self threading O rings today and removed the wire, also lowered the desktop by five inches. It's now a really good, functional, desk with a lot of storage space.)

A surprising thing happened. The mess of warped metal actually seemed to straighten up and turn into an--animation desk! and not a bad one either.

And I discovered that the little sleevey things could be forced up from the bottom to make the warped shelves seat more or less tightly. It felt really, really good to use the hammer on them. I hit them very, very hard.

Gizmo managed to get up on the top shelf and peer down at me sweating below. Her fur bulged out between the wire frames for all the world like an old fashioned egg slicer.

I had constructed the thing in the living room and now had to push it down the hallway to the studio. In an act of sheer genius, I had dumped the expensive (and functional) wheels that came with the Ebay find. There were little plastic feet that would, I thought, protect the floor. What I didn't figure on was that they would grip the floor like a limpet and fight to stay where they were.
At this point, the shelves seemed to morph into a living creature with a mind of its own, and that mind was distinctly unfriendly.

I started pushing the desk toward the studio, the feet advancing by a series of shuddering jumps. As it reluctantly slid down the short hall, making a sound like a Wookiee mating call, I saw my idiotic cat sitting directly in front of the oncoming metal train.

"Get the *&@# out of the way!" I screamed. Gizmo did--and went into the studio, and sat directly in front of the thing, which had somehow turned the corner and was pushing a wheeled shelf ahead of it. My next remarks to Gizmo were even less printable, and I backed the shelves out before I ran over her.

Eventually I got the desk where it was supposed to be. It's behind me right now. I'll try to post a picture. It does not look at all bad, and there is plenty of storage space on the shelves. And here's an extra special Martha Stewed hint: To keep the books from falling out of the side of the shelves, I used aluminum wire threaded between the posts in a pattern that I have dubbed "The Drunken Spider". It looks really, really good. If I had the energy, I could thread little pink ribbons or something through it. It worked a lot better than the expensive metal 'side shelves' I purchased--in the wrong size! So yes, it is possible to build a functioning animation desk from wire metal shelves.

But next time, if there is a next time, I won't do this next time.


Bill Robinson said...

Hilarious. Hope Canada is treating you well!

Nancy said...

HI Bill,

It's great up here, come visit if you are in the country.