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A girl walks into a hardware store….

29 March 2016

I decided recently that I’m moving out of my current apartment and into a studio. It’s time for some solitary living. After all, I just turned 26, I’m not married (or anywhere close to permanently cohabitating), and I’ve traveled the world by myself, so this seems like the next adventure.

Planning for a new apartment got me thinking about trying a whole new aesthetic. That, and I’ve been emotionally exhausted from BPS budget crap-ola, so I wanted to make things.

It started with my card catalog. I love this thing. Found it at the MIT Furniture Exchange a few years ago, and it’s been my nightstand for a while, holding everything from dental floss to art supplies. This is what it looked like:


my card catalog as nightstand. labels made of paint chips.

I decided the library relic needed an update. I took everything out of the drawers, removed the hardware, and started sanding.


sanding on my fire escape. it was a process.

I realized two of the drawers were made entirely of wood – the majority are a wood panel screwed to a plastic drawer. With sanding, the character of these two drawers really came out. One has a metal number stamped into it – no idea where that came from, but it’s neat and I’d never noticed it before.

With most of the original finish sanded off, I stained the whole thing with Minwax Dark Walnut. Now we look like we have class. I sealed it with two coats of polyurethane.

The top of the card catalog was a single piece of particleboard, which looked and felt pretty crappy. So I measured the whole thing (hey, there’s the geometry teacher in me) and bought a thin sheet of wood at Home Depot (for about $4.50, and they cut it for me. Someday I’ll have my own circular saw…and a garage…). I pried up the old top, nailed down the new wood, and stained it the same color as the rest of the card catalog.

Bed risers are cool and all, but I wanted this thing to have real height. My new apartment has an entryway, and I decided the card catalog would be the perfect piece to stand in the foyer. Enter Pinterest (like it wasn’t the inspiration for this whole project). I found a post about building a table base from plumbing pipe, and I was sold like a horse.

Lots and lots of trial and error later, I had built the base, screwed it into the card catalog, and was ready to let this thing stand on its own four feet – er, flanges.

I polished the hardware with Brasso, bought new screws to attach the drawer pull that was never attached, and put the whole thing back together.


the finished product!


close-up of the drawers with their new finish and polished hardware.

Hooray! It’s excited for its debut in the new place, even though that won’t come for another two months. Meanwhile, I’m excited for my next project, and for designing (perhaps also building?) Tiny Houses with my geometry students.


I’m a mess, but that’s part of the fun!




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