This year, I’ve been spending a lot of time building different things. I’ve had to start over in a lot of ways, and things are still shifting pretty dramatically for me. While things are unstable, it has given me an opportunity to learn how to do things I never really imagined possible.
Today I managed to see one project come to fruition. I built a Little Free Library (not yet registered in part because I can’t actually afford to) and it’s been installed at the Community Garden and Oven that I’m a member of.
This Hobbit House library started it’s life as a cat wheel that never got used. My plan was to build something like a hamster wheel for my kitties and my chihuahua to help them have extra exercise and play.
One of the really exciting things about this project has been getting to use and learn how to use an assortment of different tools. The Ottawa Tool Library was extremely helpful for this side of things.
The tool ninjas were great about recommending the right tool for the job. These are the same people who taught me how to use a circular saw when I first got it. A lot of the people who work there are very knowledgeable, but also willing to ask for help to come up with the right suggestion.
I started out by cutting out a big circle out of a large square board using a jig jaw I had rented from the tool library. To draw the circle, I used an old trick where you take a long plant of wood or string, screw one end into the center and then putting a marker in the string or in a whole drilled at the radius distance you want and then spinning it around.
Theoretically you can create a similar setup for the jig so that you don’t have to count on your ability to follow a line with a saw, but I didn’t do so for this one
The cuts weren’t perfect but I was able to use a sander to even out the edges.
The Biggest challenge was trying to figure out how to make the tunnel. My original plan had been to try and find a small cut end of one of those cardboard tubes. It needed to have a diameter of 30 inches at the very least.
That size really only gets used in construction to pour concrete. I found this out after going to Lowes and calling around to a bunch of different stores with no luck. After finding that out, I took the advice of the people at the store, and tried calling around to various industrial construction companies. While all of them were really nice and wishing they could help, none had what I was looking for.
I went to KJP Hardwood – a great specialty wood store here in Ottawa. I hadn’t actually gone there with anything specific in mind. My search had brought me to the area and I wanted to stop in and take a look at their really interesting selection.
I mentioned my dilemma to one of the experts at the store, and that’s when he introduced me to WIGGLE WOOD! Yes, that’s actually what it’s called, and it is aptly named. Wiggle wood is specially treated plywood that can be rolled.
I cut it down to the right size and then also cut two inch thick strips. I wrapped the wood around the circle, screwing in as I went in equal intervals. I then used the two strips to form concentric circles around the edge. Even wiggle wood has a diameter limit so as the circles became smaller, the grain became a bit tighter, creating a stable frame especially with the extra hardening of the wood glue.
One of the kitten who was staying with me for a while decided to inspect my handiwork. Hex approved.
Up till this point, this wheel was meant as a cat wheel, but soon afterwards, the questions of my continued housing started to come up and I realized that it wasn’t feasible for me to keep the kittens. In the interest of doing the responsible thing, I and my roommate at the time found them a great furever home with someone who had lost his two boys and who was reminded of them in these two. I get periodic updates about them.
But here I was with a wheel and no idea what to do with it.
For some time I had wanted to build a little library. I’m a big fan of the project since growing up and even now, books have been an escape for me from moments of difficulty. A lot of my feelings about the world, my questioning of religion, of authority, my desire to do better, to be better, to question the status quo and understand the subtle influences of bias and politics, all of that came from reading. From being exposed to different ideas and view points.
I know what it feels like to be poor. I know what it feels like to not even be able to go to the library because you have a $32 fine that you don’t know how you are going to pay. The idea of sharing books throughout a community, and doing it in a way that brings a little fun and whimsy to places that are too often places of too much reality.
At some point, I was thinking about wanting to do this project, when my eyes lighted upon the wheel. The two ideas collided and I decided to make the wheel into an interestingly shaped library!
The circular shape immediately brought to mind a hobbit house.
The tool Ninjas at the makerspace helped me with creating a good door, AND SO MUCH ELSE EVENTUALLY, by introducing me to the band saw. A lovely tool which lets you make fine detailed cuts. It made it possible for me to make supports for the hinge that could actually fit against the circular exterior, while also creating supports for the whole thing in the end.
Then to touch it up, we used a router to make sure that the door and the wheel were the same size and shape.
I painted the whole thing with waterproof decking paint as well as spray paint. Lowes had a great Lion’s Head Drawer Pull that looked like a knocker to me.
Finally using some cedar decking strips, some tung oil, a wood burning kid and paint, I made some signs to go on the library.
Here is the final product in all it’s glory. While the door fell off this morning and so I have to fix it, I’m actually pretty happy with the way it turned out. I’ve brought yet more books, and the community is really excited about it too. It’s been a really fun project