Friday, September 23, 2011


We've always had a love/hate relationship with big box stores. On the one hand you have all of the not so great political motivations: cheap foreign manufacturing, low wages and no worker benefits, mass produced products for a milquetoast audience and the ubiquity of having produced city after city with the same commercial landscapes. On the other hand, they usually have what you need for cheap, so when we take on yet another DIY project it's off to one of Madison's two big box hardware alternatives. As much as we'd like to recommend them both, or better yet be able to offer a hidden mom and pop store that could compete with these big boys, we find ourselves ready to do a commercial for our favorite box, the one that really stands head and shoulders above the alternative:  Here's to Home Depot.
First, they're really knowledgeable. No, I mean it. They must have some militaryesque training camp they require their sales people to complete. We can play "Stump the Handyman" with our favorite salesperson but the odds of us winning are slim to none. How many competitor salespeople are going to know where to find a Dremel 3 1/2"  240 grit multi max wood sand paper 6 pack or the difference between a rubber-headed sure strike 5oz. tack hammer and a WamBam fence spongy suzy spring-loaded post pounder.
Second, They're friendly, helpful, and courteous. Here's where our real praises begin and here's a little story to show why. It was a couple of weeks ago. Rick had been going on about putting together a new table top for the polished nickel sawhorses we had purchased from William-Sonoma Home. He wanted to use it as a display piece at the store. Rick's plans seemed very involved to me but I was willing to pitch in and help out. I fall for his Tom Sawyer routine every time. His original drawing had everything cut out of one piece of 3/4" particleboard. Through our back and forth bickering we managed to get it down to one sheet of board cut to size and a base made from 1" x 3"s. When we set off to the big box stores Home Depot's major competitor is closer to our apartment by about a tenth of a mile. We stopped there first on the chance they might surprise us. They didn't. They didn't have what we needed and what they did have they told us we would be on our own as far as cutting the pieces. You try and stuff a 4' x 8' sheet of particleboard into the trunk of Chevy Aveo. It ain't gonna fit.
We drive on to Home Depot and headed right to the lumber section. I never feel comfortable here but we did our best to select the best quality 4' x 8' piece of particleboard and the straightest 1' x 3' boards with the least amount of knots. One of the best features of our Home Depot is with these small projects they'll actually help measure twice and cut once the pieces you'll need. I had heard they have a maximum amount of cuts they'll do but we've never been denied an extra cut or two. Brady saw us loading the lumber onto our cart and he was right there to ask if he could help. I showed him our drawing and what we needed cut. He said, "No problem" and wheeled us right back to their huge wall saw. In minutes we had the pieces we needed, cut perfectly. Then Brady walked us through the store to get the right nails, some wood glue and a countersink to fit the nails we bought. As I said, "Friendly, helpful and courteous". We don't even bother with their local competitor anymore. We're big Home Depot fans. 

Home Depot got us over the first hurdle of getting our frame cut out. From Home Depot it was off to JoAnn Fabrics for a couple of yards of burlap. Since we were painting the burlap the natural color of the burlap wasn't important. We found some brown burlap for about a buck a yard. It would do. We had decided to paint the top the same off white color as the mouldings in our studio. We had over a half-gallon left from painting the trim. Now we had everything we needed. I assembled the frame in less than a half hour.
Then it was Rick's turn to start applying the burlap. Burlap has a lot of stretch to it so you can't really worry if it's not completely taut. Rick started stapling one side and then securing it on the opposite side. His main concern was to keep the lines of the fabric running as straight as he could make them. The paint would take up any slack. The burlap would tighten up with each additional coat of paint.
He chose to do a vertical hospital corner, not to be confused with a military corner or an envelop corner each of which have a forty-five degree slant to their fold. The vertical fold gives a cleaner look. We cut out the excess fabric to keep the corner as flat as we could.
Once the fabric was secure we began painting, coat after coat after coat, until all the nooks and crannies were filled in. We used a high gloss grade of paint to give us the most durable surface.
Rick then detailed the edge with nailhead trim. Who knew? Every fifth head had a little hole in it where you'd nail in a real nail head to hold the whole thing in place.
We put the tabletop on our sawhorses and merchandised it with some of our new product. Now we have just another reason to show off our terrific atelier.


I am the least safety conscious DIYer.  My lack of patience always gets the better of me so I always jump in unprotected, hands first as it were.  DON'T DO THAT!  Here's what you need for a project like we just completed. Get the right kind of stapler.  If you don't have access to an electric, hydraulic driven upholsterer's stapler (and who does?) invest in an "easy grip model".  You'll save yourself a lot of pain later.  Don't forget to wear gloves. Latex ones for stretching and applying the burlap, it's very abrasive and sometimes the fibers can actually invade your skin like little splinters. Use these also to apply the paint, why spend extra money for a new manicure. Most importantly protect your hands and fingers with a heavier work glove when applying the nail heads. After I had finished my fingertips looked as if I had played a cheese grater like a zither.

Play Golf FREE
Photographer unknown
Available through Zazzle as a poster on archival paper for $71.15

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