any man who has bought a few tools, is quite anxious to make something with them. He may have been successful in getting a door to close properly, or in making a balky window easy to operate. He is never satisfied with that sort of thing, however, and feels that his skill with the tools calls for a definite expression of his ability as a mechanic. Nine times out of ten he will attempt something which is a bit over his head, and as a result, throw the entire idea overboard and go back to collecting stamps or playing golf in his spare hours. If he' would have the sense to confine his first efforts to a few simple jobs, and complete them with comparative ease, he would find that he could move along to bigger and better things with the natural development of his ability.
It has been proved that the first attempt of the amateur mechanic around a house is to put up a shelf. Somebody, sometime, decided that this was about the easiest thing to do; but they made quite a mistake. Although we think that we know most of the story about houses, we must confess that we have spent some bad hours trying to put shelves up; only to find that we could not locate the studs which would take a nail, cracked too much of the plaster wall-finish, or ended up with a shelf which turned out to be too narrow to accommodate the stuff which was to be placed upon them. We must also confess that we totally forgot the most important of all matters pertaining to shelves, and that is the height. Nevertheless after one or two lessons, we came to the understanding that putting up a shelf was not a matter of sawing a board to a certain length, and putting up two brackets; but it was rather a three-dimensional problem, involving three questions, how wide should the shelf be, how high should it be, and how was it to be fastened to the wall. From there on, we made no mistakes about shelves; and you need make none yourself. As a matter of fact, every time you attempt a job around the house, you will escape a lot of grief if you will just take five minutes off, and really think about what you are about to do. As a specific example, consider for a moment the fact that doors can swing two ways. You may have a room so furnished or so laid out, that when the door opens into the room it bangs against the corner of a dressing table or a bed. If it swung the other way, it might open against a blank wall, and be a correctly placed unit of the house assembly. You might also consider the matter of properly located electric-light switches. In one instance you may find that the switch is located immediately inside the doorway and at waist-high level where it belongs; where it is a natural thing to find it; and on the other hand it may be halfway across the room where you have to grope in the dark to find it. The problem involved in the shelf, door, or switch matter is identical. All that you need is attention to the result and the accommodation to be achieved. You can get both by studying the matter. Never attempt to do anything until you think it over. If you had ever been in the building business, or had ever been connected in any way with carpenters, masons, plumbers, steamfitters, plasterers, or other capable mechanics, you would have noticed that they never rush at a job. To you they may appear to be wasting a lot of time; but they are not. While they are scratching their chins or chewing their tobacco, they are also thinking a bit, and figuring out the best way to tackle the job. The twenty minutes to half-hour which they spent on that, is more than compensated for by the speed with which they will clean up the job. No first-rate mechanic or tradesman ever laid saw to wood or chisel to stone, until he knew what it was all about, and how he was going to do it.
In one of the previous chapters devoted to built-in furniture, we went into considerable detail about the building of built-in beds and bunks, dressing tables and settees. None of it was too involved, and the average man should be able to work them out; but there are other and more simple things which are handy to have around, which he may also make and with less difficulty. We will explain a few of them.
Every room, hall, and section of a house has corners. We all know that the average corner goes to waste. This leads up to the matter of corner shelves or cabinets. A corner-shelf is composed of a triangular piece of wood which fits along both adjoining walls and presents a front edge touching both walls. There are two ways of making a corner-shelf. One consists of attaching two strips of wood to the walls and cutting one or more shelves to fit across them. The other consists of fastening two pieces of wood to the wall which furnish "sides," and then cutting and fitting shelves to be nailed between the sides. Either job is completely elementary. If you want a set of corner shelves, the bottom shelf to hold a telephone, and the upper shelves to hold ornaments of one kind or other, you first determine the number of shelves you want (allowing the proper space between them) and then proceed to cut two pieces of shelving (finished and sanded board) the proper length. You nail these to the wall at whatever height you have decided upon. You only drive the nails in halfway. Satisfied that height and depth are correct, you draw out the nails, and overlap the boards to that the edge of one lies on the surface of the other like the corner of a box. You nail through one into the other, and then are ready to reset them on the wall and fasten them, but before doing this, you cut the determined number of shelves and nail through the sides into the edge of the shelves, thus making a complete assembly ready to erect on the wall.
Corner shelves and straight shelves do not involve difficult measurements or require skilled workmanship.