A home for my Vintage
Posted by: Bill Cable 01.14.09 12:01am
Moving into a new house, one of the things I most looked forward to was having my own Star Wars room again. I used to have a Star Wars room in the old house, until my daughters needed a "play room." Then I had to pack everything up. I've been in the new house a little over half a year, and it's finally to the point where I can start dedicating some time to setting up my room. So before Christmas I build some shelves!

Now my objectives for these shelves were threefold:

  • I wanted the shelves to be sturdy.
  • I wanted the shelves to be invisible.
  • I wanted the shelves to be cheap.

With those in mind, I headed to Lowe's. I looked at all their shelving options, and they came up wanting. Everything was either ugly, gaudy or expensive. So I decided to build something myself. Not having exceptional carpentry skills, I had to be creative.

I decided that my material of choice would be base moulding... that wood strip you find at the bottom of your walls covering up where the carpet meets the wall. They had hard wood, primed pine and composite material moulding of the shape and size I liked, and I went with the hard wood. I figured I'd be painting it to match my walls anyway, so why pay extra for something primed? And I figured the wood would hold up better than any composite material. Here's the shape I went with:


Simple. Clean. Exactly what I was looking for.

It was a great choice, but I did run into one issue. It's tough to find straight moulding. Usually molding is nailed flat against the wall, so it doesn't really need to be straight to begin with. But I was mounting mine perpendicular to the wall. So any sort of curve would be problematic. I had to go through the entire stack of moulding to find seven viable pieces. And I couldn't be picky about the "back" of the moulding (which would normally be against the wall)... some had a single slot cut out. Others had a series of three or four slots. But none were all that deep, so I figured it wouldn't matter much. Only people who come in looking for it will ever see the difference.

Now the next thing I needed to do was figure out a way to attach these to the wall like shelves. At 3" wide they'd be ideal for Vintage figures in Oscar's Acrylic Cases. But to mount them perpendicular to the wall would be tricky. Foregoing much better looking alternatives, for this I chose the simplest option. I bought up every pack of small L brackets they had in the store. There were four brackets per bag, and I bought up all 9 of the nickel-plated 2-hole brackets they had on the shelves. I planned to screw the brackets to the shelves at 16" intervals, and then screw them to the walls through the studs. This was to provide maximum strength against the shelves collapsing. People who screw into the plaster when they could catch the stud are morons, in my always humble opinion.

So the first job after acquisition was shelf assembly. I needed to paint the shelves, then attach the mounting brackets. So I went and got paint swatches to try and match my wall. After consulting my wife and older daughter, we settled on a color called "Milk paint." Yummy. I found out that I needed to put three coats of paint on the shelves to get an even finish. Maybe that primer wouldn't have been a bad idea after all.

I located the studs in the wall, then marked the starting point of the shelves where I wanted them. Then I marked every 16" on the shelves, and attached the brackets. After my first shelf was done, I noticed a problem. The screws were too long. The points of the screws stuck out a good 1/8" the bottom of the shelf. This could prove hazardous to my hands if I grabbed a figure, but more importantly could scratch up my Oscar's Cases. My solution... a grinding wheel. I spent a good 90 minutes one night grinding off the bottom halves of about 90 screws. My workbench is still covered in metal flakes. But it worked... with the shortened screws I only had a few of the shelves crack on the bottom when the screws were inserted.

Since the screws were now pointless, I had to drill holes in the wood to get them to start. So after the paint dried I methodically drilled pilot holes at 16" intervals into all seven shelves. The shelves were 8' long, so that worked out to 42 brackets. Which meant it was back to Lowe's to hope they'd restocked... It would be one of hundreds of trips back to that damn store for stuff I kept finding out I needed.

So the shelves were finished! Next it was time to put them on the wall. I ran masking tape up the wall at the studs, reasoning that'd save me from cleaning up pencil marks later. It was a brilliant move. I measured one of my Oscar's Cases, added the height of a shelf, and measured off the locations of pilot holes. I drilled them out. Attached the shelves using 2" drywall screws. Job finished!

Then I tried to put some figures on the shelves, and realized I made a HUGE error.

Some of the figures fit perfectly on some of the shelves. This is because Oscar's Cases are hand-made, and sometimes there's a little variance in the height. My mistake was that I forgot to include the thickness of the L brackets in my measurement. This was only about 1/16" of an inch... but another problem was that I used one of my shorter cases in the original measurement. So when you add 1/16" of an inch for the bracket, and another 1/16" of an inch for some of the cases, the cases ended up not fitting no matter how hard I pushed.

So I had to take everything back off the wall and start all over again.

Yes, the room filled with black clouds of profanity for the good part of an hour.

After I filled the holes and started over, the second time went much more quickly. I'll share one trick with you I discovered when constructing. What I did was draw a vertical line down the wall where the middle of the shelves would be, then marked off where the screws would be drilled. Now here's the trick... I took my level and marked it at 16" intervals. Then I just put one of the marks on the original drill hole, leveled the level, and marked the wall for the next hole. I figured this would be more reliable than measuring a grid. I'm usually very accurate in such things, but one small mistake could lead to badly crooked shelves by the end of the wall. By using the level as my measuring instrument, the measurements would almost self-correct any mistake. They'd always be level. And it ended up being pretty quick.

To hang the shelves I first screwed in the leftmost screw about halfway. Then I lifted the right side of the shelf and inserted the rightmost. Then it was just zip-zip-zip with the other four. Power drills are nice, once you have a bit that's long enough that your drill doesn't grind up the surface of the shelves (that was yet another trip to Lowe's).

The second time was the charm... with the new measurements all my cases all actually fit on the shelves, and I was in business. The next week I repeated the whole process to make shelves for my 3POs... albeit shorter ones since I have fewer. Well, not the whole process... I didn't need to hang those ones twice. Total cost of the project was under $200.

So now all my Vintage carded is proudly on display! The next task is to build the bookshelves I just picked up at Ikea, and fill them with all the rest of my collection. That should only take around 2 or 3 years...

My guess is you'd like to see some finished photos. These first three are of my complete set of 96. The first is set. The second is to give you an idea of the depth of the shelves. And the third... well Julia saw me take a photo of Jasmine, so she had to be in one as well...

As you can see - the perfect width. As an added bonus, on the shelves with the single groove, I was able to set the back edge of the cases against the back wall of the groove, and the front edge above the front lip of the groove, resulting in a great deal of stability.

These next two are my preciouses... my 3PO run. It brings a tear to the eye...