Comic Book Storage: Part 3 - The Epic Conclusion

Well, this post has been a long time coming, but (6 months later) here we are!  Constructing the comic book storage unit!

Drilling holes on the freshly cleaned carpet might not have been a win.  Oh well.

Drilling holes on the freshly cleaned carpet might not have been a win.  Oh well.

To refresh from Part 1 and Part 2, we have the parts from two Ikea RAST dressers (dyed not-neon purple) and ten painted knobs with representations of ten carefully selected super heroes.  We also have a 1"x12"x10' common board, cut to 1"x12"x5', and also dyed not-dark-neon purple (not that you can tell from the pictures - I've upgraded my camera, swear).  Time to play!

The RAST drawers attach to the dressers via plastic bolts that screw into plastic slides.  The plastic slides are hammered into pre-drilled holes in each side of the dresser.  So, to recreate the RAST functionality in a taller and more spaced out way, I needed to drill large holes *not all the way through* the two common boards, which were the new sides of the dresser, that the drawer slides could be hammered into.  Drilling these holes required a 3/8" drill bit, which of course I didn't have (Assembly trip number one to Home Depot).

Measuring where to put the holes was a little more challenging than it should have been (though I'll admit that not having access to most of our tools, including a flat ruler, didn't really help).  This was the process.

When I planned everything out, I knew that I wanted five drawers.  When you assemble a RAST, there's a 3" base, and about 1" at the top, including the top piece and the overhang of the sides.  That leaves 56" of height to work with.  So, I calculated that with five drawers, I had approximately 11" per drawer, including the open space that I wanted above each.  This was perfect, because comic books are approximately 10.5" (and even when you bag comics, as Troy does, the open bags are only 12", and the top flaps are flexible).  Excelsior, True Believers! 

Indentation showing where each hole needed to be drilled in the common board.

Indentation showing where each hole needed to be drilled in the common board.

To figure out where to drill the holes for the slides, I started with the left/right side of the RAST dresser.  I took a blank piece of 8.5" x 11" paper, and laid it on the pre-drilled holes at the bottom of the RAST left side.  I marked the center of each hole on the paper, and then did a pencil rubbing of the holes.  I then put the paper on the bottom of the left-side common board, and traced the circle several times, leaving an indentation in the wood (There's probably a better way to do this, but operating with very few tools and in a pretty tight time frame, this is what I came up with - it worked).  I then drilled each hole, trying not to go all the way through the wood.  Which only happened once. #hulksmash.

What sawdust? I don't see any sawdust...

What sawdust? I don't see any sawdust...

Once I had the bottom drawer slides installed, it was pretty straightforward to move up each side, adding 11" to each of the three holes, and then hammering in the slides.  This meant that the top drawer had a tiny extra bit of space, but it's really not noticeable at all.  Once all the holes were in place, I was able to pretty much assemble as per the IKEA picto-directions, using the provided hardware.

For dividers, I got ten of these mini tension rods from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  I'm kinda "eh" on them, but they do what they're supposed to, so it's all good.

I think it looks pretty awesome, and Troy was super excited.  And here's another picture of the completed unit, installed in Troy's office.  It got a little beaten up in the move, and I have some touch-up plans anyway, but overall, I'm calling success.

That said, there is a small problem that, should someone attempt to recreate this, it would probably be good to take into account:

The overlap hasn't been a huge deal, because Troy is using the unit for his "current comics" - he swears there are fewer of those.

The overlap hasn't been a huge deal, because Troy is using the unit for his "current comics" - he swears there are fewer of those.

When I measured out 11" for each drawer, I was measuring the drawer front and the amount of space that I wanted at the top of each.  That's all well and good, except that the drawer bottom is not at the bottom of the drawer front.  This means that the comic books can't stand straight up (see picture), because you wouldn't be able to pull out the drawer, as the books would be blocked by the next drawer up.  Functionally, the only thing that this has meant is that there's slightly diminished capacity for comic storage.  If I were to recreate, I'd buy a 1" x 12" x 12' board, and make the unit 66" tall, instead of 60" - that would allow each drawer the clearance it needs.  Maybe once Troy runs out of comic space (again).

On the off chance he does (HA), what are you doing to solve the dilemma of the long box?

Comic Book Storage: Part 2

I suppose that this is less of a tutorial, and more of an intermediate process for getting from point A (dyeing the wood) to point C (constructing the actual unit), but it was still something that happened, so here we go.

It only seemed appropriate to put Iron Man and Captain America together :)

It only seemed appropriate to put Iron Man and Captain America together :)

Clearly the goal of the unit was to highlight the comic books, so I wanted some way to make the unit itself themed without being overwhelming (which is good, given Troy's paint choices for his new office - stay tuned, true believers!)  I considered a few different options, ranging from wood burning (would have been awesome, but the dye/tinted poly were too dark for it to really show up), to painted comic book covers on the sides.  The problem with most of those options, however, was time and maintaining the surprise aspect of the project.

So I looked into knobs.  Hobby Lobby actually sells super hero drawer knobs (just not on their website).  They're really cool looking (see left), but had a few downsides.  First, they're $7.99(!!) each.  That's a little steep for a DIY project, especially when I needed ten of them.  Also, they didn't have ten different options, so there would have been a lot of repetition, rather than superhero representation.  So I kept looking.  Etsy to the (inspiration) rescue!

The IKEA RASTs came with knobs, and it seems like a lot of the super hero drawer knobs that are being sold on Etsy are those same knobs, just painted with super hero logos.  Well, I figured I could do that, and then customize and represent at the same time.  So that's what I did.

I considered the Hulk, but it would have messed with the color distribution too much.

I considered the Hulk, but it would have messed with the color distribution too much.

First, I painted all 12 knobs white, figuring that I would screw up some of the detail painting along the way (that absolutely happened). In doing the detail painting, I focused on the top of the knob exclusively, and left the sides to paint later.  I used these brushes and acrylic paint. The knob painting probably took about four hours total, but I was watching American Pickers and intermittently doing homework, so that's a pretty rough estimate.

As you can see, I opted to include the logos for the Legion of Superheroes, Thor, Spiderman, Batman, Captain America, Yellow Jacket (Troy is a big Hank Pym fan), Iron Man, the X-Men, Avengers, and the Fantastic Four.  I'm happy with the variation, and mostly with the way that the knobs came out.  In retrospect, if you screw up with black paint, it takes a lot of coats to cover over completely (more coats than say, my Avengers knob actually got).

To protect the knobs, I sealed them with a couple of coats of clear polyurethane, and hid them in a drawer until it was time to move everything to the new house and assemble the unit.  So much stealth! 

Who would you include in the knobs?

Comic Book Storage: Part 1

So, now that Troy's birthday is over, I can finally start to post some of the crafting I've done lately!  Other than painting (and painting, and painting), I've been working on a surprise birthday gift for months (stealth is hard when Troy gets home before me in the evening, and doesn't tend to go out of town with the same regularity that I do). 

Anyway, here's the finished product: a five-drawer super hero themed, IKEA-hack, comic book storage solution (that will hold maybe 30% of the current comic book collection).

The genesis for the project was that Troy had a pretty reasonable storage solution for part of his collection, but that really wasn't enough.  Also, I like themes, and last January (ten months ago), I saw that Marvel Universe Live! was going to be in Charlotte over Troy's birthday weekend.  So, of course I bought those tickets.  Had to.  Spoiler alert: It was adorable.  As such, I was on the lookout for a comic book storage solution.

After a quick and mostly fruitless web search, I determined that the options were to either keep going with comic long boxes, which really lack aesthetic appeal, or pay INSANE (like Taylor Swift in Blank Space) prices for custom file cabinets.  That wasn't going to happen either.  So finally, I stumbled on to this.  And that seemed like something that I could make.

So, after some research, I decided to take the drawers and hardware from two IKEA RAST dressers and pair them with two five-foot side panels.  How hard could that really be?  And that takes us to the first part of the tutorial. 

Dyeing Wood
I'm pretty fanatical about surprises remaining surprises.  So, for that to work, I needed a way to color untreated pine (the natural IKEA state) without Troy knowing that anything was going on.  That ruled out any kind of polyurethane, since the smell would have given me away.  I considered painting, but I knew that his preferences tend more toward natural wood colors than paint, so that was a last resort.

Pinterest came to my rescue.  I've never really considered it, but you can use RIT Dye on wood.  So, I picked up a bottle of dark brown at Hobby Lobby ($3.99), waited until Troy was at Nerd Recess, and tried it out. 

Pretty much all I did was boil 16 cups of water, and dump in the bottle of dye.  Then I mixed it up and started dunking the different pieces of the two IKEA RASTs. 

The wood generally absorbed the dye really well, so I let each piece sit for a minute or two per side, and then took it out and let it dry on a towel (not a nice towel, since the dye is permanent) for 10-15 minutes.  I was able to dye the vast majority (whoops) of the wood from the RAST dressers in approximately two hours (while also cleaning the kitchen).

I was really excited by the results when the wood was still wet (see right).  Pretty color, wood grain intact, super easy to do.  Unfortunately, it didn't dry quite that nicely.

The wood grain remained, but somehow, the rich brown color changed to a dark-but-still-somehow-neon purple.  I don't know how that happened, but it did.

After some colleague consultation, I took a chance and used Minwax Water-Based Wiping Stain in the lightest, yellowest shade I could find.  That was the Oak.  This worked wonderfully (and didn't have much of a smell, which kept the surprise a surprise!) to neutralize the purple tones and bring the wood back to a nice normal brown color.  It was very easy to wipe on, using a cut up old tee shirt, and it dried super quickly (fast enough so that I could almost immediately restack the pieces in my office closet).

Earlier, I said that I dyed the majority of the wood in the first go around.  At that point, I hadn't yet gotten the side pieces.  For those, I went to Home Depot and got a 1" x 12" x 10' common board for $20.34, which they were kind enough to cut in half for me.  This time, I didn't need as much dye, so I used the powdered RIT Dye.  While this didn't dry as purple, there were still some serious purple undertones, so I went ahead and used the wiping stain on those too.  Overall, I used one tube of the wiping stain, but I didn't stain the sides of the drawers (just the fronts and the backs), so that cut down on the need for it.

The final wood color is shown in the last picture, as part of the finished storage solution.  I plan to do two more posts: one on creating the comic knobs, and what will probably be a super long post on actually assembling the final creation (not exactly a fool-proof process, as the case would be).  At the end, I'll list my costs for the whole project, which were less than $175 (a far cry from the $975 base price for the Comic Crypt).  Hope this is helpful for anyone interested in trying something similar!


So, am I the only one who's not fully on board with the long boxes?  What are you guys doing for comic storage?