Build it yourself: Ana White says grab a hammer and get to work

“At Home Depot you can buy a sheet of PureBond formaldehyde-free wood, which means it does not off-cast into your home, for about $50,” says White.

Ladies, forget buying a shelf — let alone getting a man to hang it up. DIY blogger Ana White says build one on your own.
 
The petite 32-year-old mom constructs furniture — such as a solid farmhouse bed and charming dining room hutch — in her home in Alaska and shares her easy-to-follow plans  on her wildly popular furniture design site, Ana-white.com. Last month, she released her debut book, “The Handbuilt Home,” with instructions and tips for 34 (mostly new) stylish and budget-friendly woodworking projects.

For those afraid to pick up a drill, White uses her own experience as motivation. “I didn’t use a drill or saw until I was in my mid-20s. It’s not that you can’t, it’s just that you haven’t been taught,” says White, who built her first piece of furniture because she and her husband couldn’t afford high-quality design and didn’t want to compromise on cheaper particle board options. “A drill to me is as easy as a hand mixer — it rotates with an attachment.  So I say, ‘If you can beat eggs, you can use a drill.’”

Still not convinced? White recommends starting small. “Have your hardware store cut your boards so you’re not dealing with a saw. Take them home, use a drill — but pretend it’s a hand mixer — and make your first piece of furniture. You’ll build up some confidence and go from there.”

Why DIY?

White on why you should make your own furniture:
   
Save thousands of dollars: “Everybody wants to save some money, right? When you build furniture, you save upward of 90 percent off retail. That’s why I started building my own. I said, ‘I’m a mom. We have a tight budget,  where can I be the most effective?’ I found that furniture was where I could create the biggest return for my time.”
   
You’re the boss: “When you DIY, you say what goes in your home. You can say, ‘I want this color. I want it to fit this space. I have a small apartment, I want a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf that fits perfectly.’ If you’re buying something you’re stuck dealing with what is ‘in season’ or ‘in style.’”
  
It’s green: “You can make your project greener. You can say, ‘I want a really high indoor air quality in my home, so I’m going to choose formaldehyde-free materials. I’m going to use low VOC paint and make our home healthier as well.’ You can also say, ‘ I don’t want to contribute to landfills.’ When I make my own furniture, there’s no packaging involved. I just go to Home Depot and get some raw boards and build something. I don’t have to figure out a way to dispose of this packaging or think about the furniture being shipped overseas and then shipped back to manufacturing plants and distribution centers.”

Aren’t supplies expensive?

“Most furniture that you buy  is particle board. If you’re to compare apples to apples, you can buy a 4-foot by 8-foot sheet of particle board big enough to make a bookshelf for $17 at any hardware store. If you want to go up a grade, make it out of plywood, which high-quality cabinets are made out of. You could buy a sheet of it for $50.”

DIY project

Gallery ledges

If you are anything like me, you like to accessorize your house. You want to change things up with the seasons by adding fresh photos and decor. But you want this change to be easy and fast. A simple gallery ledge allows you to keep your home updated season by season, holiday to holiday. Create a wall of vacation memories or use these customizable ledges to display collectibles. In just a few hours, and for as many dollars, you can transform a blank wall into your favorite part of your home.

Shopping list:
 1×4: 2′ (61cm) per every foot
(30.5cm) of ledge
 1×2: 1′ (30.5cm) per every foot
(30.5cm) of ledge
 Wood glue
 2″ (5cm) nails or screws or
 11/4″ (3cm) pocket hole screws
 3″ (7.5cm) screws or picture-hanging bracket
 Finishing supplies

Tools:
 Basic hand tools
 Finish nailer or pocket hole jig or drill with countersink bits
 Stud finder (optional)
 Level

Cutting list:

 2 1x4s at desired ledge length
 1 1×2 at desired ledge length

Directions:
1. Back: If you are using pocket holes, drill 3/4″ pocket holes every 6″ (15cm) to 8″ (20.5cm) along both edges of the bottom of the shelf. Attach the back with glue and 11/4″ (3cm) pocket hole screws. For nails and countersunk screws, use ample glue and attach the bottom board to the back with 2″ (5cm) screws or nails.

2. Front: The front trim is both decorative and functional. It will keep your displays from falling off the narrow ledge. Attach it with either glue and 2″ (5cm) finish nails or pocket hole screws if you drilled holes in the first step. Keep all edges flush to the bottom.

3. Hanging: To hang the ledges, locate the studs in your wall with a stud finder (optional) and mark them. Position the ledges on your wall, marking the location of studs on the back of the ledge. Pre-drill holes into the back of the gallery ledge, matching the stud location. Using 3″ (7.5cm) screws through the predrilled holes, attach the back of the gallery ledge to the studs in the wall. Use a level to ensure your shelves are straight. Alternatively, you can use a picture-hanging bracket to hang the shelves.
 
TIP: If you hang more than one shelf, leave approximately 15″ (38cm) between the two levels of shelves to allow for photos and other artwork.

4. Planning your ledges: These ledges are simple to build, but you will want to plan out the length of your ledges to fit your wall space. Choosing lengths of 24″ (61cm), 32″ (81cm), 48″ (122cm), and 96″ (244cm) conserve the boards best. Lengths less than 24″ (61cm) can present hanging challenges.
 
TIP: Use painter’s blue tape to mark out the location and length of your shelves on the wall. Adjust until you have found the perfect length.
 
TIP: Consider staggering shelves for added interest and to accommodate objects of varying heights.



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