Monday, 6 July 2015

Ikea Hack!

Sometime about 3 years ago, my daughter asked me for guinea pigs as pets.  I said… "maybe when you're six years old"...  thinking she'll forget about it and we will have moved on to something else by then.

Well…  it was a definite mummy-fail of the highest proportion because not only did she not forget… she's been telling everyone who will listen how she is getting guinea pigs when she's six.
I don't have the heart to make up an excuse as to why I'm dashing her dreams at such a young age.

Add to this, a multi-tool for Xmas, my relatively recent discovery of Pinterest and BAM  - the skills, tools, inspiration and rapidly approaching deadline of late July to have everything ready for my daughter's birthday.

In the last blog, you saw the beginnings of the indoor guinea pig hutch….  remember this?

Well, it now looks like this… 

Wanna know how I did it?  

First,  I removed the drawers and the drawer hardware.   

Then I stopped and had a good look.  I had some excess wood left from that sofa bed I dissected to fix the couch cushions.  If you look carefully, you will see the MDF base leaning up against the outside of the cabinet.   I did a quick eyeball and surmised I would only get one shelf out of that sheet of wood.   I desperately wanted two shelves in order to get the maximum amount of space for our little piggies.  

The next step was to decide where the shelves were going to go, how I was going to get two shelves out of the wood I have, what I was going to use to form the base of the cage (as there is no "floor" at this point) and how were the piggies going to move from level to level.

I had a vague idea that I would keep the drawers just in case I decided to revert the piece back into a dresser/cabinet because it really was a nice looking piece of furniture.

That lasted about 10 minutes when I realized I didn't have enough extra wood to do what I wanted… not to mention all the extra cutting and drilling holes I would have to do.   So I used what I had to hand.

 First, I took the drawer runners apart.  I used the inner half of these to hold up the shelves.  This worked exceptionally well since the screw holes were already there and everything lined up perfectly.  

The second step was to take the drawers apart.  I used two drawer fronts per shelf and rested them on the existing drawer runners..  and then found the drawer fronts were just a hair too short to be held up securely by the drawer runners.   CRAP!  

Then I had a bright idea!  Spacers!   I cut long rectangles out of one of the drawer base pieces and used them as spacers to hold the shelves better.  Of course that meant I couldn't use the original screws (not long enough now) so I just popped some plastic screw anchors in the existing holes and used some longer screws I had in the tool box.   Worked like a charm. 

The next step was to fit the shelves on, make sure they held up and fit properly.   Taking shape now!

 The bottom bit was a bit more interesting.  I had intended to use the slats from the sofa bed base,  just the same as in the photo above, and cut them to size.   But once the drawers were taken apart, the boards that made up the sides of the drawers were obviously a perfect fit.  I only had to cut the thin bits off each side of the last board to make it fit.   And it fits like a dream!  And it was so much easier.

By the way, none of the shelves or the floor boards are nailed, screwed or glued down so they are easily removed if need be.  It also means I can easily change the configuration of the cage very easily.

Next step was to decide where the holes were going to go for the ramps and such.   I used one of the drawer end pieces to make the ramp and positioned it slightly more eentral so that I wasn't cutting a massive hole in one board thereby compromising the strength.  I, instead, cut notches in each board to fit the ramp in.

Since the second level is a lot thinner than the top and bottom sections, I figured the piggies could just climb up on a step or something to get into the top section.  That's why there's no ramp.  We shall see if that works.  If not, I'll have to Macgyver something else.

The next step was covering the wood shelves to prevent piggie peepee seeping in and ruining the wood.  Luckily I had quite a good bit of padded vinyl flooring left over from our bathroom to cover all three levels.

I laid out the floor, top side down, covered the top side of the boards with plain white glue and laid them, face down, on top.  Waited 10 minutes while the glue dried a bit then just did a simple upholstering job over the front edge, securing with staples.   I couldn't pull the vinyl over all the sides because then the shelves wouldn't fit so I just cut it to size and secured with staples on the top.

For the bottom shelf, since it was several pieces of wood, I just laid the flooring inside the hutch and cut it to size in situ.  Not as clean a finish as the other levels but it will work.   It was secured with staples all the way around.

I replaced the shelves and started working on the plexiglass fronts.  Basically, I measured the plexi to be half the size of the opening on the top and bottom and about 80% of the space in the middle section.  I want the middle section inaccessible just to give the piggies more security in case of cat invasion.  I also have a hunch the pigs will either want this section for nesting/sleeping or for eating…. In that case, the extra height on the plexi will hopefully keep any of their hay or bedding inside, rather than on my floor.  

I used my multi-tool to cut the plexi, which was fun because this stuff is a bitch to cut.  Go too fast and you'll end up with a big pile of cracked plastic.  Go too slow and you'll cut the stuff in 14,000 places other than the one place you intended.  

I did find out that if you score the top where you want the cut to be and then slowly trace that first cut, the friction will melt the plexiglass and that will reduce the chance of splitting, cracking or breaking.  

Once all the pieces were cut, I predrilled holes in the shelves, marked the hole positions on the  plexiglass and then pre-drilled holes in that.   

When that was finished, it was a very simple matter of screwing the sheets in place.  

For stability, I used these little telephone wire holders nailed into the sides to hold the plexiglass.  Just turned the litle plastic u-bend bit around and nailed them into place.  The plexiglass fits perfectly. 

Can you see the little clips on the sides of the plexiglass?

Finally,  I intend to make doors from big sheets of thicker plexiglass to keep the piggies safe from the cats.  I have hinges and a clasp ready to go…. Just have to get to B&Q!  

Friday, 3 July 2015

It's FREE!

I've had a really good run with Freegle lately and now I've expanded to Freecycle and Gumtree. 

The latest acquisition has been an amazing ladies bike with not a damn thing wrong with it aside from a clunky gear.   Good brakes, good tires and it's pink!

So happy. 

Before that, I drove to some place called Yateley (more like Poshland) to pick up a sofabed with a thick foam mattress.  Remember how I said that getting seating or bed foam was really hard?  I had to take the whole bed but I now have enough wood to finish my guinea pig hutches AND harvested enough foam to re-stuff our couch cushions! 

Just in case I haven't mentioned it before....  our couches, (a major bone of contention with my partner and I), are extremely well built, big, solid and heavy quality furniture BUT they're old.  The fibre cushion filling is lumpy and flattened.  I would like to buy new couches but alas, we don't have the budget.  I once priced out having the cushions redone at £80 per cushion!  We have 8 cushions!  To hell with that....   so I've been searching for free upholstery foam or bed foam off and on for about 3 years.  

So please believe me when I say, there was nothing in the world that made me happier on that day when I cut up a load of foam and re-stuffed our couch cushions.  You have no idea. 

I've also got enough decent cushion cover material, miles of zipper and lumpy fibre fill to make a couple really nice pet beds.  One for Frankie and one for Mia.  Plus, possibly, a couple more smaller ones to donate to the RSPCA.  That would be nice. 

I've also scored a few more bits which will be the basis for the next couple blogs.  First, I got this....

Which I hope to turn into something like this.....  only with plexiglass doors.  I need the doors because I have Frankie, who would eat the guinea pigs....  as appetizers. 
I found this picture on Pinterest which came from a site called which is the thing that got me inspired to do my own.
The plan:
* Remove the drawers.   We are keeping the large cabinet-y bit on the top to store guinea pig stuff.  Food, hay, toys etc. 
* Cut two or three shelves out of the sofabed base I got from Yateley.  It's thick MDF so should be perfect.  I will have to run out and get some more shelf paper to line the boards so the pee doesn't soak in.  (ew.)
* Cut ladder holes in said shelves
* Use existing drawer hardware to hold the shelves in place.
* Caulk around the shelves to prevent transfer of anything yukky from one level to the other or to the floor.   (The dresser/cabinet has no "floor" under the bottom drawer)
* Cut plexi to fit across the fronts of the shelves. 
* Screw plexi to the shelves.  I have purchased some little u-shaped bits with nails which I will use to hold the plexi onto the sides of the dresser.
* Cut more plexi for the doors. (if I have enough left!!)   Affix to the dresser with hinges and attach "hook and eye" fastener to keep it closed.
* Use slats and offcuts from the sofa bed as ladders between the levels.
* Add guinea pigs. 
I will post some pictures as we go.   Wish me luck.