Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Coat hooks and a sign

The problem with living in a Fifties rambler in a cold climate is that it is essentially a warm-climate house design. The slope of the roof is shallow and tends to develop ice dams. There is also zero provision of space in the interior layout for multiple children at a time to get suited up in long socks, snow pants, boots, coats, hats, and mittens, or to store any of that stuff. So I had to give a corner of the family room over to that function. Each child in our family has an old crate to hold their winter accessories, and these crates are stackable, but we still needed a row of coat hooks.

I didn't want to buy hooks, so I decided to make my own, out of coat hanger wire that I would bend around a jig. We keep a stock of wire coat hangers for creative purposes, although they are getting harder to find these days. For my jig, I just drove several screws partway into the block of wood that we use as a drilling block, and I placed them at the points of an imaginary cross. Using nails in slightly large holes might have been better, as I had to remove screws at various times as I was bending the wire.

The first coat hanger I used was the thickest in the bunch, which made some of the bending difficult.  I mostly used small vise grips when I needed pliers, and in places did some pounding with a hammer. To cut the wire, I grip it with the vise grips and bend it back and forth, until it breaks from metal fatigue.

I started each hook in the same way, with a loop bent around one of the screws, and from there looped the wire around the other screws in sequence. Then I removed the screw at the bottom, and bent that loop up (with difficulty) to form a hook. After that, I made another loop freehand, and bent that up as well, to make two hanging surfaces per hook. The freehand loops differ, so the hooks are different as well as similar.

As a mounting board for the hooks, I found a piece of plywood from the lumber motherlode. I intended to finish it by decoupaging a portion of a map on it, but the plywood and the map that I wanted to use didn't work well together, so I decided to color the plywood with crayon instead. I started a vine design across the top in green, and filled in the rest with light green, and then rubbed it down with scrap wool. Even then, the crayon didn't get all the way down into the texture of the plywood.

But then I decided that I didn't like it, because it was too bright and disconnected from the rest of the room. So I took red acrylic paint and wiped it over the whole thing, not trying to get it down into the plywood. The crayon still shows, but now the board looks weathered and somewhat mysterious. "Old circus" is how I would describe it. I won't say it's pretty, but I do like it a lot.

I used assorted old screws to attach the hooks to the board, and wall anchors to attach the board to the wall. With the crates in one tall stack instead of two short ones, the coat corner miraculously became functional and almost organized.

I used similar techniques to make a mileage sign to one of our favorite parts of the world.  I found a wood stake in the woodpile, wrote the place and miles on it with wide-tip permanent marker, and then wiped red acrylic paint over it as a sort of stain. When the paint dried, I put two screws in the top, and tied twine across, for a hanger. After it was on the wall, the black permanent marker seemed too dark, so I went over it with light green crayon, which makes the lettering look dark green.

With these two things up on the walls, I am getting to the point in decorating where I can see something that I like, no matter where I happen to be looking in the house. It really does make a difference.

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