Category Archives: Stories

Short bits of writing.

Birthday celebration

For my birthday weekend I decided to do a little project here at the apartment. My cat, Sidney, has always enjoyed climbing on things, as I imagine most cats do. He finds his way up to the top of the kitchen cabinets for an afternoon nap. He’s had cat trees and other various cat-specific climbing apparatus.

He really is active sometimes.

He really is active sometimes.

When I last moved I got rid of his cat tree as, quite frankly, it was disgusting. Cats are fastidious about cleanliness but why, my god why, do they just throw up wherever they happen to be? After getting all settled in the new place I fully intended to buy a new cat tree but just never got around to it. They’re usually $150 or more and take up space that I could use for a lamp or decorative plant. So here I am, nine months later, and still no cat tree.

I stumbled across this on the Intartubes a few weeks ago and thought it was a great idea. I’ve been trying to decide what to do with my bare walls for some time and half-heartedly put up a few of my photos but there was still a considerable amount of empty wall space. I’m a big fan of efficiency and economy so the idea of these shelves and the space being devoted totally to Sidney was a bit much to buy into. Plus, what if he didn’t dig it?

I browsed around for different shelving at Ikea and inspiration struck. What I needed was a bookcase-type shelf that would hold items and have a top that Sidney could use to climb on. And here it is. I picked up 5 of them and some other odds and ends and took off for home.

I wasn’t planning to spend all weekend working on this but I had a few hurdles to hop before it was all over. Since it included a few trips to the hardware store and lumber yard it really was a guy’s birthday celebration.

My first hurdle was design. I suck at design. I won’t bore you with all the various layouts I came up with but you can see from the pics what I ultimately chose. Please, no comments about ‘what could have been’. That will only depress me. The difficulty lay in incorporating these elements: couldn’t be lower than 50 inches or I’d smack my head on them while sitting on the couch; had to be staggered so Sidney could climb up to the ceiling; required proper spacing so Sidney could hop up and down; avoid looking like TEH SUXORS when finished.

The next hurdle was exactly how to mount the shelves to the wall. Standard wall construction, at least in the U.S., is to have a stud placed every 16 inches behind the drywall. Maybe in Sweden it’s different because the mounting hardware with the shelves would require studs 45 inches apart. I tried three different calculators but I couldn’t get 16 to divide into 45 evenly so I needed an alternative solution. I googled the IKEA product plus installation and there were whole forums setup for this so at least I wasn’t alone. Unfortunately all those forums were populated by Swedish carpenters talking about french cleats and I quickly realized I didn’t have any tools for this or a woodworking shop.

I’ve watched a lot of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition so I figured I could handle this on my own. I decided to go with a simple, if inelegant solution. I’d mount a 1×3 board to the wall studs then mount the shelves to the board.

The board to which all this hangs.

The board to which all this hangs.

So, with the design and mounting hurdles hopped, I was off to the installation. After measuring, making notes, measuring again, checking the notes, doubting my measurements, getting a second tape measure, making more notes, I began. I had my first board secured to the wall in about the same amount of time it would have taken the Egyptians to build a small pyramid. But remember, they had help. As I hoisted the 30 pound shelf up to the wall for a test fit a few things came to light.

Success! or was it?

Success! or was it?

The most obvious piece was that I would need a shim for the bottom half of the shelf, right? Of course I would. If the top half of the shelf is mounted to a 1 inch thick board, then the bottom half would require the same spacing. Duh.

The other thing, and it’s very minor, was how in holy hell was I going lift these damn shelves eight feet up the wall, hold them in place, screw in the mounting brackets, make sure it’s all level, NOT drop everything … all by myself?

Time for a sushi break to figure this out.

I was already concerned about the structural integrity of the whole shelving unit, given the mounting hardware from IKEA. I doubted it’s ability to hold even the 30 pound shelf, much less another 10-20 pounds of books or items AND a 10 pound cat running around on them. What I needed was some way to reinforce the shelf and assist during the installation.

I decided instead of a simple shim for the bottom of the shelf, I’d screw in another 1×3 board and place some angle brackets for the shelf to sit on. That would allow me to set the shelf on the brackets while I screwed in all the mounting hardware and leveled it. It should also provide some support for the entire unit.


Aha! Oh, that thing on the wall above the right edge of the board? It's a magnet. Best stud finder ever. Buy a bunch, toss them at the wall and see which ones stick.

Whee! Another trip to the hardware store!

Back at the apartment the new plan seemed to be working out well. p1010909

I ended up using another angle bracket on the top of the shelf for a bit more security. It’s all probably over-engineered but I figure now they’ll either all stay up or the entire wall will come down. No point in going half way, right?


I tacked on a few pieces of cheap floor mats to the top of the shelves so Sidney could have some traction when he climbs around. p1010912

All done.

All done.

I also put a new cat bed up top. He’s very clumsy and I know if he just lays down on the bare shelf he’ll roll off. Even if he doesn’t take to it, I’ve got some new shelving to use.

Of course, if he does take to it and starts spending time up there, I predict it will only take 2 weeks before he vomits over the edge of the top shelf and creates a spectacular mess.