The last big contract in The Shed was for some sort of cabinet for vinyl. It came just in time to rescue the entire workforce from having to get a job.
I argued it this way – an Ikea or B&Q unit for even a couple of hundred LPs was going to be £80. With a knockdown of an old timber cupboard and a fiver’s worth of screws and fixings, I could do better than that. Allow for the tax and the savings would be as good as a couple of days’ wages for a chap in my position. So that was two more days in The Shed paid for, if I promised to put half a bottle back in the fridge both nights. And who knows what would follow once the world had seen what The Shed could do? The application for a telesales job could go on ice
The timbers of the old cupboard were a bit frayed at the edges by the time I got them loose and ready to work with. They must be 50 or 60 years old, at least, and they were assembled by somebody with about my level of skill, judging by the number of bent nails I had to pull.
However, credit where it is due – before the nailing process, all the shelves were morticed into half-inch deep grooves in the side pieces. I am guessing they were chiselled out by hand and I am duly impressed. That’s a lot more work than I am likely to put in.
Personally, I have decided to use some of those two-way plastic joints you can buy for 25p each, or thereabouts. You can find them listed as knockdown joints, k/d fittings, plastic corner blocks or fixit blocks.
They split in half so you can screw one bit to the side and one bit to the shelf and then pull them together with a nut and bolt. They also have plastic pins, to reinforce the joint, so there is quite a lot to get aligned and you have to get it just right in all four corners of whatever you are building at once. Last time I tried, I gave up and chucked the k/d fittings into a drawer and used the separated halves up, over the years, as general-purpose lugs, for shelving to just rest on. This time, using only superhuman concentration and an Imperial tool kit, I resolve to get it right …
A night and day pass in deliberation on how to get the fixings positioned right. Top and bottom and two shelves make three spaces and I’ve got 45 inches. The crosspieces are an inch each. The plastic joints have to sit under the shelves, so they don’t bugger up the sit of the records, and there has to be enough clearance for an LP, 12.5 inches square to fit under them below. I mark it all up using a proper joiner’s pencil I picked up a couple of decades ago. It’s got a flat lead which you can sharpen to a thin hard edge, which stays accurate for longer than the point on a conventional pencil. And it sits behind the ear ever so nice.
Inevitably, I find that one of the crosspieces is going to sit halfway across one of the old routed channels in the uprights and I have to adjust the spacing – sweating and cursing and recalculating clearances as I go. Then I lay on a couple of the plastic joints for a partial dry-run assembly, to make sure the flat faces are against the timber and the countersink indents for the screws are all facing outwards. If you did a thousand of these a day, in a factory, it would take seconds. It takes me ages to be sure I have it right, but then we pick up a little pace.
Next I bring into play all the little I have learned about making screwing accurate. I start with the pointed dibber, rather than a pencil, for making marks right in the centre of where the holes should be. Then it’s time for the very thin bradawl. Its problem is it is so thin it tends to get bent. I straighten it as much as possible and twist the handle with my fingertips, leaving the whole length of the bit to find its own way into the wood. I am remembering that I once watched a joiner drilling a hole through the top of a door, crossways, from hinge side to lock side, and he used a long piece of clothes-hanger wire, sharpened to a point and clamped tight into the chuck of his drill. Go carefully, he explained, and the wire would even out its wobbles and find a way to go straight. I am attempting to apply the same principle with the thin bradawl.
Then I go into the guide hole with a slightly thicker brad, attempting to make a hole just a little under the size of the screws I am going to use and a turn or two shorter. By the time I am finished, the screws should glide home. I dream of such a result.
I did consider pinning the shelves to the sides using dowels and glue but that would mean drilling with a precision which is probably beyond me. I resolve, once again, to go on eBay and look for the stand Black & Decker used to sell for converting its classic orange hand-drill into a bench drill. Still got my dad’s old Black & Decker, having been among the pathetic minority of males who put a new motor put in when the old one packed up, but had to pay a shop to do it.
I think it’s the Black & Decker Type 1 drill stand, product number D2002, and you can still find one, or an all-purpose drill stand which will do the trick. However, now I look at it, I can see it is only going to be useful for bits of timber which will fit between the drill and the foot of the stand. So I Google around some more and find a nice little gadget invented by Jim Steinbrecher of Michigan and explained by him in a YouTube video at
He glued two pieces of ply together to make a right angle and stuck mirrors to the inside faces of the ply. You set the mirrored guide at the corner of the piece you are drilling and wiggle the drill until the bit is parallel with both the mirror images. Nice one, Jim. Next time, I promise.
From my small direct experience of America, in New York and Chicago, I used to have an impression that the Americans were not particularly good at fixing things. Everything was either fresh out of the box or broken or bodged. I was shocked by the standard of the paintwork on the ferry carrying millions of visitors from all over the world to the Statue of Liberty. In the corners where dirt and rust accumulate, the grunge had been simply painted over, in a way that I like to think no British skipper would tolerate.
But on YouTube, you see a different America – a land of troubleshooters who love to apply their ingenuity and elbow grease to saving a dollar. On YouTube, the Americans are the kings of DIY.
By the time these notes are finished, the vinyl cabinet is done. And it’s surprisingly okay. A couple of the bits of plastic needed a tap with a hammer to get the final alignments right but generally every screw found its nut and pulled everything together into something square enough to work with.
I didn’t attempt to recut the shelf ends, where they butt against the uprights, so, inevitably, there were gaps there, too big for ordinary wood glue. I remembered another American site I loved when I came across it. You type in what you want to stick to what and it recommends a glue. Unfortunately, it is an American site, and some of its recommendations mean nothing here, but there is enough common language to be useful and a wonderful Glue Of The Month archive going back to the 1990s.
You can still find it at
but it hasn’t been updated for a while.
I eventually used an Evostik product called Sticks Like S**t, which all the tradesmen seem to use – just dense enough to double as a filler and a glue – and then nailed on the backing planks to hold everything more or less at right angles. I had some right-angled aluminium trim which I cut into sections to glue and screw into place halfway along each shelf, top and bottom, to make dividers which the records could lean against. I made countersinks for the screw heads but not quite deep enough, so I ended up bodging over the screw heads with smears of Araldite, to stop them ripping the record sleeves.
I start to open boxes and set records aside to throw away. First for the skip is Leon Redbone, a funny little Cypriot Canadian who used to make occasionally interesting records with a retro sound, a bit like Paolo Nutini, but whose garishly-decorated albums are now a glut on the market for some reason. Next is Slade’s Greatest Hits – too much fun for me and the missis nowadays.
I bin an unexpectedly disappointing Night With Paul Robeson and I steel myself to start dumping Paul Simon, because why on earth do I need any copies of Paul Simon when he is played all the time and everything he ever did is a click away on the internet?
But hang on. With three shelves, about three foot six wide, I’ ve filed a couple of hundred vinyl albums and a couple of shoeboxes of singles with room to spare.
My newly-acquired Ming-like mercilessness can be saved for the CDs.
In a recent Observer, probably June 29, 2014, I came across one of its staff writers, Geoff Dyer, quoting his Uncle Daryl on the subject of his dad …
“He’d skin a turd for sixpence.”

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  1. hack4hire says:

    In Sun Tel of 7.10.14, Julian Mash recommended Kallax shelves from IKEA for storing vinyl. See this and other tips on vinyl storage at

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