Baby Proofing

The addition to the household has provoked the necessity to have somewhere more organised to work and, preferably, upstairs in the bedroom where we won’t be letting him go. Previously my spray booth has been setup on the kitchen table and the rest of my stuff is currently still stored under the coffee table so that it’s within easy reach of the sofa, with most of my paints on the old MDF Citadel Paint Station balanced on an office chair with wheels. My wife wanted the kitchen table back when we had guests so the spray booth is temporarily on the floor in the bedroom and the rest of my stuff is dangerously close to the living room floor when it comes to having a baby who will be crawling in a few months. Without the luxury of a dedicated room, we’ve decided to create a space in the bedroom for painting. At first I thought I’d buy a desk and a bookcase and screw them together but then realised that it would require a bit more work to make a hole for the extraction hose of the spray booth so I decided that I might as well design something the right size and with all the features I want.

Desk 2012 08 01 - Perspective

Keeping the idea of a desk with shelves (I believe they call this a hutch) the real necessity is to have enough space to contain the box of the spray booth with a hole in the back for the hose and to be able to fold the front out of the way. I also need the desk to have enough space to support the fold out booth when unfolded and have space either side of this to put water pots, paints and so forth. This sets the depth of the shelves to be 320 mm (150 mm for the box and the rest for hose assembly before it allows itself to bend) and the free space at the front to 440 mm. The height of the first shelf is also set to 250 mm, which is the height of the box containing the fan plus the handle on top.

The next thing to work out is the width of the desk. For this I used a little anthropometrics. The distance from my elbow to fingertip is around 480 mm, however, given that I won’t be sitting with my forearms in a straight line and my fingers end to end, 900 mm should be more than enough to accommodate me leaning on my arms or elbows when I’m working. This also, conveniently, gives me just enough space underneath to fit my clothes chest, thus saving space in the bedroom and giving me something to put my feet on.

The other important measurement is desk height, however, without an adjustable desk to try out, I took a guess that I want it a bit higher than the kitchen table or the edge of the cot, which are things I quickly tried out, so about 900 mm for this too should work. This should also give me enough space to lift the lid of my clothes chest when I want something to wear.

The last thing to decide is the overall height of the thing. This is really decided by the height and quantity of shelves. I have some tool boxes which require about 170 mm, which just happens to be the space under the coffee table, but they contain some things which are taller so I could take those out and have more space if I make height between the first two shelves 200 mm. I only plan to put miniatures on the top two shelves so they probably don’t need as much space as I’ve given them but it keeps an even look and I don’t want to risk banging things on the bottom of the shelf above. I think three shelves is enough as they are quite deep because of the spray booth. You may notice that the sides of the shelves protrude 70 mm further than the front edges of the shelves. This is intentional because I wanted somewhere safe to store my water pots, which are 66 mm diameter, half pint glasses.

One extra consideration was the weight on the desk with the spray booth in the middle and me leaning on the front so I’ve added a sort of joist at the front and another in the middle. I did toy with the idea of having triangular supports underneath the booth but I think these are excessive and will take up too much space and I plan to use both PVA/wood glue and screws for ‘belt and braces’ strength. I could use just screws but the whole thing will be made out of 18 mm MDF, which often splits a bit with screws and if taken apart, will probably strip some of the holes sufficiently enough that it won’t go back together again. I did consider coating the screws with a release agent and then coating the hole with epoxy resin or something so that they create a stronger, threaded hole but this seems like a lot of faffing around for little extra benefit as, if we move house, I’ll hopefully have a bigger space and therefore want a larger setup.

To make sure that I was getting the measurements correct (and because I enjoyed CAD at university) I downloaded LibreCAD, which is the best open source CAD programme I could find and which I can highly recommend, and drew out the design in first angle orthographic. If you would like a copy of the drawing, email me and I’ll send you the DXF file:

The next thing to do is to draw out a cutting plan and it rather neatly fits on two 2440 × 1220 × 18 mm sheets of MDF making it cheaper than the desk and bookcase set, which I was looking at to start off with: