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BSIY Fold-down Workbench

Because you park your cars in your garage like a good American

Oh, Saturdays. Is there anything better than a Saturday with nothing else to do? You wake up, cook yourself some chorizo and eggs, pop a few Ripped Fuel pills, and decide to build yourself a fold-down workbench in the garage.

Also because the Longhorns don’t play until six.

Let’s talk supplies

Head over to Home Depot in your SUV and purchase the following:

  • 4′ by 4′ plank — if you go longer than 6 feet wide, you may have to add another foot. That will look weird. And where will you attach it?!
  • (3) 2x4x8 — whatever color, material you like
  • Piano hinge
  • (2) 3″ bolts in 1/2″ diameter w/ nuts.
  • A latch! — Something like this.
  • Some screws — wood screws, 2.5″ or 3″

Make sure you purchase all of these things together, take them out to your car, and not be able to fit the 4’x4′ plank into your Nissan Rogue. You’ll really enjoy having to go back into Home Depot to have them cut the plank for you.

Measure out the framing

As April Wilkerson points out, you want to put the frame a few inches from the edge of the plank so you can use clamps. Measure, make some marks, do a little dance.

A speed square makes makes this speedy and square

I went all the way around before I realized that one edge of the plank is going to have the frame flush against the wall. So, you can do all four corners, but be sure to measure from one edge to one intersection for the boards.

Cut three sides of the frame

As I learned in the previous Mirror Framing Incident of 2016, it’s a crap-shoot to measure and assemble a frame by itself and then try to fit it to something. Instead, measure the sides one-by-one and screw them into place somehow. April drilled holes for pocket screws; I couldn’t figure that out at all! I just clamped the boards into place and screwed up from underneath.

You can go all gangsta pocket holes on the cross beam if you want, or, just screw in from the sides.

Complete the frame

At first, I cut a board to fit snugly in the open space. Then, I realized I wanted the eventual legs to fold flat against the bench when it was stowed. This meant leaving enough room on the sides for the legs. Here’s the progression.

I used some scrap to size the new board. I was so proud of myself for being smart.

Attach board to wall

Now, why are we doing this step now instead of after the feet are cut? Well, smart-ass, maybe you forgot that your garage floor isn’t level! Yeah, now who’s writing this post?

Anyway, grab a level and your favorite drill, find some studs, and just go to town. That means whatever you want it to mean.

If this is the first time you’ve ever attached a board to a wall, try putting the center screw in first, but don’t tighten it all the way. Then you can rotate the board until it is level, drill a pilot hole, and screw it into place. The more you know, right?

Make one good leg and one crappy leg

This really is the hardest part because who knows how legs work.

Note: If you mounted the board on the wall at your desired height in the CENTER of the board, then one leg will be slightly shorter than that height and one leg will be slightly longer. That’s all I can say about that because it’s too complicated and you’re an adult.

Here’s the sequence I used for the second leg.

  1. Use a speed square to mark 45 degree angles from both corners (making an X)
  2. Drill a 1/2″ hole at the X
  3. Put the board in place in the workbench and clamp it down. Use the existing hole to drill into the frame.
  4. Remove the leg and trace a circle that is centered around the hole you drilled. Surely something in your garage is the right size.
  5. Use a jigsaw to cut the half-circle

I decided to cut both boards to “a little longer than final” so that I could get them attached and see how much I needed to cut off to get level.

The crappy leg — don’t just make a lot of marks and hope it works!

Clamp, drill, etc…

Left leg is shorter than the work surface; right leg is longer. This will make sense later.

Test the fit on the wall

You can now put the workbench on the really sturdy board you attached earlier. Test the level and adjust the length of the legs as necessary. I’m not gonna lie — my first-try legs produced a perfectly level surface. Yeah, that’s right, first try.

You can see how badly I mangled the left leg at the top.

Latch it up, latch it down

We’re coming to the step where we’re going to attach the plank to the board on the wall. To do that, we need a way to keep it against the wall while we work. Use a scrap piece of plank (from the piece the Home Depot guys had to cut for you because you don’t know the size of your car).

Measure, attach it to the wall, and put the latch on it.

You can use the second half of the latch on the plank if that’s your style.

Attach the piano hinge

The hinge I got from Home Depot was 4 feet long and needed to be cut down to size. Figure out which way it’s supposed to bend and attach the plank to the board on the wall.

Once you’ve filled all 89-bajillion holes in the hinge, your bench should look something like this.

Another cross beam

The keen observer will note an extra cross beam in the previous photo that was heretofore unmentioned. This keeps both legs in sync as they fold out and also keeps the legs from coming out too far when you extend the bench.

Attach the cross beam while the bench is folded out and put the beam right below the framing.

Depending on how much attention you pay to your projects, you might be able to get both sides of the cross beam flush with the framing.

WARNING: This beam creates an excellent space to mash your fingers!

Put your car in your garage

Fold your work bench up and pull your Japanese car into your American garage like the thoughtful neighbor you are. Seriously, why do people park ten cars in their driveways? Or worse, on the street? Or worse, on the street in front of my house?!

It’s a thing of beauty.


Disclaimer: This edition of BSIY was kind of a cheat because I watched this video of April Wilkerson building a DIY Fold Down Workbench. She’s really amazing and details every step of the build. If you’re actually interested in building one of these, I fully recommend you watch her video.

She even has plans available on her website (for a small fee), but that kinda defeats the purpose of Bullshit-It-Yourself, doesn’t it? Come on, only a lame-o uses plans and schematics. You’re not a lame-o; you’re a bad-ass BSIY vato.

Disclaimer 2: I only took on this project to justify buying a jigsaw. Don’t tell Dom.

The Empty Story

Speaking of things I didn’t realize early in my writing career, did you know there is more to a story than a simple gimmick? It’s easy to break my novels down into gimmicks (Xronixle – VR, Veneer – AR, Perion Synthetics – Robots), but those don’t really encompass the totality of those stories.

For every novel I publish, there are dozens that never get past a handful of chapters. I used to wonder why that was, and I was able to put a name to it the other night while watching the Westworld premiere.

Every story that stalls out… is empty.

What does that mean?

Suppose we start with an idea: a tornado full of sharks is making its way up the coast of California. Well, as undeniably awesome as that idea is, it is nothing without real human drama added to it. Imagine you made a movie about that very idea, but you didn’t add any humanity to it, didn’t give the characters feelings or identity or motivation. That’d be a pretty shitty movie, wouldn’t it?

The idea of a theme park full of pseudo-artificially intelligent robots is a gimmick plain and simple. It’s nothing more than a setting. If you want to make a good story out of it, you have to add something more to it. Make no mistake, I enjoyed every minute of the Westworld pilot, but it didn’t click for me until Anthony Hopkins was interviewing Dolores’ dad.

The dad says something along the lines of you’re living in a prison of your own sins.

Suddenly the story is about more. There’s something LARGER than the story INSIDE the story. There is more to Westworld than a superficial gimmick. At least, that’s the promise.

Por Vida is a novel about synthetic transcendence, obsession, friendship, mental health, y más y más, but I struggled for a long time to write it. Initially, it was just a guy and a girl in a bunker at the end of the world. Just that idea alone makes me think oh that’s neat, but how do we change that to oh that’s compelling?

A great example of what I’m still failing to articulate is the movie Inception. Without the Cobb-Mal subplot, I don’t think that movie would have worked as well. As it is, once that twist is revealed, subsequent viewings of the movie become less enjoyable. The dreams are an interesting idea, and the visuals are stunning, but without those core human emotions of betrayal and love and regret… it’s not the same movie.

It’s hard to enumerate the steps that take you from superficial to deep while writing a story. For me, it has only happened four times in 16 years. I try not to worry about it, and instead choose to focus on my ability to recognize when a story is empty

Ah, the life of a writer: knowing you suck, but not knowing how to fix it.

But at least we’re self-aware, right?

Further reading: The Dunning-Kruger Effect

BSIY Mirror Frames

Because your girlfriend said it would be easy

When Dom and I built a new home last year, we had this idea of using pre-framed mirrors in our bathrooms. We asked the builder not to put anything on the wall, so of course we spent a month staring at a blank wall while brushing our teeth. The problem, we discovered, was that there were no mirrors available in both small and large (for my sink and hers) with the same style of framing.

The only solution was to buy naked mirrors and build the frames ourselves! At least, that’s what she told me. So we got some mirrors from Lowe’s and some supplies from Home Depot. We looked at some plans online, but that’s not really my style. They don’t call it Bullshit-it-Yourself for nothing.

I drew up a plan.

I know, it’s really complex. But, the plan was only to figure out how much molding we needed for the frame.

Now, I could tell you about the first mirror frame I built (it took a month), but I know your time is valuable, so we’ll skip right to the second mirror, which only took a day.

1. Gather Supplies

Here’s everything you’re going to need and why.

  • A mirror (optional — you can choose to print a 30×36 poster of Jeff Goldblum if you wish)
  • 1/4″ x 2″ x 4″ sheets of plywood to act as backing
  • Crown molding or baseboards, whatever floats your boat
  • Liquid Nails
  • Caulk
  • Sliding Miter Saw (Confession: I only accepted this project because it would allow me to purchase this.)
  • Small screws (for securing backing to molding)
  • L-brackets (for larger mirrors, as extra stabilization)
  • Mounting hardware
  • Painting Supplies (paint, brush, tape)

2. Arrange backing

Lay out your plywood to create a base. We’re going to arrange them to make the minimal amount of cuts later.

Do your best to eliminate any gaps between the plywood.

3. Set mirror on backing

Get your girlfriend to help you carefully place the mirror on the backing.

Let’s assume you’ve already messed up a frame or five before tackling this project. Use some scrap molding to carve out the plywood by placing them right at the edge. Use clamps to hold them in place while you push the mirror into the corner.

Use EVEN MORE MOLDING to mark cut-lines on the plywood (left pic). Cut the plywood down to size and use molding to confirm it is close enough (right pic).

4. Cut and glue the molding

Without letting the mirror move, remove all the scrap molding.

If this is your first time using a sliding miter saw, you’re in for some fun! Pick a side to start on and cut the first piece of molding. Use 45-degree angles and eyeball (you can measure if you are one of those DIY weirdos) the placement.

Glue it down with some liquid nails and use clamps to make sure it stays up.

Work your way around the mirror in this manner until you have three sides completed. DO NOT GLUE ALL FOUR SIDES unless you enjoy starting things over.

Note: For whatever reason, I had little luck measuring and cutting. Instead, I carefully made a cut, tested the fit, and repeated until it was perfect. Get it as close to perfect as you can; we’ll fix the tiny gaps with caulk later.

5. Glue the mirror down

If the mirror is sufficiently large, ask a friend, neighbor, or pastor to lift the mirror as you apply liquid nails to the plywood.

You should probably use a lot of glue. Like, a lot. You wouldn’t want this thing falling off the wall onto your sink and then your bathroom floor. That’s seven years bad luck.

6. Complete the frame

Using the skills you learned in Step 4, cut the final piece of molding and glue it to the plywood. Give it some time to set.

7. Add some bracing (optional)

The smaller of our mirrors didn’t seem to need it, but because of the size of the larger one, the entire frame felt kinda flimsy. To ensure a uniform shape, add some L-brackets to the back of the frame.

This keeps the two pieces of molding in each corner steady so you can caulk them.

8. Secure those panels

Use some of those small screws to secure the plywood to the molding. What size screws, you ask? I don’t know, man. Just a small one that won’t poke up through the molding.

At the very least, add screws to the joints between the plywood panels. Add them along the border at regular intervals. I’m sure there’s a scientific method for determining the maximum distance between each screw but we’re gonna leave that to the science nerds.

9. Clean up your mess, you animal

Depending on how the mirror is going to be mounted, you may want to clean up the rough edges of the plywood, since they’ll be visible from the side. Use a file and some sandpaper to smooth those out.

Admittedly, this is the worst part of this BSIY design. It’d be nice if the plywood could somehow be recessed into the molding so that it’s hidden, but I’m not Chip Gaines and neither are you.

10. Fill the seams

Use a caulk gun (or brute strength) to fill in the seams at the joints.

You might as well tape prior to caulking since there is a seam that touches the mirror.

11. Sand, prime, paint, and hang

This part doesn’t involve a single power tool, so I won’t go into much detail. Make the frame look nice. Take frequent breaks to show your girlfriend and make sure she’s pleased.

Final Warning

Do not attempt to craft the frame without the mirror in place. Doing so will inevitably lead to the mirror not fitting in the hole. Then you’ll have to cut the backing, fit the mirror, and redo the backing. It will look horrible. Like this:

This project doesn’t take very long, so don’t worry about being without a mirror. If you start in the morning, it can be on your wall by dinner.

And then, dinner!