Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bulletin board problems and solutions

Update: See the note at the bottom about how this went wrong after this was posted and how I rethought the design.

Pictured here is my attempt to make my own extra large bulletin board on the cheap. I think it looks pretty good if you ignore the fact that there's no bottom border to it because I miscalculated how much ribbon I would need and haven't got back to the store yet. Another quibble is with the color. On its own, I think the color and the border look good, but hanging in this particular room with the too dark paint I have in here, it makes things pretty gloomy. Doing it again, I would try to find a fabric a little lighter blond. I could also have tried for a colorful fabric or a patterned fabric, but I don't have enough confidence in my design skills to have tried that. We're talking about 15 square feet, and something too adventurous would have been very noticeable. I choose this fabric because it most resembled the shade and texture of actual cork board, and I figured that was a safe starting point.

The fabric is covering a big 3 x 5 piece of cardboard. 2-ply of it actually. It's two sides of a box that a file cabinet was delivered in. The box wasn't banged up much, so that when I sliced off one side with a box knife and trimmed were it was crunched, I lost about a half inch around. I used a t-square and yardstick to square it more or less. The ribbon on the edges hides where it's not even. Then I used that one piece to trace and cut out a piece on the opposite side of the box. I glued those together with plain school glue. I wanted 2-ply so I wouldn't be worried about the thumbtacks driving all the way through, and it gives it a nice amount of heft. Once I had the fabric I used a staple gun around the back. The staples don't work very well in cardboard, but with enough of them there isn't too much pull on any one. To keep the fabric from bunching, I went in a cross cross pattern when stapling -- 12 o clock, 6, 3, 9, 1, 7, 4, 10, etc. Then I wrapped the ribbon -- 1 1/2 in wide in my design -- around the edges and stapled them.

The hard part was figuring out how to hang it. I have plenty of picture hanging hardware and figured it would be easy to use spare parts from that, but it turns out those all depend on putting threaded screws into the wood of a picture frame, and that doesn't work with cardboard. My first few workarounds failed, and the whole mess fell down a couple times. I decided I needed something long and flat that I could tape down to distribute the weight and then the hanger, whether wire or a hook, would be attached to that. I ended up with those two elements in one piece. I took 1 of the 2 silver metal levers off a large black binder clip. I gave it a little bend so the closed end would stick out from the lateral surface of the back of the cardboard. Then I applied a crisscross of long strips of packing tape over the prongs so they were held in place on the cardboard and the closed end was exposed. Which I then simply hung on a nail. (Don't forget to drill that pilot hole, of course. No point in screwing up the plaster.)

Total cost, about $17 with the ribbon and 3 yards of fabric I chose. And it should look like a nice bulletin board once I get that other 5 feet of ribbon I forgot. (Naturally, they'll be sold out of that color or pattern when I get back to the store, and I'll have to start over.)

Why I needed a giant bulletin board . . . that should be obvious by looking at it. I have only the barest sense of what might go in the first draft of my novel, and this is already covered. I don't feel like I have any wiggle room to move stuff around or to make my outline any more detailed.

Getting to this point has been a little bit of a saga. Let's just say that I strongly recommend against the miserable squares of cork they sell at office supply stores with little scraps of adhesive tape. Every morning I woke up to find more bits of my novel littering the floor, and my closet door is covered with the remains of the awful adhesive.

Whoops. Attaching anchors with packing tape didn't work after all. Nor did duct tape. It's fallen down about 5 times now. In short, whether I'm using a hook or a wire, attaching it to the flat back surface of  the cardboard doesn't work. I'm figuring out belatedly that I need to be working with both sides of the cardboard or -- possibly -- with 2-plyness of it. The most elegant solutions should have been done before I attached the fabric or before I glued the two pieces of cardboard together. Put another way, I should have designed all of it before starting to build it.

So I've got a less than elegant solution going now, which should be easy for someone else to improve on. Basically, I have two holes punched through the cardboard and fabric with anchors on the front attached to wire running through to the back. In my case, the two objects are . . . . binder clips again! Brass ones that match the color okay. The two clips appear to levitate alongside the vertical surface of the board and, in theory, they add extra functionality.

Binders clips is what I happened to have. Another option that occurred to me is decorative drawer pulls, which could be used to hang things from. I suppose if I wandered the aisles of an office supply store other ideas would occur to me. Large rings like flashcards with holes punched in them are strung on. Maybe a pair of some kind of small white board as long as they had their own firm anchors on the back.

Another possibility -- if the fabric hadn't been stapled on yet -- is something that goes under the fabric and isn't functional. My wife suggested the brass brads that we used to use to bind loose leaf paper. Punch those through from the back and fold the arms flat on the front side, then twist the picture wire around the head of the button on the back. Do they even sell those brads anymore?

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