Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Lighted Headboard - a Special Gift For My Girl

Every year I try to make a special gift for each person in our family. As the kids get older, it has become more of a challenge to find the right thing to make. Ellie, being the teenage girl that she is, loves to redecorate her room. She has a talent for it, too. (It's true - I would say this even if she was not my daughter.) She has wanted a headboard for her bed for a long time and Christmas lights are one of her favorite things.
From: (very basic instructions)

When I stumbled upon this light up board, I was set on fire. I knew instantly that this was the direction I needed to go. I also knew that those kinds of things are always harder and more expensive than they look. In my excitement I drew up a sketch of what I wanted to do.

I tromped down to the wood shop teacher at my school and asked for his advice. John is wonderful that way. He never poop-poops my ideas, but gently grounds me in reality. He said that it would be an easy project. I would need to get a special drill bit to deal with putting holes in the Lexan. I would also need special screws called furrows so that they would look nice.

Next up, I went to our robotics teacher, Daryl, who is an equally wonderful guy. We had a chat about the virtues of plexiglass versus Lexan (polycarbonite).He invited me down to have lunch in the electronics room. In the interim he pulled out a small strip of each of the materials. He did a hand-on demonstration of the difference. Lexan is a wonderful, nearly shatter proof product. Plexiglass can be broken. Both can be easily treated with sandpaper to make it frosted. The catch was the cost. A sheet of plexiglass for my project, measuring 39" x 24" would be about $26 (I had a special birthday coupon from Ace Hardware and got it for half off.) whereas the Lexan would have been around $67. Since we had to buy not one, but two sets of snow tires and two dental crowns last month, I knew which option I had to take. It would be the plexiglass, but I was okay with that. No one would be sitting on or hammering the headboard; it would be a safe option. Daryl also demonstrated how I could take an orbital sander with 220 grit sandpaper and frost the surface. I could take out any patterns from that process by repeating the process with a much finer grit of sandpaper. Thank God for such great and helpful people in my life! These friends armed me with knowledge and the confidence that I needed to move forward.

Now, this new found knowledge is good, but I still needed more help. That help came in the form of my father-in-law, Don. He is a great woodworker. We have many lovely things that he has made for the kids over the years. I sent him the link I offered above. I also shared my sketch and away we went. Don, being the creative type that he is, redesigned it so that the plexiglass would not sit on the surface, but would sit in grooves instead. He sent me off to Jordan's Building Center with a list of what I needed: 2 2"x4"x8' pine boards, 1 piece heat temptered hardboard and a bunch of specific kinds of screws. We hauled that into the basement and away he went. When I returned the next time, Don had it mostly constructed and stained. Some of the measurements were off, so we had the plexiglass recut. I spent time frosting the plexiglass and then holding various parts together while he put in the screws. Originally we were going to install two verticl brace, but those did not work. He applied a small, wooden block to keep the plexiglass from bowing too much. I took three sets of special white Christmas lights with little faceted globes around each light and set to work attaching them with gluedots. (They are a wonderful, thick, sticky dot that was perfect for the application.)It was more challenging than I expected to make them random. My eyes and hands wanted to make them evenly spaced. In the end it took much longer to get done than we had expected, of course. (One should estimate the time for a given project and multiply that by 4 to get a real time estimate!) However, I am ever so pleased with the outcome. It felt really good to do that project. I needed that to help move away from the stress of getting everything ready for Christmas and tap into my creative side instead. I think it was good for Don, too. He seemed to enjoy having a special project to work on. I am thankful that I have such a great father-in- law who loves his grandchildren.

I was gitty with excitement to give her the gift. I had hoped that it would have been a complete surprise, but it was not. Ellie had started to move her bed into her loft when her dad stopped her. His remarks led her to guess what the big project that grandpa and I were doing was. I thought surely that she could not guess that it was a light up board, but somehow she guess that it involved lights, too. I don't know what she thought it might look like, but she is oh so clever and sly like that - kind of figuring out my surprise for her! Anyway, I dispensed with trying to hide it. The headboard was too large to stow away in my van without notice and it seemed silly to schlep it to the basement. Instead, we threw a blue sheet over it and called it good. Christmas morning Larr plugged it in and we waited the kids to stumble down the stairs to begin the holiday. Ellie seemed to like her present, thought I think I was way more excited than she was. I am an exuberant person, she is much more restrained. She installed it that very morning. One or two of the lights came free from its gluedot, but otherwise it traveled beautifully. She brought everyone up to her room to see her new stuff for her room. This included the lighted headboard, the new grey and white curtains I made for her windows and the cool light up Flamingo lamp that her dad got for her. My girl's room is stylin'!

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