Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Making can be Functional (In fact, it always is.)

Long time no post. Sorry. I went on vacation and then had a mountain of shit to do. Hopefully relative normalcy will resume soonish.

A few weeks ago, just before I went on vacation, I built a dish dryer for my friend May. A wall mounted dish dryer, so his dishes could air dry without taking up precious counter space in his tiny studio. The idea for it came up with May's wishful thinking. We were talking about trying to organize his kitchen, and he exclaimed "If only I could put the dish dryer up here!" and gestured at the wall. Naturally, I said "I think you can." That was the beginning.

My plot for this dish dryer was to mount a rubber washtub to wall brackets and put the standard dish drying rack in that. The plan was simple to imagine and complex to execute, as many are. The most frustrating part came first, the hardware store.

I had to find some way to transition from the rubber tub (which had to be the right size for the dish drying rack available) to a drainage pipe and to attach the tub to brackets, all without leaking. The attachment to brackets was easy - rubber washers. The transition to a drainage pipe was not easy. The problem is that the intake needs to be basically flush with the bottom of the rubber tub, which is problematic, because it also has to lap over the top of the tub, or be welded to the bottom in a strong enough fashion to not pull out over time.

I did not want to fuss with PVC glue or some such, and so, after about an hour of pouring over plumbing parts, picked a vanity drain. That's the drain that goes in the bottom of your bathroom sink. The nice thing about this is that the intake has a top that can be made flush. The problem is that it's not in any way built for going on a thin rubber tub. That manifests in there being a good inch and a half that has to be filled by some sort of material for the vanity drain to be properly tightened (the intake is threaded with a bottom fitting). I decided to span that gap with large, 1 1/2 in, rubber washers. I'm not sure what those washers are supposed to be used for, maybe washing machines?

When I got back to May's place
the first order of business was to prepare the tub for installation. This required marking and drilling holes for bolting it to brackets, and cutting a larger hole for the drain, pictured here.

Naturally, it's never actually that simple. However, when the bolt packaging says "Use 3/8 drill" the hole I make with the 3/8 drill bit should be the right size. That is not asking too much! or, at least, it shouldn't be.

In any case, I eventually got all the holes the right size and got the vanity drain installed. The vanity drain was the hardest part. Cutting a big hole in the rubber tub was nerve wracking - one slip and I would at best cut myself and at worst ruin the tub. Spanning a 1 1/2 inch gap with stacked rubber washers is not exactly best practice, and the bottom of the tub is not the shape that vanity drains are made to fit into. Fortunately, the water coming off May's dishes isn't under pressure, so all this has to do is be the easiest path for water to follow.

Plumber's Putty is my dear friend. The bottom of the tub is curved in all kinds of entertaining ways. There were, after all the tightening I could do without starting to significant distend and abrade the walls of the tub, still a few gaps. Fortunately, I had thought ahead and put a ring of plumber's putty in before I tightened it all (ok, I lie, I took it apart and put plumber's putty in, but next time I'll know better).

Finally, I was ready to put the tube on that would go from the bottom of the vanity drain to the sink itself. This was, again, no easy task. The tube is clear vinyl piping, sized 1 1/2 in exterior 1 1/4 in interior. The outlet of the vanity drain is 1 1/2 in. The trouble is, you want the tube to lap over the outside of the drain. That way water just falls and, because there's no pressure, there's no need for a perfect seal. No such luck. The fix was to force the tubing inside the metal drain. This was quite a tight fit and took a fair amount of pushing and swearing to finally get in deep enough to satisfy me. (Quote me, I dare you.) To be sure the tube wouldn't slowly worm its way out I wrapped some duct tape around the joint. I also, with May's help, wrapped some leak-seal tape, which is basically just super sticky rubber tape, around the harder rubber gaskets that were in the vanity drain.

Finally, we were ready to attach the brackets. This was the easy part and was done with bolts, metal washers, hard rubber washers (for a water tight seal) and nuts. Like I said, easy.

It was then tested for water tightness in the bathroom and installed on the wall. I wanted to be sure to get one of the brackets in wood at the corner of the wall, because I REALLY did not want to be responsible for a load of dishes collapsing on May's head. The other bracket went into drywall. I tend to use screw type drywall anchors. The ones I used are rated to 50 lbs each, but I don't trust drywall to hold 50 lbs for long, no matter what you screw into it.

Finally, the tub to hold the dish drying rack was installed, the excess tubing cut off, and my work finished. If you look closely you'll see that the cupboard just to the right of the tub is too close to the tub itself. That cupboard door doesn't open well with the dish drying rack in it. However, if I moved the tub installation left far enough to put the left bracket into a stud he would have trouble opening his microwave. It's an imperfect solution for an imperfect space.

Oh, yeah, that weird looking kid there is me. My hair had about quadrupled in length since then.

So, how is this making? It received all the focus, passion and attention of any other making, was a lot of fun, and is an artefact, in the original sense of the word. It is a product of human art and workmanship. It is beautiful, in that it is well built for what it is and what it is made with, and it is useful, in that it fulfills a legitimate need in an appropriate way. Does that make sense to ya'll?

1 comment:

  1. =IF("blog makes sense",""Good post Zeke!","IT MAKES NONE OF THE SENSE! NOT EVEN THE PARTS OF CHICKEN!")

    Note: I have spontaniously decided to post my comment as an excel IF function.

    Tangent: Damn you Microsoft for making me use linear logic to input data for observation!