Every so often, I get the urge to get my hands dirty, and put a physical project together. Sometimes, it’s drawing or painting, other times it’s furniture design.

I had been walking past Powell’s technical bookstore on the way home from work, and saw a rack full of punch-out wood puzzle kits in the window. They could be assembled into heavy machinery, navy ships, etc. I figured I could do something cool with them, being that they’re basically 3D puzzle kits. I decided to try making a hanging lamp.

I ended up only having to fabricate two pieces (from puzzle pieces I wasn’t going to use), so it’s pretty much all snap-together. Unlike other projects, this one was mostly about staring at the pieces and thinking about different configurations and how they’d fit together.

I actually let it sit, hanging above my workspace, for about a week, and came back to it every day for a few minutes. Eventually, I stumbled upon a combination I liked, at which point I took pictures as a reference guide, then glued it together for stability.

We needed new shelves for our place, and we set on the Blu Dot Chicago shelves although they are priced out of range at $1,600. We noodled around for some other options, but after Ikea wanted to charge me $198 shipping for a mediocre bookcase, I decided that maybe DIY was the best path.

After some thinking, I realized that the Chicago shelves would be really easy to make — it’s just 8 boxes — if I could just find a solution for the long legs that run the height of the piece.

I settled on threaded rod, and bought 3/8" stock in 6 ft lengths from my local Ace for $4/ea (I still think it was priced wrong).

For assembly, I laid the boxes out in their approximate arrangement face-up on the living room floor, and got out my rod and all the nuts and washers I’d need to hold each shelf in place. Screwing in all 8 rods, while placing nuts and washers to hold each shelf, took most of the afternoon. The inner rods were more difficult than the outside, since the overlapping shelves make for tight tolerances. A few holes didn’t line up after all, and I had to use a 1/4" chisel to enlarge them. Once the rods were threaded through, I leveled the shelves by adjusting the nuts (front and back) when necessary.

All in all, I think the unit looks fantastic. I spent about $200 and 2 weeks start-to-finish, but probably only 15 hours actual work. It’s actually a very simple construction, made easier since you’re essentially repeating your box design 8 times.