Carpentry Favourites Home

Floating Shelf Design

Bock, said my friend.  I need shelves to go on the wall.

Well, I said, you made a good start.  That’s usually where shelves go, apart from the last ones you wanted, on the ceiling.

Yeah, he agreed, that wasn’t a great plan.  But anyway, I want shelves for the wall.

No bother, I said.   I’ll make some nice wooden brackets.

But even as the words were out of my mouth, I could see there was a problem.  He was making that face and scratching his chin that way: the expression that says, Sorry, but I’m going to be awkward here.

I’d like it to look as if the shelves are just stuck to the wall, held up by invisible supports.

Right, I said. Let’s head down to the skyhook shop.  He didn’t reply.  He just stood there looking at me with that face that says You want to do this.

And he was right.   I’d been mulling the problem over for a long time.  How do you mount a shelf on a wall in such a way that it just seems to be stuck there?  I’d read about all sorts of schemes involving threaded bar and two-pack epoxy glues, but they all seemed very messy, and every one of them had the potential to go disastrously wrong if you drilled a hole slightly off-centre.  Besides, that wouldn’t work at all if you were trying to hang them on a timber-studded wall.

You want a cantilevered shelf.

I want a floating shelf. 

That’s what I said.  I’ll sleep on it, I told him.  Good day to you, Sir!

And so I did.  I slept on it and when I woke the next afternoon, the answer was there in my brain, fully formed without having to do a single tap of thinking.

I cut his shelves to length, and then I drilled three holes in the back face, about 50mm deep.  These holes would be useful later.  Then I ripped a width of about 40 mm off the length, so now I had two pieces, one wide and one narrow, but with corresponding holes in both of them.  I’ll call the narrow bit the batten because it goes on the wall first.  The other bit I’ll call the shelf.

I cut some slots in the batten, for another cunning reason which I’ll explain in a minute.  These ones are probably a bit deep.


I then screwed the batten to the wall.  In the picture, it’s fixed to a stud partition with coach screws, but you could just as easily anchor it to a concrete wall with expanding bolts.  The  short dowel sticking out is to align the shelf with the batten.   I drilled a couple of pockets in the shelf face exactly where the screw heads would be, to make sure they don’t cause any obstruction.


I then put extra-strong chemical wood glue on the joining face of the shelf and slid it into position.

Hold that there a second, I told my friend, while I slide this ratchet strap through this slot that I cunningly cut a few paragraphs back.

I tightened up the strap, and bingo, the shelf was locked into position against the batten.  Leave that there for a day or so, I told him, When we take it off, the whole thing will be one piece of timber again.

And so it was. And so it is.




Favourites Home

Building a Kitchen

In a petulant, and completely unreasonable, fit of pique I told Joe the builder to fuck off, and then I stood there looking at a half-completed kitchen and wondering what I was going to do. But hey, what else would I do in a crisis? I went to the pub, where I bumped into my friend Doc, a traditional carpenter.

Well, he said. How are you getting on with that kitchen?

Ah, not too bad.

Doc looked a bit edgy. I hope you’re not building a fitted kitchen … or anything?

How do you mean?

You know. Melamine carcasses. Artificial counter-tops. Plastic adjustable legs …

I regarded him balefully. Yes, actually. I am.

Hmm, said Doc. Pity. With a little bit of effort you could have had a nice piece of furniture.

I didn’t answer. I just put down my half-finished pint, walked out into the lashing rain, hailed a taxi and went home.

I took down my gorilla-bar and, without regret or compassion, smashed the newly-built kitchen into little pieces and threw it all out on the patio, to disintegrate in the downpour.

Now what?

No kitchen. Nothing.

Well, I was no worse off than a week ago, and it was all in my own hands.

I went to the timber-yard. I selected the ash and oak planks. I had them planed and thicknessed. I jointed them together. I hand-built the frames. I made the hardwood worktops. I laid out the pipework and the wiring. I fitted the power-sockets — as many as I wanted. I built the drawers.

I soldered the copper pipework for hanging the utensils. I showed the boys how a lattice-beam gets its strength and hand-built the triangulated flying arches that would carry all the pots and pans. I watched the worktops grow, and the island unit emerge. I fitted the sinks, and the stainless steel splashbacks and the huge gas stove. I built the shelves for the glass spice-jars, and then I put in the wire-hung 12-volt lighting.


Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Yes. It would be great if I could finish anything, but I can’t. I have everything at 95%, and nothing complete. That’s me. I can’t finish anythi.

Which is why I find it a great idea to invite people for dinner, and I’ve really outdone myself this time.

How, Bock? How? How? How did you outdo yourself?

Oh, simple. I’m having another gang of people for dinner, but this time they include a professional chef, a decent woman who was kind enough to advise me at the planning stage of this project. Now, I’m a reasonably good cook, but serving food to a chef is a different matter altogether, especially if you’re the useless bastard who couldn’t even finish building the fucking kitchen.

If I added that the crowd also includes an architect friend who did the original re-imagining of the house for me and hasn’t seen it in three years, you’d probably see how frightened I am of being found out.

Terror is a great thing, which is why already, this evening, I’ve made and fitted those shelves that were supposed to be done six months ago.





Changing Mind

Dem Bones Dem Bones




When plans go wrong

I’m like a bastard at the moment. A headless bastard. I’m running around like a headless bastard with no purpose, no direction, no plan and of course, no head.


Is it a drug-induced frenzy brought on by too much brown mescalin and a pint of Wild Turkey?


Well then, perhaps it’s an attack of burning vitriol provoked by the thought of Paris Hilton being permitted to serve her jail time in a Beverley Hills mansion? (The stupid bitch?)

Well, yes, I suppose it’s partially that, but there’s more.

More? Could it be the thought that Bertie Ahern is on the point of forming a government to give away what’s left of our national assets to his panhandling, scumbag, carpetbagger friends in the building industry?

Well, now that you mention it, there might be a sort of tenuous connection, but no. My problem, and the source of my rage, is quite simple really. I might have mentioned the giant pile of rubble at the bottom of my garden – a consequence of gigantic wall-knocking and floor-taking-out activity at the Bockschloss over the last few years. Well, I had a plan, which was due to happen today.

I was getting a mini-digger and mini-dumper delivered, and I was going to move all the rubble into one convenient heap. I was then going to extend my patio over it, thereby providing three benefits. A bigger patio, no rubble, and most important of all, a go at driving a digger!

But no. When I called to the machinery hire place today, having taken the day off, they looked at me sadly and shook their heads.

What? I said.

Machine, they said.

What about it? I demanded.

Fucked, they said.

Fuck! I said.

Sorry, they shrugged.

So there I am: fucked.



After reading Mr Warmington’s charming piece on his Super Panther lawnmower, my conscience began to attack me, in a vaguely collapsed-Catholic kind of way.

Look at that grass, Bock, it whispered. After all your poor mother did for you. Look at the state of that feckin garden.

And to be honest, I have to admit it was looking a little hirsute.

All right, already! I said , in a vaguely non-observant Jewish way. This I should listen to all my life?

That’s one thing the Jews and the Catholics do really well: guilt. God Almighty, imagine having a Jewish-Catholic mother. You don’t call your old mama so much no more but I understand. You’re too busy. And your hair is a holy show!

Anyway, that has nothing to do with lawnmowers or gardens gone to the bad. The problem, you see, is that my lawnmower had become deceased. An ex-lawnmower, though I can hardly complain really, in the circumstances. The deck was an old aluminium piece that had snapped in several places and was welded back together on three consecutive summers. It was still not in great order, and in fact, only last month a pebble the size of a musket ball shot past my dog’s head at high velocity through a new little hole in the side.

The engine was an ancient Tecumseh 3.5hp that I found in a skip one night on my way home from the pub. Well, actually, I found an entire lawnmower, but it had no wheels and most of it was eaten with rust. The engine was fine though, and so I married the two parts together and the Frankenmower worked away great for many years.

I’m not like Mr Warmington. I don’t take care of lawnmowers. I leave them out in the rain. I don’t bother to clean them after use. Which is why, every year, I go through a two-week ritual of cursing at my lawnmower, replacing the rotten pull-cord, taking the carburettor to pieces, looking at it blankly and putting it back together unchanged. That usually does the trick.

Not this year though. Despite the annual breaking of the pull-cord and the ritual falling back into a thorny bush while cursing loudly, it refused to start, and there it has remained, at my back door, glowering at me like a dog with a mallet up his arse.

And that’s why Mr Warmington had a velvety striped sward and I had the rainforest. And that’s also why I ran down to Homebase today and bought the cheapest, nastiest mower they could sell me. After all, what’s the point of buying an expensive one when I know full well I’ll destroy it by leaving it out in the rain all winter?



I don’t know if I mentioned to you that I’ve been doing a bit of a job on the old house over the last while. Did I mention that? Maybe it was before anyone started reading this shit, so it could easily have missed you.

Anyway, I have. For the last three or four years I’ve been involved in a one-man campaign to re-model a house, including the removal of strategic walls and floors, by extreme jackhammer application and industrial cursing. Plumbing. Central heating. Not to mention building new staircases, knocking out new holes for light-inviting windows, and the fitting of solar panels by my favourite Aran-Islands drunken builder who curses as Gaeilge when he bashes his thumb.

The Rockhopper.

In fairness to the Rockhopper, he was the one mainly responsible for the wall-taking-down-by-extreme-violence approach to building that we have here in this little enclave. It isn’t really a one-man operation. I was only looking to take all the credit, as you do, but I was found out. You saw through me as quick as the lies left my fingers.

It’s been fun. I never built a staircase before. Having some old hippy leanings I thought it would be very good, and green, to recycle the previous staircase, which was built of teak. I know. I know. It probably came from some badly-managed rain-forest where Indians had been slaughtered to make way for the loggers. I know. All the more reason not to throw it out.

The problem was that I had a plan to build a completely new kind of stairs. A new layout. The old one was straight down, but the new one would have two landings, and it would turn back on itself. In short, if we wanted to use the old one, we’d have to cut it in half. I didn’t know how to make the clever joints between the stairs and its posts, so I called a real hippy, but also a great carpenter.

I have this teak stairs. I want to use it again and I don’t know how.

No bother. I’ll be there in an hour.

He came two days later. He studied the problem. He made sketches. He smoked joints.

The Hippy didn’t know how to do it either, but that didn’t stop him staying for the week, during which time he built two gigantic coffee tables, one taller than the other. One was about four feet high and the other about two feet tall. He built them from ash and pine. They were beautiful and what’s more, they weren’t really coffee tables. They were landings.

And then we cut the old teak staircase in half, with great difficulty because it weighed about half a ton, and we dragged the bits into place, and we sat back. The Rockhopper had a beer. I had a beer. The Hippy had a joint. We studied it from every angle and we all agreed. It was shite.

No problem. The old staircase ended up in my friend’s garden. (He has a hill.)

After the Rockhopper and myself had constructed the flights of stairs (when we were sober, which was rarely) the entire thing fitted together like a sculpture. Beautiful.

And that was how I gained the confidence to hand-build the kitchen, but that’s another story for another time.

popular culture Technology

I Hate Duncan Stewart

All home improvement programmes are terrible, but Irish ones just seem to go one step further in awfulness, for some reason, and I can’t figure out why. Is it because they come from RTE-land. Is that it? Maybe that’s the reason Irish home-improvement programmes are shite.

What the fuck is going on in RTE-land, anyway, and indeed what the fuck is going on in media-land as a whole? You can’t open a paper or turn on the telly without some twat telling you about the latest Flinkenberger cooker for 18,000 euros, or a door-mat for only three grand.

So, tell me Sorcha, how much was that divine fitting you have on the wall, there – what do you call it? Mm-hmmm?

That’s called a shelf, Fiachra, and you can get them now in the Shelf Shop in Dalkey for only nine hundred euros.

Only nine hundred, Sorcha? Isn’t that great?

Isn’t it, Fiachra? Just great, and it’s solid chipboard, y’know?

Really Sorcha?

Oh yes, Fiachra. But if you really want to splurge, why not call to Ankkinhainenanenenanenakkuinheainens Interiors in Blackrock?

Ankkinhainenanenenanenakkuinheainens you say?

That’s right, Fiachra. Ankkinhainenanenenanenakkuinheainens of Blackrock. They do the latest in Finnish shelf design. For only twelve hundred euros, you can get a shelf nearly two feet long and it’s made almost entirely of real wood!

Get away, Sorcha!

No, Fiachra. It’s true!

That’s the kind of shite we have to put up with night and day lately, but the worst wanker of them all has to be Duncan Stewart.

I made the mistake of switching on the telly this evening before heading out to my pub of choice, and there he was, the smarmy git, slithering into somebody’s half-built house with all his slimy blather.

Oh, hello there, Declan and Nuala. Is the kettle on?

Ah!, shout the two stiffs, obviously terrified, Hello Duncan. We didn’t see ya comin’.

(Which, you have to admit, is fucking incredible, considering he brought an entire television crew in two forty-foot articulated trucks).

So tell me, Nuala, says Duncan, what have you done since our last visit?

Now that’s an opportunity for most sane people to reply, Well we got rid of you for a start, Duncan, you mad cunt.

But no. Instead, they show the mad bastard around their half-finished house while he points out things that would be painfully obvious to a retarded underpants.

Ah, right, Declan. That’s the roof, isn’t it?

‘Tis, Duncan, you daft bastard.

And Nuala, if I’m not mistaken, that’s the floor. Good choice of location for a floor, Nuala. Down low. Very good.

That’s right, Duncan, you insane fucker. When are you going to fuck off out of our half-built house?


That wouldn’t be too bad, if he’d just leave it with the tea and the bikkies and Declan and Nuala and all that shit, but no. He can’t. Instead, he had to have a make-over.

Aw fuck off, you’re joking!

I’m fucking not. I wish I was.

More Dublin fuckers. Come here a minute: is everybody in Dublin paid about forty-two times the wages of the rest of the country? I only ask that because firstly, RTE is concerned only with Dublin people (I know some of the rest of us pay the TV licence, but when has that ever been an issue?) and secondly, it seems to me from watching these programmes that everybody has a favourite little place in Dun Laoghaire where you can pick up a piece of ORT for about twice my annual salary.

Oh dear God!!

Tonight, they had two designers doing a make-over of a high-end property. (Note to outside-Dublin-people: a high-end property in Dublin is anything with its own toilet and more than one bedroom).

The guy was as gay as a badger, which is ok with me, except to ask, are there any straight interior designers in RTE-land? Never mind. He was a nice enough guy, and I liked what he did with the house.

The girl was going to do a house based on Feng Shui.


What the fuck is this Feng Shui thing? Question number uno. Why do these fuckers insist on saying Feng Shway? Why? If the Chinese pronounce if Feng Shway, why do we write it to rhyme with Chop Suey? The Chinese don’t write Feng Shui. We do.

Anyway, this woman is laying out chairs and tables , and you know, I can agree with a lot of the principles of Feng Shui. I don’t much like clutter either, though it takes me several years to tidy any room that’s gone a bit messy. So there we are laying the whole thing out nice and easy and airy and feelgood, until the woman utters the dreaded E-word.

Shock. Anger. Offence.

What might the E-word be?

What? Oh, sorry. That word is energy.

They say “energy” like they know what they’re talking about. Even worse, they say “energies”.

Your woman says, Oh, I like to choose different woods for the different units: it helps to offset the energies of the room.

Eh? Explain that. Define energies you empty-headed, superficial twit.

Wasting your time asking. These gobshites have no idea what they’re talking about.

And then the big poncing gobshite Duncan chimes in:

The energy of the room.

There they are, all dressed in reflective jackets and helmets like they’re building the Eiffel Tower, and what are they really doing? Decorating a house, that’s all. Decorating a fucking house!

That’s RTE-land for you


Changing Mind (Ver 1.03)

I now have Kitchen 2.37 running well, and without too many bugs, though I still require a good number of plug-ins to complete the installation.

Did I tell you I originally used a bootleg version of Carpenter to install Kitchen v1.0? Never again. It was an old version of Carpenter. Version 0.8.3 had a Trojan which tried to install itself over HouseOwner 2.01 and I had to run the FuckOff! uninstall utility to solve the problem. I then had to employ an old DOS-based version of Crowbar to delete Kitchen 1.0. I reinstalled it on top of Patio v 2.5 and let Downpour 7.2 run for about a week, which finally eliminated it.


Something revolting

This will disgust you, or at least I hope it will. It certainly disgusted me. With any luck, it might even make you vomit.

Over the past few days, I’ve noticed an awful lot of bluebottles around the house, but you get that sort of thing during such exceptionally warm weather. Now, I hate them. I find them absolutely repulsive, as most people do, and I have no qualms about murdering them.

You might have read Tristram Shandy once upon a time. (Wrinkly Paddy lent it to me years ago, and I read it in a tent during a haphazard wander across the continent of Europe, whenever I was sober enough to see). Anyhow, as far as it concerns bluebottles, his uncle Toby has a different take on life to me, and this is what he says:

Uncle Toby gave the fly which buzz’d about his nose all dinner-time, — “Go, — go, poor devil, ” quoth he, — “get thee gone, — why should I hurt thee? This world is surely wide enough to hold both thee and me.”

And so it is, and so I feel when confronted by a single bluebottle. I can, and do, hold the window open to let the horrible bastard escape, for violence is simply not in my nature. Ordinarily, that is. But when confronted with more than five bluebottles, my heart fills with murder, and I wish only to kill each and every one of them, for which I find the vacuum cleaner very effective. (You move the open pipe towards them very slowly and they make a satisfying clunk as they’re sucked down the hose. I suppose to them it’s a kind of black hole. The trick is to get the event horizon right so they’re in freefall before they even realise what’s happening).

This was different, though. There were so many around, the hoover wouldn’t do, and I don’t like spraying poison, so I just opened a window and shooshed most of them out, leaving the stupid ones for me to kill. Now, I noticed that the upstairs living-room had a huge amount of the fuckers at the windows and clinging to the curtains, but I was able to get rid of them easily enough by shoving them out the window. However, when I came back there was another pile of the fuckers. What the-?? That room isn’t used much at the moment. The rebuilding project hasn’t yet reached that far.

I tried a little experiment. I made sure that every bluebottle in that room was either cleared or murdered. Then I locked the door and went away to do other things, like flinging old mattresses at passing tinkers. When I got back and checked the upstairs living room, it was like a scene from The Omen: a roomful of big fat juicy fucking flies. Oh Jesus, this is doing my fucking head in.


1. I’ve inadvertently pushed pieces of meat into all the tiny cracks in the plaster while under the influence of some psychosis-inducing drug.

2. My neighbours have inadvertently pushed pieces of meat into all the tiny cracks in the plaster while under the influence of some psychosis-inducing drug.

3. There’s a dead person under the floor.

4. The house is possessed by Satan.

5. Flies like it here.

6. They must be coming down the chimney.

Now why the fuck would they do that? I remembered the old Sherlock Holmes maxim that, when you eliminate all other possibilities, that which remains – no matter how improbable – is the answer. And so I dug out my trusty set of chimney-rods, gave it a good old rattle, and sure enough I got a little avalanche of twigs and other crap down on top of me, so there was a crow’s nest. But how does that explain the flies? No answer.

I lit a small fire, hoping the smoke would drive the flies up the chimney, but what really happened was this. There came a loud rumbling noise as if the house was going to explode, but which was really just some stuff half-way up the chimney catching fire. I bent closer to see what was going on and as I did, something fell down the chimney and into the fire. Something in flames. A burning dead bird.

As the mechanic would say: there’s yer problem, Missus!


Cookery matters

Somebody asked me if I was going to christen the new kitchen, and I said, yes, I was going to call it “Dermot”.

I think this has great possibilities, and perhaps even has the making of a children’s book: The Adventures of Dermot the Kitchen. What do you think? Maybe they’ll make a movie of it, and probably even a PS2 game. Follow Dermot the Kitchen on his travels around the world. Thrill to his incredible escapes from danger. Break your sides laughing at the hilarious scrapes he gets into.

This is a picture of Dermot, my own flesh and blood: half dog, half kitchen. I hope Hyperzenchef will approve. He phoned me last night at about 9:30, or at least it was 9:30 for me, but it was half past five in the morning for him, which is either quite late or quite early, depending on the direction you approach it from. I’m guessing that he was approaching it on the run, but I could be wrong. He’s been sending me these emails lately, and I suppose when he got no reply he had to take direct action.

What’s the chef’s beef? Well, basically, it boils down to this: he wants me to kill Ryan Tubridy. But I have other fish to fry at the moment, so I’m going to let him stew for a while before responding. It isn’t that I’m chicken, you understand, though my pulse does race a little at the thought. No, when the chips are down, if he offers me enough bread, I’ll toast the motherfucker. And if there’s a danger of being grilled by the cops, I’ll act innocent, as if butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth. I’ll curry favour with the big cheese if I have to. But for now, I’m going to put it on the back burner.

I can completely understand his view on Tubridy. What a twat! How did this gobshite ever get near a microphone? Oh! Of course – how else, in Ireland? Method one: you live near an RTE person and go to school with their children. Method two: you’re related to somebody influential. Well, I think Tubs used both methods, thereby avoiding the need to have any aptitude whatever, though absence of talent was never an obstacle to getting a job there.

Question for you. Instead of charging us enormous licence fees, what would be wrong with RTE selling its incredibly valuable land in Donnybrook and setting up a new headquarters in, for example, Ballymun, or Finglas, or Mullingar, or – God forbid – Limerick? Why does RTE have to be based in South Dublin? Is there a good operational reason for this?

Personally, as you know, I think RTE is a disgraceful example of feather-bedding at the nation’s expense, so I’ll say no more on the subject, except the following. They’d all better watch out for a Japanese chef, at five thirty in the morning, stoned drunk, stark naked, covered in melted butter and wielding a cleaver.

Now, I’m off. I want to see Stargate. Missed the Sopranos again tonight because I was out with Jimbo walking Satan’s dogs. Shit!


Previously: Changing Mind ; Dem Bones Dem Bones



I seem to have been building this kitchen for about eighteen years now, and I don’t know when I’ll be finished. I’m hoping to have most of it complete within a month or two, maybe, and in that hopeful spirit, I made a small leap of faith today, purchasing a can-opener. It’s a cheap plastic item with one purpose only: feeding the fucking dog.

The Bullet helpfully pointed out that this opener comes complete with a set of care instructions, which read as folows:

Wash thoroughly before use.

Oh dear Jesus, Nooooooooooo! Look. I got a small bit of dust in the crap we’re feeding the dog. What the fuck will we do? I know! We’ll go back to the old ways and just fling his food out the back door. Eat that, ya fucker, and be happy about it. Imagine if somebody served you breakfast that way. Here! Splat on the ground. Have a pile of shit the rest of us didn’t want, and you can lick it off the concrete too as a special treat.

To keep your can opener looking its best, clean and dry it as soon as possible after use.

You can just see me, can’t you, in Brown Thomas or someplace like that. Excuse me? Yeah, I was looking for a tube of can-opener cleaner. That’s right. I like to keep my can opener looking its best. There I am, sitting down watching the new Sopranos, while absent-mindedly but lovingly buffing my opener. Look at that! Beautiful! Did you ever see such a dry can-opener? I might even start a small business, selling the bits and pieces you’d need. I could have one of those twee little shops they love in West Cork, and I could call it For Openers. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Dishwasher safe. Remove and dry immediately.

Fucking right! We don’t want a repeat of the last time, do we? Nobody wants that. Christ no.

Why don’t they print a warning on it, while they’re on a roll. This is not a hairdryer! Do not attempt to dry your hair with this can-opener!

The good news is that I found my iPod, which I thought I’d lost due to drunkenness in some Russian bar when I went out on the piss in Dublin with the Rockhopper. When was that? Was it the Scotland match? It might have been – I don’t know. All I know is I couldn’t find my player, which pissed me off greatly. It’s amazing how dependent on these things you become. I use mine for flinging at the dog (since I stopped spraying bleach into his eyes) and pounding on the front doors of strangers’ houses.

I’m going to bed. Goodnight Wrinkly Paddy. Goodnight Wrinkly Joe. Goodnight Impaler. Good night Hyperzenchef. Goodnight QJS. Goodnight Anonymous. Goodnight Halliburton.