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Brick drilling jig

One of the previous owners of my apartment was an idiot, who apparently thought that the way to install a curtain rod is to put screw hooks into the wall and thread the curtain rod through them. This resulted in curtains that were too close to the wall, and would rub against the wall making them hard to open and close. It also meant that the curtain rod could slide back and forth in the hooks, occasionally sliding all the way out and falling down.

I'm on an ongoing quest to fix this, and many other mistakes made by that person.

Today I put up new curtains in the study, and installed proper brackets for the curtain rod. This required drilling into the brick walls. Last time I did this, brick dust ended up going everywhere. Also the drill bit tended to drift slightly, resulting in off-centre holes and wonky brackets.

So I built this jig:

A block of wood which guides a drill bit, with a dust-catching bag attached The jig held against the wall

It does three things:

  • Keep the drill bit at a right angle to the wall
  • Prevent the bit from slipping to the wrong position
  • Catch brick dust

It actually didn't do a great job of keeping the drill bit in place. The block must have slipped a little along the wall. I tried to hold it firmly in place while I drilled, but it wasn't enough. It needs something sticky on the front face to keep it held in position.

The dust catching worked pretty well though. There's a bit of PVC pipe which goes up through the bottom of the block to where the drill bit is, and the dust falls down through it. A plastic bag is taped on to collect it.

Some dust still falls down between the jig and the wall, so I added this paper dust catcher below:

Weekend project: Fitting new armrests to my chair

Every solution creates new, but hopefully less bad, problems.

Having worked from home since March, I've been spending a lot of time in my IKEA Markus desk chair. I've been using it for years, and it's a great chair. One of its few downsides is that the armrests aren't adjustable. But this was never a problem I cared much about.

Recently, after hearing a recommendation from Wes Bos on the Syntax podcast, I decided to upgrade the castor wheels on my chair to rollerblade-style wheels, which roll much more smoothly. IKEA's castor wheels are particularly annoying due to a "feature" which causes them to lock up when nobody is sitting on the chair (they claim this is for safety, though the reasoning behind that eludes me).

Rollerblade wheels on my chair

The rollerblade wheels are nice, but they created a problem: being slightly taller than the castors, they've made the chair sit a bit higher. So the armrests of the chair no longer fit under the surface of my desk, which stops me from rolling the chair forward as much as I like to.

So for the first time, the armrests became a problem for me. I'm not the only one. I found a few possible solutions by people who weren't happy with the height of their Markus chair armrests, but all of those solutions just lowered the existing armrests. I wanted adjustable ones.

Replacing the armrests

The first step was to get some adjustable armrests. I looked at buying some, but it turned out to be cheaper to just buy a used chair on Gumtree and take the armrests from it. The next step was to figure out a way of attaching the armrests to a chair that they weren't designed to attach to.

To a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And to someone who has gotten into woodworking as a pastime during a global pandemic, everything looks like a woodworking project.

One weekend and two trips to Bunnings later, I ended up with two of these:

Armrest adaptor

The main block is designed to bolt to the side of the chair using the bolts from the original armrests:

Armrest adaptor bolted to the side of the chair

The bottom piece sits flat against the bottom of the seat. Two 100mm high tensile bolts are threaded down from the top of the block and out the bottom, where the new armrest is secured:

Armrest adaptor with the new armrests attached

The final result

The end result looks pretty decent, and most importantly, the armrests fit under my desk.

Chair with new armrests

Chair tucked in to desk

Of course, this has created a new, smaller problem: Now the armrests are weirdly far apart. Partly because the main block of the adaptor is so thick, and partly because the armrests are splayed out slightly. I have an idea for a different design which could fix this. Time will tell if the new problem annoys me enough to implement my idea, surely creating yet another, even smaller problem.

New website

Social media is out, websites are back in.

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© Eddie McLean 2020