Boys' Den




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By Dan Beard

Fixing Up a Boys' Den: 

How to Decorate and Paper the Inside of a Shed, Attic, or Stable-Room, and How to Make Furniture for it.

Practically all suburban houses have unfinished garrets where rubbish and old trunks are stored, and, outside of the crowded business part of the city, the hived tenement section, and the fashionable avenues lined with gloomy palaces, even city houses possess unfinished apartments in attics, stables, or barns.

Inasmuch as every likely place for a den differs from every other place of the kind, it will be necessary to confine this description to such problems as are generally met with in unfinished rooms or sheds.

In the first place, if the walls are made of rough boards they may be papered; but you should first tack unbleached muslin to the boards.

Put the muslin in a tub of water and get it thoroughly wet, then stretch it tight over the boards and tack it, along the edges of the cloth, to the wood-work. If this is done properly, when it is dry the cloth will be stretched as tight as a drum-head.

If the wall is boarded on the outside of a framework of "studs" it may be finished upon the inside with any sort of old lumber available. If you boys will save all the packing-cases and barrels that you usually burn up on election nights you will have sufficient material.

I can tell you how to make all sorts of things out of the roughest sort of lumber, but I cannot tell you how to make something from nothing. In this case, however, the material need not cost you a cent, but you must use care in knocking the packing-boxes apart and save all the nails, and in this manner you can get enough for your purpose.

tbp258.gif (8354 bytes)
Figs. 258-260. 
Nail the Boards to the Studs

Of course, the surface of the boards must not be uneven, but uniform, and this can be arranged by nailing on the boards, as in Fig. 258, to the studs.

"If a board is too thin," nail a cleat (Fig. 259) to the stud so as to bring the surface of the board even with the others. If you happen to have "aboard which is too thick," cut a notch in the end which fits on the stud (Fig. 260) and thus make its surface correspond to the rest of the boards. In this way a whole inside of a room or shed may be boarded up, then covered with unbleached muslin in the manner already described, or covered with dull-red building-paper tacked on over the boards. 

I have pasted this paper on the walls of a room, but it sometimes shrinks as it dries and then peels off. It is not really necessary to board up the whole room; there will be little danger of punching holes in your wall-paper where it is stretched between the studs (Fig. 262), if you have boarded the wall up a little higher than the tops of your chairs.

A Good Wainscot Can Be of Barrel Staves

Take a sharp hatchet and trim off the swell of the stave (Fig. 261, B) until the edge is almost straight, then plane it off (Fig. 261, C) so that the staves will fit together side by side, as in Fig. 261.

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Fig. 261.
The Wainscot of Barrel Staves

Nail a piece of molding along bottom edge against the floor, or make a base-board of smooth planks, or leave it without a base-board of any kind. Finish the top of the wainscot by neatly nailing a strip along the top edges and another strip on top of it, as in Fig. 261, A; but if you have no strips, leave the raw edges of the staves. This makes a unique wainscot, and if the wall above is neatly decorated with cheap building-paper or common wall-paper, the room will have really an elegant appearance.

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Fig. 262.
Above the Wainscot: Stretch and Tack the Wet Muslin

Above the wainscot stretch and tack the wet muslin (Fig. 262), and paper this with any sort of paper procurable. If you save the colored supplements of the newspapers and use them, you will have a most entertaining and novel wall-paper.

You may, however, use some plain tinted paper for the walls, and then make a sort of panorama border above the wainscot.

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Fig. 263.
The Panorama Border Above the Wainscot

Do this by carefully cutting out the large figures of people and animals with a pair of scissors from the colored supplements and pasting them on some gray or drab paper, brown wrapping-paper, or other unobtrusive colored background, as in Fig. 263. Above this you can make use of your collection of picture post-cards by pasting them on a line above the panorama border (Figs. 263 and 264).

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Fig. 264.
This Shows How the Muslin On the Ceiling
 Is Tacked at Right Angles to the Rafters

No matter how dusty an attic may be or how many wasp-nests and cobwebs decorate the rafters, it may be cleaned, dusted, and swept in a few minutes, and then it is ready for the decorator. 

tbp265.gif (15948 bytes)
Fig. 265.
The Ceiling Before the Cobwebs are 
Brushed Down and Muslin Tacked On

In Fig. 265 the muslin on the ceiling should be tacked across the rafters of the ceiling from one rafter to the other and at right angles with them; that is, square with them, as is shown in Fig. 264. The muslin on the wall should be tacked on in the same manner as is shown by Fig. 262, but the wall-paper should be put on the walls up and down, at right angles with the muslin and with the floor (Fig. 264).

To Put on the Wall-Paper

Take two chairs and place them back to back and as far apart as the lengths of the paper will be which you are about to paste. Lay some smooth boards from the back of one chair to the other, and they will serve you for a working bench.

Use a big brush made like a whitewash brush, and with this cover the long strips of paper with paste.

Spread the paper wrong side up, on the boards, and cover it with paste, daubed on with the broad brush (Fig. 262); then fold the paper up loosely into a big fold so that it may be easily lifted from the boards, using care not to get the paste on the outside or figured part of the wall-paper. 

Next get on the step-ladder, and, holding the top of the paper with your two hands, fit it against the place where the ceiling and the wall join, allowing the paper to hang in the position it is to be pasted; put it into place and then go over the scams with a rolling-pin, if it is on a solid surface; but if it is on the muslin stretched between studs, go over it lightly with a bunched-up towel, pressing the paper onto the muslin until it sticks there, or use a big brush for this purpose. 

When I mount paper on cloth I have both the cloth and the paper damp, but I noticed that the decorator who was papering a place in our attic over muslin allowed the cloth to dry and then pasted on the paper.

ohb316.gif (16672 bytes)
The Dan Beard's Camp at 
Big Tink, Pike County, PA.

A cottage on Big Tink Pond, in Pike County, Pa., has flour-sack cloth stretched over the inside; there are 1,500 flour sacks on the walls, and they were put on dry and not dampened until the paper was pasted over them. It is a neat piece of work, and the walls look as if they were ordinary plaster walls covered with paper, in place of rough, unfinished pitch-pine boards as they really are.

It will take another story to tell you how to furnish your den, but the boy who cannot do that for himself lacks gumption. However, all of us are aided by suggestions, and I will give you some.

How the Handy Boy Can Furnish His Own Den

Of course a den can be fitted up with the furniture which your parents may allow you to use, but there will be no fun in that and nothing that you can point to with pride as examples of your own ingenuity. What every hustling American boy wants is something that he can show his friends and say, "Look at that; I made it myself." If you will save the old packing-cases from the cook, you can fit out your den with sofas, chairs, stools, and a secretary or desk, which will cost you nothing but labor.

How to Build a Secretary

tbp266.gif (11062 bytes)
Figs. 266-273.
This is the Way to Build a Writing-Desk

For the table or stand you will need a box about the size of an ordinary or small centre-table (Fig. 266); for the bookcase part, another box the same length as the table and somewhere near half its width. If you are to have only shelves in the bookcase, carefully measure the distances upon the inside of the box, and with a pencil rule a straight line along the side of the inside of the box where the shelf is to be. That is, suppose it is to be five inches from the top of the box to the shelf, measure five inches inside the box on the back edge of the side piece and mark the point at X (Fig. 268); then measure five inches along the front edge of the side piece and mark the point at E (Fig. 268). Along this line nail the cleat (X-E, Fig. 268), then saw your shelf board or boards off so as to just fit inside the box, slide the shelf in over the cleats, as it is at BE (Fig. 269). In case you want pigeon-hole divisions for the lower part, make a shelf (CF, Fig. 267), and to this nail the division pieces, which must, of course, all be of exactly the same dimensions. The shelf (CF) can then be slid in place and secured there by nails through the Side of the box, along the dotted line at F (Fig. 270), and through the bottom of the box, where the divisions occur.

To make the table or stand to the secretary, knock off one side of the box (Fig. 266), and then take four boards (J K L M, Fig. 272); trim them off all exactly the same length, and nail them to the inside of the box., as shown in Fig. 273. These will make the legs of the table, but the stand should be strengthened by nailing a small board across the front, just below the top of the stand, as it is in Fig. 281. If this board interferes with your knees it may be shaved off in a curve, as shown in Fig. 281. The bookcase part, of course, fits on top of the stand, as in Figs. 271 and 281. If possible, it should be the same length as the stand, as in Fig. 281, but it may be smaller and still prove very serviceable, as in Fig. 271- Of course, to be useful, this piece of handiwork should have

A Board

upon which to write, and this we will provide for by using the door to the bookcase for the purpose. 

tbp274.gif (8421 bytes)
Figs. 274-280. 
Showing the Book-Shelves and Writing-Desk

To fit the door upon the bookcase we will need two cleats (A D and G H, Fig. 274) and a small wooden catch to hold the door when it is closed. Make the door out of the top of the box or the boards from some other box, and cut it so as to fit between the top and bottom cleats and flush with the two sides of the case. 

Take the two longest boards (N and 0, Fig. 275) and nail them across the top and bottom of the door for battens. Between N and 0 fit the two shorter battens (P and Q), as shown in Fig. 276. This will make a panel for the outside of your door. 

The inside of the door should be as smooth as possible, for it is upon the inside that you write (Fig. 277). Take a pair of small hinges and hinge the door to the cleat (G H), cutting out places in the cleat, as shown by Fig. 278, and similar places in the bottom of the door in which to fit your hinges. The cleat (G H) had better be hinged to the door before the cleat is nailed to the bookcase. Remember that Fig. 277 shows the inside of the door, and in order to fit upon Fig. 274 it must be turned around so that G will fit on G and H on H. When it is closed it will be Fig. :276 that will show, Fig. 277 being inside.

tbp281.gif (16227 bytes)
 Figs. 281-287.
Packing-Box Desk Stool, and Waste-Basket

Fig. 281 shows the door let down as it is when used as a desk. Fig. 282 is a side view, showing the door about to be closed. The inside of your door should have a smooth surface, as we have already said, and this can be made by covering it with a smooth piece of paper and then tacking oil-cloth over the paper, or you may use a large sheet of blotting-paper fastened on with thumb-tacks to cover the unevenness.

To Make a Stool

is a simple matter. Take a small box (Fig. 283) and four small boards for the legs; nail the boards inside the box, as already described and shown in Fig. 273, then stretch a piece of carpet, canvas, or any other strong material over the top of the box. The box is supposed to have had both heads knocked out. A boy may upholster it as described further on, but we will take a box without the head and tack material over it, as shown in Fig. 286. 

You will probably have no big-headed tacks, but ordinary carpet-tacks will answer the purpose, and you can put heads upon them of any size that you desire by cutting out small disks of leather or tin and driving the tacks through the centers of the disks, as shown in Fig. 285. These tacks will hold the material securely, and a neat finish may be given to them by folding a piece of cloth of some kind over the heads of the tacks and securing it in place by running the points of the tacks through the folds, as shown in Fig. 285. Fig. 284 shows how to make a neat edge to the cloth.

To Make a Sofa

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Fig. 288.
How to Make a Sofa with Stave Spring Back and Seat

Make two low stools like Fig. 286 and then nail boards across from one to the other. This will make a sort of bench which for politeness' sake we will call a sofa; but we can build a real sofa with a little more work, as shown in Fig. 288.

Fig. 288 shows the unfinished sofa, made of two boxes with the heads knocked out, a spring seat, and back composed of barrel staves. In nailing the staves on the cushion or seat, we nail them across from the top of the far side of the box to the front cross-piece, as in Fig. 288, but when we come to the space between the boxes it will be necessary to nail on a cleat fastened to the back board for the ends of the staves to rest upon. Throw a rug, blanket, or piece of thick drapery over the sofa and it is ready for use. Fig. 289 shows you

How to Make a Table

tbp289.gif (7546 bytes)
Fig. 289.
A Good, Substantial Table

the construction of which is so simple that the diagram explains it all.

To Make an Arm-Chair

First build a stool, as in Fig. 286, Putting on the legs as J K L M N are in Fig. 273. Then make a back frame by nailing a top piece on, as shown in Fig. 290, and nailing the long upright securely to the back of the box. Cover the box as you did the stool, and cover the back in the same manner. In tacking the cover on, fold in the edge of the material, as shown in Fig. 284, and it will give a neat finish and not ravel out. Then your den is complete.

 tbp290.gif (8127 bytes)
Fig. 290.
A Simply Constructed Packing-Box Chair

The Boy Pioneers






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