I had longed for a real card catalog for years. Liz Lemon has a behemoth one in her apartment, and she is my life coach and Swami. All the cool makeover projects I found for them on Pinterest started with "I found this for $10 at a local rummage sale," which produced in me a charming bitter envy-rage.
No one is so naive as to price a real library card catalog for a mere $10 anywhere around these parts. A weekly search of craigslist showed me that people who had these babies KNEW what we the crafty would give to possess them. Here's one I just found on craigslist nearby.
But to be fair, Jo Ellen deserves to be compensated for having her head spun. The poor dear.
$475?! Mama can't play dat. And while I am a HUGE proponent of affordable hacking/DIYing I just couldn't bring myself to fake this instead of having the real thing--even though this DIY version looks crisp!
Why? I am a staunch defender and consumer of actual books. I have never read an eBook because I think a real, made-from-a-tree, printed-with-ink, feel-the-heft-of-the-pages, book is a magical experience too good to pass up for pixels (yes the irony that you're only reading this because of pixels isn't lost on me).
I actually USED card catalogs and learned about the Dewey Decimal system in elementary school *yikesface*. I remember the vertiginous, Mary Poppins Carpet Bag feeling of pulling out one little bitty drawer and it being longer and deeper than any drawer I had ever encountered. I felt so grown up (like an archivist! or Egyptologist! or Treasure hunting preteen Indiana Jones!) flipping through the hundreds of little cards and find the magic number for the book I needed (The Courtship of Princess Leia, for the record. Not joking) --and then getting distracted because my friends were playing M.A.S.H. nearby and inevitably forgetting the number and having to start over.
While computers are obviously a far more efficient system for library users now, I still think these massive fossils deserve better than to rot in school basements like some kind of sad rodent tenement. I think card catalogs should be honored, or at least given a cushy retirement where they can be treasured, remembered, and revered. And that reverence to me would come in the form of having juice spilled atop them, crayons scribbled on their sides, and all manner of action figures, pacis, and ossified string cheese stuffed in their hallowed innards. RESPECT THE PAST.
There were actual tears when a teacher friend texted me 2 years ago: "you wouldn't be interested in our library's old card catalog that we are getting rid of, would you?" I screamed. It's not like I had even told this beautiful Saint about my longing. Clearly this was my destiny's child.
When I first saw it in person my reaction really bordered on crazy cat(alog) lady talk, "Awwww, it's so tiny!" "It's even more beautiful than I had imagined!" and "Oh, but so heavy! What a healthy boy...yes you are! Who's a healthy boy?" Because yes, my newborn dream come true was only 2 feet square, but weighed more than an Imperial Star Destroyer.
I got it home with only like 5 slipped disks and Jesse was like, "What now? What are you gonna do with that? Where will it go? You realize our house is tiny?" And I covered the catalogs impressionable ears and scolded him, "We'll make room! This is a blessing! I'M KEEPING IT!"
And then I left it in the garage for 2 years to be a spider habitat until we moved. Shut up.
But here we find ourselves with lots more space, and finally the motivation from me to take on the restoration.
This is the state he was in after his stay in the garage.
That bottom piece of trim had fallen off somewhere along the way. The presence of MDF underneath the trim also let me know that this wasn't totally solid wood like I had thought--despite weighing more than the Forest Moon of Endor. Bummer. Or swomp-swomp (as Layla says when you drop something thrown to you). I lose vintage-antique points there, but who cares, the thing held freaking Dewey Cards, yall. I'M KEEPING MY POINTS.
The veneer is a shiny flat doo doo brown and had HAD to go.
He is almost a perfect cube. Short and stocky and frisky and fine. Too little to be a stand-alone piece, but to big and deep to really fit comfortably on a normal table.
Beside a book, for scale. (1 of about 300 Star Wars books that I own. Because awesome).
Last week I sat down and took all the hardware off to assess the situation.
Michael Scott is my constant DIY companion. I will never be defeated at "Office" trivia, btw.
I found that the hardware was solid brass (not plated...via magnet test), and gave it a brasso bath to take off most of, but not all because VINTAGE, of the tarnish.
The next day I got down (girl, go head get down), on sanding the beast. The yucky brown veneer IS real wood so I could strip and stain it like a solid wood piece (being careful not to sand all the way through the veneer which would expose the MDF and my secret shame).
The drawers are plastic (oh the ignominy!) and metal bolted on to solid wood fronts.
Sweet boogers, it was hot that day and I laid down a preliminary stain with my sweat. I was batter-dipped with the sawdust by the end of this.
I moved the show into the blessed AC to try out stains.
I tested each of the colors on a drawer front. This was so stupid. HELLO KEIGHT, IT'S STAIN. I knew I'd have to sand off the 2 losing shades, but didn't plan for how deep that would be. Total pain. Next time I will test on the back side.
I wiped the whole thing down and started staining (went with the golden oak...even though I typically hate oak colored stuff, it looked the best by far).
A coat of finishing wax and the hardware went back on. Here's where the giddyness began. Jesse cut me a strip of thin plywood to cover up the bottom trim piece that had come off. Itf fit so perfectly and took the stain just the same as the catalog did.
Wood glued and weighted down overnight and that little strip is now an inalienable member of the piece.
I got a set of 4 hairpin steel legs on eBay (from this seller) for $45 (the best price of all 13 places I looked). These are 14", tight profile, and unfinished steel.
Turned him over and put him in a place of honor in the foyer!
Yeah, I am freaking jazzed about this guy. The catalog itself is so heavy and solid and stout that the dainty (looking, but solid to hold the weight safely!) legs set it off so well. Besides looking great, it really does have tons of storage space and is a great height for cute things to display and as a drop zone for keys. This bibliophile is all heart-eyes for her restored biblio-file (#sorrynotsorry).
Welcome to your forever family, baby!