Christmas 2014 – Room Revamp

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December 25th strikes again, though this won’t be a traditional Christmas post. This holiday season, I haven’t really received or given any gifts proper, but that’s hardly necessary when it’s pretty much been Christmas for me since September.

Recently, I’ve been totally rehashing my living quarters, appearance, wardrobe – you name it. For reasons unspoken, I wanted to refurbish my life a little. Naturally though, this would cost quite a bit to do, though I managed to make ends meet somehow and still pull off almost everything I aimed for. In this sense, I’ve pretty much blown my holiday spending budget in the past few months, meaning no splurging on a Perfect Grade Unicorn Gundam for Christmas.

I’m proud to say that I’ve gotten a lot done though, and it all came together just in time at the end of the year. Everything will be documented here…

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Truth be told, I’ve always had a dream display in mind when it came to my geek-infested room. I’ve never really shown it off here before, but there have been snippets in Work in Progress photos I’m sure. Up until recently, I’ve had the same three glass and wooden towers to display my ‘pla and figures for as long as I remember.

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Originally, a long long time ago, it used to be just this one. I had more Gunpla back then than I do now, so it was painfully cramped.

Yeah. I actually owned this much ‘pla at any given time before. Most of it has since been sold off on eBay, to the point where I’m pretty sure I own none of the kits shown here anymore.

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But I digress. I didn’t like these cases because they had too much wood. The dream display that I mentioned above consists of multiple lit pure glass towers. I’ve always had these wood/glass hybrids because they were free, provided by my grandmother because she has friends in the furnishing business. They’re all technically defective items, with cracks and breaks in the wood here and there, allowing my grandmother to pick them up for little to no charge.

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Around late September/early October, I decided to finally take the plunge and move those wooden/glass cabinets out of my room and into other areas of the house, where my mother would make further use of them on her own. I was ready for an upgrade.

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Unfortunately, I don’t actually have a shot of what my room looked like before I started these proceedings. It wasn’t until I had moved everything out that I got the idea to document everything. Nonetheless, I can at least still show the furniture that was moved out.

I had two of these smaller towers on each side of my bed, with the larger tower pictured farther above next to my closet. That made for a total of three displays, all of them wood/glass hybrids.

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One advantage that I did enjoy with these smaller towers is the wooden storage compartment on the bottom. They were really handy for storing figure accessories and the like, though my new towers most likely wouldn’t have this feature.

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I actually made this storage compartment out of cardboard and tape just for those storage compartments. It fit perfectly, and was a godsend for organizing figure parts and the like. Now that I’ve had to take it out, I had to find a new home for it.

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One trip to IKEA later and I got what I wanted. Four brand-new “DETOLF” glass towers, which feature minimal wood and are predominantly made of glass.

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A crucial part of my display had to be the light-up feature though.

My old wooden towers had a single light built into the very top; it would shine down and make the first figures on the topmost layer uncomfortably hot. My main issue with that system was the fact that the light never really reached the bottom shelves. I wanted my new towers to have a more evenly distributed light source, though the ones I bought didn’t actually include any. Thankfully, IKEA had plenty to offer, so I picked up some LED light strips that were just about the right length to fit in my new cases.

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Something I’ll point out now – IKEA isn’t exactly known for quality furniture. Their stuff is good, but usually only for a limited time. I’ve heard horror stories about how stuff starts coming apart at the seams after a year or two, but I went with them anyways. Why?

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As a high school senior who’s determined not to stay in the house after graduation, I won’t be having these in my company for terribly long anyway. I haven’t quite figured out what I’m going to do with my collection at that point, but these things for sure won’t be going into my dorm room or cheap apartment I’ll be renting out as a piss-poor college student.

Of course, there was also a pretty tight budget for my home makeover (hence why I don’t have anything left for Christmas), and these were basically everything I wanted.

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Anyway, back to the construction process.

I guess there’s a reason why these towers were only around $60 a pop. Two wooden panels make up the top and bottom of the case, with glass walls, a glass door secured via magnet, and metal bar frames that would support the shelves.

The shelf system in particular isn’t terribly fancy, but when I first saw it I actually thought it was an interesting method for keeping everything minimalistic and suspended. I certainly preferred this to copious amounts of wood.

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Before I actually put the towers together, I had to figure out a way to integrate the lighting system. Each pack of lights had four separate LED strips, each with their own wires that all linked to a central hub which in turn connected to a power outlet.

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I went on a few trips to my local craft store and hunted for something that would be durable enough to keep light wires and LED strips attached to the metal poles in the cases. Eventually I settled on some peel-and-stick adhesive patches, which were basically sheets of gel-like double-sided tape, which you could also cut to size if needed.

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They seemed to generally work well, as I cut and peeled a bunch of those gel-like strips and stuck them onto the metal poles that made up the framework of the towers.

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It was a tedious process to say the least, but the idea is to have the wires attached behind the metal bars to make sure they were as inconspicuous as possible.

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I got most of the towers up in a single day, meaning my room didn’t have to suffer looking like a hurricane disaster area for too long. I’m very fond of complete organization, so something like this made me want to pull my hair out.

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My actual collection was relegated to the bookshelves in the closet for the time being.

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The display cases did actually have a hole at the very top for insertion of single lights, in the same style as my previous cases. Thankfully, they were considerate enough to also include some clear caps to fill in those holes  should we opt out of using them.

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Actually constructing the towers wasn’t that difficult. After I had gotten the hang of putting the first one together, the rest were a breeze. Handling giant planes of glass on your own can be a bit scary at times though. The instructions did pretty much say that two people were required to put these together (I found out the hard way why) but I managed to pull through on my own somehow.

The doors could actually be attached in any position you desired, meaning I could have them swing open either from the left or right, but in the end I think I decided to just do them arbitrarily and work my room layout around it.

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I had a total of four cases and four LED light packages. Each LED light package contained four LED strips, so I could only allot four light strips per case, even though I would’ve liked to have eight per case. There are four shelves in each case, meaning two shelves would be unlit if I gave each shelf two light strips.

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I managed to work around this as best I could, attaching light strips to the topmost shelf and the middle shelf, leaving the second and fourth shelves unlit. With any luck the lights from the first and third shelves would shine down enough to reach those unlit areas.

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The wires were all successfully attached on top of each other and ran down together to the bottom of the cases, where I tried to keep them as inconspicuous as possible.

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The light strips were attached on the sides, rather than at the front and back of the shelves. The metal bars didn’t go through the front area, and I didn’t want to attach the LED strips to the glass.

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Case built, light strips attached. They’re generally well hidden and don’t stand out too much, thanks in no small part to the fact that I decided to go with white cases instead of black. I wanted to replace most of the furniture in my room with black early on, but when buying the cases I decided to go with white because I figured they’d hide the lights better. Looks like I was right.

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Now, getting all the lights linked to each other and hooked up to one switch that would rule them all was a different scenario. Previously, I seldom used my display case lights because I had to go around and turn all of them on individually. They each had a switch for the light bulbs that I would only ever touch if I wanted to oogle my collection, which wasn’t often.

My room light doesn’t actually activate at the door switch; I need to go all the way in and past my bed to turn that on. This means that the traditional switch that’s located right next to the door is functionless. I wanted to link all the lights in the cases so they would all turn on at once via that door switch, if only for the Rule of Cool.

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As a result, I hit the Dollar Tree (again, high schooler on a budget here) and purchased several simple extension cords to get my cases linked.

The outlet controlled by my door switch was naturally on the wall where my door is. I had cases all the way on the far opposite side of the room, so I needed quite a few cords to make ends meet (literally).

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Lo and behold though, I did actually manage to make it happen. Pretty much all the extension cords were linked to each other, which led back to the wall outlet with the control switch. One flick of the switch next to my door lights up my whole room – through the display cases. It probably seems like an unbearably trivial accomplishment to most, but for me it was the coolest thing ever to see everything light up at once at one click.

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Unfortunately, by this stage not everything was candy and roses.

Upon closer inspection of my work, I realized that the UGlu Power Patches were already beginning to fail. The wires behind the metal bars were coming loose, and attempting to fix them with the glass already in place only made things worse. This was beyond infuriating, as the adhesive was extraordinarily strong at first but deteriorated ridiculously fast.

After taking in the full extent of the damage though, I realized that it only looked unsightly from the side, where you could see the wires jutting out. Viewed from the front, they were still well hidden behind the metal bars. I consoled myself that nothing short of drowning the wires and metal in glue was going to fix it now, and decided to leave everything be as long as it didn’t show from a forwards vantage point.

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I also got something else from IKEA – when I saw this on display I literally jumped with glee like a kid at Christmas (har har, it’s Christmas get it).

Clear display boxes! That were lit from the bottom! That actually looked really cool! It was like a dream come true – I’ve always questioned if these even existed, but they were perfect for a collection display. Without even thinking about what I would put in here, I bought one immediately just because it was so revolutionary to see something like this. I wish they had multiple sizes to boot, but only one was available. Beggars can’t be choosers though.

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I only bought one since these were actually pretty expensive ($30~) and attached it to the top of one of my corner towers. The light power was of course, linked like everything else.

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The wire that runs from the back down the rear of the display case is a bit unsightly, but thankfully it’s mostly hidden behind the box. These towers aren’t actually that tall – I didn’t care to actually measure their height or pay attention to the measurements in the manual, but I’m 6″0 and I can look over them with ease. I’m guessing they’re around 5.5″ or so.

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For that light box, since it was on top of and therefore outside of the display case, I had to attach the wire to the outside of the back. This time I tried using classic double-sided white tape instead of the UGlu patches. They were moderately more successful…but still ended up peeling a little in a week’s time.

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As I put everything back into the cases, I reorganized a lot of things and collections. I grabbed one of these clear boxes as a staggering base, to put some figures on which would be further back than a front row.

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That’s about it for the display cases; the final products will be shown at the end. Meanwhile, there were more renovations and hurtles that I had to get past, one of which was an old LED acrylic display that I bought off eBay long ago.

As a huge Pacific Rim fan, this clear acrylic engraving of Striker Eureka’s blueprints was too good to pass up. I’ve had the Sideshow statue preordered for a long time now, so I bought this piece figuring it would be the perfect display companion.

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Unfortunately however, the LED base ended up shorting out a while ago and no longer functioned. The entire display was pretty much defunct. I was upset, but didn’t really have a way to fix it until I saw some other goodies at IKEA while I was purchasing my display case lights.

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While the regular LED light strips were cheaper and only came in one color (they were yellow, unfortunately. I would’ve preferred white) they also offered a multi-color version, which were pretty much the same size and shape, only with an extra control function to change the LED colors.

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I had so much fun playing around with this thing when I opened it. The light cycling feature is really neat, as you’re able to either keep it on one color, cycle between them all gradually, or have it staccato flash through them.

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The LED bar just happened to be the perfect size for my acrylic display too. This is what it was meant to look like, in its original cyan blueprint-like light.

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Played around with it for a while. I’m actually extremely glad that the LED actually looks brighter than the original set that came with the display.

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Unfortunately, fitting the new LED strip into the old white acrylic display base was a more difficult task than I envisioned. I thought about constructing a new base from scratch, but eventually deduced that the original one that came with the acrylic plate looked the best and was sturdier than anything I could ever come up with. Therefore I had to cut it open somehow, remove the old LED strip and inner workings, and finally fit my own LED strip in there.

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I had originally tried smacking the base on every sort of solid object I could find, hoping to break the thing open at the seams. Nothing worked.

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I decided to do things the old fashioned way with a tried and true method for cutting plastic: heating scissors over a candle-fire and cutting the thing apart. Needless to say, this was an extremely tedious and difficult process. Even with the heated blade, the plastic was extraordinarily thick and difficult to cut through.

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I didn’t end up doing as clean of a job as I had wanted, but everything generally fit back in place after I had cut it apart. At this point there was no question that I would have to repaint the entire base.

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After I had removed both endcaps on the tube, I had to widen the interior so that my LED strip could fit all the way through. As shown in the photo above, the original LEDs took the shape of an almost flat, rubbery strip. The one I would be inserting was much thicker than that.

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Inside the tube, there were these bridge pieces that were really what supported the clear acrylic plate and kept it locked upright. However, they also had the openings in their bottoms that allowed the original LED strip to pass through.

Since the holes were too small, I had to figure out a way to make them bigger and open them up so I could fit my strip through.

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I couldn’t exactly figure out a way to open them up while they were deep in the tube. My first attempt was to heat up a metal rod and stick it inside to hopefully melt the plastic enough to create an opening, but that didn’t quite work out. I didn’t want to remove them from the tube at first, but ended up doing so due to some…difficulties.

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After getting them out, I followed through with the usual heat-and-slash method, and managed to finally open the holes up enough so my strips could fit. At one point I got so fed up with trying to open them up that I tried setting fire to the whole thing with a match, but found that the plastic actually put the fire out. Like, I put the match to the plastic and the fire literally died. And here I thought plastic usually burned or melted.

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Success! It was a tight fit, and there’s now a conspicuous hole where the former LED mechanics were.

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It was easy work covering up though, since I had pla plate of my own at my disposal.

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Glued everything together and hit it with a coat of gloss black to seal the deal.

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Restored to its former glory. Mostly. It looks like the LED strip was just a tad too long, as it sticks out the side a bit, but at least I didn’t go through that whole arduous process for nothing.

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My poor Exacto knife though. I used it extensively to cut the plastic after heating the blade, and went through like three blades in the process.

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Next up, I also ordered a little something else for my room. I did mention that I wanted to replace most of my furniture with black, right? Most of it was mahogany or cherry colored, which always felt too old fashioned for me.

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My old bed headboard, moved into the garage after being removed from my room. This thing always did bother me; I’m pretty sure it’s a king sized headboard, yet I’ve always had a Full size bed. It’s always been too large and grandiose.

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I ordered this new headboard from Wal-Mart; it wasn’t expensive, and looked to be just right for my bed size.

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Black, of course. Recommended two-person assembly? Good thing I’m a one-man army.

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Managed to put it together in around an hour, though for a simple headboard it was more complicated than I thought.

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The difference in size from where my old headboard used to be to what space my new one takes up. Those marks on the wall were scary at first, but I found out shortly that they could easily be wiped off with some rubbing alcohol.

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I’ve also always had a distinctive Samus wall scroll above my bed for as long as I can remember. I think I bought it at Chinatown a few years ago. Either way, it’s always been right where it was, mostly because I didn’t dare hang anything heavy over my bed, should an earthquake strike and send things tumbling down onto my face in my sleep.

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I decided it was time for a replacement though, and made my own display this time.

I actually found that graphic of the Knightmare Frames from season 1 of Code Geass online, at a particularly high resolution. I recently discovered some extraordinarily inexpensive photo printing services in my area; they print 20×30 at the largest, which was perfect for me. A frame later, and I have a beautiful new poster print wall display for under $10.

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Another little project I decided to take on – a self-made storage compartment for my desk.

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I had considered getting a new desk as part of my room renovations, but by this time I found that I was running dangerously low on money. Given that, I decided to just refurbish my desk instead, which included adding something to organize all the junk I had on it that continuously gathered layer after layer of dust.

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I actually paid a visit to my local craft store to pick up some planks of wood (I forgot what type they were) and drew out the pieces for my new shelving compartment.

Humorously enough, I naively thought everything could be solved with a good, sharp Exacto knife and hot blooded determination. Unfortunately, it looks like you can’t exactly cut wood that way. I actually tried taking an Exacto knife and scissors to that wood and wondered why it wouldn’t work.

Thankfully though, I have a good friend who happens to have wood working tools at his house and was generous enough to help me cut my pieces out. We used an electric band saw for most of it, and it came out beautifully. Not gonna lie though, watching my comrade get so dangerously close to that whirring, sawing machinery was heart-attack inducing. I could barely watch.

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The most logical approach to putting something all-wood like this together would be…wood glue, yes? But being the novice and ignorant wood worker that I am, I decided to ignore all usual conventions and go with what’s been tried and true – this crazy, non-flammable, highly toxic industrial strength adhesive

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The side of my desk was just about the only place where this compartment would fit, so it was constrained to very specific dimensions. It just barely clears my display case, so it’s actually functional.

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Applied the crazy industrial glue, made liberal use of Gunpla boxes and a book to keep it in place until the glue sets. I’m actually really impressed with myself for having actually gotten all the measurements of the box right, including the ones that had to account for the width of the wood itself to make everything fit.

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The design of the shelf was to basically be a sliding shelf inside a case, meaning no complex rail mechanisms were necessary. I used up the leftover cans of matte and gloss black spray paints I had on it.

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Everything I needed fit inside perfectly. Mostly materials that I occasionally use for projects or models that haven’t really had a home and have been sitting on my desk in the open. Before anyone asks, the toothpicks are for painting and modeling. I don’t just keep a canister of toothpicks in my desk and clean my teeth with them every night after a meal.

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And done. Success!

At first I was really weary about bumping into it on accident or anything and possibly making it fall. but that glue doesn’t lie when it says industrial strength.

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With that bit done, it was time to move onto refurbishing the rest of my desk.

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I had just recently moved my Wii U upstairs and gave it a new home in my table too. This was so I wouldn’t have to constantly fight my family for the one TV in the house whenever I wanted to play the new Smash Bros.

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To actually accomplish that I actually needed to purchase a little adapter online that allowed my Wii U’s HDMI port to connect to my monitor’s VGA port. My monitor’s pretty ancient, so it doesn’t have audio or HDMI inputs, only VGA.

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The tangled mess beneath my desk – a spiderweb of wires that connect to my lamp, speakers, Wii U, monitor, printer, and laptop.

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Wireless keyboard stored within too. I only have one laptop as a computer, which I regularly disconnect from this layout and take on the go, but when hooked up to everything else I can use the second monitor and keyboard with it.

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The reason why I wanted a new desk. This is what I get for not using a cutting mat when I work on my kits. To be fair, I’ve had this desk for several years now, so it’s been due for a replacement, but I never intended to have it scratched up this bad. Given it’s really only cosmetic damage, I figured a good paintjob would do enough to redeem it.

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Tearing all the wires apart and taking everything out. Note how disgustingly dusty places like my sub-woofer and desk corners are.

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I kind of want a new lamp too, but that’s not really at the top of the priority list.

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Everything thrown on the printer or next to it for now while I clear the desk out for work.

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First order of business was to sand the surface down. I used a medium grit and worked up to fine, but it looks like it still didn’t do enough.

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I went out and got a hand sander just for this project. Two sample bottles of satin black paint, mixed specially from Home Depot. The brushes were from my local craft store; I think it was under $5 for that pack of three.

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Even more sanding, because my first attempt still didn’t yield flat results.

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…still not flat. It was around 2AM in the morning by now (pitch black outside, see) and I was so ready to paint and hit the sack. My usual impatience with a project prompted me to rather settle for an imperfect finish than wait for Home Depot to open and buy rougher sand paper.

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Cleaned everything up, ready for the first coat. Note the white extension cord running across the back there; it links the cases on the left to the control switch I was talking about earlier on the other side of the room.

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Painted that night away, woke up in the morning to find a beautifully satin black finish waiting for me.

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The guy at Home Depot who recommended and mixed the paints for me told me that the satin finish would be sturdy enough to not require clear varnish or protection after two or so coats. Given my desk would be seeing a lot of continued use, I decided to be safe and applied three or so coats of the satin black.

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However, one quick scratch and some paint came chipping off. Looks like I would need that protective varnish after all.

The newspapers are there so I could paint the edges of the feet without damaging my floor. This ended up backfiring when I tried removing the newspapers after everything had dried and the paint acted as a glue to keep the newspapers attached to the table.

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That awkward moment when I bought way too much clear finish.

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I ended up applying two or three horrid coats of clear finish that ended up drying anything but smooth. The multiple coats of black also contributed to this, but once everything was said and done my table itself had almost a sandpaper texture. I’m also chalking this up heavily to my inexperience with painting furniture, as I’m pretty sure I gon gouf’d and made the mistake of adding a layer of paint before the previous layer had completely dried, resulting in a dried, caustic texture.

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Those brush strokes make me cringe. But I wasn’t about to sand it all down and try again, that would require buying more paint. Note how there are those bumps from the original table that I never succeeded in sanding all the way down.

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What did I take away from this? I suck at painting furniture and I should never attempt to do so again.

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…kind of. As with all things, the first time is always a learning curve, and it’s no surprise that I didn’t end up with stellar results. Maybe I’ll try again some time, but I’d be lying if I said this attempt didn’t discourage me. Whatever, I’m okay with my sandpaper table. At least it looks better than what it was before.

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When I peel the masking tape off the metal bars and have barely enough black paint left to cover the blemishes. How does one stop being bad at this.

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With the desk painted up, I could put everything back and get my systems situated. One key thing I wanted to do was get my Wii U set up so it could be fairly easily removable from my desk if need be.

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A key component of this would, of course, be my Wii U Gamecube adapter that I got in the Smash 4 bundle pack. I picked up some industrial strength Velcro and attached it to the wire and desk in a very similar fashion as my LED strips for my display cases. This way it could be removable and portable if need be, but otherwise permanent under my desk.

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And just because it was cheap ($2~) I went ahead and ordered a neat golden vinyl decal for my Wii U. While it is the Wind Waker HD version, I always found it disappointing how the actual Wii U didn’t have anything Zelda-y.

It was only the Gamepad that was decked out, which was a little underwhelming to say the least. But everything’s better now; they just happened to have a Wind Waker shield available too.

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Speaking of vinyl decals, I also got a neat one for my wall, right above my new headboard. Real OoT fans will know how amazing this is.

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Just for kicks. Around the same time I got my first Amiibo, Samus. The news about the discontinued Amiibos is so saddening.

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And because I have my Wii U in my room now, I thought it would be a good time to update that archaic monitor I mentioned earlier. Taking advantage of Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales, I managed to snag a new 27″ monitor from Wal-Mart at a fair price.

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Smash never looked better.

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In keeping with updating hardware, I also decided to oust my old printer, which really wasn’t holding up well. Canon ink cartridges are notoriously difficult to come by and refill, and the printer itself has been acting up way more than usual lately. I think I’ve spent enough on cartridges to equal the cost of the printer itself, given how often they get messed up and lose their refill functionality.

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Once again, just in time for Black Friday/Cyber Monday, a new HP 6000 series printer. I didn’t even know printers came with touch-screen displays nowadays, but it’s been working like a charm. The thing even prints lab-quality photos, color me impressed.

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And the most recent little addition – a very nice and inexpensive figure display case that was on sale at the Japanese store Daiso. They come in various sizes, and can actually be stacked and locked together. At $5, these were a bargain.

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I only snatched up one, as it made a perfect display for my fledgling Amiibo and tiny Nintendo collection. That Gravity Suit Samus Amiibo is custom painted, and the center Mario statue is a Club Nintendo reward from a few years back.

I plan to add lights to this display soon, though I’ll have to find the time to visit IKEA again. It’s stationed on top of one of my towers, making it the only display that isn’t actually lit up yet. That’ll soon change though.

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And because I’ve never properly shown it off before, here lies my meager Hotwheels collection.

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The World Race was a staple part of my childhood; I fell in love with that movie and its subsequent sequels, Acceleracers. As a child I’ve always wanted to collect all 35 World Race cars, but never had that dream realized. I’m building towards it now, one car at a time.

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The two towers that replaced my single large wooden tower is located between my closet and desk. Note how the first and third shelves are generally brighter than the second and fourth ones, due to the LED strips being directly in those areas. The bottom shelf is still fairly well lit because of the white base that bounces the light back up, but sadly the second shelves usually end up as the darkest ones.

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The single tower on the left side of my bed. I managed to link the Striker Eureka clear acrylic display with the rest, having it power up when everything else does. Those two shelves are kept explicitly empty for the Sideshow statue, which is due to arrive in January.

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And the last tower to the right of my bed, sporting nothing but Gunpla.

I’ve actually found that thanks to the light layout, I have to keep the amount of things in the first shelf to a minimum. If I put something big and bulky in there, it’ll obscure too much light from the second shelf. The same is true for the third and fourth shelves, though less so because of the light bouncing effect that the fourth shelves have.

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On top of that tower also happens to be the clear light box, which holds one Metal Build Exia. After some careful consideration, I placed Exia in there because it’s really glorious enough to deserve its own box, and it doesn’t really fit in anywhere else anyways.

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Immediately to the right of my door is also my armory wall…kind of. Plus two Zelda posters. One Obi-Wan Force FX lightsaber, half of Darth Maul’s lightsaber, a Hylian Shield, and the Code Geass pistol I toted for Anime Expo 2014.

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And finally, as close of a 360° turnaround as I could get. My camera doesn’t actually do panoramas, sadly. But there it is, pretty much my dream room and dream display.

To have reached this in a matter of months and by the end of the year is one of my more significant accomplishments. Regrettable that I didn’t think to take a picture of what my whole room looked like before this for a nice before-and-after comparison, but just seeing the results alone is satisfying enough. This would be my most gratifying long-term Christmas present yet, given it all came together just in time.

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5 thoughts on “Christmas 2014 – Room Revamp

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