Thursday, May 27, 2010

RG's Workshop: How can you mend a broken Swap Box?

A month or so ago, I was talking to one of the folks at the Bytown Museum, who was telling me about their upcoming exhibit, Evocative Objects. It's loosely tied to the Capital Neighbourhoods project, and involves everyday-type objects that have a lot of story in them.

I immediately thought that a swap box would fit right in to this concept, and I knew exactly where to get my hands on one. The museum folks were interested.

For those who prefer to read books or text while walking blindly around the city, a swap box is a form of interactive public art, a box placed in a public location just below eye level, from which you are encouraged to take something from it, and leave something in return. Not only are they fun, but they save lives, too.

Anyway, this one was broken. After getting it from Woodsy, I needed to fix it. Wouldn't be my first time fixing one.

Here's the patient. Found torn from its roost, broken in half, with only one nail holding its front on.

It would need to be glued together, which means it would need to be held together while the glue sets. I don't have any clamps big enough for that, so I'd better figure that out first. Right up there with Swiss Army knives, duct tape, and binder clips in terms of utility are used inner tubes. I tied one around the box:

Looked pretty good. Closed the seam up pretty well, without completely hiding it (satisfying Woodsy's primary condition of letting me fix it)

Unfortunately, it didn't hold the back side together too well; the crack was being pulled open on the backside. Time for more troubleshooting.

My next attempt was definitely a longer shot. These pegs are from my mitre box, and I had drilled holes in a piece of two-by-three to peg them into. Unfortunately, I also didn't have the right diameter drill bit, and the holes were too big and the pegs didn't stick out straight. I then tried holding the top ends of the pegs together with the piece of innertube, also unsuccessfully.

Perturbed but not defeated, I tried again, and realized I could drill the holes all the way through the wood and thread the innertube through it.

A bit of a two-steps-forward-one-step-back approach, but it worked. Both the front and back were straight and tight when I tied off the innertube behind the block. The tapered edges of the swap box allowed me to tighten or loosen the makeshift clamp by moving it up or down the box.

I then applied glue, nailed the box part of it together, and re-clamped it.

The wood block held the back side straight.

The next morning, it was nice and sturdy, especially with the box nailed back together. I sent it off to the museum with some goodies to 'seed' the swap box with. The binder clips were just obligatory. Shit, I should have taken a second look at that golf pencil before tossing it in; it was from a hotel I stayed at in Beijing.

Mounting it was difficult because the upper screw holes were broken off. At the same time, you can't just loosely hang a swap box on a wall, because people are going to be poking around in it. The museum staff did an excellent job of mounting it, right across from the Evocative Objects exhibition on the second floor. And in true Swap Box form, it was mounted without any identifying plaque--people have to discover it for themselves.

The Bytown Museum is funded mostly by the City of Ottawa, yet a significant majority of its patrons are from out of town. More locals need to visit; it's a great trove of Ottawa's history.

This means you!


zoom said...

Good work Grouchy. This swapbox will get me into that gallery.

Anonymous said...

You amaze me.

RealGrouchy said...

zoom - great, I hope you enjoy it!

XUP - thanks, you flatter me.

- RG>

elmaks said...

Nice it being used as a functional swap box?

RealGrouchy said...

It's supposed to be. I was only there at the exhibition opening, so it hadn't ad a chance to be used yet.

I'll have to go back a couple times during the exhibition to see how people respond to a swap box in what is usually a "do not touch" setting. (In fact, there's a big sign saying just that at the entrance to the exhibition!)

I hope it gets good play.

- RG>