Storage and display should not cost a fortune.
You’ve spent hard-earned money on games. Now how will you go about displaying them? Some gamers proudly display their expansive collection of games in their library. There’s something charming about perusing shelves and reading the titles on the spines. Others go for a sleek minimalist look, desiring ways to keep the collection out of sight. The truth is if you’re going to dedicate a space in your home where you play games, you should enjoy the look of it. This article discusses some of the benefits of do-it-yourself projects that cleanly display your collection without busting your budget.
The art of woodworking.
An average shelf at Ikea will cost you around $40-60. Carpentry is an incredibly useful skill in contrast. You can make a variety of practical pieces of furniture at a very affordable price, often with better craftsmanship. The best part is the satisfaction that comes from building something yourself, learning new skills in the process, and later admiring your handiwork. For these reasons, I often choose to build things on my own, using sturdy but cheap (sometimes even free) building materials, borrowing tools, and assembling and finishing pieces, often with a good friend. The only costs incurred are the time designing, building, and finishing the product, along with some of the materials that I don’t have on hand.
You may be thinking, “TWG, I don’t have any tools or equipment!” I will let you in on a little secret: neither do I. Beside your basic home all-in-one tool set, I personally don’t own any saws, clamps, drills, etc. I’ve asked friends or family to jump in and help with projects, and in return do a favor or chore to help out. If that’s not an option, you can see if there’s a local woodworkers guild or workshop where you can rent tools. Whether you’re a novice or experienced, it is highly recommend to take health and safety precautions, like wearing proper personal protection equipment like gloves, goggles, and earmuffs. Make sure that if you’re a beginner you’re doing the construction with someone, this includes getting instructions on how to use the tools safely and effectively. For example, I didn’t make any of the initial cuts with the table saw we used on my first woodworking project. I was able to observe proper cutting technique and safety measures, before practicing myself. Be sure to consult someone with experience if you’re unsure!
What are the benefits of building your own furniture?
You can design and build to any specification your heart desires. Are you trying to fit your complete GameCube collection on a shelf? No problem! NES carts? Easy-peasy. You can build storage and display units that have the perfect amount of space in between shelves for any type of game case, etc. Simply measure the height of the case, add xxx inches for some wiggle room, and you’re good to go.
Beyond shelf height, you can also customize the overall size of the piece of furniture. Most of us don’t have unlimited space for our video game collections. By building your own custom shelving, you can tailor your design to the specific height, width, or depth that you need for your unique gaming space.
Finally, how many times have you brought home a bookshelf, only to find that it matches none of your other furniture? One of my favorite aspects of custom built game storage is finishing, which includes staining and applying polyurethane to the untreated wood. You can choose what look you’re going for that matches your room, and create multiple pieces with exactly the same aesthetic.
The customization factor is awesome.
Depending on the materials you use, what you build has greater strength and will most likely last longer than anything you can buy in a furniture store. Most bookcases and media stands you can buy are a thin layer of veneer underneath MDF (particle board). They are prone to damage from moisture and over time begin to sag if there’s a lot of weight rested on them. When choosing materials for your custom project, consider oak or maple. These types of materials will ensure your storage will stand the test of time, which will also save you money in the long-run.
Price: On average, building your own will be much cheaper than most manufactured furniture. As long as you’re not using super-expensive cuts of hardwood, you’ll find you can build cheap, durable and good-looking furniture at a portion of the cost. See below for some specifics on pricing and materials.
Carpentry is a wonderful skill to learn, if you’re willing to be patient and take your time. It’s both relaxing and gratifying to build something with your hands. It will make you think more about the items you own and make you more likely to build something that will last, rather than something you are likely to throw away. There’s a wealth of resources on YouTube to make it simple and demonstrate before you begin.
This is the biggest con, so weigh this out. If your time is valuable to you and sacrificing it is too costly, this might not be for you. Most projects can be completed in a couple of days but some range to a week or two, depending on how much time you have available. However, it can be well worth the time to have a beautiful, custom storage solution that may come in well below retail price.
Waste can be a potential drawback, so it needs to be mentioned. If you don’t plan well, or double check your measurements, this is what can run you into trouble. There is tons of wisdom in the saying, “measure twice, cut once.” If you’re not paying attention and don’t double check your math, you can venture into territory that will incur extra cost. So, make sure your measurements add up, have someone spot check your measurements and how much material you’ll need.
Tightwad Gamer Budget Categories for DIY Furniture:
Ultra Low-Budget Category: Re-purposed Pallets.
Most often, groceries, retailers, and other businesses receive their goods via shipping pallet. If you’re polite and ask, they’ll be willing to let you take a few off your hands for free. Most are made from safe, treated wood that can be used in a woodworking project. Before you use a pallet, check to make sure it’s not treated with formaldehyde or methyl bromide. This website provides a good guide. I’ve found excellent pallets that are made of maple, pine, and oak.
A caveat to using pallets is that the wood is rough cut and is often not planed or sanded. If you’re using a sander, however, you’ll make short work of this issue. Sometimes the pallets can become warped from repeated use, so check to make sure you’re grabbing pallets that are nice and even. Last, be careful of removing nails from the pallets; sometimes the elements can eventually rust the nails, so take proper precautions like wearing gloves (and having an up-to-date tetanus shot!) It’s for your health. 🙂
I’ve used pallets in several woodworking projects, leading to some awesome shelves that display my entire video game collection. I built these for around $10 each, where all I purchased was a box of screws, a can of stain, and some polyurethane.
(I built this shelf on the left out of a single pallet, to display my Dreamcast games)
Low-budget Category: Pre-cut lumber at your hardware store.
If you’re not all about the pallet option, you can also pick up higher quality, finished boards that you can assemble into a quality storage unit, entertainment center, or battlestation. Your local hardware store will have a variety of both hardwood (birch, poplar, maple and oak) along with softwood (usually white or red pine). If we’re sticking with the theme of a shelf, you might need a two 10’ 2×4’s or 2×6’s, a ¼ “ sheet of plywood for a backing. Most Lowes and Home Depot will actually rough cut the boards you need on site, so past that all you’ll likely need to do is assemble and finish. When all is said and done,, you might be in the ballpark of $20-$30 a shelf, depending on size..
Mid-range Category: Hardwood veneer plywood.
Now we’re starting to venture into the pricier options. Hardwood is it if you want a board that takes stain well, is heavier and heftier, and is less prone to dents and damage. You have the choice of buying specific lengths and cuts of hardwood boards. You can find decent deals on hardwood veneer plywoods. You get an excellent piece of wood that is affordable and is able to be finished with stain and poly. You can often find oak, birch, poplar, and maple plywoods. For this option, I choose birch plywood. A 4’x8’ sheet at Lowes costs around $55. A single sheet allowed me to build a “consolecade,” which looks like a classic arcade machine that I use to play and display all my gaming consoles. I also used a second sheet to build both a computer desk and entertainment center for our TV. For around $120, I was able to assemble an entire set of furniture in the gameroom. These are quality cherished pieces that I’ll be able to keep for the long-run.
I hope this article helps inspire you to get started on your next project. I’ve been able to build some functional, durable, and affordable custom storage at the cost of my own time at a vastly cheaper expense. For around $150, I’ve been able to piece together all the furniture I wanted for our gameroom: it’s custom, fits our collection and my space perfectly, and it matches everything else. If you have any ideas for projects, or perhaps you’ve actually built something that you’d like to share, please leave a thought in the discussion below!