Youth Off The Streets staff member, Ben Buffa, went above and beyond recently. He designed and constructed a custom bookshelf in the shape of the letters YOTS (Youth Off The Streets) for our new Bankstown Outreach office. We sat down with Ben to chat with him about his innovative idea.
YOTS: How did this idea come to you?
Ben: The initial idea came from Kim Janssen (Program Manager for Bankstown Outreach). When Bankstown Outreach finalised the location of the new office, I was in contact with Kim to help and assist with the move and setup at the new premises. This included general repairs and maintenance work as well as a few more creative requests. One of those requests was custom bookshelves. Kim wanted bookshelves in the shape of the letters YOTS as a focal point for the new youth centre.
From there I started brainstorming and designing the idea on paper to see how I could make them a reality. After a few sketches, I settled on the idea of using a font on the updated Youth Off The Streets website, to keep the bookshelves unified with the current design philosophy.
I used to do freelance graphic design work in a previous life, and put that knowledge to use in the design of the bookshelves. I requested Richard Hansen install the font on my PC, I then connected a spare projector to my PC and projected each uppercase letter onto a 1200 x 2400mm sheet of 18mm plywood. I marked the outlines of each letter onto their sheet and then proceeded to cut them out using a jigsaw. The finish was rough and needed to be cleaned up via hand rasps and files, and then finished with hand sanding.
Then came the construction of the shelves. The shelves were snug fit into an 18mm wide, 9mm deep rebate that was routed into each letter for each shelf. The shelves were cut to follow the contour of each letter. It was at this point that I decided on installing lights behind each unit.
YOTS: And how did you get the light to project at the back?
Ben: In order to have the splashback lights work as intended, the bookshelves would need to stand proud of the wall. I achieved this by mounting the bookshelves to the wall via French cleats, which brought the bookshelves 35mm off the wall.
The lights are adhered to the back perimeter of each letter and directed at the wall, which creates the splashback lighting effect. Each bookshelf has a remote with which the user can choose colours to suit.
YOTS: How long did it take to complete?
Ben: It was a long and involved process, mainly because nearly 90% of the work was completed using hand tools and small power tools. The size of the letters themselves made it difficult to find space to work on them. I dedicated quite a bit of my personal time to see them completed. Now that they are finished and installed, I am proud of how they turned out, especially considering that they were built on a very small budget. The timber was all free leftover scraps; all things considered, I believe total cost was around $260 for materials.
There was a lot of back and forth regarding the finish of the shelves, to paint or not to paint, clear coat etc. I am pleased with the natural finish of the timber, I feel it lets the lights shine (sorry about the pun) and does not diminish the effect by adding more colour.
YOTS: Have you always enjoyed creating things?
Ben: I have always enjoyed making things; there is great satisfaction in making something useful with your own hands. I was always helping my dad in the workshop, and would much rather use my free time making than consuming. I mainly use wood as my material of choice, and have a space (smaller than I would like) in my garage dedicated for woodworking.
YOTS: Have you built anything else for Youth Off The Streets?
Ben: Over the years I have been working for Youth Off The Streets I have had the pleasure of making various pieces of furniture and completed the fit-out of various rooms, for example:
- I have helped to set up a recording studio at the Koch Centre For Youth and Learning
- I have helped create a small music studio at Dunlea
- Designed and engineered a stainless steel hood for industrial BBQ at the Koch Centre For Youth and Learning
- Fabricated Perspex top display table for the Koch Centre For Youth and LEarning.
- Stacked boxes bookshelf at the Koch Centre For Youth and Learning
- TAS room at the Koch Centre For Youth and Learning
- Trade Skills Centre at Merrylands