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Tinalles
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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2008 6:20 am    Post subject: Random Book Case Review Reply with quote

As those who follow the "Today" thread know, yesterday I bought a new book case, and I am not happy with it. So much so that I've decided, out of the blue, to review the one I just bought in comparison to the other book cases I've had for several years (all of which are a single model).


The Contenders
The two contenders in this review are:

Office Depot® Brand Basic Bookcase, 5-Shelf, 70 1/8"H x 27 3/4"W x 11 1/2"D, Classic Cherry ($59.99 USD)
and
OfficeMax Avenue A 5-Shelf Bookcase, 71-1/2"H x 29-5/8"W x 11-1/2"D, Cherry ($69.99 USD)

For the international types in the audience, I should add that Office Depot and OfficeMax are two rival chains focused on the market for office goods. Also their names are far too similar. Anyway, both of these are budget book cases designed for essentially the same market. I'll refer to them as the "Office Depot case" and the "OfficeMax case".


General Features
Both of the units are composed of particle board with a thin "cherry" laminate covering the visible surfaces. The OfficeDepot is slightly lighter in color. Both come unassembled; you have to put them together following the instructions that come with them.

Ease of Assembly
The OfficeMax case is somewhat more difficult to assemble; it uses a greater variety of fasteners, and requires glue. The unit comes with a small bottle of suitable glue, but even so, you have to be careful not to add too much, and careful not to spill any. Chances are good that you'll be assembling this immediately near its final location, so whatever floor surface you're doing the assembly on (wood, tile, carpet) is potentially vulnerable to glue spills. Still, with some care, that's not a particularly major issue.

The OfficeDepot case requires no glue, and has fewer different types of fasteners involved. Both units require a hammer and a screwdriver for assembly.

Before moving on, there's one particular aspect of the assembly I'd like to highlight. The designers of both units opted for a similar method of executing the primary connections in the cases -- for example, attaching the very top shelf to the side of the case. Both methods involved an insert and a screw. It's hard to describe properly with a picture, so here's one:



When assembling the case, first you put a screw into the edge board. Then you push a cam into a pre-drilled hole in the bottom of the shelf. The cam has an open edge, and there's a second hole in the shelf intersecting the cam's position. To put them together, you slide the shelf onto the screw in the side board, and then rotate the cam to lock it in place. So it takes three steps.

The Office Depot model took a similar approach, but in reverse. Instead of a cam, they have a plastic ring. You put a screw through the plastic ring, and then insert both of them together into a pre-made hole in the side board. Then you guide the shelf onto the protruding screw, and tighten it with a screwdriver. Here's a picture:



Note that the two methods are in different orientations. The OfficeMax version, in the first picture, has the cam horizontal to the ground. The Office Depot method winds up with the plastic ring and the screw vertically positioned inside the side board, aimed upwards into the top shelf.

Of the two, I prefer the OfficeMax method. It involves slightly more steps, but the fastening seems more secure to me, particularly since the screw and the cam are both metal, as opposed to the plastic-and-metal combo in the other unit. Also, the cam is not visible without craning your head around under the shelf, whereas the plastic rings in the Office Depot model can be seen from the room, (even if they're unobtrusive).


Sturdiness
The OfficeMax unit wins this one, hands down. Consider the following picture of the side of an OfficeMax case:



Note the side is one piece. Now look at the Office Depot model:



The side of the case is actually in two pieces, interrupted by the one fixed-position shelf in the unit. The OfficeMax case also has a fixed position shelf, at roughly the same height, but it's completely internal. The difference is significant. In the OfficeMax case, the fixed position shelf helps to fix the sides together and bind the whole box together. The shelf makes it much harder for the box to flex.

In the Office Depot unit, it's the other way around. The fixed position shelf actually introduces a point of weakness into the structure. Instead of being ONE box with a brace in the middle, it's TWO boxes tacked together. Here's a picture from the inside of the Office Depot unit:



This shows the joint between the bottom section of the case and the top. Note that there is a gap large enough to allow light to pass through. The screws which attach the fixed-position shelf to the top of the case were not counter-sunk. The heads of the screws stick up a teeny bit from the wood, preventing a tight joint with the lower part when you attach it later on.

The back of both cases is essentially a piece of light-weight cardboard bearing the same cherry-wood pattern as the rest of the unit. You tack them on with some light nails. But there's a major difference between the two. In the Office Depot unit, the cardboard is part of the load bearing structure. It is the cardboard which is supposed to keep the rest of the unit from bending at the joints. And, of course, the backboard was in two pieces to match the top and bottom sections, with intermeshing tabs where the fixed position shelf falls:



Aligning the two sections of the backboard properly was hard. In fact, I screwed it up, and one of the nails I drove through passed through the wood and jutted out through the surface of a shelf, right where the back edge of a book would rest. By contrast, none of the OfficeMax backboards (I've got four of the same unit) gave me any trouble with the alignmnent.


Adjustable Shelves
The adjustable shelves have only a couple of points worth noting. First, the OfficeMax case provides a front-plate for each shelf. Here's a picture of the corner of one of them:



And here's a picture of how it looks in use:



Note in this picture that the edge of the front plate is rounded. So is the front edge of the side-board at the right of the picture. The Office Depot model does not have rounded edges on any of the pieces.

The front edges of the shelves look very nice, though they can make it slightly hard to put unusually tall books on the shelf. However, I've only got three or four books tall enough to suffer that problem, and they all fit fine -- I just have to insert them diagonally, and then straighten them up once they've cleared the front edge.

Lastly, compare the rests for the movable shelves:



These are the little pegs you stick into the pre-drilled holes in the sides of the case to support the shelves. They can be repositioned. Both of them have rubberized caps to keep the metal from damaging the wood. But the shapes are different. The Office Depot one is cylindrical, whereas the OfficeMax one flattens out where the shelf contacts it. I like the OfficeMax approach better, for two reasons. First, the flattening increases the surface area where the shelf touches the peg, so the weight of the books is less concentrated. It may not make much difference to the stability of the shelf or the continued physical integrity of the particle board, but I still think it's a nice touch. The other reason I like them is that they're much easier to remove - you can grasp the flattened area with your fingers and twist it easily to help loosen a peg that's been in place for a while.


Overall
The OfficeMax shelf is ten dollars more expensive, and more complicated to assemble (requiring perhaps 15-20 minutes more than the Office Depot model). However, an extra ten bucks plus a few more minutes is quite definitely worth it for such a plainly superior book case. The Office Max model is much sturdier, and shows a lot of attention to small details of the design (such as rounded edges and easier-to-use shelf pegs). I happen to think it looks nicer, too - the front plates on the shelves make them look more substantial.

For the Office Depot unit, choosing to separate the main box into two separate boxes divided by the fixed-position shelf was a bad design choice. It made the whole thing more flimsy. I strongly suspect that this particular design choice was made so that the box for holding the parts of an unassembled shelf would be smaller and easier to move around in the warehouse. The designers put the convenience of their warehouse employees first. A shelf might be stored in a warehouse for a few months and handled a small number of times between the factory and the point of sale; but the customer actually has to live with the product for a period of years. Bad form.

When I set out to get a new bookshelf, I fully intended to get more exactly like the ones I had, because I like them, and also for the sake of matching cases. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember whether I'd bought them from Office DEPOT or OfficeMAX. A navigation failure of the OfficeMax web site convinced me that I must have gotten them from Office Depot. (When browsing, one of the pictures in the OfficeMax search results had blond maple wood rather than the cherry I had specified in my search parameters, and so I didn't click it -- it was the model I was looking for.) I am heartily annoyed to have bought this inferior unit from Office Depot, particularly since I cannot return it now that it is assembled. Instead, I'm going to order a proper shelf from OfficeMax and sell this one on CraigsList. I figure I'll ask ten dollars less than the list price for the Office Depot unit, and it'll go fast enough.
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TheBritishInvasion



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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2008 7:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a number of responses to this:
1) You have too much time on your hands
2) You need a girlfriend
3) Bookcases are not that interesting.

And in a strange way I admire your passion.
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Tinalles
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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2008 7:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

TheBritishInvasion wrote:
1) You have too much time on your hands


Not really, it's only that I've just finished the term and am now in a slow patch before ratcheting back up for the summer.

TheBritishInvasion wrote:
2) You need a girlfriend


I gave up on dating nine years ago, and I have no intention of ever taking it up again. But thanks for the thought.

TheBritishInvasion wrote:
3) Bookcases are not that interesting.


You think I'm bad? Tell that to this guy.

TheBritishInvasion wrote:
And in a strange way I admire your passion.


Meh, I just got annoyed. Sloppy design annoys me.
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Tinu.



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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2008 8:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

wooow, that's a lot of information. . .I agree, too much time on your hands. Why don't you just get rid of the bookcase if it annoys you?
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horsin'around



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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2008 8:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

*hums* Wow...you gotta admire his dedication. *enviously* I wish I had half of his time. Wanna come help out on the farm?
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Tinalles
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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2008 11:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am getting rid of the book case, just as soon as I can. Craigslist, I think, though I may advertise it on a librarian listserv I know of first.
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Tomato



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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2008 12:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tinalles has an unfathomably large attention span, and a wide scope of capacities in which to deal with minutia.

Me, I get annoyed if the thing has nails vs. screws.
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Dark Mirf



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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2008 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We have OfficeMax here... Unfortunatly, their service isnt up to par. Mad So I dont go there much anymore. lol
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Allicat



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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2008 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Back on topic! Tin, you sound a lot like my brother with the rant about bad design. We had a new kitchen installed a few years ago and he went on and on about how the microwave bleeped (unnecessary and annoying) and the hob was activated by the heat of a finger on the buttons (what if you spilled some warm stuff on it?). It's true though, there is no reason for bad design, if people just think a bit more it could cut out a lot of stress and rants like this!
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PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2008 8:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you SO much, Tin! I've been looking to get a good, cheap bookcase for next year. Smile
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Tinalles
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PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2008 11:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Note: I have split off all the stuff about going to work on the horse farm into its own thread.
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Shiru04



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PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2008 2:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you've got some time, money, and live near an IKEA store, I wouldn't mind seeing a review regarding one of their bookcases.

I've got two of their Detolf display cases for my figurines, and they're really nice for the price ($60 each). IKEA sells a lot of cheap furniture...but while I can vouch for the Detolf shelves, I've got no idea how the rest of their products hold up.
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Tinalles
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PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2008 7:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's an IKEA about sixty miles north of here. But since I don't have a car, it may as well be on the moon, selling cheap, sleekly designed Scandinavian furniture to the moon-men.
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Squeeself



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PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 4:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Squee buys most of Squee's furniture from IKEA now. It's cheap, but it's high quality cheap, not that flimsy Walmart stuff. Plus, they've got pretty decent styles on their furniture Smile

Not that Squee buys a ton of furniture...But some. Smile


Oh, and IKEA has the BEST cookies, EVER. They make Squee fat. Squee goes to IKEA just to pick up boxes of em. Nom nom.
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TheBritishInvasion



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PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 5:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ikea have the best meatballs. It was great when my sister worked there, she had a 15% discount.
And most of our furniture comes from Ikea, it's very good, we had a chair once that broke but we'd had it for years and my sister sort of yanked it so the arm snapped.

The only downside to Ikea (besides the instructions) is that everyone has the same stuff as you.
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