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The Swap Box Project- a how-to

What is the Swap Box Project? Why do the streets need communal space, and what can you do to take back your right to define the public sphere.
swap box!
swap box!
Well, I've written about why the Swap Box Project exists several times, so I figured I want to follow that up with step-by-step instructions on how to build your very own Swap Box. After all, the Swap Box project needs to go beyond Ottawa. Here's how you do it:
(remember, these are just rough guidelines to give y'all a bit of inspiration. feel free to alter it as you may...)

What You Need:
-A rectangular piece of plywood or particle board , about nine inches by five inches. You need something sturdy that's been layered- it will buckle when the screws go in...
- A wooden box of the jewelery box size. Yard sales and thrift stores are a great place to find this sort of thing.
-A cordless drill
-Epoxy, contract cement or polyurethane construction caulk
- 3-4 1 inch screws
- 1 and 3/4 inch screws (flooring screws work best, or anything else designed to go thru wood)
- Can of spray-on lacquer

What You do:
1. Paint the plywood and box as you see fit.

2. Apply the epoxy or contact cement to one side of the box. You'll be attaching the plywood to the bottom section of the plywood, centred and with the bottom of the box level with the bottom of the plywood. if you want to put a screw through the bottom section of the plywood then position the box so that there's an inch of space between its bottom and the bottom of the plywood.

3. Let it dry

4. What you are going to do now is drill the 1-inch screws through the back of the plywood so that they pass thru both the plywood and box and work to hold the box in place. Use a low torque setting here, as most jewelry boxes are not built to withstand rotational force. If you want, you can even pre-drill holes with a fine drill bit.

You're going to be aiming for the inner and upper corners and trying to put in the screws so that they are flush with the side panels of the box. This will prevent folks from jabbing their fingers on them while reaching in. Don't worry, this takes practice to get right...and it's best to have them too far away from the side panels rather than going through them and wrecking the box. If the screws are oprotruding too much, don't worry...just wrap a bit of duct tape or something similar around 'em.

5. Once you have secured box to backing, you are going to put the 1 3/4 inch screws into the plywood. Before you do this, gove the Swap Box and plywood a light coating of spray-on lacquer and leave it to dry. This protects it from the rain and makes it look prettier too.

You are going to want to put between 3 and 5 1 3/4 inch screws into the front of the plywood. These are to anchor the box into whatever you drill it into and secure its corners. Drill the screws into the upper portion of the box (I like to use a pattern that looks somewhat like this:



You are going to drill the screws into the plywood until their tips begin to emerge from the back of it. This is going to make it easier for you to install the piece. If you choose to drill in a screw underneath the box component of the Swap Box, drill it in at a 45 degree downward angle so your drill can reach it later

6. It's time for you to attach the piece. Pick a public place that looks like it could use some beautification. You are going to need a wood surface that your screws can sink into (ie. boarded up storefronts, hydro poles). Remember, your goal is to do as little damage as possible, so statuery and historical artifacts are out. Backpacks work great for carrying the drill and the Swap Box.

Once you have arrived at the site, remove the Swap Box and hold it against the surface you wish to attach it to. It is best to install it at what would be chest height for the average person. I am pretty darn tall and often used to forget this. Use moderate torque and drive each screw in one after the other. The wood backing will buckle with the first two screws...this is normal.

7. Fill the Swap Box with a few wonderous starter items and depart! You have now made a functional and delightful Swap Box!


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