Back in August 2015 My store manager at The Home Depot approached me asking for my help with a volunteer project. Before I even had a chance to say yes or no to it, he informed me that he already told the people it was for that I'd do it! Knowing that I'm now committed to it, I said sure what is it and who is it for? My manager Derek told me if was for a young boy (Lota) who was about 8 years old at the time and was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. The store was going to help revamp his bedroom to the theme of the Fast and the Furious movies. Intrigued, I asked what it was Derek had in mind for me to do...
Step 1: Prep Work
Derek told me that Lota had a set of 4 rims that he had in his room as decorations from a vehicle his father had owned. But they were just sitting on the floor in a pile against a wall sucking up space. I was asked to come up with some sort of bookcase to show them off in, something functional as well. The next day Derek had brought me one of the rims so I could get dimension sizes and to help me brain storm. Little did I know was that they were oversized 22" rims! And they were a bit on the corroded/dirty side. The 1st 2 days of my project was spent cleaning up the rims of asphalt tar specs, dirt, counter balance weights and the glue that held them on, etc... Normal scrubbing just was NOT cutting it. I had to get creative.
After some poking around on the internet and YouTube, I got out my 18V cordless Makita BL Motor drill, an arbor adapter bit used for sanding and cut off wheels, and the 4" center punch out of the scrub pads for an industrial floor stripper and buffer (the pads are basically GIANT green scrub brillo pad you'd use for doing dishes). Attaching the pad to the arbor and then into my drill, I made a power scrubber and with the help of Goof OFF cleaner, I got all the gunk off the 4 rims.
While I was cleaning the rims, it kept creeping into the back of my mind that a bookcase just wasn't going to be good enough for this project. It needed to be flashier, more WOW factor to it but what??? Then it dawned on me, the bookcase was going to be 3 shelves due to the size of the rims... Why not turn it basically into a giant traffic light? Once I got all the rims cleaned off I went "shopping" for parts in the store. I got an #8-32 tap bit and a few plastic keyless lamp holders. I noticed a hole in the center of the rim on the inside of it that was perfect to mount the lamp holder over the top of it. The hole allowed room for the wiring to sit in it and not come in contact with the metal rim. I drilled and tapped holes in three of the rims and mounted the fixtures. The lights I used were a red, yellow, and green 25 watt equivalent LED bulbs. and I used 14-2 S/O wire for the black color and extreme flexibility.
Step 2: Building the Book Case
Then came the hard part, designing the wooden bookcase to house 3 large rims and figuring out how to wire them up so there would be a light switch to turn them ON/OFF that was hidden as well as the wiring. After taking some basic measurements and having a simple enough design in my head, I got to cutting the wood (3/4" cabinet grade sanded plywood). I used a router to carve out slots for the shelves to sit in for added strength (as well as glued and screwed them into place after I was done staining the wood). After an initial assembly of the bookcase, I measured out the exact location to mount an old work electrical box on the left side tucked all the way in the back. I had painted the blue box black to help disguise it when the lights were turned on. I figured the middle shelf was the best location (not to low to be a nuisance, and not up to high that the box starred you in the face). I installed a 3-single pole switch to save on space. Conveniently the 3 switches aligned to the 3 lights and making sure I wired them in the correct order, you knew which light would turn on (top, middle, bottom). I even got an unfinished wooden decora light switch face plate and stained it to match the rest of it.
Step 3: Staining the Wood and Reassembly
I had contacting Lota's parents about a color preference to which they replied they wanted it a dark wood but not black. After doing some sample stains on some wooden paint stir sticks, we all agreed upon the darker espresso Minwax stain. This was a little nerve-wracking for me because I had never really stained anything before on this large of a scale. I've done touch up spots with stain pens... but I knew it wasn't the same thing. After watching a few YouTube how-to videos and asking the advice of our paint section crew, I felt confident enough to tackle this task. Came out FAR better than I would have ever expected.
Once dry, it was time to carefully reassemble the panels back together. Using a barrage of wood clamps, glue, screws, and the helping hand of a few fellow associates; we carefully got it all put together without a scratch. then came the wiring. As mentioned before, I used 14-2 S/O wire for the flexibility and coloring. The next problem to overcome was how to hide the wiring from being seen inside the rim and the cubbies in the shelves. I ended up using 1" mounting squares for zip ties and routed the wire behind one of the rim spokes and routed the wire through the hole where the valve stem should have been. I had the valve stem hole pointing towards the top and then had a hole drilled near it and fished the wire out the back of the bookcase. Using some conduit straps, I had routed all the wiring up, down, and across the back of the bookcase to a focal point just behind the old work electrical box. fishing the wire into the box, I wired the 3 switches accordingly and sealed up the box with the stained wooden face plate.
Then came the moment of truth... Did I wire it correctly (correct order), how will it look all lit up, can you see any of the wires that I worked so hard to conceal????? I turned out the lights in the room and flipped on the bookcase lights, I looked AMAZING!
Step 4: 4th Rim... What to Do With It???
I had finally finished this massive book case, a question still remained... What do I do with the last rim? I contacted Lota's mother again to ask if she had any ideas or places where she would put it. It was then I found out that the family was removing a bunk bed from Lota's room and putting a 2nd twin bed in there for his brother. Then it dawned on me, they'll need a night stand for between the beds to put a lamp on or to set their glasses, books, cups, etc... on! Now how do I go about doing that?
I had to make a base to set the rim on top of that had to look good, be sturdy and perfectly round for the rim to sit evenly on. The first thing that came to mind was a premade 1" thick round table top, only problem was it was a 24" diameter table top and the inside lip of the rim was about 21". Drawing on my knowledge from a previous project I did for a customer, I improved upon an idea I had and made a better table saw jig for cutting out circles. Once I mounted the jig to the table saw, I drilled a 1/4" hole in the center of the table top and inserted a 1/4" machine screw threw the center of it. I placed a thin 1/4" fender washer between the table top and the jig and then inserted the screw through one of the predrilled spaced holes in my jig (I set it in the 21" diameter hole). I used another washer underneath and used a nut to hold it in place. With the saw blade completely lowered, I turned on the saw and incrementally raised the blade until it made contact with the table top. Carefully (hands away from the blade and holding firmly onto the table top) I rotated the table around a full rotation. I repeated this until I had successfully cut all the way through. When done, I removed the table top and the screw from it. I would later fill in the center hole I drilled with wood filler that was also stainable.
Next issue was how do I do the same thing for the Plexiglas table top I wanted to put on the night stand without putting a hole in it??? After some quick brainstorming, I noticed that the Plexiglas had a protective plastic wrap on both sides of it to protect it from scratches. I broke out my Sharpie and straight edge ruler and found the center point of the sheet. Using another 1" mounting square that I had used to route the wire in the rims, I stuck it to the plastic wrapping. Using the 1/4" countersunk machine screw and a little persuasion, the screw head fit perfectly into the mounting square where the zip ties would fit through. I was now able to stick the bolt back into my table jig, Not wanting the top to be to large I used the 24" hole. Following the same procedures, I cut out a round table top and when done the plastic wrap peeled off leaving a pristine circle table top.
I stained the wood base the same color as the book case and attached 4 small premade table legs to it that I had also stained. I wired the rim up the same way as the book case with the mounting square and S/O wire and put a plug on the end of the wire. To attach the rim to the base, I used the same conduit mounts that I used to rout the wires on the back of the book case. The mounts screwed to the wood and loop fit perfectly over the lip of the rim. I installed a 25 watt soft white LED into the rim and placed the Plexiglas top on and it was FINISHED!!!
Step 5: The Presentation
The Following day I loaded up my truck with the book case and night stand and drove out to Lota's house. He knew his room was being renovated but hadn't been allowed to see it at all while it was being worked on that entire week. While he waited patiently in the other room, several of us moved the book case in (took 4 of us to move it, those rims and 3/4" thick wood got real heavy real quick!) and the night stand. The moment came to unveil his finished room to him and his siblings. Lota was floored and couldn't believe his eyes. I don't think I have ever seen a more appreciative young man before it was smiles and thank you's all around. In addition to what I built, our in store artist hand painted a Fast and Furious mural for his wall, the walls were painted, his closet got a new organizer installed, and all of his marathon medals had been mounted and hung up for him.
Lota is a truly inspirational kid. It's moving to see what he has gone through, the strides he's made, and life lessons he teaches everyone who knows him. I feel honored that I could do something like this for him and his family. I still check in on him through his Facebook page and I'm always amazed and what he's accomplished.
**If you would like track Lota's progress, please visit and like his Facebook page his mother runs that keeps a constant update on him for all his followers.**