2019-6-14 | Chevy New Roads Magazine
Build It Yourself
A trip to the hardware store, a few hours, and the right attitude are all that stands between you and the DIY project of your dreams. Watching a few how-to videos doesn’t hurt, either.
Growing up in Oklahoma City, Mike Montgomery wasn’t raised to be a builder or craftsman, and certainly didn’t think much about midcentury modern design. Beyond the occasional inclination to slap together a bike ramp with his buddies or a rough planter box for a gift, there wasn’t a lot to foreshadow a career as a do-it-yourself media maker.
“My parents always had tools around the house,” says Montgomery, “but I wasn’t building projects all the time when I was a kid.” It wasn’t until he left home to study music production and engineering that a natural inclination for problem solving—and a need to build stuff on the cheap—started him down the path of DIY.
“Right around the time I got into school I realized I could build things like speaker cabinets and guitar pedalboards as a side hustle,” he says. As he continued building gear in his apartment, word of his projects started getting out to his friends. Before long, he was getting requests for increasingly complicated items and turning to the internet to find out how to build them.
The leap from helping out friends to crafting furniture in front of a camera came quickly. “I watched these DIY videos and realized I was doing everything but shooting it,” Montgomery says, “and I already knew how to film and edit.” His own video channel, Modern Builds, was born in 2015.
Silverado’s awesome Durabed was designed to help you get your projects done. The 79-inch-long standard bed is perfect for runs to the lumberyard, and there are clever features like an available 120-volt outlet located near the tailgate.
Montgomery’s earnest approach and design ethos have clearly resonated with lots of people: In four years, his channel has swelled to more than 800,000 subscribers. The most popular project videos have millions of views, with each new installment quickly racking up thousands of clicks.
The success of Montgomery’s videos mirrors the internet’s voracious appetite for do-it-yourself content, too. Searches for DIY videos net dozens of video providers with more than a million subscribers—in some cases tens of millions—and impressive statistics in terms of views and comments. This trend has implications far beyond one’s living room furniture, too: Popular DIY channels run the gamut of topics, from arts and crafts to makeup tutorials to home electronics and computers.
Scroll through very popular DIY video builds, and you’re almost certain to read the words “midcentury modern–inspired” over and over. The result of a golden era of design that stretched from the end of World War II until the 1970s, the “MCM” aesthetic inspired furniture that is still coveted, and increasingly expensive, today. And while a period-correct buffet or credenza from the ’50s is something that might strain many household budgets, DIYing a similar piece can be as simple as a web search, a big-box hardware store, and a truck to haul plywood sheets and lumber.
In fact, it is the versatile and inexpensive sheet of plywood that connects original furniture makers—whose famed use of molded plywood characterized the era—to projects that excited amateurs are working on today. In addition to the material’s affordability and authenticity, Montgomery enjoys working with it for its ease of use. “With solid wood, you deal with expansion and contraction a lot,” he says. “Plywood is more stable.”
Designed to help you get your projects done
The All-New Silverado pickup truck works as hard as you do. Its 79-inch-long standard bed is perfect for runs to the lumberyard, and there are clever features like an available 120-volt outlet located near the tailgate.
One of his recent projects hammers home the point that just about anyone can create something impressive with a trip to the hardware store and some elbow grease. Montgomery built a handsome credenza with just a sheet and a half of red oak plywood, pocket-hole screws, wood glue, and an oil-based wood finish. The list of tools can be similarly short: a circular saw, a jigsaw, and a drill with an impact driver are about all it takes. An orbital sander does cut down finishing time, but hand-sanding is always an option for those looking to keep things truly basic. “You don’t need $5,000 worth of tools, plus a whole lot of time, to create something cool,” says Montgomery. Even the slightly complex-looking credenza base, with clever angular legs, can be done by a beginner on a shoestring budget. “I was able to make a very classic midcentury modern base with a quarter-sheet of plywood and a jigsaw.”
You don’t need $5,000 worth of tools, plus a whole
lot of time, to create something cool. I was able
to make a very classic midcentury modern base with
a quarter-sheet of plywood and a jigsaw.
The circular saw is used on just about every Modern Builds project you’ll see, and is one of the more affordable tools that a new DIYer should consider owning. Especially when building larger pieces, like furniture, the circular saw is the best way to ensure easy, straight-line cuts. But Montgomery’s list of necessary equipment is modest, considering his results. The aforementioned drill is a must, but hand tools like a hammer and nail punch, a good straightedge and multi square (for laying out angled cuts), tape measure, masking tape, and a sharp pencil do a lot of the heavy lifting.
Make It Your Own
Do-it-yourself projects are ultimately about learning new skills and expanding your own capabilities, neither of which comes without a few missteps along the way. “Mistakes happen on every project; it comes with the territory,” says Montgomery. “The trick for me is to learn from them, and show them in the video if I think they’re something that folks might run into themselves.” That’s part of the advantage of DIY videos—seeing common goofs outlined before you have a chance to make them yourself. Think of it as the digital era’s reimagining of the old “measure twice, cut once” piece of advice.
The explosion of DIY videos—and experts—on the internet is by no means limited to furniture builders. From no-sew or one-cut fashion “hacks” to making colorful drinking glasses out of discarded bottles to exotic napkin folding, there is seemingly no end to projects one can discover and try out. Montgomery’s first-ever video project involved making a concrete planter using just two plastic mixing bowls and some cooking spray (now with nearly 400,000 views and counting).
Giving you a leg up on your DIY projects
Available assist steps in a variety of designs and standard larger corner steps on the rear bumper of every Silverado make it easy to get a leg up, even in your work boots. And the Durabed has 12 standard tie-downs to help keep your supplies secure on the way home.
Available assist steps in a variety of designs and standard larger corner steps on the rear bumper of every Silverado make it easy to get a leg up, even in your work boots.
“Whatever works,” is a sort of mantra you’ll hear repeatedly on Modern Builds videos, and it encapsulates the spirit of DIY projects everywhere. Being inventive, solving problems, and creating something great and surprising is what it’s all about. The path from idea to execution is shorter than ever, thanks to this growing community of online video educators and the understanding that it just takes willingness to achieve great things. “Anyone can build something really big, really great,” says Montgomery. “All it takes is a few tools and some time.”
STORY: SEYTH MIERSMA / PHOTOGRAPHY: RICHARD SCHULTZ