Sunday, May 8, 2016

DIY cat-safe vase 2.0

For the past year, we've been keeping flowers on our kitchen table in a makeshift cat-safe vase: a small glass under a hurricane lantern shade that we picked up at the local thrift shop. It wasn't exactly elegant, and it severely limited the number of flowers we could display at once, but it did a reasonably good job of allowing the flowers and the cats to coexist.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, the hurricane lampshade broke. It didn't get knocked off the table or anything; it just tapped against something when we picked it up to empty the vase, and a whole big chunk of the glass broke right off. Since we didn't have a spare, and there wasn't a similar shade available at the thrift shop where we found the first one, we had to remove the flowers from the table altogether until we could come up with some other arrangement for them.

Fortunately, Brian had already come up with an idea for a more sophisticated cat-safe vase. His two-pronged plan was:
  • pick up a simple, clear glass vase that could be inverted over top of the small glass that holds the flowers; and
  • construct a stand out for both pieces to sit on, which would allow air to circulate while making the whole contraption more stable and harder for the cats to tip over.
We carried out the first stage of this plan two weeks ago. We already knew that Michael's had a good selection of plain glass vases, so we perused the selections and narrowed it down to two: a tall, narrow cylinder that would allow for tall blooms, or a wider, bowl-like vase that would accommodate wider bunches. Both were priced at $4, so it mainly came down to a question of looks, and Brian decided he preferred the narrower vase because it was easier to see through.

Then came the harder part: designing the stand to hold the two pieces. He wasn't able to tackle this last weekend because the whole weekend was taken up with Rutgers Day and May Day festivities, but on Monday he did a little tinkering in the shop with some scrap wood and came up with a stand design that, while not finished, would serve as a "proof of concept." As you can see here, it's basically a wide, square piece of wood with a hole cut in it for the inverted vase, plus four smaller pieces screwed to the top to serve as buttresses, further stabilizing the glass and making it harder for the cats to tip.

To provide air circulation, there are four large holes drilled in the bottom piece, around the edges of the circle. This creates four small gaps under the rim of the vase, big enough to allow air movement, while the four buttress pieces keep the vase secured within its circle.

We're not sure yet whether this initial design will end up being the final version or not. As you can see, there's an awful lot of empty space at the top of the vase, so I think ideally we'd either like to have the inverted glass be shorter (and possibly wider, so the blooms aren't so confined) or else make the one inside taller, bringing the blossoms closer to eye level. We're currently soaking the label off a coconut-oil jar that's a little larger than this juice glass to see whether that looks better. But if we end up having to replace the vase, shelling out another $4 isn't that big a deal.

Once we've settled on a final design for the vase, then Brian will construct a new version that looks a bit better than this one—possibly using nicer pieces of wood, and certainly giving more attention to sanding, staining, and finishing them. But for now, this initial version shows that it is at least possible to construct a vase that makes flowers and cats compatible.
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