handset pulls

Defunct Bell handsets reborn as cabinet-door pulls.

This trick is straightforward enough: The handset of a telephone "affords" grasping and pulling (to borrow a term from Donald A. Norman), and to co-opt that affordance for use as a cabinet- or drawer-pull requires no more than a drill, a couple of machine screws, flat washers, lock washers, and nuts. The handset's mouth- and ear-pieces are unscrewed and drilled at their extremities, screws are inserted from the inside, and the mouth- and ear-pieces are reattached to the handset. Then the screws are fed through holes in the cabinet or drawer facing and secured with washers, lock-washers, and nuts from the interior of the drawer/cabinet.

The doors on the built-in cabinets in my newest apartment did not include pulls of any sort. The handsets from old Bell System-model corded phones provide a readymade solution.

This idea was inspired by the "MacGyver Recycle Challenge" column in the 8th issue of the fantastically-cool magazine ReadyMade. The challenge, of course, was to find some creative reuse for the piles of old corded telephones which are washing ashore in the wake of the wireless revolution, particularly the familiar "Bell System" model. Unfortunately, I didn't get my ducks in a row in time to submit for the 10.20.2003 deadline, and so the idea has ended up here.

All's just as well. The idea, although slightly clever, suffers from a couple major drawbacks, the first of which is that it only reuses a relatively small part of the entire phone. After adapting a telephone handset as a drawer-pull, one is still left with the base, keypad, and a bunch of cords. The second weakness, by my own way of thinking, is that drawer- and cabinet-pulls in general are an unnecessary pretension: A well made drawer or cabinet does not require a pull at all to be easily opened. This can be achieved simply by friction between the fingertips and the exposed edge of the drawer facing. If the facing edges are rounded or flush, a better solution than sticking on a piece of hardware is to cut an aperture into which the fingers may be inserted, as for instance in this "Modulicious" two-drawer dresser/cabinet from Blu Dot:

Cut-out recesses, rather than bolt-on hardware, are more minimalistic solutions to the drawer- and cabinet-pull problem.

Attached pulls are perhaps more excusable if they facilitate recycling and/or creative reuse, but the problem still remains: What do you do with the rest of the phone?




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