Monday, 8 September 2014

Can we make a pig ark from stock items?

Our elder daughter has moved to a house high on a valley-side above Cardiff.  As well as taking on a barn conversion, she, her husband and their son now have a stable block and 5 acres of sloping land.  Their first new venture is to keep pigs - 3 weaners which will go to the abattoir in about 6 months' time, but not before they have prepared plenty of ground for next year's fruit and vegetable growing.

The electric fencing was ordered and I offered to knock up a pig ark for them.  It was a disadvantage that we live 4 hours away as I wanted to make the ark at home.  I decided to go for a flat-pack pig ark and trust to my roof bars for transportation.  Somehow we ended up adding a kingsize mattress for the journey so with the plywood pieces, corrugated steel, oak skids and softwood roof struts we produced a sandwich-style roof-load.

I'm not sure that this load was within the manufacturer's recommendations.  I did take particular care on the drive.  Rarely have I negotiated bends and roundabouts with such care.  We arrived safely and after unloading I set about the final construction.  I had found some nice pieces of oak left over from our roof rebuild a few years ago, and they went onto the underside of the base to act as skids which will allow the ark to be moved around.

With two side struts added, the base was carried up to its first home in the lower field.

The end pieces each came out of half a sheet of 18mm ply, with a bolt-secured door.

The roof struts which, like the corrugated steel, were leftovers from our old postbarn, were friction fitted to the ends.

My charming assistant, who unwisely likened herself to Debbie McGee, held the bag of roofing screws. This was a big help as the three sheets of corrugated steel seemed to have minds of their own.

So there we were.  I had to buy the plywood and the bolts, but all the other bits came from stock.

Our grandson approved.  In fact he seemed interested in moving in.  If he does he won't have long.  The piglets arrive in about 10 days.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Oak house signs

So here's what to do with those left over short ends of 4" oak floorboards: visit Matthias' brilliant website and buy his plans for a 3-D router pantograph for a few dollars, buy a nice little router, and spend much of the winter on and off fiddling around with offcuts of wood and steel rod to construct one of these fiendishly clever machines.  Spend more evenings in the workshop making the plywood stencils for all the letters you need for your signs (and even a couple of swallow images), then it's time for the quick bit.

Actually cutting the signs is really easy and quick.  Use some black acrylic paint to highlight the carved letters, sand and, if you wish, varnish away, then get out to the end of the track and, with your neighbouring farmer's permission, put up the signs to his farm and our house, Coed y Mynydd Isaf (Lower Mountain Wood), his horsefeed business, and our luxury holiday cottage, Gwenoldy (Swallows' Rest).

Job done. About a year from start to finish.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

A mini ramp

Father-in-law's substantial ramp having been dismantled and put into stock when he moved to his assisted-living apartment, it was time to use some of the materials to provide an easy way for my wheelchair-bound brother-in-law to get in and out of his house.

The scale of this project was relatively modest, and having made the key frameworks at home, I actually managed to get everything in the back of our estate car for the trip to south Wales.  The photos show the laying out of the frames, and the fixing of the decking and side rails.

The interesting challenge on this job was the gate.  The driveway up from the end of the ramp slopes quite steeply, so the original gate opened inwards.  The ramp now prevents this, as a normal gate would have to have such a gap at the bottom to clear the ramp that BIL's dog would be able to escape.  So I borrowed an idea from the excellent woodworking and engineering website at, and created an articulating gate, similar to Matthias' design for a parallelogramming stairgate.  All the vertical elements of the gate pivot on the top and bottom horizontals, so you lift it at the non-hinged end and lower it behind the ramp to park it in the open position.

Thanks to some careful measuring on a previous visit (well done Elizabeth) and pre-fabrication, the installation of all this took just two and a half hours.  Ramp timbers, stainless steel bolts, screws and gate hinges came from stock.  As you can probably tell from the colour of the gate, I did have to buy a little bit of timber for that.  So, almost a stock item job.