The Other Projects
Oh, that's what's taking so long.
Beefing up a trailer hitch.
Sometimes, even when you take something to a "professional", they get it more screwed up than you could. The scariest thing of that is, they do it everyday. This hitch began breaking away from the hitch rails on this RV, because the hitch installer put in a hitch that goes to a truck with a step bumper, which the RV does not have. Without the third point of attachment going to the bumper, the strain on rest of the hitch frame and the frame rails of the RV began to bend and break. The first order of business to repair it was to remove the hitch, straighten the attachment flanges, then grind notches into the cracked and strained portions, and weld those spots back solid.
Reinforcing the frame rails.
After straightening out the frame rails of the RV, using a large crescent wrench and a mall hammer, I cut some 2x2 angle iron to fit vertically into the inside of the channels and welded them into place keep the rails from bending up in the front, and down in the back.
Adding heft to the frame rail.
Using a carpenter's square to get the measurements, transferring the cutout lines to a 17" long, 1/4" thick piece of 3x4 angle iron, I cut the notches for the bumper coupling and body attachments with a cutting torch. Once the piece will fit tightly against the frame rail, I clamped it in place, and marked the hole locations from the frame rail, and drilled out the 1/2" hitch attachment holes.
Through-bolting to increase safety.
Once the welding is finished, I drilled through the angle iron and frame rail to put bolts through to increase the security of the set up. The bolts for the hitch attachment are actually enough, especially with the lock nuts added beneath, but I like to make sure things won't fail.
A deck for the pool.
As soon as the weather begins heating up out here, you have to start thinking about how you're going to survive it. One of the main criteria we use when determining a build site is, "Where will the pool go?". This is the deck I built with the leftover 2x4's from the barn construction project. I'm waiting for a fairly windless day to give the white wood a coat of sealant.
Bracing the 4x4's.
The 4x4 posts are the only items besides gate hardware, that were bought extra for the this deck, and are treated wood due to their exposure to wet conditions. Bracing front to back, I used a long brace on one side to allow access to the filter valve below. The railing above will complete the bracing. Bracing side to side is achieved with 24" braces from the leg posts to the deck floor from both sides, allowing plenty of clearance for access to the pump and filter stored below. To keep the posts vertically plumb while attaching the deck floor, I used uncut 2x4's 8' long screwed to the sides of the 4x4's and angled to ground outward from the deck. Once the outer parts of the deck floor are attached, and the bracing connected, the outrigging can be removed. During that process, the posts have to be checked often to ensure they remain plumb.
2x4's for joists?
While typically I wouldn't consider using a 2x4 for a joist in a normal deck, it is acceptable when spanning less than four feet, and I help the matter by spacing the joists at only 12" on center. With the 2x4 cap under the end rail, I sandwiched the joists between there and the floor boards, which are also 2x4's. I screwed through the end caps into the joists with two 3-1/2" screws.
I glued 2x4's side by side and clamped them together for a day to make a 7" wide railing top. 2x4's running on either side of the posts, and capped at the ends, give me surfaces to mount balisters (which are simply 2x4's rip cut on a table saw set at one third the width of the board), and railing. I laid the short end rail first, and marked the spots where the corners of post met it, then scribed a line to cut with my compound miter saw. After attaching that railing, I laid the long one on top, with a scrap board as a shim, and marked the bottom of that railing along the first one's edge, to get a perfect fit.
The deer blind - making an angled socket for legs
I needed a deer blind to hunt from, and I had a bunch of left over wood, so I put the two together. First, I built the deck part with double joisted 2x4's, making sure my outside dimensions would be four feet, so that a single piece of siding could be used to cover each side. I want the legs to set at 45° angles and go out 5° from vertical to add stability to the blind when it's standing up there twelve feet off the ground. After playing around with the compound mitre saw for a bit, I figured out how to cut some small angled pieces to fit into the corner, then what it would take to lock them into place with some other pieces of wood. Since the floor of the deck is only 1/2" OSB, I used another piece of scrap 2x4, cut to fit into the corner, to give the leg something more solid to push on. I cut the side that goes inboard on the deck at a 5° angle and did the same to the two little corner pieces that will fit around the leg to form the socket. The last piece that holds the whole thing together will then lean on that 5° angle and fit tight against the back side of the leg.
Putting the socket together
With a lot of glue, and four screws (first two shown) I dropped in the leg, and stuffed the whole thing into the corner. I wasn't too awfully sure that this was going to work out, or be able to handle the stress of wind blowing on the blind, but after putting in the last two screws into the locking board, the set up was a lot more rigid than I had anticipated, and the glue wasn't even dry. I had to work kind of fast, in order to get the entire upper leg assembly together before the glue dried and made bracing the legs in the correct angles impossible. The way I did it was, once I got the first corner assembly and leg right, I cut and fitted the pieces for the other three legs using the first set as guides. I used a clamp across the locking board (the one the screws go into) and the corner of the deck to check the fit. The top and bottom of the upper legs are also cut on a 5° angle to be parallel to the floor and ground.
Bracing the upper leg assembly
Now comes the bracing, which is basically using a bunch of scrap 2x4's and some more playing around with the compound mitre saw, to get 45° one way, and 5° the other way, angles cut to fit the upper leg and deck outer joists. I need to have two feet of the upper legs left exposed at the bottom (going toward the ground when the blind is standing up) so I marked the legs at the distance, and left another 1-1/2" for a tie between the legs, open from where the angled braces connect. All of this has to be done, before the glue in the sockets can dry. The tie across between the legs is added above the two foot mark on the legs. This can be done without the hurry of beating the glue. Again, some playing around with the compound mitre saw is required to get the 45° one way, and 5° other way, angle.
The leg sleeves
Here's the leg sleeves slipped over the upper leg assemblies with cross bracing between them for stiffness. The leg sleeves are just two 2x4's cut in half to make four, 4' boards, and fitted around another 2x4 with an 1/16" shim placed on the wide side to keep the sleeves loose enough to slip a 2x4 into it without binding, yet tight enough to keep them from wiggling around in there. I clamped the whole thing together after gluing the two that go across the narrow sides of the 2x4, and put six screws into each side, to the boards on the wide side. Obviously, I've left out a few steps, because the walls are up and window in. But, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that part. The only part that needs to be transmitted is, put the blind on the trailer BEFORE you put the walls and ceiling on. Otherwise, it's just too heavy to get it up there. I tied the blind to the trailer with tie downs, so I could use a ladder to put the walls up and not knock the thing over.
On the move
Once the blind is assembled, minus the lower legs, I loosened the tie straps and tipped the blind to one side so Mrs. Pilgrim could put some 2x4 skids under the leg sleeves. This will allow us to slide the blind off the back of the trailer without damaging the leg sleeves under all that weight.
Tipping the blind to add the lower legs
Here's where things get a little scary. Using two block and tackle set ups attached to the bracing on the deck of the blind, tying one to the trailer tongue and the other to the base of a nearby tree, I tipped the blind toward the trailer until I had enough room to stick the lower legs into the sleeves. This just about sent Mrs. Pilgrim into convulsions with panic attacks, despite my assurances that I knew what I was doing. I had to enlist the help of a neighbor in order to get her to help, even though I really could have done it with just her to move the truck and trailer as needed. I also lost four feet of height on the blind, because neither of them had the faith that I had in the rigidity of my build job. There were supposed to be 8' long 2x4's going into the sleeves, but I had to cut them in half to soothe their nervous disorders.
The second set of lower legs
As Mrs. Pilgrim cowers in the cab of the truck to take this picture, my neighbor and I attach the second set of lower legs. As the blind leans on the first set of lower legs, my neighbor realizes that perhaps the build was rigid enough to have taken 8' legs after all. To be safe, I would've cross-braced the first set of legs to the sleeves before tilting the blind up on them to install the second set.
How to fix a big nick in your wood.
Somewhere along the line you're bound to run into something like this. A big chunk of wood got knocked out of this board right where I have a mating piece of wood going. Rather than tear it apart and rebuild the segment, I'll fill the nick with homemade wood filler. Clean the surface if neccessary, then apply enough glue to cover the spot you're going to fix. Set a pile of sawdust next to the nick and add a little glue to it. Using a makeshift trowel (I'm using a wood shim) mix the globs of glue into the sawdust and drag to the glue in the nick. Keep building the surface, letting successive layers of glue/sawdust dry if neccessary, until level with surrounding wood. In this case, the area will be hidden, so I just scraped over the dried fix with the wood shim to remove loose, extra sawdust. If this spot were in a show area, I would build slightly above the surrounding wood, then sand back after it dries.
Building a highrise garden
Around the Pilgrim's ranch there are sheep that will get into a garden and eat all the food Mrs. Pilgrim is trying to grow. The solution, as I see it, is to build a garden that is too high off the ground for the sheep to jump into. First, I lay out a bunch of rocks in the outline of the walls I want to build, then sleep on the idea before setting anything in "stone". Next, I grab a rock from a pile I built up earlier, and spin it around on the spot I want to lay it to find the best fit (the rock will sit firm without mortar) and set it down behind the wall in the same rotation it will be mortared in, so I don't have to find that rotation while the mortar is setting. Once I have the right rock in the right spot (trying to offset the rocks on each layer from the rocks on the layer below - as much like bricks as possible) I lay down approximately a half inch of mortar on the layer below and in the corner of the last rock on this layer. I use a diamond shaped trowel to lift the mortar out of the bucket I mixed it in, and use my hand to push it off onto the spot I want it. The pictures show me using a pair of leather ranch hand gloves, but I switched soon after to a pair that resembled sock material with rubber coating on the palm and fingers. Once the rock is positioned to my satisfaction, I smooth the mortar between the rocks with my finger, and using the point of the trowel to aim the mortar, and a finger to push it in, I fill the cracks between the rocks. After laying a few more rocks in this way, I go back and smooth the mortar some more using my finger to perfect the fit and seal. If I wind up with a big gap between the rocks, I'll find a small stone that will fit and push it into the crack before filling the rest of the way with mortar. When the layer has had enough time to set up a bit, I shovel in some rubble I raked up, into garden to support the first two feet of rock wall. I keep doing this as I go along so that only one layer is unsupported from behind.