The ‘Woodwork’ category:

I made the bed

January 10th, 2012

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My title is probably a little misleading. When I say ‘I made the bed’ I mean I actually built a bed. It only took a few hours and the materials came to just 18€; I’m feeling rather pleased with myself!

At the moment all four of us sleep in the same bed. It’s not the squash and the squeeze is might sound; we have two single mattresses and one queen-size mattress. Because of this setup we can’t use bed-frames so the mattresses are just on the floor. And because they’re on the floor they’re getting a little worse for wear.

The loft conversion is almost done so the boys will soon be moving into their own room and we’ll be able to use bed-frames once again. I took a break from working on the loft to make Soren a bed-frame, something that would lift his mattress off the floor just enough to allow some airflow but not so much that when he falls out he’ll hurt himself.

I bought some big planks – 400cm x 25cm  – and cut one into four strips, enough for the sides and the tops, and half of another into lots of strips for the slats. I added two little rails for the slats to sit on, screwed everything in place, put some 1 inch feet on the bottom, and then sanded everything smooth.

It was fun and actually very easy. Best of all though I think Soren likes it.


Our pool deck

August 29th, 2011

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Our swimming pool has been open for a while now, and it’s been wonderful.

To make it easier to get in and out, especially for the children, I built a deck along two sides. Again, that’s been up for a while now, but it was only last week that I actually finished it. I’d done the minimum required to make it safe for Soren’s birthday party but lazily neglected to complete the project for another 6 weeks. It’s finally done now so I can tell you about it!

I dug 9 holes 45cm deep into which I put 9 massive 15cm x 15cm posts and several kilos of concrete. Then using a mixture of wood from the barns and wood from the shop I built the frame, extending it over the edge of the pool so the deck would protrude over the water. I put the decking planks on and attached the ladders. Finally I added some safety rails around the sides.

It’s works a treat. Over the summer it had around 12 people on it at one time and it was rock solid – thank God!

Admittedly it’s not particularly attractive, and it makes an already obtrusive thing even more so, but we’ve found it massively improved the usability of the pool.

Dull, but true.

I made a stick*

August 19th, 2011

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It’s a walking stick now, but, believe it or not, it did start out as an actual stick! What like you find on trees.

I found a promising looking branch whilst out on a walk and I thought to myself, “Hey, that would make a nice walking stick”. I think it’s mahogany or ebony or something**.

When I got it home I cut it to length, carved the handle bit to fit nicely in my palm, stripped the bark off (leaving a little bit  – we call this ‘homeboy style’ or ‘a street strip’). And that was it.

* I’m proud of my walking stick but there wasn’t much to it really so please forgive the majority of this post: it’s there to fill the space between the pictures.

** Actually I think it’s beech.

Life’s a bench

May 17th, 2011

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I spent the last two afternoons making a rustic bench using wood from some fir trees I chopped down a couple of months ago and an old oak plank I found in one of the barns.

I used a saw, an axe, a knife, a drawknife, a mallet, and a drill. There are no nails or screws: it’s all held together with hand-made dowels. I figure the only way to get the skills is to do as much as possible by hand. Plus it’s satisfying!

Because the wood is fresh I predict it’ll all fall apart soon after it’s dried out, but making this bench was good practice and great fun.

Strimming like in those old days

May 10th, 2011

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As I’ve mentioned before, I love mowing the grass. I also love strimming but I don’t have a strimmer. I used to have an electric one that was pretty useless but still afforded me pleasure, so I was looking forward to getting a petrol one when we moved out here. The trouble is that getting one involved acquiring more stuff and that really doesn’t sit right with me, so I didn’t get one.

I was disappointed, but it was the right decision.

And today it dawned on me that I’d seen an old scythe in one of the barns: maybe I could ‘strim’ using that. I climbed up an old ladder into one of the barn lofts and came down with a rusty old thing that looked like it meant business. I gave it a few test swings and it felt good. I chopped at some tall weeds and it worked surprisingly well. I chopped down all the tall weeds round the back of the courtyard and it was a doddle, so I moved to the strip of verge outside our fence that the mairie’s mower couldn’t reach.

It worked an absolute treat! There were 2 problems though: I snapped the handle and I got stung all over by the flying nettles.

These days I enjoy breaking something as it gives me an opportunity to take it into my workshop to fix it. In I went with the broken scythe and a handle I’d seen up in the barn loft. I hammered and screwed and filed the blade sharp, and about 10 minutes later emerged with a scythe that I could be proud of.

I’ve just got to wait for the nettles to grow back to try it out.

How to make a slide in 12 (not so) easy steps

March 24th, 2011

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One of the things we did when we were planning to move to our new house was talk to the boys about all the fun things we’d be able to have and do there. Top on Soren’s list was a slide, like the big wooden ones he loved so much at the big park in Harrogate.

Being frugal types (well, not yet, but we do plan to be frugal types soon) we thought we should make our own slide rather than spend €700 on a shop-bought one. I raided one of our barns and found loads of useful bits of wood including two telegraph poles and various lengths of joists (ranging from slightly warped to banana warped). I sketched some ideas, visited Leroy Merlin (a massive  B&Q place) to get the hardware, and then made a start.

Here’s how I did it. You can see most of these steps in the photo gallery below.

1.    Cut the two telegraph poles into four pieces.
2.    Dig four holes 45cm deep.
3.    Plonk the poles in.
4.    Move them about and adjust the holes to get them all square.
5.    Fill the holes with 60kg of concrete.
6.    Cover the concrete with plastic as it rained for the next few days.
7.    Measure, cut and attach the horizontal frame.
8.    Measure, cut and attach the decking boards.
9.    Attach the slide.
10.  Find an old wooden ladder, cut the top off, and attach.
11.  Measure, cut and attach the safety posts, then all the rest of the safety fence.
12.  Invite the boys to try it!

My parents were here during steps 8, 9 and 10 and so I happily had the assistance of my dad for some of this project – there’s nothing quite like working with your dad on something like this. And from step 7 the weather was glorious, so it was a pleasure to be working outside.

Overall it took me 6 afternoons – about 24 hours I reckon. The slide cost €130 and the wood and hardware I bought came to about €60, making a grand total of €190; a bargain! And compared to what we could have bought it’s absolutely rock solid, which is handy because Soren’s rather keen on destroying things at the moment.

I’ll have to leave it at this for now as we’ve got loads of other things to be getting on with. However, I’m thinking maybe build a little house underneath, add another platform and connect it to the main one via a rope bridge, create a teepee roof, attach a telescope to the side overlooking the woods, install central heating….


Mon atelier*

March 11th, 2011

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I’ve bagsied one of the outbuildings at our new house for my workshop.

After raiding one of our barns for some wood, I’ve rigged up a pretty stable workbench as well as a totally cool (but maybe slightly dorky) tool board and a ‘knife, axe and powertool cupboard’ (which I can lock as Soren’s fond of popping in there and coming out with something dangerous).

Under the stairs that go up into the barn’s attic (which we’ve not figured out a use for yet although I’m thinking music studio) I’ve got my awesome (and scary) table saw as well as my magnetic spirit level (it’s magnetic! What a bonus feature), and just above the door is my felling axe.


Cool tool board

Cupboard and under the stairs

Soon some amazing hand-made delights will be emerging from that workshop. So far though I’ve narrowed a stick to fit into a garden hoe we bought at the market and glued on the wheels of Soren’s hobby horse that had fallen off. And just stood in there quietly looking around: it’s lush.

* My workshop.