Saturday, 25 February 2012

Chicken coop from a pile of pallets ...

For the last week or so I've been full steam ahead on building a chicken coop, we said we'd get some last year, but weren't really prepared for it, now we are, so we have no excuse.

I was lucky as most of the wood to build the coop and run (with a shed load left over) has come free of charge in the form of pallets, 7 foot long pallets to be exact, I saw them in the car park of an industrial unit that was being re-furbished and asked the people doing the work if I could have them, they said yes, one chap even gave me a lift with a load, which when you only have a push bike and small trailer is a good thing.

Although I'd be the first to admit I might have over done it slightly -

I'd already dismantled most of them.

The only wood I bought was for the main frame work, this I got cheap, the only other things I had to buy were something for the roof ( I've used felt) and wire mesh for the run, and to patch up the fencing where the coop now lives.

Construction has begun - 

A basic frame work with pallet cladding.

You can see the method I used, basically I've just used the planks of wood from the pallets to clad the frame, I've fixed it all together using screws.

We spent some time trying to figure out the best way to build the coop, and it seems there are a lot of conflicting ideas, so we went with what works for us, to that end we've put the nest box on one side of the coop, the main door on the front and the pop on the opposite side to the nest box.

The nest box side - 

It rained a fair bit.

Luckily as I'm a little bit of a squirrel I managed to find the hinges and bolts for the nest box door, and the main door.

Things progressed quite quickly, although this is mostly down to the weather being good for a change. The whole coop measures roughly 3 feet by 3 feet, the roof slopes backwards from 3 feet to about 2 and a half feet and it's about 5 feet high, I made it like this to allow some space underneath the coop, this gives the chickens some extra room and allows for air to flow around the coop.

Adding the wire mesh - 

Coop nearly done.

The coop and the run have been built in 2 parts, this makes it easier to move about (which we intend to do from time to time) and it makes life easier for cleaning and repairing. We have decided to start small, just 3 chickens for now, and maybe later on down the line we'll get a few more.

All done (well the coop any way) 

Just the run to do, and a coat of paint.

The run fixes onto the side of the coop, this gives us access to the nest box and the front of the coop (via the main door) we hope the kids will be helping out with the day to day chicken keeping duties, which is another reason for making it easy to get into.

The nest box area - 

Should be cosy with a bit of bedding.

The pop hole, with hatch - 

String operated hatch.

The run, partly completed - 

Coop & run where we intend to keep it.

And here it is, all done in woodland green (it's what the fashionable chickens have)

It's a nice colour.

The patch of earth it's sitting on is where our pond used to be, we filled it in so we could have chickens, the whole area was fenced off when we had the pond, so we intend to patch up the fences and when the weathers nice the chickens will be able to come out to play in the larger area, and when we go out or if the weather isn't so good they will be in their run and coop.

The nest box door - 

Easy egg collection.

I've used nice strong bolts for both doors - 

Found in the depths of my shed.

The hatch for the pop can be opened easily by hand, but I added a simple pulley type system, so the kids can open and close the hatch, it's just a bit of string and a couple of hooks.

The pulley system - 

Simple really.

And that's about it, I still have to fit a perch for the chickens, which I already have, just need to put it in the coop, but I want to make a tray to go underneath the perch, which we will be able to slide out to clean out any chicken sh ... ... err droppings.
I'm also planning on using the manure from the chickens on the garden and the allotment, so not only will we get fresh eggs (well in theory) we'll get free fertiliser as well and the kids will learn about chicken keeping.

I'd highly recommend getting hold of pallets when ever you have a building project like this, with the wood I have left (and there's a lot) I plan to fix up my dilapidated greenhouse, and make some more raised beds, and there's the path edging for the allotment, well you get the idea, plenty of uses for the wood I have, and I've saved a load of money.

The coop again - 

Update - I should have added a more up to date photo of the coop as it is now, shortly after this photo was taken I extended the run, and added a roof over it, although the chickens spend most of their time out in the garden, the run is only really used by them when the weather is bad, and at night.

This is the finished coop -

Not the best picture perhaps, but you get the idea.

You can read about the changes I made at the bottom of this post - It's all go here (opens in new window)

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Homemade shear scraper ... ...

I've had my lathe for a while now and although I have enough tools to keep me busy I'm always looking for new ones (can't help it, I'm a bloke) the trouble is that some of the more interesting tools can cost a bit, and as I try to save cash where I can, I can't really justify buying a £20 chisel, and that's actually cheap, some of the more expensive turning systems can cost over £100 !

But all is not lost, like a lot of wood turners I have made my own tools from scratch, adapted old tools into new tools, this saves money and gives you a better understanding of how things work.

So bearing that in mind I thought I'd make a shear scraper, now if you're wondering what one is have a look here - Robert Sorby Shear Scraper (opens in new window) this one is a small one, but even so it's £20 that could be better spent elsewhere.

This however cost less than £8 and I can make 2 handles and probably about 10 extra cutting bits, and I can make them to suit me, so in the long run I'll save quite a lot.

My newly built shear scraper -

Surprisingly easy to make, with the right tools.
This works well, but the cutting bit needs tweaking, I've only ground an edge on it to see how it feels to use it.

Close up of the cutting bit - 

Needs tweaking.

The handle is made by wrapping some natural fibre string round the metal and sealing it with glue  (I used Mod Podge on the last ones, this time I used pva) like I did for my Oland tools, I quite like the feel of the string, and I seem to be able to get a better grip on the handle compared to wooden handles.

To make this type of tool does require a little more work, and you'll need a tap and a tap wrench for threading the hole for securing the cutter, the shaft is a piece of steel bar, which you can buy from places like B&Q (my bit cost £5 and will make 2 tools)

Obviously you'll need something to make the cutter from, Ebay is your friend as it's about the only place I've found tool steel at (what I consider to be) a cheap price.

I got this piece for 99p (plus £2 postage) it's 1inch diameter, a good size for making cutting bits for the scraper.

Tool steel - 

It's best to use an angle grinder to cut this.

I already had the tap and die set, and I've always got nuts and bolts lying about, as it turns out cutting the steel was easy with an angle grinder, I wouldn't even bother trying to cut it with a hacksaw, you'll be there for hours.
Basically you need a slice a few millimetres thick (3 or 4mm should do) and you'll also need to drill a hole in it, which in theory sounds easy right ? I found it is not so, none of my drill bits would even make a dent in it, which resulted in much swearing.

The slice of steel for the cutting bit - 

Not as even as should have been, but it'll do.

And look I managed to drill a hole in it - 

It's meant to be off centre.

In the end it was my multi-tool and a small grinding bit that prevailed over the steel, I suspect it was heat related, by that I mean the drill bits weren't producing enough heat to soften the metal and cut into it, this stuff is very hard.

You will need to flatten a section of the steel rod, you can use square rod, but I wanted round, I used my bench grinder to make a flat section on one end, this makes a nice seat for the cutter to sit on.

Ready for the cutter - 

This flat section will house the cutter.

Once you have the end prepared you need to drill a hole in it and then use the tap to thread the hole, this will give you a good secure way of fixing the cutter.
Now when you need to drill a hole in any type of steel before you start drilling, mark where you want the hole and use a centre punch to make a small pit in the steel, this will make sure the drill bit goes where you want it to and not all over the place, and if possible use a post drill as this will make sure the hole is straight.

Centre punch (one of many I seem to have) - 

This one is quite new.

Basically you put the pointed end of the punch onto the mark you've made and give the other end a good thump with a hammer, easy peasy, then you can go ahead and drill the hole, try to get it in the middle of the piece of steel you're using as a shaft for the tool, another thing to remember is that when using a thin drill bit you need a quite high drill speed setting, and for larger drill bits you use a slower speed.

Hole ready to be threaded - 

I used an m5 tap for this.

The tap and tap wrench - 

Try and get a good quality tap for this.

Using the tap - 

All done.

There's a trick to using a tap and die set, you don't want to try and make the thread in one hit, you will most likely snap the tap in the hole, and they don't come out easy once that's happened. Take it slow, start turning the tap until it bites, you'll know when this has happened as it will get harder to turn, then turn it slowly, when it gets really tight, turn it about quarter to half a turn backwards, then start turning it the right way again (turn it the same way you would if you were doing up a bolt) and keep doing this until you've got the thread you want.

By turning the tap a little bit in the opposite way every few turns will clear any metal in the hole, it also helps keep the part of the tap that cuts the metal clear, just remember the tortoise and the hare story, slow and steady wins the race, and you'll get a better thread.

Then take your bolt, and a spring washer (this help keep things from undoing) and fix the cutter to the end, and that's about it,all you need to do now is grind the cutter in a way that suits the jobs you want to do, and if you get enough steel you can always make a variety of cutting bits.

The cutter fixed in place - 

Not the neatest of jobs, but it works.

I plan to make some different shaped bits for the scraper, and with the other section of steel rod I'll make another tool, which I'm going to put a bend in so that I can hollow out ball shapes, that way I'll have 2 tools that I can use, with out having to mess about changing cutters all the time, so really I've made more than 2 tools, for less than £10, saving a few quid, can't be bad.

If you're interested in the other tools I've made for wood turning here a link to the post, to save you searching - Oland tools (opens in new window)

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Don't be tight, spend a little time ... ...

I know that Valentines day (like a lot of other days) has been hijacked by consumerism, but that doesn't mean you have to buy into it, instead of spending a load of cash on a card and a gift for your better half, why not spend a little time making something instead ?

These days all I seem to hear is I don't think I could make this or that, and I'm no expert in making stuff, but that's no reason to not try.

If I can make it you can -


So with that in mind I've made my wife a present for Valentines day and it cost... ... nothing, apart from a little time, and you don't need any special skills either, just a few tools, and to be honest I'm not that old (unless you listen to my kids) and I learnt how to do most of this kind of thing in school, so most people around my age really should have the ability to make things of all kinds.

This isn't a new idea, it's something I've played around with before, but this time I have some new toys, in the shape of some embossing pens, which cost £3 for a set (peanuts) but you can use anything with a rounded end, I was using the end of a crochet hook.

The embossing pens -

They work very well on tin.

A close up of one of the ends, they are like little balls - 

This is the largest one.

These aren't technically for using on metal, more paper, but they work well and make drawing on metal much easier as they run smoother than a crochet hook.

Okay so I've spent a few quid on some embossing pens, but I would have got them anyway ;-) as for the other materials, well tin is easy to come by, in fact if you have a beer or 2 in the fridge you have a load of tin, it just needs a little preparation, you'll need to rub the printing off the can, wire wool works well for this, it's also best to cut the can so you have a flat sheet of tin to work with.

When drawing on the tin I've found it best to put a couple of sheets of paper underneath it, makes all the difference, you can print something out and trace it onto the tin, or do something free hand or draw round something, doesn't have to be complicated.

This is what I ended up with - 

Took about 10 minutes in all.

And that's about it really, all I did then was to stick the sheet of embossed tin onto a bit of hard board using glue, thin plywood works just as well, then I used some Buddleja sticks to make a frame, this is where some basic tools and basic wood working skills come in handy, as you'll need to cut the sticks to make a frame.

Here's mine to give you an idea - 

I used copper wire for the hanging loop.

 The wire hanging loop is made by winding some thin copper wire together, but you could use string, or ribbon, or just drill a small hole in the middle at the top to hang it on the wall, I got the wire from and old pc power supply, top tip, transformers are wrapped with copper wire, you just need to extract it, so any old electrical equipment (and old radio for example) should have some useful copper wire in it.

To make the loop I took 4 equal lengths and wound them together, and what you get should look like the picture below.

The wire loop - 

I used a drill to wind it, it's quicker.

 It's simple to make and comes from the heart, and all it takes is a little time and effort, you'll be re-cycling and did I mention it's cheap (virtually free) which means you can always use the money you saved to replenish the beer supply so you have some tin for next Valentines or for when ever you feel like making something for your better half.

Thanks for reading.

Inspire Me Beautiful

Monday, 13 February 2012

Skeleton plaster casting set ... ...

I often look in our local charity shops for odd things, or stuff that might prove useful and the other day I found something that will come in very handy.

It's a plaster casting set, it makes a 45cm tall skeleton and it cost a £1 there's a chance that something like this might pop up in one of the myriad of pound / 99p shops that seem to be springing up, but I doubt the quality would be as good as this set.

The set, which was complete (even had plaster) -

How cool !

Inside the box -

Even had a strip of magnetic tape.

Of course since I bought it home the kids have been plaguing me to make a skeleton, so the other day I thought we should have a go and see what it turns out like, it's actually quite detailed, which will come in handy when the kids want to learn about different bones and such like, there's no plaster in the picture above because I'd used it all before I took the picture :-)

Here's a completed skeleton - 

Not painted yet.

It's pretty cool, and for a quid you can't really complain, but because the moulds are very sturdy it can be reused and so we are now thinking it'll come in handy for Halloween related crafts  mu ha ha ha !

On a side note once I'd removed the skeleton from the kitchen table this is what was left, really hoping that it's just because the plaster was still a little wet, otherwise the damn things haunted :-/

Some one call ghost busters !

Thanks for reading.

Me and My Shadow

Valentines wooden heart ... ...

This is a quick and easy to make valentines gift, all you need is some sticks, glue (a glue gun is probably best) something to help you make the shape (I used a large  cookie cutter) and some ribbon or string to hang it with.

You don't have to use a mould, but it is much easier to keep it all together while you work out how many sticks you need, I also found it handy to have a mould when gluing it together.

 This is what you are aiming for (or similar) -

The big stick is  apiece of pear wood

 It's up to you how you go about making this, I used a larger stick for the middle of the heart so that I could add mine and my wife's initials, big softy that I am :-)

Basically all you do is fill the mould (cookie cutter) with sections of stick the same length, I made mine about an inch long, it doesn't have to be too precise.

The sticks and cookie cutter -

Already glued but you can see what I did.

Another picture to show the thickness -

I used some eucalyptus sticks, but anything will do.

You can glue the sticks as you go, but I found that it was easier to glue the sticks with them already in the right shape, I kind of cheated by squirting glue from the glue gun into the gaps on what was the back of the heart, that way you don't see the glue from the front, keeping it in the mould makes it much less fiddly.

I wanted a larger piece of wood in the middle so that I could add a little extra to the heart, making it a little more personal. I drew our initials in pencil on the thicker part so that I could use my pyrography tool to burn the wood, if you don't have a pyrography tool you could use a soldering iron, or you can paint it, or use pens, it's up to you.

Pencil outlines - 

Not the neatest of writing.

With the pencil lines burned into the wood -

Now it just needs something for it to hang on.

It's done, well almost now it just needs something, like a loop of string, or in this case ribbon so that it can be hung on a wall, and for that all you need to do is glue the ribbon/string onto the back of the heart.

And you should end up with something like this - 

Easy peasy.

There you have it, a great handmade valentines present, takes hardly any time to make and costs next to nothing, but it's not about how much things cost, it's about the effort you put into it, the effort and though that went into making a very personal valentines gift for the special person in your life, it has to be better than getting a bunch of flowers from the local garage.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Wood turning with intent ... ...

Normally when I turn wood I don't set out to make a specific thing, I tend to just see what happens, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't and sometimes I end up with a mess, or at least what looks like a mess at first glance.

One such occasion I wrote about in this post - potenstein (opens in new window) in the end things turned out okay.

This is what potenstein ended up looking like -

Metal and wood working together.

So I decided this time to actually try and make a piece that incorporated wood and another material, in this case some leather, now the last time I experimented it was because the pot I made started to crack and I thought I'd try and salvage it, this time however I set out to actually force the wood to do what I wanted, which in theory sounds easy, but not so, as I've come to discover every bit of wood behaves differently, even pieces cut from the same section will vary in the way they respond to being turned.

I decided to pick a piece of cypress for my experiment, mainly because it is the most predictable of the woods I have, even then it still has a mind of it's own, some bits crack others don't and so on.

Designing a piece of wood with a specific outcome is not really something I've done all that much of, I prefer to let the wood tell me what shape it wants to be (sounds corny, but there you go) even so I had an idea and I did do a few (very rough) sketches of what I wanted to make, so I set about turning a rough shape.

This is how it did look -

Any clues as to what I was trying to do ?

Another reason I picked cypress is because it has a nice grain pattern that I thought would emphasise what I was trying to make, at this point I was kind of hoping it would crack, only it didn't do what I wanted, which is typical really, you can bet if I'd wanted it to stay like this it wouldn't have.

I've finished it now and hopefully you can see what I was trying to do, some parts were a little more complicated than I first though, but from the responses of the few people that have seen it I think I've pulled it off.

The finished piece -

Can you guess what it is yet ?

It took me a while to figure out the best way to lace it up, and as I discovered it wasn't that easy, but it had to be done like this other wise it wouldn't have looked right, I did experiment with various lacing styles, but this one seems to suit it better.
All in all I'm quite pleased with how it turned out, although there are things I'll do differently for the next time I make one and for some of the other ideas I have I will have to adapt the method.

Thanks for reading.