Friday, 25 May 2012

Garden edging made from pallets ... ...

If like me you make loads of stuff out of old pallets (or any type of wood for that matter) you may have a lot of off cuts, and in the case of pallets maybe some broken bits, well here's an interesting use for them.

Garden edging can be expensive, I've seen it in pound shops though, but if you have the wood you might as well make some yourself.
You only need a few tools, a saw,tape measure,staple gun and some strimmer wire (the thicker the better) and perhaps a few other bits and bobs.

Broken bits of pallets -

These have been on my shed roof for a while.

You'll need to work out what length to make each section of edging, I made mine about 16inches, mainly because I had a short piece of wood I used as a guide, which oddly enough was about 16inches long.

Once you cut your lengths of wood you'll need to make one end of each piece pointed, this will help when hammering the edging into the ground, basically you want to make a load of flat stakes.
I made a template rather than measure and then cut each piece (I made 20 pieces in the end)

To make the template find the middle of the wood, then measure 2inches up on either side then you just need to draw a line on each side from the centre to the mark on each edge.

Like this - 

It doesn't have to be too precise.

And then you just use the template to mark each bit of wood and then get cutting, this can also be done (a lot quicker) on a mitre saw, but I couldn't be bothered to get mine from the shed.

Anyone for a stake ? - 

Just need a vampire or 2 and I'm sorted.

Next you want to line up all your stakes, it helps if you can butt them up against something, I used the back door step.

All lined up -

Now we just need to fix them together.

This is where the strimmer wire comes in, you can use metal garden wire, but it does tend to rust and break after a short space of time, where as the strimmer wire being plastic will last much longer.

All you need to do is staple the wire to each stake, a line at the top of the stakes and one at the bottom of the stakes.

Like so -

All done.

To stop the wire slipping out of the staples you can loop it round and fix it, you don't have to use a staple gun, you could use small wire clips, a staple gun is quicker though, and if some of the staples don't go into the wood all the way, just give them a tap with a hammer.

The loop - 

Use a staple or 2 to fix the wire.

And that's about it, you can make it on long lengths or short ones, the height is up to you, it's easy to make and if you already have a load of off cuts it's a good way to use them up.

I took a picture of it standing up, just for demonstration purposes, I shall be using the stuff I've made to make a raised bed or two, but one that can be moved and rolled up when it's not in use, I'm leaving the wood plain, but you can always paint it, or stain it for a nicer look, not that bare wood isn't nice.

It works ! -

You get the idea :-)

Thanks for reading.


Allotment update & problem chickens ... ...

We've actually had some sunshine, and for more than a few hours, so I took the opportunity to visit the plot, not much to report, although things are progressing at a nice pace, the spuds are doing okay, but will need lots of water, which means many trips to the tap with buckets and watering cans.

The spuds -

Still got some growing to do.

The strawberry plants seem to be doing okay as well, soon have some fruit on them - 

Best keep the kids away from them, or they'll disappear quickly.

I also managed to get some more peas in the ground and some broad beans (bit later than I intended) and I got a row of turnips in, quite like a nice turnip, there's a fair bit of weeding to do in amongst the stuff that's already been sown, but I shall probably leave that for a slightly less warm day, it was very hot.

The string for the peas and beans - 

The kids love peas straight from the plant, but then who doesn't.

 And apart from the odd bit of weeding that's about all I did, just keeping on top of things really.

You may or may not know that we have 3 chickens at the moment, and for the most part it's been pretty much plain sailing, but we have had some small issues, although not really a problem to be honest it's all adding to our chicken keeping experience.

Problem chicken - 'A' (also known as Zelda)

She's fine now, and doing well despite the problems.

Yes meet Zelda (subject 'A') we noticed a couple of weeks ago that she seemed to be staying away from the other chickens, and she seemed kind of down and not very enthusiastic about anything, not even food, it was then that we noticed her crop was very large, and felt like a balloon full of water, it was also very warm to the touch.

So after some checking online we discovered that she may have something called sour crop, which is essentially a fungal infection caused by the crop not emptying and the food that's in it fermenting, and that's what would have happened had we not discovered that for some odd reason the daft chicken had some how swallowed a large stone which had basically blocked her crop and was stopping it from emptying.

One of the things you can do to help with sour crop is to pick the chicken up and tip it forward which make the bird vomit, not very pleasant, and it has to be done with some care as you can cause the chicken to choke, this is how we discovered the stone, it came out on the second attempt at getting her to vomit (luckily) and after that she was fine, we did give her some natural yoghurt which helps balance the bacteria in the crop out, they really like natural yoghurt by the way, I am pleased to say that Zelda is now back to her old self, which basically means eating anything that moves.

And now subject 'B'(also known as Dotty)

Wot you looking at ! ?

This is more a normal problem, if there is such a thing, it seems Dotty has turned a touch broody (okay a lot broody) this is basically a natural response to laying eggs, she's trying to hatch them, which might not seem like a problem, however the eggs aren't going to hatch, and so she's sitting on any eggs she finds and staying there, and because of this she isn't eating as much as she should, chickens have been known to starve themselves trying to hatch eggs, not good.

The treatment for this is patience (on our part) we've been disrupting her when she's in the nest boxes, we've also been taking the eggs away when they are laid, although Dotty herself has stopped laying, and as soon as the other chicken have laid we now shut off the nest box altogether, we've also been leaving it shut over night as well, it sounds mean but it's for the best, and at least now once she realises she can't get into the nest boxes she goes and eats and scratches about like she should be doing.

Ideally we would separate her from the other so that disruptions to the other hens is kept at a minimum, but we aren't really set up for that, and things aren't too bad, in fact I'd go as far as to say things are slowly improving, one of the other things we tried and had results from is putting Dotty into a bucket of cold water, yes you read that right, because she is running very warm (she's basically a walking incubator) using cold water cools her down, and because she can't get back to the nest boxes she's not able to warm up as quickly, this apparently cures them of the broodiness, so far it seems she is much less broody than she was, but the main thing is she's eating and not likely to starve any time soon, I'll keep you updated.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Homemade copper wind chime ... ...

Me again, for some time I've been thinking about making a wind chime, and I've finally managed it, and from mostly scrap copper, I did by 5 bits of gas fire tube from b&q they were on offer for £1 a length, I figured I'd get them, you never know when you might have need for 5 random bits of tube, and besides which although they had been painted black they were copper.

Now this wind chime does require some tools, like metal cutters, a pipe cutter and a small hole boring bit (you'll see why I needed that) a hacksaw and possibly the use of a small gas blow torch and some lead solder (all of which I have) although buying these tools isn't that expensive, but I would say in the case of the metal cutters it's worth spending a few quid extra for a good set.

Here's the wind chime -

It'll fit in the garden better when it goes green.

This another one I made, slightly different method of construction than the first - 

This one has a better chime to it.

 I made them from copper tubing I had lying about, along with some salvaged copper wire and the tube I got cheap from b&q.

Basically all I've done is cut out a star shape from a bit of the copper tube (I'll explain in a minute) and then using copper wire I've hung five small bits of tube and a small stone from the star shape, with a further bit of wire hanging from the stone to which I attached a small moon shape, again made from a bit of copper tube.

To cut out the star shape I used a bit of 22mm copper tube, and to turn it into a sheet I made a cut in it then opened it out wire two pairs of pliers, then to get it nice and flat I used a small hammer.

Cutting the tube (you could use a hack saw to cut it) -

I wasn't being too careful.

Section of tube ready to be turned into a small sheet -

Right off to the vice, which is handy for this type of thing.

In the vice being cut -

Nearly done.

And now opening it up - 

Once it's opened it's just a case of bashing it with a hammer.

Then all you need to do is lay the opened up tube on a flat surface and tap it gently with a hammer until it's flat, and you should then have a small copper sheet.

Like this -

Ready for a shape to be scribed onto it.

Next you need to draw your shape onto it, for this you should use something sharp like a scribe or maybe a small screw driver.

My scribe -


Now you need to cut out the shape you drew, this is where a set of metal cutters (tin snips) come in handy, you could cut out the shape with a hacksaw, but metal cutters are better.

The shape marked out and ready to be cut - 

My tin snips (metal cutters) - 

Quite old now.

Now before you start cutting ! put on some gloves, like leather gardening gloves, why ? well because the edges will be sharp and if you slip whilst cutting you'll end up with a nasty cut, and it'll hurt like hell (trust me I know) you can smooth the edges off with a bit of sand paper or a metal file.

The moon shape for the bottom of the chime - 

Bit dull isn't it.

Don't worry about the colour of the shape, or the tubes, you can give them a rub with a bit of wire wool, an old scouring pad to brighten them up a bit, but in the long run if you hang this outside it will eventually go a nice green colour as the copper oxidises which is known as vert de gris, I've put this one in the garden as I want it to go green.

After a bit of a scrub - 

Nice and clean now.

To hang all the bits together I used copper wire salvaged from an old pc power supply transformer, most electronic equipment contains copper wire in some for, normally on the transformer, and it can also be found in different gauges (thicknesses) We recently went through a load of old stereo equipment and found loads of it, it can be difficult to get the copper out, but in the long run it'll save a fair bit of cash compared to buying it.

My copper wire - 

There's loads of it on here.

Now simply hanging the tubes on plain wire is a bit boring so I tend to make braids from the wire first, this is basically just a case of taking four equal lengths of wire and twisting them together, which I do by holding the ends of the four lengths of wire in a vice, and the other ends I put in one of my cordless drills, then I slowly press the drills trigger and what I end up with looks like the picture below.

Twisted wire - 

Better than plain bits of wire.

Interestingly this method is how the old tribes of Britain used to make torcs and such like, only they didn't use drills to do the twisting, they did it by hand, and a lot better than me.

Right we have our small tubes for the chime, I used five (one on each point of the star) and kept them at equal lengths, but how long and how you arrange them is up to you.

To fix the wires to the star I drilled a hole on each point, then I just threaded a length of wire through the hole and put a not in it to stop it falling out, yes this wire can be knotted easily if you are gentle with it.

Wire knots - 

A small pair of pliers comes in handy for this.

My chime during construction - 

all shiny, for now.

I have to admit when it came to fixing the chime tubes to the star I was a bit puzzled, I couldn't think of a good way of doing it, and get the chime to look how I wanted, but after a bit of messing about I figured out a pretty good method.

What I did was to make five loops that fitted inside the tubes, then I could simply put the wire through the loop and twist it together.

Like this - 

Simply really.

To make the loops all I did was to drill a hole in each tube, just a small way from the end, then I poked a bit of copper wire through, I used thicker gauge wire as I don't want them to come out easily.

Here are the steps to make the loops for each chime - 

Wire threaded.

It's best to make sure there's a good amount of wire each side of the tube.

Next using a set of needle nosed pliers to pull the wire out of the tube.

Making the loop - 

Any thin nosed pliers should do.

And pull, making sure that the wire doesn't come out of each hole.

And we have a loop - 

Just a bit of tidying up now.

Now we just need to bend the wire up and snip of any extra.

The finished loop - 

It worked better than I thought it would.

Right onto the part that will hang in the middle of the chime and move about in the wind and make things chime, for this I used a pebble, but you could use a bit of wood, a bit of metal or anything else that will make a nice sound when it hits the metal chimes.

And that's why I needed a small hole boring bit, I found a 10mm (perhaps a bit big) in b&q for £2.99 not bad really, I could have just wrapped the wire around the pebble, it would have worked just as well.

The pebble striker - 

We seem to have a load of pebbles for some reason.

I made a length of twisted wire and threaded it through a hole on the middle of the star and the other end I tied to the pebble, I then used another length of twisted wire to attach the moon shape which hangs at the very bottom of the chime, I fixed the moon with another knot.

The moon - 

The pitting looks good I think.

As this is made with copper you can use a small bit of solder on the metal twists to hold things together, but as long as you twist things up nice and tight (use pliers) it should be fine.

I'm thinking of selling these in the shop, I think they are pretty cool, and I'm pleased that it worked as well, I haven't really done any of this type of metal work for years, and once it's turned green it should look even better.

A slightly better picture of the finished chime - 

Chimey whimey

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Magpie Monday - Homemade wines & drinks ...

I thought I'd add my two pence to this weeks Magpie Monday (well 50p actually)

We've been making our own wines for a couple of years now, and generally we have had some good drinkable wines, some more alcoholic than others, so far we've made blackberry,apple,plum, with shop bought plums, and with foraged plums and I've also made ginger wine.

Although making wine is easy enough it never hurts to have a book or two, and I figured that the recipe book for wines and drinks I noticed in one of our charity shops was worth it's 50p price tag, it's and old-ish book, but it has some very interesting recipes in it.

The book -

Originally published in 1963 (I think)

It has some very good stuff in it, including a Mead recipe, which I'm eager to try, it also has some what might be considered odd recipes, like Beetroot wine, along with other types of veg, like celery and spiced carrot, not sure if I want to try them to be honest.

Beetroot wine (I wasn't making it up) - 

I'm not a fan of Beetroot.

It's a good book if you enjoy a bit of foraging as well, these a good and easy to make recipe for Rosehip syrup which is very good for staving of colds in winter as Rosehips have a very high vitamin c content.

Rosehip syrup - 

Will be trying this.

And it's not all alcoholic drinks either, it has some stuff that kids will love, mainly involving chocolate, things like the chocolate marshmallow float and loads of others, the book also offers some simple tips for decorating glasses and of course good glass keeping practices.

The Marshmallow float - 

I'm not a fan of chocolate, but I'm liking the sound of this.

So all in all for 50p there's a lot in this book to keep me busy for a while.

Thanks for reading.

Me and My Shadow

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Homemade spindle sander ... ...

This is a bit of a cheat really, but one of my recent projects required the use of a spindle sander, however I don't have one, so I made one, well it's more of a router table kind of thing.

Spindle sanders are very expensive and as I'll probably only use it now and then I can't really justify the expense (especially not at over £100 a throw) so I decided to turn my old router into a spindle sander, which did mean I had to buy a set of drum sanders and a few washers, but at £15 this is a lot cheaper.

Basically I found the centre of the plywood sheet and then cut out a hole the right size to fit the sanding drum into, I then used the plastic cover from the bottom of the router as a template and marked out a series of holes on a piece of plywood so I could fix the router to the wood and use it upside down.

The plastic template -

Worked quite well as a guide.

Hole saw, these come in very handy - 

Not the best picture.

I counter sunk the fixing holes to make sure that the fixing bolts wouldn't get in the way of what ever I was trying to sand, I used a Forstner bit to make the counter sinks, I made the holes big enough to fit the washers in as well.

Forstner bit (some people call them hinge cutters) - 

You can usually get these in sets.

The plywood plate with holes ready for fixing - 

Ready for the router.

The next thing to do was fix the router to the plywood, this was easy enough, as it was just a case of bolting the two bits together, I did take the router apart to make it easier to fix things together.

The routers plunge assembly - 

I had to find some longer bolts for fixing.

All fixed together - 

Ready to be fixed back on the router.

Once the plunge attachment was fixed to the wood it was just a case of fitting it back on the router and then fitting a sanding drum, I got a set with 5 different sized sanding drums, at the moment I'm using the largest, but as there are different sizes I have a fair bit of choice as to what I can do with the sander / router in terms of shaping wood.

Drum fitted - 

All done.

From a different angle - 

Ready for testing.

One of the other sanding drums from the set I have - 

It's just a big chunk of rubber with a bolt through it.

With sand paper tube attached - 

Smaller versions of this normally come with multi tools.

To use the sander I just fixed a piece of wood to one end of the plywood sheet so that I could grip it in the large vice I have in my shed, it also makes it easy to store as well, and as space is currently at a premium in my shed easily storing things is handy.

Mounted in vice - 

It's more secure than it looks.

It works ! - 

No it's not a loo seat.

Its not perfect, a proper spindle sander oscillates (goes up and down while spinning) and this doesn't,but for what I want it for it's pretty good, I guess if you had a router table you could do the same thing, mine does vibrate a fair bit, and it makes a lot of noise, but it does the job, and it means I can finish the lathe steady I'm making (that's what the thing that looks like a loo seat is) it also means I didn't have to spend a shed load of money.

Thanks for reading.