Sunday, December 31, 2017

Tiki build-along, pt. 16

The holiday break resulted in my tackling a couple tiki-related projects I'd been putting off for a while. First up was a task of necessity. We've got a dog run/kennel on the side of the house, adjacent to the pool. It was kind of hastily improvised when we moved in, and not updated since. One of our beagles, Polkadots, has become something of a Houdini, escaping from the back yard on a regular basis, and the kennel has been the only thing keeping him in check. Until recently, when he discovered how to climb over the kennel gate (which, admittedly, was pretty low). Stopgap measures proved futile, so I bit the bullet and built a 5-foot bamboo gate to (hopefully) keep him contained. I harvested and torched all the bamboo myself, which was exceptionally time-consuming. On the other hand, commercially-available bamboo fence runs upwards of $90 for an 8' roll of 6' high fence, so yeah, I guess the sweat equity was worth it.

Traditional Japanese bamboo fencing is tied onto the support structure, but that didn't look viable for this job. Instead, I laid out the bamboo and drilled pilot holes through each culm, then used tan deck screws to attach them to the gate frame, which is just a basic kit available at Lowe's, Home Depot or other lumber yard. I used scrap 2x4s coated with Flood weather sealant to complete the frame, keeping costs down.

I need to point out that while I flame-treated the bamboo, I did not have the time to age it as long as I should have. Despite storing it in my heated garage with a dehumidifier running, the bamboo isn't anywhere nearly as dried out as it should be. It's pretty heavy still, and I anticipate a good deal of shrinkage in the months to come as it sheds that water weight.

To preserve its longevity, I needed to seal up the top so it didn't absorb additional water and rot. Most sections I was able to cut close to the node, which I capped with outdoor-rated wood putty, and then sealed with spar urethane once the putty was dried and sanded. Some sections weren't cut close to the node, however, so I used a can of "Good Stuff" foam sealant to fill in the space (that stuff expands a lot!) then, after trimming away the cured excess, capped with wood putty and a coat of urethane. The result is a bamboo gate that's waterproof from the top, at least. I filled the bamboo hollows on the bottom with the foam and then added a coat of urethane, but didn't go the wood putty route. There won't be any setting water at that end, so that should be sufficient to keep out splash and insects.

Once everything was dried, I installed the gate, setting two steel posts in fast-setting concrete. Doing this necessitated removing the rusting steel garden arbor the previous owners had left behind. Did you know rusting steel garden arbors harbor massive amounts of foul-smelling black water? I didn't either, but now I do. Digging post holes of sufficient depth through my predominantly clay soil was a good deal of work. Then I moved some stone slabs around to prevent the dogs from tunneling under. The gate latch, for now, is a chain-and-hook setup, but that will change once I replace the rest of the fence. There've been two escapes since the gate went in, but both those times were the result of my poorly-attaching the existing fence to the gate posts, which I have (hopefully) since rectified. We shall see how permanent the containment is from here on out.

Next up, a project I actually began way back in the spring. In fact, you can see the basic box-frame on top of the back bar in this post. When I realized I was going to add a back bar to my tiki paradise, I knew I wanted a rum shelf as a part of it. So I built a frame using scrap plywood and a chopped up 2x4 to craft a shelf roughly 42" long and 6" deep. The outside I would clad in bamboo sections roughly 6" tall--1" taller than the shelf itself.

I'm not sure how others would attach the bamboo, but I decided to wire it. To get everything to line up, I traced a guide line along the shelf roughly 4" up, then marked each of the bamboo sections at the same height. From there, I drilled two holes in both the shelf and the bamboo sections that, if my measurements were correct, lined up more or less accurately.

Then I fished 22 gauge jewelry wire through the bamboo. This Took some trial-and-error to perfect, but eventually I settled on a system where I fed in enough wire to reach through the end of the bamboo, at which point I bent it into a hook that slipped through the second hole. Then I pulled it through with a pair of needle-nose pliers.

Simply tying it off after slipping the wires through the holes drilled in the plywood did not offer anywhere near the stability I wanted. So I cut a wooden dowel to size and tied the wires over this. That helped considerably. Thicker wire would've helped as well. I started out with 24 gauge wire, but that snapped too often as I tied it. 22 gauge worked better, but I still had some breaks. 20 gauge might've offered better strength, but was more expensive for shorter lengths. Pick your poison.

Cutting all those sections of bamboo on the band saw took a lot of time. As did the drilling and the tying. Why are all my projects so time-consuming?

Once I got all those little boogers into place, I ran Titebond II glue down along the intersection of the bamboo and plywood, to add stability. It's not going to ever be rock solid, but as long as it isn't loose, I'm good. It's not like the bamboo should be subjected to a lot of stress. Then there was the open ends of the bamboo to deal with--I didn't want dirt and insects in there, this being an outside bar, after all. If it ain't broke, don't fix it is good advice, so I fell back on the process that served me well for the gate above--Good Stuff foam to fill the gaps, then a layer of outdoor wood putty finished with a sealing coat of spar urethane. Note that I didn't coat the entire piece of bamboo--the heat treatment gave them a resinous coating that is pretty much waterproof already, and paint, stain, sealants don't adhere well, either. In a few years, it may wear off sufficiently that a urethane coating will be necessary. Until then, it's only the ends I'm worried about sealing.

Then I attached the rum shelf to the back bar using a couple of galvanized mending plates. Simple and straightforward, plus it doesn't mar the back bar surface if, for some reason, the rum shelf ever needs to be removed. Note the grooves I have routered into the shelf supports. The reason is that, as originally conceived, the actual shelf would be comprised of translucent plexiglass, with a color-changing LED light strip strung along those grooves, illuminating the bottles of liquor from below. Alas, plexiglass isn't cheap--which I learned when building my tiki mug cabinets--and the thickness I needed for the rum shelf was even less cheap than normal. Rather than delay the implementation of the rum shelf whilst I waited for sufficient expendable funds to accrue, I simply cut a section of the laminate flooring from my office--the same stuff making up the bar top--to serve as the shelf. Quick and easy on the wallet. On top of that, it matches the bar and looks darn good, even if it doesn't light up from below.

And here is the rum shelf in action, playing host to a selection of tasty rums along with assorted liqueurs and the odd interloping vodka, bourbon and cognac. Now, the final project remaining to complete my back bar is installing the sink and running water. Which will be an undertaking best left for 2018. Regardless, I'm happy with the way it's shaping up as of now.

Here's wishing you a safe and happy 2018. Happy new year!

Now Playing: London Philharmonic Orchestra Symphonic Pink Floyd
Chicken Ranch Central

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