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Haul the Decks

20 Oct

We’re a bit behind in our posts (and we mean that in more ways than one – we’ve been repairing a section of a deck that we had to remove last year to fix a crack in the foundation.)  One thing we’ve learned already is that though we be novices, we’re already doing a better job than whoever built the original structure – that person apparently never heard of concrete footings.

Another thing we’ve learned is that, unsurprisingly,  those home fix-it shows you see on TV are completely unrealistic.  There’s always a guy or a woman with a cadre of helpers, every specialty tool ever invented, skid loaders, cement mixers, bulldozers, and an unlimited budget. In other words, it ain’t real life.

When people on do-it-yourself shows dig a post hole, they yank the start-up cord on that gasoline powered auger, and a lap dissolve later, they’re admiring the 20 post holes they’ve just dug.  In real life (at least in ours) we grab the hand auger, and after digging down less than a foot, we realize that there’s a tree root that we’ll have to tussle with before we can dig the hole.

On TV, the materials are delivered to the site by brawny  men in big trucks.  In real life, we ended up taking out the front passenger seat and entire back seat of our 2003 subcompact in order to haul the lumber. (The van rental place told us they didn’t have a vehicle, and we called on Tuesday for a Saturday rental – guess we should have called even earlier.)  Even with the modifications, we ended up making four trips.

Next there’s concrete – those posts have to rest on something, and concrete is the material of choice.  With concrete, it’s necessary to work reasonably quickly, which is completely contrary to our way of doing things.  We’d rather obsess and over think the task at hand, but cement waits for no one.

On TV, there’s that artificial sense of urgency as the crew scrambles to finish the job before 5 o’clock on Day X.  In real life, we’re scrambling to finish the darn thing before it gets too cold after having procrastinated all summer.

Now, we’re not complaining ( just kvetching ) it could be worse – hiring carpenters to do the work would cost a whole lot more. Sure, they’d do the work a lot faster than we could, and they’d probably do a much better job. However, we’d be depriving ourselves of the sense of accomplishment and the boost in self-esteem that comes from doing the work ourselves.  We’re still waiting for those things to kick in.

This is so not our deck ...

This is so not our deck …

Building Stuff with Wood – French Cleats

17 Oct

We like to think that De Jungle is all things to all people all the time. Not only do we like to talk about books, movies, government, etc., we also like to discuss woodworking (it shows what multimedia Renaissance folks we are.) Today we’ll discuss French cleats. These nifty things will help you hang pictures, shelves, whatever.

We recently needed to mount an oval shaped photograph encased in plexiglass. The traditional wire-and-hanger arrangement wouldn’t do, as the photo, while not heavy, was big and bulky. We also didn’t want to drill holes in the plexiglass to attach the wire.

oval picture with wooden frame

oval picture with wooden frame (seen from back of picture)

We used poplar to make a square frame and attached it to the plexiglass with epoxy (the frame was to prevent the plexiglass from warping.)

Frame with Cleats

Frame with Cleats


We attached a cleat to the top of the frame with the point of the cleat facing away from the artwork

Side View

Side view with grey wall at left


Here is a cutaway view showing the frame and artwork from the side. The cleat is in blue, whereas the amber color represents the artwork. The bottom cleat is in yellow attached to the grey wall at the left. (In real life, you wouldn’t be able to view the top cleat from the side, but we needed a way to illustrate it.)

In short, we think French cleats are an excellent way to help you hang objects when wire just won’t do.