Saturday, December 24, 2011

DIY: Constructing a side gate Part Two

With the gate frame hung, time to finish things off - really wanted it done by xmas day, so I finished 99% of the gate yesterday. Usual disclaimer applies - these pictures for informative/educational purposes only, no responsibility taken if you cut a finger off or your house collapses while trying anything you see here etc.

Picked up some screening slats from our local timber wholesaler, a hardwood called Ironsomething in 180cm width, 7cm height. You can also use decking timber as slats, but most decking timber is reeded (grooved underneath) whereas slats are DAR (Dressed All Round, or smooth/finished on all sides) and slats are thinner/weigh less than decking. Anyway I had planned to use 17 slats, but after trial fitting all the slats, took a few off to reduce weight on the gate. Fortunately the precut length was exactly right for the gate size.


You need to predrill all the holes for mounting the slats, otherwise the wood will crack. Drill out the holes large enough so the fixing screws don't impact on the wood!

Calculate the proper spacing for your slats and mark on the frame. That said, I tried to calculate the right distances and I must've screwed something up, because after marking the frame and trial fitting the slats again, everything was way off. I gave up on that, and used a couple of hardwood stakes to get the spacing right. Anyway, I fitted the first three top and bottom slats, then every few slats after that I rechecked all the spacings.

Seemed to turn out OK. Now, if I'd been more prepared here, I would've bough a bit of extra galvanised steel to reinforce the centre mount of each slat, as 180cm is quite a wide span. I'll get it done in a week or so. To secure the slats to the metal frame, I used galvanised self-tapping metal screws. Make sure they're galvanised or stainless steel screws (more expensive) to prevent rusting!

Finally, with a bit of muscle from Tina, we rehung the game. Let's see the dog get out of this one!

 So there's only a couple of things left to get this gate finished properly.
  1. Reinforce the middle of the gate with a gate of extra galvanised steel, and secure each slat to that to prevent the slats sagging over time.
  2. After a week or two of weathering, stain/oil the timber. Will choose a dark stain to match the bricks.
  3. Install a latch to the brickwork to secure the gate shut.
Pretty happy so far with how it has turned out. Overall cost, about $160 for the gate frame kit, $10 in misc screws, $95 for timber. 10 minutes to screw the frame together, 15 minutes to align and install hinges, and about an hour to measure out, predrill and screw in the slats and hang.

And to everyone, merry xmas - hope there's plenty of beer and food coming your way!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

DIY: Constructing a side gate Part One

Since we moved in, been struggling to find time to do all the little jobs, but we're slowly crossing them off the list. I'd tried to get some people in to quote on making a side gate, but no-one is interested in small jobs - or if they are, they quote exorbitant amounts to make it not worth your while. Anyway, we need a proper side gate to keep the dog secure.

Thing you might need: Safety gear( gloves, eye and ear protection. A level. Drill/driver. Timber screws. Measuring tape. Hammer or mallet. 

So we picked up a Fortress gate kit from our local hardware supplier. This is just a frame kit, you can choose from a variety of heights and widths, and if it doesn't suit your width exactly, you can cut the width using a hacksaw. For us, the 1.8m wide kit was just right.

The horizontal bars are on the left, and the vertical bars are on the right. Hinges are pre-installed. I laid out the kit so I could figure out where each section would go. Since it's a wide gate, there's a diagonal brace. Very important the the brace runs diagonally down to the bottom hinge as shown in the photo below! If it's the other way around, it doesn't brace the gate in compression and your gate will come apart!

Anyway, it was pretty simple to put it together, took me about 10 minutes. Use a mallet or hammer with a bit of scrap wood to put everything together. The kit comes with some self-tapping metal screws to secure all the parts once you've put it together.

End result. This gate is 1.8m wide and 1.4m high.

So this is where the gate is going to be placed. I thought about attaching the gate with the hinges against our wall, but I'm not that keen on using Dynabolts, chemset screws etc into our brickwork to hold the weight of the gate. Instead, I've decided to mount the gate with the hinges on one of the existing fenceposts, the one painted a bit grey on the right. The fencepost isn't quite plumb vertical, but I can allow for that. Should the fence be replaced in future, just need to unscrew the hinges and re-mount the gate.


Ideally you'd have a second person to help you install these hinges. Estimate where the gate should go and make sure it clears any ground covering you have. Try to get the hinges plumb vertical. The kit doesn't come with any screws to install the hinges, so I got a packet of these timber screws as shown.

After both hinges are secured, hang your gate frame!

And if you took some care, the gate should be nice and level after all your work.

 So with the frame all installed and level, the next step is to choose what cladding to put on it. You could use traditional timber pickets, colorbond, slats etc. We'll head out later this week to pick what cladding to use; most likely a Merbau to be stained dark; though I'm also considering a composite product that doesn't require ongoing maintenance.

Cost of the frame kit was about $150, plus a few bucks for the hinge screws. Just need to add in the cost of cladding and more self-tapping metal screws to attach it to the frame, and then a latch to secure it against the house. So far, a pretty simple project, not too costly, and well worth giving it a shot if you can't get any reliable tradesmen to give you a quote on making your own side gate!


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol! A reason to get out of your home theatre?

So the other night we decided to get out for an evening and catch the latest installment in the Mission: Impossible franchise. It's like James Bond crossed with Nathan Drake (for anyone who has played the Uncharted games!)

So we saw it in Hoyts Melb Central, but it wasn't until after that I learned that a few sequences were shot in IMAX format. Did anyone else see The Dark Knight in Imax, where it took up the whole huge screen (it was awesome...). Anyway there's a neat skyscraper sequence in Ghost Protocol that would look similarly great in IMAX, and usually Imax isn't that much more than a regular movie to see, so I'd recommend that if you're interested in a decent action movie!

The highs: Lots of gadgets, actions, explosions. Tom Cruise doing his usual "running very fast away from people with guns/explosions" (as per Minority Report, Knight & Day, all the other M:I movies etc)

The lows: Bizarrely improbable/barely intelligible plot. But then again, this is an action movie people, plot would simply detract from the computer integrated into a contact lens gadget. No big deal, just sit back and enjoy!

Funnily enough the very first M:I movie was on TV last week, and in the opening scene is the team leader, watching a cassette on an aeroplane, then smoking. It came out all the way back in 1996!

Anyway, overall review for MI Ghost Protocol - a good solid 8/10. It's the fourth in the series, so you know what to expect by now!Oh yeah - and Simon Pegg is (as usual) brilliant as the comic relief in this film. If you haven't seen his other work, go watch Shaun of the Dead and Star Trek (reboot) right now!

Anyway how does this relate to everything else? Since we moved into our house, we've only gone out to  see a movie twice (the other one was Contagion which was pretty good too - a two hour movie about taking  sickie from work, but very well directed). I remember seeing that movie, wonder why the seats were small, made of dirty fabric with someone else's food on the food, and they didn't recline? I think I liked it better in my own home theatre! Yeah it's definitely an indulgence, but we both work long hard hours in difficult jobs, and there's nothing better than sitting down to watching 4 episodes of battlestar galatica back-to-back on your own 3m screen! (except if you go to watch a movie in IMAX which I'll grudgingly accept is totally much better!)


Sunday, December 4, 2011

DIY: Old pine furniture makeover

So, having previously modernised an old file cabinet to go in our study, found another unwilling victim to experiment on. This is an old pine 2 drawer bedside table I've had since I was a kid - I was unwilling to throw it out or donate it, but didn't want it in our house looking how it did, with many decades of abuse, the varnish peeling off, and the pine starting to yellow. The choice was either to stain it in a very dark finish like Japan Black, or to try the distressed/whitewashed look. Because the thing was in pretty poor shape already, with lots of dents and scratches, I figured the distressed look would be the way to go! Tina also picked out a really nice black French style chandelier for the entrance way, so a little bit of the house might be the "French Provincial" style, a nice contrast to the rest of the Modernist/mid-century/modern mix style of the rest of the house.

Materials needed: sanding block, medium grit sandpaper (about 400), semi-gloss enamel paint, some paintbrushes, lots of spare newspaper.

First of all, took everything outside and using the sandpaper and block, sand off all the clearcoat to get to bare wood. Wipe it off using a damp disposable cloth to get rid of all the dust. Wish I had a "before" photo for this project, but looks like I forgot!

Took it all back inside to paint, covering the floor with newspaper. Would be better if you could paint it in your garage though, as the enamel paint fumes aren't good for brain cells. I bought a little pot of semigloss enamel paint (usually used for your skirting boards, window frames etc) and some cheap brushes, and had a go slopping the paint everywhere. Didn't aim for a good finish, since the aim is to make the final product look slightly worn.

Don't paint the inside wood runners as either the drawers will bind, or you won't be able to get the drawers in at all if there's a fine clearance. Didn't bother painting inside the drawers, but you could if you wanted to. Let things dry off, and keep the dog away from it all.

After a day of drying, put it all back together. You could also have removed the doorknobs first, and replaced them with some other style - same with the legs. Actually looks pretty good in real life!

To get a really distressed look, you would now get your sandpaper and file away at the corners and edges to remove the enamel paint. However, if you wanted a really good (non-distressed) finish to your project, you should probably coat the wood with a primer prior to applying the enamel, and use a spray gun with multiple fine coats  to get an even finish, since it's impossible with paintbrushes.

Anyway, this was a nice way of preserving an old bit of furniture and making it fit in with our new house.



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