I decided to take a couple days off of work to catch up on some of my projects at home. Taking Thursday and Friday off gave me a nice 4 day vacation, or “stay-cation”, as they say, since I stayed home for it. It’s Sunday morning and I’ve already gotten a lot done and still have a whole day to go.
In just three days I’ve organized our garage (it was a disaster), built a solid workbench, got my hydroponics experiment working, started a new colony of Black Soldier Flies, and built a really nice door for the chicken coop. Keep reading for quick summary of each of these projects along with pictures.
Chicken Coop Door
Up until now, the coop run (the open area outside the “cabin”) has been fully enclosed with hardware cloth, including the spot where a door should be, making it impossible for me to get in there without removing staples and getting cut by the sharp edges of the mesh. So after a couple weeks of planning, I acquired the tools I needed to make a good door.
Having just moved to this, our first house, from a series of apartments, my tool collection was lacking some woodworking essentials. Having a lot of difficulty with squaring up joints in previous projects, this time I picked up a variety of different clamps to get the job done right. My two new 48” pipe clamps might be my new favorite tools. These things are super handy and strong.
As you can see in the photos, I squared everything up and clamped it all down tight. I decided it would be too difficult to try to toe screw the 1”x4” pine boards at the corners, so I ended up relying on small pieces of 1”x4” cut with 45° ends for a good connection. I screwed those to the frame and it turned out to be really sturdy and, best of all, square.
After that, the frame was ready for a layer of hardware cloth, which was stapled down liberally for a tight and flat bond. I added more of the diagonal pieces of 1”x4” on top of the hardware cloth, sandwiching it between the two layers of the frame. This gave the door a ton of rigidity and a classic barn style.
To attach the door to the coop I had to add a few new studs for support and to put the hinge on the correct plane so the door would be flush when closed. I used a heavy duty Stanely spring-loaded hinge, the same as the one on the back door of the coop’s cabin. The hinge is spring-loaded so it will close (at an adjustable speed/force) if accidentally left open.
Overall, the door turned out way better than I expected. I outdid myself on this one. All that is left is adding a latch and a few coats of paint!
My favorite aspect of home-ownership, after years of renting apartments, is having the space for doing all these projects. A solid, rugged workbench is a must for somebody who stays as busy as I do. Previously I had been doing all my projects (like building an Electric Brewery control panel) on an IKEA table covered with a layer of cardboard… not exactly ideal for banging on things and just generally making a mess of things. After a lengthy garage clean-out, there was a lot of space to fill, and a workbench fit the bill.
I expected to spend a lot of time planning, but I came across a great design with complete plans almost immediately with some quick Googling. The plans turned out to be extremely well thought-out, as they produced close to zero waste. Luckily, I had all of the building materials I needed which were leftover from the coop build. I highly recommend the plans for this workbench if you’re looking to build one yourself.
The materials and the cost breakdown:
16 x 2”x4”x8’ stud (about $3 ea.) ($50) 1 x 4’x8’ plywood board ($15) 1 x 4’x8’ peg board ($17) 1 x 1lb of 3” deck screws ($10) 1 x 1/2lb of 1.5” deck screws ($5) 1 x Hanging shop light enclosure ($30) 2 x T8 shop light bulb ($5) 1 x Metal housing power strip ($23) Misc peg-board accessories ($20) Total Cost: $175
I finished a project that had been stalled after finding an item in my house while unpacking some moving boxes that would work perfectly as a media guard. Previous attempts at making a media guard that would keep the HydroCorn from getting sucked into the bell siphon had failed, but this new two-stage design seems to work well.
I wrapped some mesh-like fabric around the PVC media guard from the last attempt and secured it with rubber bands. The fabric is longer than the guard and that is on purpose; it kind of folds in toward the bell siphon, creating a barrier along the bottom (as opposed to just the sides). The new piece of the equation came in the form of a cheap pencil holder from IKEA. It already had holes in it and, best of all, had a bottom unlike the PVC. I cut a whole to fit the drain through and placed it between the seal of the growbed, making a water tight seal that would also hold the media guard in place. Part of the fault of the PVC filter alone was that it would be pulled up when the HydroCorn would float as the water rose. This design keeps it pressed firmly to the bottom of the bed.
I’ll do more hydroponics updates in the future, as I’m hoping to integrate a tank with many goldfish to make it a true small-scale auquaponics ecosystem. My first attempt failed, resulting in the loss of 14 goldfish.
In the next post, I’ll give a tour of my Black Soldier Fly harvesting strategy, which is more of an experiment right now.