Saturday, June 30, 2007

Project Updates - More Pavers, Playset Built

It's been a busy spring. I only slowed down this weekend due to a tweaked disc in my back. A couple of days of rest, physical therapy and joint supplements and I'm feeling 50% better. But, of more interest than my decaying body is what has been accomplished so far.

I wrote a little while back about some of the paver work I've been doing. Here's the second step on my landscaping that has been paved with the Old Port ™ Old Castle ™ pavers.

I can't remember how many cuts I made but it was a lot considering I didn't use a wet saw. I think I broke three beyond immediate use - they might serve as odd shaped edging later on.

The other big accomplishment was assembling the million piece play house. Holy cow that took a long time. Thankfully, my Dad showed up two days before my daughters birthday to help me finish it up and we had it done in time to clean ourselves up and grill some chicken and brats for dinner. You can see the play house as viewed from our deck off the back of the house.

This is the Cambridge by Leisure Time Products, Inc. sold by Sam's club. It took about a month of free time to assemble and would have taken longer if my wife hadn't measured, sorted and labeled each piece. We had to get the instructions off the companies website and print them ourselves as they neglected to include them in the pack.

Having built it, I would not recommend it. I would recommend going to a lumber yard near you and asking them if they have plans for which they can also supply materials. You are more likely to get something solid and durable, though probably much less complex. While this is a really neat playhouse and swing set well suited to small children not afraid to climb, larger children will make the floor boards bend and the joints groan. I only weigh 172 and it creaks and warps under my weight. So, playing with the kids is kinda ruled out. But, my kids seem to love it. They really haven't "moved in" yet - no other toys except a red plastic chair have made it out there, but no doubt that will follow in time.

I will say that when we were shorted a ground anchor, it was shipped within days, no charge, direct to our door. I think the company is probably a good one, but like so many other things being made in China these days, the quality isn't really American.

Next step is to stain it with a good water sealant and pigment. It comes pre stained but I want to make sure it really lasts. My dad recommends Sikkens, which isn't the cheapest but enjoys a very good reputation so I'll be trying to track some of that down soon.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Playground Kits

After substantial pressure from various matronly family members - all of them, Mom, wife, Mom-in-law, my kids are the proud new owners of a pile of parts. It's supposed to be a Play fort / swing set but putting it together is going on the second week.

We bought the Cambridge play set available at Sam's club. It is not cheap, but it is designed well. Engineering is another matter. I don't have a great deal of confidence that some of the materials would support an adult (especially not the adult assembling it) but it is supposed to accommodate 9 children at once - presumably evenly distributed over the structure, not piled up in one spot.

It's put out by an American company so the assembly process and instructions are easy to understand and logical. It's manufactured in China, so the quality of the cedar components is fair as opposed to good or excellent. I can't say I'd recommend it just based on some of the things they include - like the scrap wood used to create the composite beams which are then sleeved with several millimeters of heavy plastic. The scrap wood is one of the questionable engineering choices. We'll see how it holds up I guess.

Assembling this monster is something like 700 parts (not including about 2000 pieces of hardware) and 100 to 102 steps. The instructions are 100 steps long but with the wind in our area I opted to: 101) dig holes for the screw in ground anchors and 102) pour concrete around them once fastened to the base of the fort. This thing will suffer structural damage before it tips over in the wind... again. Happened twice during assembly already.

My kids, though, are the final arbiters of what is good and not good in the back yard and so far the wavy slide (still on the ground awaiting it's turn to be installed) and the step ladder (now assembled and attached) are enough to make them giddy and constantly ask if it's done yet. I just point to the pile of parts and repeat that it will be done when there are no more parts left. And that may be a couple of weeks yet.