Showing posts with label woodworking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label woodworking. Show all posts

Home-made, Big, Low Cost Glass Greenhouse from Free Recuperated Windows Part 2

The very first step in constructing the greenhouse was to decide on the size for it. We'd earmarked a vegetable plot where it was to go and as it had a hedge along one edge and a rose border on another, both of which we wanted to retain a practical size of 5m long by 3m wide was decided. This gave adequate space for access with ladders or steps during construction.

Although it is a large sized greenhouse and in itself quite an imposing feature, it actually fits very well into its surrounding landscape. Being surrounded by greenery as it is now, obviates the need for shade cloths, which in the early days were necessary to prevent the scorching of leaves in the very hot, clear days of Summer. We live near the sea and at times the light here can be very intense.

The roof covering was to be of 200 micron polythene UV stabilised (polytunnel material) and this could be purchased by the metre and was 7.5 metres wide. As the roof was to be gabled we bought a 4m length, the polythene width was more than enough to cover the greenhouse length.

For the south 3m wide end I had recuperated some French windows and these and the entrance door on the North end set the wall height of the greenhouse.
Having now decided the overall dimensions of the greenhouse the preparatory work could begin.

All of the windows I'd collected were casement windows, that is, windows that open on hinges attached to one vertical side of the frame. Most of them were paired and had a weather strip where the two windows met in the middle.

Along the bottom edge of all these windows was a weatherboard to deflect rain running off the window onto the window sill. As the casement window fits into a frame this moulding is not flush with the bottom but is attached about 10-20mm from the bottom edge

To bring the windows' heights to that of the French windows I decided to support them on walls made from pallet wood. Now that I knew the wall lengths I could sort the windows to fit, number them and mark their position on a plan.

Before making the walls, the bottom of each window projecting beyond the weatherboard was sawn off providing a wider face to rest on the wall.

The wall panels were made from pallet wood planks nailed to a rectangular frame. Each frame was again of pallet wood but I selected planks for this from more robust pallets (approx 100mm x 22mm, 4" x 1"). These planks were screwed together to form the frames and the pallet wood planks were nailed to what was to become the outside face thus forming a box.

There were seven 75mm (3") square wooden posts, each bolted to a galvanised steel stake driven into the ground (one at each corner, one midway along the longest sides and one to form the doorway). A line running from post to post marked the perimeter to which the wall panels needed to abut.

In addition, I made T (Tee) shaped stakes from 22mm thick pallet wood, which were to be driven into the ground on the inside of the greenhouse. These would provide a solid support for the wall panels.

All the above preparation meant that when we finally came to construct the greenhouse it went together as a kit. The roof trusses too we pre-fabricated in the workshop but for clarity I'll deal with these in a separate post.

If you are thinking of building a glass greenhouse and would like to know of some of the extra plants, in particular tropical spices you will be able to grow, then sit back and take a look at this film:

Thanks for dropping by and please feel free to share this article, comment, ask questions and if you'd like to be assured of getting the next post, then sign up to follow this blog.

All the best, Andy

© Andy Colley 2014

Home-made, Big, Low Cost Glass Greenhouse from Free Recuperated Windows Part 1

Over the next few weeks I will be involved in several projects using recuperated glass windows and doors and I thought I'd start by taking a retrospective look at the greenhouse I designed and made 5 years ago. 

Several of you have commented on this greenhouse, which has been shown in various films and blogs. Sadly, when I designed and made it, we did not have a digital camera with which to take detailed step-by-step photographs. Therefore, I am taking this opportunity, whilst it is being restocked with Spring plantings, to take some shots of the fabric of the interior for a detailed explanation of the design and construction. This will form Part Two of this post. In the next few weeks, I will also be giving a hand to my neighbours, who are in the process of constructing a large lean-to, verandah-type greenhouse, so there will be another design, both in film and blog form to share. 

What, where and how to get supplies

Unfortunately for the good of the Planet and paradoxically fortunately for us, there seems to be an unlimited supply of virtually brand new, as well as interesting and beautiful old,  glass doors and windows. To judge by the veritable mountains outside joiners and carpenters businesses en route to landfill, many people change their windows as often as others might paint the frames. Over the years we have collected dozens of examples, including, in the UK some very pretty leaded lights. These latter turn up in architectural salvage yards or 'junk' shops, with the very best examples finding their way into auction rooms and antique shops. In a greenhouse or house these can be used to great effect. 

For a supply of general glass windows and doors though, there is nothing like your local joiner's shop or doubleglazers. I made contact with the owner of our local one, having seen a huge pile of useable material in his yard and he was delighted we wanted to take it away and make use of it. We also sent him photographs and film links for everything we made and when we were looking for a front door for the house, he even carefully got us a door with the doorframe and keys intact! As a matter of fact over the past five years, from just this one source, we and our friends have glazed two entire houses (one of them completely doubleglazed) and built several greenhouses.

Stand alone greenhouse - the basic design criteria

The idea for the greenhouse was to have something that was both decorative and practical. In particular as it was going to form the centrepiece for the flower garden. We wanted plenty of height both for aesthetics and because we intended to grow many climbing vegetables and flowers and also to incorporate our solar shower.

We had been collecting suitable materials for some time and in all we used 24 windows/French windows of various ages and designs but which overall seemed to fit pleasingly together. The sides and the back were to be made of windows set on pallet wood walls, similar in design to those of the hen house. On each side there was also to be guttering for the collection and harvest of rainwater.

The front was designed to incorporate a matching set of old French windows and glazed panels with the addition of a panel of leaded lights incorporated into the gable end. The French windows and the door on the rear elevation were both of the same height and these together set the height for the greenhouse.

It's all in the planning

There are two ways to go when designing a glass greenhouse, you can either plan it around available materials or you can plan it first and then search for the windows to fit. We actually were lucky, in that five years ago PVC mania hit our part of the coast and we had a plethora of great windows to choose from. In effect, the whole design was built up around the French windows, matching panels and leaded light, which were really elegant when placed together. The planning of the design was in fact the most difficult part of the whole operation, in that the location of the windows had to match the desired length for each side. Furthermore, any difference in window height had to be accounted for in the construction of the pallet wood walls to ensure that the overall height was respected. In conclusion though, we were left with a unique bespoke greenhouse which would have cost us several thousands of Euros.

Here is the film we made about this greenhouse, showing both exterior and interior views and giving some initial pointers to the design. See you in Part Two

Thanks for dropping by and please feel free to share this article, comment, ask questions and if you'd like to be assured of getting the next post, then sign up to follow this blog.

All the best, Andy

© Andy Colley 2014

DIY Nesting Box for Blue Tits, Chickadees, Pied Fly Catchers, Sparrows and Nuthatches.

It's Spring and the birds are still out looking for nest sites, which over the past decades have dwindled. You can help them and attract them to your garden by providing them with a suitable desirable residence. The example below is a simple design, requiring a minimum of tools and in particular to obviate the need for a hole saw or large bit.

Home-made repurposed wood wild bird nesting box

Natural nesting sites do not come with standard size front doors but for the above 'hole-in-the-front' design, there is a general rule of thumb, with some examples, given below. It is interesting that of the two bird boxes we gave as presents last year, one had an exact  25 mm round hole and the blue tits spent a couple of days enlarging the opening before they used it. Whilst the other box, at a location, some 10 miles away from the former was of the above design and was used without problem. However, making the box of pine means it is easy to modify with a beak and why shouldn't birds, like most of us, enjoy personalising their own home.

Home-made nesting box for wild birds

This one has a round entrance but is harder to make than the above design as it requires a large boring bit. Both the designs were recently given as Birthday presents and I'm happy to say all have tenants!

25 mm - 1" for blue, coal and marsh tits and chickadees.
28 mm - 1 1/8" for great tits, tree sparrows and pied flycatchers 
32 mm - 1¼" house sparrows, tree swallows and nuthatches
45 mm - 1¾" starlings
150 mm x 150 mm - 6" x 6" for the barn owl box I am in the process of making


Wild bird feeder home-made from repurposed woodThe box is based on the same design as my Apple House but is formed around a larger 140 mm - 5½" pallet block. You will need 1 or 2, 100 mm - 4" wide pallet wood planks and the wood strips from a fruit crate or orange box. We decorated it with water-based acrylic varnish and tinted it with earth and mineral pigments. For information on mixing these:   



For the four sides, mark out the first length, which corresponds to the length of the block plus plank thickness. Cut four sides to this length.


Pre-nail the planks, if the wood splits at this juncture, then drill a pilot hole at a slightly smaller diameter than the nail shank and then nail. 


Cut base to make a platform suitable for nest building, 100 mm x 100 mm - 4" x 4" and mitred at 45°. 

Position and nail front.


Put each plank in place and from the back draw the outline of the frame and use that as a guide for the pilot holes to avoid splitting the wood.


Trim the edges. 


With the shelf in place, mark its position from the inside. This will enable the correct location for the retaining screw. Drill and screw in place.


Select planks for the rear of the box. It is a good idea to screw these into place in case you need to clean out the box after use. 

The centre piece is put on first so that the correct position for the screw holding the shelf from the back can be easily located.


Mark out the outline of the box onto the remaining planks.

Drill screw holes.


Screw to the back. Trim the top with a generous border. This allows for mounting holes for screws and nails.

Cut lengths of fruitcrate wood to make shingles for the roof. Attach to roof with staples or panel pins. 

You can finish with a coat of linseed/hemp oil or acrylic water-based varnish.

To create an illusion of the box being a natural nesting site, we decorated ours with the same climbing ivy as was growing in the place we intended positioning our box.

Now if you'd like to, sit back and watch the film. 

Next post will be a design for an open-fronted box, suitable for Robins, Wrens, Eastern Bluebirds, Northern Flickers, and Purple Martins.

Thanks for dropping by and please feel free to share this article, comment, ask questions and if you'd like to be assured of getting the next post, then sign up to follow this blog.

All the best, Andy

© Andy Colley 2014


DIY Sack Truck Hand Trolley for 1 dollar/euro/pound - Repurposed Pallet Wood.

Vested Interest - Snowman and co trade up to a hand trolley.

How to make a medium duty sack truck from repurposed materials, pallet wood, old (lawn mower) wheels, screws and brackets, total cost of materials:coach bolts, screws and a little glue $1. 

Our old wheelbarrow pictured above has done sterling service. It's metal tray wore out years ago but I relined it with pallet wood and it's still going strong. Every now and then however, it would be useful to have a sack truck for moving heavy items and in particular because the wheelbarrow is often in use elsewhere in the garden.

Making the back rails and shaping the handles

To make the handles/back of the truck, select a suitable length of pallet wood timber 100mm x 50mm (4x2). We used one measuring 120cm (just under 4ft).

Cut in half to produce the two pieces.

Sketch an outline of the handle profile you would like.

Cut outside curve to shape and make vertical saw cuts to the line of the inside curve. 

This will allow for the easy removal of surplus wood with a chisel. However, if you have one, the profile can be cut straight out with a band saw.    

After using the saw to reduce the handle width so that it fits better in the palm of the hand, the final shaping is done with the spokeshave.   

Making and fitting the forks 

Cut the forks from a piece of pallet timber of 50mm x 50mm (2x2). I cut these with a circular saw and tapered them, so they were thickest where they were to join the back rails.

Cut the forks to length. I made mine 350mm long (14"). I sized to the fruit crate dimension because this is what I use for stocking my fire wood.

Using a sheet of plywood approx 13mm (½"), recuperated from a low-grade pallet, cut a reinforcing 'plate'. Use the rail and fork as a pattern to mark the shape of the plate.
Alternatively, you can use steel angle plates to act as the reinforcement. You could possibly also repurpose shelf brackets to do the job.   

Drill clearance holes in the plates and also through the back rail.

Screw backrail to fork to make sides. Just ensure that the outside angle is at 90°.


Glue and screw plates to truck sides. I use a waterproof PVA glue.

I made sure that the plates were on what was to become the inside face of each side.

The truck is now beginning to take shape.


Making and assembling the back and base panels



We are now ready to cut and assemble the three plywood panels, which form the back and base. These come from the same piece of plywood as the corner plates.

Drill screw-clearance holes in the corners of each panel.

Position, glue.....

and screw into place.


Fitting the Wheels

The recuperated lawnmower wheels had already been used in a small trolley to transport the roof panels for the hen house. I had recuperated some steel angle brackets from a rather ugly piece of furniture which had outlived its usefulness. 

I only needed to drill an additional hole, the diameter of the wheel mounting shaft, in the side face of each bracket. 

The wheels were attached to the brackets which were then held in place on the truck with G-clamps. This was so that the wheel positions could be checked before the bolt holes were drilled. Just check that the truck can pivot easily on the wheels when the trolley is tipped as when in use.

Remove the wheels so as to allow through holes to be drilled for the mounting bolts. Two bolts in each bracket were enough for load bearing.......


and a screw in the third bracket hole resisted any twisting movement but a third bolt could have been used.
I noticed that any wide load could scrape against the wheels - longer wheel brackets would have prevented this. These brackets not being available, I screwed two spacing timbers to the trolley face so that any load would be held clear.


Testing, Testing..........

 And now if you'd like to, sit back and watch the film.

Until next time.

Thanks for dropping by and please feel free to share this article, comment, ask questions and if you'd like to be assured of getting the next post, then sign up to follow this blog.

All the best, Andy

© Andy Colley 2014