Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tinkertoys, medieval style

While the three of us have been sewing away, it was always aparent that we also had wood working to do as well. We turned to Garin, who made our bed, to enlist his help. Dave and Garin went a couple of weeks ago to buy the hardwood - we're using ash, and then he, Garin, and Kevin spent a day and a half in the workshop. The pavillion has one pole in the center that holds up the peak of the cone. Then about half way down the pole sits a rather tinker toy like hub, from which spokes extend to hold out the eves.

Our cone will peak out at about 12 feet tall, Rossilins at 14, so doing the center pole as a single unit is neither feasible nor convenient. So there has to be a joint in it. We're copying Friedrich's joint design:

The joint is reinforced with steel square tubing, like this:

Next is the hub. One hub has to hold 22 spokes, the other 28. They managed to make ours out of a single board, but the bigger one had to be laminated together. They cut the circles out, then used the scrap from the cutout to hold the hub for drilling.

I think these pictures are so cool - there is something so satisfying in seeing that nice fit between the hub and it's holder. Ingenious!

Hubby and hub. *snerk*

If you look at the left end of the center pole above, you'll see that it's been 'rounded' down to an octagonal shape. This allows the hub to slide over, and then sit on the narrow shoulders in the pole as it goes back to square.

Finally come the spokes. Far as I know, they ripped these out of planks, and then had to hand shave the interior ends to be round to fit into the hub.

We are looking forward to having mostly square spokes, since bundling them will be easier than a bunch of dowels.

Dave brought all the wood home, and oiled it, while Garin continued on and made a whole bunch of toggles for us.

So - the wood is done. Once we finish the critical sewing, we will set the tents up for the first time -- which promises to be a lengthy process of trying to fit in the spokes, which are deliberately oversized at the moment, then slowly shaving off every one until we can put all the spokes in place. I'm hopeful that the weekend after next will be when we get to try this!


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chilly Night

After we took our camping bed to NM last October - and froze our little a**es off, we decided that we were NOT going to head out for a week of camping with this bed without first prooving we had enough bedding to stay warm.

So... that means testing it. And in representative conditions no less. Last year at Estrella we had frost on the ground more mornings than not, so we know it was getting below freezing. I'd pictured setting the bed up on the deck and spending the night out under the stars... Only - with our weather through the holidays, 32 degrees was a balmy illusion as we endured several weeks of temps that didn't ever get ABOVE 20! Also, it's been wet. So what were we to do?

Set the bed up in the garage! :-D I actually pulled it out a few weeks ago, only to my chagrin realize that the wood has settled, and warped. It is made out of pine afterall. It changed to the point that EVERY CONNECTION had to be modified to make fit again. Grrr. So Dave and I tackled it yesterday, and got it back together. I certainly hope this is the only time it will change so radically again, since my "quick, lets set up the bed" task turned into a 2 hour sanding and rasping and waxing project.

Anyways, got it set up and as we turned in last night it was... Oh NO -- 39 degrees in the garage. LOL, that was way too warm!! So we cracked the garage door open 18 inches. And yep, as we got up this morning it was 28 degrees.

And the verdict? Dave was toasty. I was chilly. Typical!


Monday, January 18, 2010

More Pavillion Progress

So, it's been a hectic two weeks, for sure - but we have made a ton more progress on both pavillions! I've been trying to log the hours that we get together to work... and just that hasn't been easy. Looks like the three of us have logged 25 hours sewing - (not counting what we've done individually) and Dave, Kevin and Garin put in 14 or so hours on wood work... Gah - I need to stop thinking about it!

Our pavillion is very close to finished. After the last post all the 'big sewing' was complete - but what remained was the finishing touches, all the miles and miles of webbing that needs to be added. Sewing webbing? WAY HARDER than sewing canvas. Groan. Course, we did start with what looks to be the toughest section -- the Cone Loops at the top of the roof. Not only is it sewing through a doubled over section of webbing, but it had to go over the rolled hem at the top. And the webbing sandwiched the canvas so you had to try and keep all layers aligned, while wrestling 20# of canvas in your lap, with this machine that really only likes to sew at about 3 inches a second. GAH!

I can happily report, none of us have managed yet to sew a finger into this project *knock on wood*! Though Rossilin did say if she didn't bleed at least once on a project it was doomed to not turn out well. So it was good that she pricked her finger on a staple last week... ;-) Staples you say? YES! The greatest tip ever on this project -- forget trying to pin this canvas together, staples all the way, man.

Anywhoo, back to the cone loops, it was for awhile taking all three of us to manage those stitches, though we did graduate to only two after awhile. The big life saver came - ironically just AFTER we'd finished the cone loops - when we found a local supplier of industrial sewing machine needles. We'd been led astray at the beginning of the project that regular needles would work. They will, to an extent. But they are definitely different. The pain and effort to wrestle with getting them loaded correctly is a real PITA, and they also broke much more frequently. So we invested in several boxes of the industrial needles... and have only broken 1 since! LOL

Just inside the valance sit some pockets, that the spokes fit into - to hold the eaves of the tent out. There is one for every spoke, which is one for every seam between panels. We have 22 panels in our tent.

And in that little loop in the webbing to the right in the above picture, goes a wooden toggle. That is what the wall loops go around to hold the walls up to the roof.

I should mention that we've had a lot of help along the way - we certainly didn't dream up this design ourselves. Rossilin has researched pavillions through the years, but we've also had a tremendous amount of help from a guy who has made a business of sewing pavillions - Friedrich. His website has a ton of info and pictures, but he also invited Dave and I down and walked us through a tent he had partially completed. It was incredibly valuable for us to see that work in progress before jumping in to our own. We took a slew of pictures - including those above of the sample pocket with toggle.

After cone loops, pockets, and wall top loops, you still need the loops at the bottom of the walls for stakes. And toggles / loops for the door closures. Sod flaps attach to the bottom of your walls and tuck under your ground cloth, and then finally, a canvas cap to fit over the loop / lacing / ring assembly at the top.

We spent a full day over there on Saturday - brought snackies and all hung out to sew, staple, press, destaple, lace, fold...

And... as of today we have everything done on our tent except the top loops and stake loops for 1 wall (there are 2 walls total) and the door toggles/loops. Oh, and the canvas cap. And the great news is that we have made a lot of progress on Rossilin's tent too - the 'big sewing' is nearly done, maybe will be done tonight. We finally figured out how to get our home sewing machine to work on the canvas -- it was a tricky tensioning thing, so I hope we haven't gotten so far on her tent that we can't do some parallel sewing in the days to come.

Oh yeah, we also still have to lace in the top ring. This ring will sit on top of our center pole - and laces to the cone loops with rope. We're expecting our rope to be here any day now. I'd started to put it in with another skein of rope we'd purchased, but it turned out to be no way near long enough -- we figure we need 22 feet of rope to lace that ring in at the top!

Still to post: the wood working days that Dave, Garin and Kevin have put in. That's coming up soon!


Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Basement is Finished!

It took us 2.5 years to finish enough of the basement for Ginger to move down there, then another 6 months to finish her kitchen and living room. A year and a half later we are very excited to say that the basement has been completely finished!!

Last summer the businesses did well, financially, so we set aside some money for some captial improvements. We debated about a number of options, and finishing the basement came up in the top 2 we wanted to do. So Mike came up again in October to finish the office / playroom and spare bedroom.

Of course in order to do that we first had to empty that space of what (not insignificant) storage was remaining down there. But we got it cleared out, and even had plans for Mike when he arrived. Of course, in the next days those plans were vastly revised... Oh well. Best laid plans, yeah?

Anyhow - we got the carpet in the middle of December, and just before I took the video below we'd moved her desk back into the room. It looks great, and feels great to finish another big goal we'd established when we bought this place!

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Pavillion Progress


A few months ago we decided to undertake the project to sew a medieval pavillion for taking to SCA events. Actually, we expressed an interest in having a pavillion since our current excuse for a camping tent is just our 10x10 booth tent and it leaves a lot to be desired as a structure to actually live in. Rossilin, too, was interested, because her current pavillion, which I've pictured before:

At Estrella War, 2008

is 10 years old and is more than starting to show it's wear. Particularly it's way of not actually stopping the rain, but rather just converting it to a fine mist that permeates the tent.

Rossilin, being the 'yes we can' type, suggested we sew a pair of them together, and we, being the same type, enthusiastically agreed. So we started laying out the pattern -- during which we calculated more geometry than I think I've used since my Geometry class in high school. Our main criteria is that our new camping bed had to fit inside the tent -- which has a single center pole for support. Given that the sides are mostly cylindrical, and yet do slope in somewhat, figuring out what the footprint size needed to be was an interesting brain teaser.

We settled on a 14' diameter base, she's making a 18' base. Knowing that the canvas comes in 60" widths, and that it is most efficient to be able to layout 6 roof segments across that, we had to determine how many segments the roof would take if the straight side was just under 20" each.

Layout of 6 roof triangles, across a 60" width canvas.

For us that comes to 22 segments, 28 for Rossilin's. Then laying out how many roof and wall segments we need we decided that a 100 yard roll of canvas would suffice. Rossilin ordered this and had it delivered to her house. Which was a much better plan than what we considered - which was to have it delivered to our ranch in order to get a business-to-business shipping discount. But as none of us could actually lift the thing, us NOT having to cart it over to Rossilin's was well worth the extra $10 shipping! Rossilin also arranged to borrow an industrial sewing machine, which we did help cart to her house.

So, for the past couple of months we've been spending hours and hours over at Rossilin's house, and it was seeming like a never ending task. Seriously. It took 8 hours to cut out all the roof and wall pieces, spread over 3 days. This was unfortunately back breaking work as we were working on the floor - and we pretty much did Dave in the first day. We revamped our process the next two nights and had him spending much less time on the floor which helped.

Yes, we had several misstarts with the angles. Always easier to re-mark, than recut was our motto!

Finally we were ready to start sewing! Only, Dave informed me as we drove over that evening after work, that Rossilin had called him to say she'd fired up the machine and managed to get it jammed... It was not sewing. GRRR. We got there, and poked around, but it was clear 3 of us were at least 1 too many pokers, so I set about organizing canvas. Pretty soon Rossilin joined me, and asked -- is Dave mechanically inclined? *SNERK* Yeah, I said, he knows something about what he's doing. He really is the most mechanically inclined person I've ever met. Sure enough, 20 minutes later he had the panel on the OTHER side of the machine open and had identified the issue -- and fixed it. What ever it was. I tend to leave such details to him.

And, we were off sewing!

And.. ripping out seams. And fighting with the tension control of the thread. And, in the end, fighting even with the spools that the thread came on. It was an evening of utter frustration. 3 hours later -- we had 2 whole seams to show for it.

One of the main issues turned out to be the thread spools. They were so poorly manufactured, that they had a ton of rough spots on them, catching the thread regularly -- which seemed to be the cause of most if not all our tensioning issues. Dave arranged for us to get a giant cone of thread -- which is probably 10 times what we really need, but does seem to have addressed that particular issue. The second night we sewed we added 6 more panels to the 3 we had attached. 9 down, 11 more to go on our roof alone.

Finally, yesterday we got over to sew again -- having taken a long break over the holidays. Our session didn't start so great, given the fact we couldn't remember which way we were adding panels before and thus added another in the opposite orienatation before we figured out it needed to be ripped out. However - once that hour of messing around was over - boy did things start taking off. After 4 hours we had joined ALL of the roof pieces, and had gotten 5 pairs of wall pieces together.

One significant improvement in our process was to work on joining pairs of panels first. It is definitely easier putting just two panels together at a time -- and even though adding a double panel onto the constructed roof is harder than adding a single panel, at least half of the new seams were easy ones, and therefore straighter and better sewn.

We have a roof! (almost)

So we press on. We have the machine only until the owner wants it back at the end of January. Which is fine, since we both want to use our pavillions at Estrella War this year, which is early February. So keep your fingers crossed for us!