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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Compost Bin Onsite, Part 2

Well. last you saw, I had a corner established.  I gave those posts a few days to dry while I placed the other frames around the general spots and assembled the screws and tools for the next part. 

After the existing posts seemed solidly settled, I went after the rest of the structure.  Getting the left back frame attached was easy.  I just clamped on a good flat 4x4 post across the back and the left back frame HAD to be straight with the right back one.  Then I attached the left side frame so it was square to the back.

I have a 2'x2' square, so it was pretty definite.  That gave me everything in place except the front center post (which is "there" but just sitting loose in the hole).  I filled the other holes with clay, soaked them, tamped the soil hard to make a nice clayey mud, and let it sit for another 2 days. 

The board across the front was screwed on to keep everything upright and level while the clay hardened.  There are clamps at the back for the same reason.
The next day (leaving all the clamps and the board in place for stability), I went about setting the front center post in place.  I will admit it just drove me crazy!  I set a string line across the front of the 2 front posts, so it was obvious where the front of the center post HAD to be.

That at least gave me the dimensions for the divider frame between the 2 parts of the bin.  Because it was between 2 posts instead of outside of them, it had to be made last by onsite measurement.  Given the variations of lumber, there was no way I could figure the exact size of the center divider until everything else was in place.

The exact size doesn't matter and I don't even recall what it was but say 42.25" just to have a number...  I measured to the string across the front posts and then subtracted the thickness of the posts already between.  Had to be perfect, right?

And the frame I built to fit that spot was perfect.  Square, solid, flat; best one of the whole project!  Well, it should be, I had the experience of making the other 4 before to get it right...

But nothing wanted to fit properly.  The hole for the front center post was pre-dug and in the wrong spot by 6".  The center front post had to be, well, "centered".  There are going to be removable slats that drop down into slots in the front posts. 
The problem was that the center post should be exactly between the 2 outside front posts, the divider frame should be square to the back and front, and the frame and post should be level vertically.  I could get any 2 of those to work, but not all 3 at the same time.

A craftsman would have no trouble, a good carpenter might need a little "push".  I'm not that good...

Have you ever played a gsme called "telephone"?  A dozen people stand in a circle.  One whispers a short sentence to the person on the right (Like "I will be dining with the Queen tonight").  It gets whispered around the circle.  By the time it comes back to the originator, it may be "I hope I'll be dunking the squid in fright".

My carpentry is like that.  Every step gets a wee bit off perfection, and by the time I get to the last part. it is 1" too low and 1" too far.  That's why I have clamps and pry-bars and screws.  The last piece always has to be tortured into place!  I start with a perfect design and end with brute force...

Yeah, yeah, I know, it's "just" a compost bin.  Perfection doesn't matter all that much.  But its the principle of the thing.  I am, by nature, a builder.  I am also plagued by accumulated small errors. 

I understand that part of it is that I do these projects without any help.  I can't be on both ends of an 8' board, and I can't to 2 things at once by myself.  It is still disappointing, though.  I expect better of myself in spite of the difficulties.

BUT, brute force DOES make up for some errors.  A few screwed-on braces replace a hand, a few clamps make boards match up evenly, and enough screws will hold everything in place while the boards stretch internally (and they do) until things work.

Before I finally set the muddy clay around the front center post, I measured the distances between the left and center post and the right and center post.  They were exactly the same.  It looked perfect!  I was thrilled and relieved.  I soaked the clay, tamped it, and remeasured it.  Exact same distances.
The next afternoon, the clay had hardened.  I checked the vertical level of the front post, checked that the center divider was square to the back, checked that the front of the front post was precisely in line with the front corner posts.  Nothing could be wrong.

HAH!  The distance between the left and center post is 1/4" longer than the distance between the right and center posts.  I could cry...  The only explanation is that the universe is testing my sanity. 

On the other hand, it is utterly solid, completely functional, and should last for 20 years.  At which point I will be 87 and too old to consider rebuilding it.

The last part of the project is to make the slats that fit into the slots in the front posts.  That's for the next post...

1 comment:

Megan said...

Oooh - you're a glutton for hard work Mark!

Sydney, Australia