Monday, October 13, 2014

Playmobile Castle & Bow and Arrow Part 2

Our little Isaac turned four not too long ago, and with his birthday came some handmade toys (of course).

For the last couple holidays we've suggested to family that play-mobile figures would be a nice addition to our toy set, so we've gotten a few.  They get quite a lot of use, so I thought I could make something for a good setting.

I thought about this castle, by Melissa and Doug.  It was more than I wanted to pay, so we'd have to really like it to buy it for him.  And after seeing it in person (at our friends house) it was definitely fun, but much bigger than we wanted to store, and a little... flimsy for a four year old.  There was one that stood out to me on etsy, but it wasn't quite what I thought the boys would like.  I did, however, like that it was simple, open ended and made out of chunky solid wood.  I could do that.

So of course, I made one of my own design.  This was one of my favorite types of projects.  I went to the basement, looked at my scrap wood, and with a calculator in hand, started sketching.  I pulled the design together from what I had on hand, and sort of modified it as I went.  And since nothing went crazy wrong (think bow project last year), it was actually really fun to construct.  I tried to keep it as simple as I could (yet still kept adding features), and embraced the imperfections.

The one big failure I had was with the center door.  I had a wider board and constructed a nice looking curved doorway.  On the last section to chisel out, the thing split in two.  After a hunt, I did find a little smaller board, and decided to go with a super simple door opening instead.

One 'big' design change I made last minute.  There was supposed to be three sides of crenelations (had to ask my husband the name) around the top of the towers.  The last set was going to go where the arrows show above.

But when I put them on, the towers seemed too overpowering, dominating the smaller-than-planned center wall (in blue).  Plus, I actually like the open, more cohesive play area that was there before we put them in.  So with Jon's guidance, we nixed those, and put in a crenelated wall on top of the doorway.  I'm super glad we did, it flows much better.

I didn't initially expect he was going to be enthralled to get it (he even had to warm up to last year's Link Costume), but after seeing the reactions the big kids had to it when I showed them it while I was working on it that morning ("When is he going to get it?" "Can I play with it after he opens it? ""Can we do presents now?" "6'clock? Wah, wah wah..."), I thought it might get a fair amount of play.  Sure enough it's been a well played with toy.

So here it is!  I actually managed to take a few nice photos of this project, for once.  Quite fun to set up for, I will have to admit too.

I drilled a few holes for the accessories to have a place to sit.  It looks a little odd empty, but really fun when filled.

...And just for fun, 'cause at this point I'm totally just playing with my kids toys... "Oh, hey there.  Is this your horse?..." "Why, yes...

To wrap up the castle... Things I would do different next time.

  1. I would plan it ahead of time.  Fun to prototype, but most of the changes below would require some planning.
  2. I would buy poplar or maple as my base wood.  Really, any harder wood than pine would do.  Once I saw I only had pine on hand, I loosened up my expectations considerably.  Pine is so soft, the pieces didn't even make it out of sanding without getting all dented.  I just rolled with it, and did a marginal job with everything else.
  3. I would have routered anything I could have.  This project yells 'router me!.. but my Mom had needed hers back for a project a while ago and I didn't ask to borrow it recently.  So, I went with more of a 'hand-scraped' look.
  4. I would have tried to camouflage those pocket holes a little better.  They do look better in real life than in the photos, but those are the 'paint grade' pocket hole fillers.  I expect stain grade would look a little better.
  5. I didn't want a rope for the bridge (to break) but a small chain might have looked cool.
 That's about it.  I am really hoping to get this plan (and other plans) on my main site this winter.
To keep this post moving along... Next up, our bow failure!  Yay! Wait.  Boo! The preschool-friendly bow and arrow set I made last Christmas...  broke. 

Sadly, this is how it looks after only eight months.  (Mind you, there were several adults ::cough, cough:: who played with this bow too.) After all the drama Christmas Eve, I knew that was my last attempt at DIYing a bow.  Even cellular PVC wouldn't hold up to to repeated flex (nerding it up here, I bet the modulus of elasticity of PVC is low.  Must... Not... Google... It).

Anyway.  I gave up and bought a bow.  I wanted one that would shoot straight (enough), so like last time I researched, all toy bow sets were out.  However, there was one real one that caught my eye, The Bear Archery First Shot Bow.  It was only $10 with Amazon prime shipping, so I went for it.

But, because this is a toy for a 4 year old, there's no way I would hand him a real bow and arrow set, and say "Have fun Link!"  So, I removed the packaging and hid the real arrows (to be stored with my real arrows).

Although the last set of indoor foam arrows were still working fine, we made some new ones that were just a bit longer.  They seem to fit the draw of a bow just a bit better.

Also, because the bow has an arrow rest, we decided to omit one of the fletches.  We figured it would just get ripped off in the first go.  I shaped the dowel, and handed the rest off to my hubby.  Jon got his creative juices flowing and made unique fletchings for each of the new arrows.  They're pretty cool.

And as for how it works- Well like last Christmas, it's really fun... for bigger kids/adults.  Isaac still doesn't have the hang of it.  And since the draw is a little stronger (but still doable), he's using it mostly for pretend play.  Which is really why we wanted to give him the 'toy' version.

However, even this set up with the foam arrows pack a punch.  I have to be really careful I don't break a window when I miss the target (pssht, like, almost never..), and we always clear the 'range' when we're actually shooting at a target.  It is a real bow, and it does have quite the twang.  I would have loved to have a lower draw weight, but I haven't seen anything along those lines yet.

Yep.  So that's that for this years set of preschool presents!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Plans For the Current Demo

I'm going to throw down some floorplans, to expand my last post a little bit. 

I didn't bother drawing up the other side of the house.  Yes, there is a second dormer to balance it all out.
Eve's room is the one in the lower right corner.  It's a really long, spacious room, and most of its width is sloped.  Despite it's big size, the layout has make it super tough to figure out what should go where.  There's baseboard along the two front walls, so it's not easy to put furniture over there. Yet, because of the slope of the ceiling in that area, that would be the best place to put furniture.  I would actually absolutely love to have radiant floor heating in our house, especially because of Eve's room.  It would open up a lot of possibilities for where we could stick her bed/dresser and not take up valuable head space.  Maybe someday it could be done.  The carpet is trashed and we do want to put in hardwood someday... anyway...

The other thing that makes it tough is that the opening for the door is an immediate turn.  It makes the room feel even longer and sort of forces the flow of traffic right across the other real option for a wall that can hold furniture.  This is all hypothetical of course because... well, Eve still doesn't have almost any furniture other than a bed.  So pair that with our desire to have more storage space and we knew we had some renovation on our hands.

I mentioned the desire for more window light in the last post, so I won't recap.  However here are some pictures illustrating how dark it feels, even during brightest parts of the day (11am to be specific).
 So here's the new plan.  It seems simple enough on paper.

In reality, it gets complicated. I'm learning a whole new world of electricity.  I both got a book at the library, and got one at the Lowes (same book, different editions actually) and read it front to back.  I liked it enough, that I thought it was worth owning the current version.  I've got a good feel for it now...but..  not all electrical questions can be answered in one book.  It's easier than the Electrical Engineering course I had to take in college, at least.

But anyway...  currently all ceiling lights in the house, like the kitchen and dining room (thanks to that hall light switch) and the boys room also have no power. Plus, thanks to some poor electrical work outside (about to fix today, hopefully) our GFCI trips when it rains.  So no outlets in the bathrooms either.  So we're going to try to kick all this out faster than usual, so we can get our rough inspection done and get our power back.

In the meantime, our little monkeys have free reign to make lots of messes while we work (course, they don't know that just yet).

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Windows, Closets and Walls, Oh My!

Two firsts here 1) this will be my first post made entirely on the Kindle 2) this is the first project we're doing that we've gotten a permit for.

So, while we had made big progress last year making the kids rooms and their windows to be rot free, sealed and weather tight, we still had one big lingering addition.  Eve's room is super dark and the only window she has is in a small dormer.  We decided before we even bought the house that we would want to install another window.

..which requires a permit.  I know, most people would skip the permit, but after seeing the shoddy work that DIYers have done in this house already, we decided to treat this as an opportunity for us to expand our knowledge-base (yes, I know, we may eat our words later after we fail an inspection).  Especially since we had been blinded by the windows with the whole 'egress' window thing. and not a big restriction.

To be honest, I was already 80% sure I'll do a fine job with the window.  We've already done so many replacement windows, this won't be that big an undertaking.  In fact with no dry rot (I hope), it should be pretty darn easy. And after talking to the inspector briefly one day (we were at the town clerk already), he helped me confirm that structurally, we're just fine.  Closer to 100% confidence now.

He was super nice, and I'm really glad we stopped in to talk to him.  He alleviated our fears and he won't go through our existing house and make us fix code violations, just because he sees them (think 'deck').  Of course, he will point out problems he sees if they look life threatening.  He also confirmed that we do need a permit for a new window install. Basically, if it's a replacement _______ we don't need a permit, if it's a new _______, we do.  It pretty much applies to anything.  Replacement floor, no permit.  Replacement deck board, no permit.  New outlet, permit.  New deck, permit.  It's an over-generalization, of course, but it simplifies it.  He was also really knowledgeable (of course) and it was really nice to ask an expert a question without being charged (well not directly charged) or questioning his judgement.

So...  we decided to apply. We got our permit Thursday, and tonight we moved Eve out of her room.  The window will be in the gable end at the end of the picture above, and will be about three stories up, so we'll have to get out those pump jacks again.  Looks like rain this weekend though...

But, since the minimum cost for a permit is $50, we decided it would be best to tag on other stuff that we would wanted to do that falls under the 'new' category. So, we'll be adding a linen closet and a partition wall on the same build.  I'm actually really glad he'll be around to look at those, because we're new to that kind stuff.  Especially since we'll have nine outlets/switches to relocate. The linen closet will go where her door is now, and her door will scoot over a bit on the wall.  Won't be a huge closet, but it will help. So, if it does rain all weekend, we'll be able to at least do that.

So Eve is back to being bunked with her brothers.  And Eli's cool robots now have a new bunk-mate as well.  Should be another fun adventure!