Rewinding (Part 3)

Ah, the joys of scheduling. I knew WordPress could do it but my approach has been to write, publish, sit back. That, I think, is one of the reasons for my inadequate output. I would think to myself “A post is due.” but, at that moment in time didn’t have time to do anything. So I’d put it off, and put it off again. Now, I can write when I have the time (and inclination) and schedule publication of my posts into the distant future. So it looks like I have a routine when, in reality, I have none.

But scheduling the construction of my new raised bed, conglomeration of boxes, edifice, call it what you will, couldn’t be scheduled beyond specifying a delivery date. Once delivered, come rain or shine, backache or other ailment, I had to get on with it, if only because my sheds were full of wood, my garage was full of wood, I had bags of bits piled up in the breakfast room and the foreknowledge that 3 tonnes of topsoil to fill the damned thing were going to arrive the following week.

Oh, and my new garden shed was being delivered the week after. So I not only needed to empty the larger of my two existing sheds but demolish it and remove the demolished bits too!

Still, the ground was prepared and I was raring to go. I’d loved building with my Lego™ as a child and building with WoodBlocX isn’t much different.

The first thing I did was to drive a few stakes into the ground to mark out the construction and kill any vampires that might be sleeping underground. Lengths of twine connected the stakes to outline what would be. Then I realised that the seat that I’d planned would end up facing directly up a garden path towards my garden shed and greenhouse. Angling it to face diagonally across the lawn, pond and flower beds would be much better.

Diagonal is much better than straight on right angles.
Diagonal is much better than straight on right angles.

The stakes and twine got repositioned and a few more vampires expired. But now I had a problem. On the left (as you face the edifice – the image oop top shows it), the foremost planting compartment would now be sort of inside a neighbouring planter. I also had to accommodate one of the three plants in the garden that have some sentimental value: a lonicera that I’d been given by my late mother 25 years earlier – she’d raised it from a root cutting taken from her own garden.

Time to scratch my head a bit. And the versatility of WoodBlocX delivered the answer. Of the five compartments on the left, only the back one is a square. All the others are U-shaped and attach to the one behind using metal angle plates. So I could turn the front compartment 90 degrees and attach it to the side of the one behind it. A small further adjustment to the stakes and twine (I’m sure I heard a subterranean scream this time) and I’d also accommodated the lonicera.

The change also worked out well in that I had planned to incorporate some lighting into the construction. By pure co-incidence the new alignment resulted in one of the lights being immediately above the connection for an old light that I’d removed during preparation. So I could cancel the electrician booked to relocate that underground connection. (Luckily, he was about to ask me to delay his visit the next day because of an urgent job and he was quite happy to cancel altogether.) The wiring to the other light is inside the “walls” though I still used armoured cable to connect it.

All this emphasises the need for careful planning for once you get beyond the bottom layer of blocks, you’re committed.

This is the bottom layer. There are similar plans for each higher layer. Easy peasy.
This is the bottom layer. There are similar plans for each higher layer. Easy peasy.

The WoodBlocX guys provided a colour coded layer-by-layer construction plan. The only difference in the bottom layer is the ground anchor spikes that stop lateral movement. In went the dowels, I hammered the anchors down, added the metal angle plates and about three hours later I was ready to add layer 2. Maybe you think that’s a long time but this was a complicated design and I had to make sure that everything was square, level, upright and that I hadn’t used a wrong bit somewhere – the last is very easy to do if you get carried away. It’s vital that the ground layer is spot on in every direction.

Putting the blocks in place for layer 2 took me about 15 minutes (most of that time was carrying them from the sheds). Then I had the joy, the bliss of having to hammer in the dowels which fix the layers together. The dowels in the bottom layer receive the dowels in the next and so on. Once clobbered into position, they’re as firm as a rock and the only way you’ll get them out is with a drill and a saw.

If you've gotta know, this is what a dowel looks like (except it's black). The bit on the right attaches to the bottom of the bit on the left and then locks into the dowel below it.
If you’ve gotta know, this is what a dowel looks like (except it’s black). The bit on the right attaches to the bottom of the bit on the left and then locks into the dowel below it.

You get a little tube that fits over the dowel and you whack this with a mallet to drive the dowel into position. Usually takes about 5 whacks. Layer 2 involved whacking in 240 of these! At least the quantity reduced a bit layer by layer after that! The whacking took me about an hour (OK, I rested a bit). Feeding the cable for the lights up through the holes in the blocks was easy because, thoughtfully, the designers had left a vertical run of holes free of dowels and the holes were just the right size to take two runs of armoured cable.

I completed level 3 on the first day. My dicky shoulder was now complaining about all the whacking. I must have reached over 2,000 whacks by the end of the day. Day two saw me completing (I was slowing a bit) layers 4 to 7. Day three was enough to complete the other two layers and add the capping on top. Well not exactly, because I’d avoided completing the bit on the right and, for some reason, two tonnes of top soil had been deposited on my drive early.

So there was a diversion to barrow the top soil from the drive and add it to the layer of rubble I’d hastily shifted from the other side of the garden to fill the bottom few inches of the compartments. Oh, and I decided to have another diversion by building the plinth for a fountain I’d bought – this is battery operated so no additional electrical wiring was needed.

So, all in all, by the end of day four, things were looking like this:


Ok, so I added some plants I’d bought already. But the bit on the right’s almost there. Bit of capping to add. And the bit front left won’t involve much. Not bad for four days of labour, eh? If I’d really wanted to be conservative I’d have done it in three! And you can see the lonicera stump. Don’t worry! It’ll soon be back!

Day five and the job was done, except for the seat bit which I’d decided to leave out until I’d filled the compartment at the back. I could now have a rest while waiting for the remaining topsoil.

I rested by demolishing a shed! But that’s for part 4.