Tag Archives: DIY

Smoko – In Praise Of Pallets

Apologies for the lack of posts in recent times. We’re very busy these days; T with her PhD, me with planning, building, and organising some events in Brisbane, and both of us with the little lad, who gets less little and more laddish every day.

But, given the massive amounts of rain we’ve had recently, which has put a stop to a lot of building projects (even the indoor jobs get put on hold as we don’t run powertools when the solar isn’t charging), I thought I’d write a quick blog, in praise of pallets.

We’ve gone a bit pallet crazy round here recently (and woe betide anyone who goes to town and doesn’t bring at least a couple back without a good excuse), having discovered a myriad of ways online to recycle (or upcycle) them.

Here are some different shelf units I’ve knocked up recently. We also made a bed for T’s mum, but she’s in it right now so I can’t take a picture. Well, not a publishable one any way… 😉

This is the second or third unit I built, to clean up the veranda a bit. (Incidentally, it also houses most of our new sound system, which more than adequately solves all the problems I wrote about in a previous post. I’d tried running an 18” (like the bottom one in the pic) at my house some years ago, while living in Brisbane, but the police came. Out here, I can crank it as hard as our little amp will allow (pretty bloody loud) and no neighbours can hear. Gotta love the bush!):


Office bookcase:

Already overused tool shelves. It has, as I said, been raining ridiculously heavily for days, so it’s a wee bit messier than usual, but probably only a wee bit:

And today’s effort, a new spice rack, freeing up some much needed bench space. Now I’ve discovered how to efficiently strip pallets apart (a reciprocating saw and a trade quality 12” blade…beats the hell out of (but doesn’t totally eliminate the need for) a mallet and crowbar) things can get a little less chunky when needs be:

I also will be using pallets bolted together as a stud wall frame in the new shed/annexe we’re putting up on the east side of the house (to hold the tool and materials overflow), and there’s a good chance they’ll feature heavily in the fittings of the new guest room / office.  Will try to blog about it when it’s done!

Cheers! J



Smoko – quick cubby

So I haven’t written anything for ages because I don’t think that much has happened that is worth reporting*. We’ve planted a few trees, strung a fence or two, built a bridge over a seasonal (but when she goes she goes) creek, and steps down the hill.

Work has progressed on the shed up the back, but I’m in need of some extra muscle to help with the next stage and have found myself happy for the break from it. I’ll update once the roof is finished.

But recently we decided to build the little fella a cubby house down the hill a bit. Our house isn’t very big, and given that his cardboard box kitchen seemed to have taken up permanent residence in the middle of the floor, it was time for an extension.

Take one tree, a couple of 4x4s, two pallets we found by the side of the road, half a leaky tank and a handful of screws and voila! I’m a bit proud, hence the blog, and the little man loves it, thank god.  The underside will eventually be levelled off and walled/windowed to make another room.

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IMGP8031 (Large)Bit of a gap in the picture taking here…imagine lots of sweating, swearing, running to recharge the drill every 5 minutes cos I left the spare battery elsewhere, and a fair bit of scrubbing paint out of someone’s hair.

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*And also because that last blog was a wee bit embarrassing, thanks love, and I wasn’t sure I’d ever come back here… And also because I’m lazy when it comes to writing blogs.

Smoko #6

So we decided we needed more shade around the house.  The veranda is in need of insulating as it gets roasting hot during the day, and sometimes it feels like there’s nowhere to go to escape the heat.  (Okay, there IS the creek, rainforest, abundant trees and so forth…but they’re not immediately by the house, and when I want to, say, sit and write a blog, cup of tea and smoke at hand, I want somewhere cool, shady and flat, preferably with a power point nearby).

So – we decided to build a grape arbor off one side of the veranda, which once grown over with grape vines will provide us with shade in summer when the leaves are out, and sun in winter when the leaves drop off, as well as, of course, grapes.  This is how we did it (click on the pictures to view full size):

First, take one wife, one wwoofer and a couple of big poles, introduce them to each other, and get 2 of them to carry the others up the hill.


While they did that, I dug a couple of post holes

A post hole yesterday

and as I was finishing the second, right on dusk, T and the wwoofer were carrying one of the poles up the steps, so we dropped it straight in the hole.  Unfortunately, I should have measured the pole and hole first as, on putting the tape on it after setting it in the ground, I realised it hadn’t quite touched the bottom of the hole, and far too much was still sticking out.


So, next morning, we dig


And then try tying rope handles on the pole to pull it out


And dig some more


And then eventually tie it to the car (using a passing goanna to make up the shortfall in rope)…


And haul it out.  Tore up a big chunk of ground around it, but job done, and at least we could now make sure the pole fit the hole.


…unfortunately, though I already knew this, I should have measured the pole and the hole first, as, having spent bloody hours getting it back out of the hole, I discovered that, in fact, it was simply a longer pole than I thought, and had been touching the bottom all along.  What a wally.

So we drop it back in the ground along with another pole


Put on a horizontal support (probably not permanent though, as I’m now envisioning a bar (think drinks in the afternoon) between the two poles), and called it a day.


Meanwhile, work had been progressing on the planter boxes to put our grape vines in.  I simply got a bit of colourbond tin we picked up at the tip, cut it in half, bent the two pieces around and riveted them together. A length of hosepipe slit lengthways provoides a nice rim and prevents cutting your fingers off on the sharp tin edge.  Then we dug them slightly into the ground, put 20 or 30cm of gravel in the bottom, and filled it up with a nice soil mix.  One grape vine, lots of mulch, a bit of a fence to stop the [wallabies, bandicoots, chickens, assorted marsupials, young children] from trashing it before it can grow up, and Bob’s your uncle! (Interestingly, my uncle is, in fact, called Bob, so it must be true).




Back to the arbor, I next cut the crossbeams (I apologise – I can never actually remember what any of the various terms of timber and what different cuts [etc] are called, and tend to use any word I know that sounds right at the time.  “Nice beams” I say…”They’re rafters mate”, etc.  Anyway, these may well actually BE crossbeams, otherwise they’re the bits that go up high above your head, running from one pole to another.  Okay, moving on…).  Then I chiselled a mitre cut into it (see above disclaimer), bored a hole for the bolt to go through (with my 120 year old hand drill.  I eventually upgraded and purchased the most expensive drill bit I’ve ever bought to get a 15mm hole through the steel veranda poles)…


And up went the first crossbeam/rafter mate/whatever.


On the pole on the other side, I cut a seat for the crossbeam, using the time honoured technique of standing on the 2nd top step of a step ladder with a chainsaw while absent but wiser friends and family screamed at me in my minds’ ear.


Yesterday I got the other side up, although I did stop for a cuppa when a storm rolled in.  I’d persevered for a while, but brandishing a chisel up in the air on a very precariously balanced step ladder (I console myself that, having some understanding of health and safety standards on the workplace, I am therefore more qualified to break them, as I know exactly what the dangers are… Actually, to digress, it was exactly this kind of enlightened thinking that lead to T and I setting fire to our tent while we were in it years ago, but that’s another story), while the lightning was flashing close by proved too much for my nerve and I waited it out.  Which was good, ‘cos the hail would have made the step ladder slippery ha ha.


Anyway, the other side is now up, and all that remains is to run some wires or thin poles or bamboo between the crossbeams for the vine to grow over.  Given it will take a while to grow and give us lovely summer shade, for this year we will rig up some shadecloth over it, and, with luck, lay hands on (or figure out how to cut without buying a mill) some slabs to make the bar.  Picture it – a nice slab bar with some tall tree trunk stools, sipping on our home made wine (we planted 2 vines, a table grape and a wine grape) under our cool, shady, leafy roof.  Bloody fantastic mate, whatever word you wanna use!