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Chris Pollock

Chris Pollock - web developer & ecommerce entrepreneur
undivided… my thoughts on world, family, church, business, technology and Jesus Christ (all in all)

DIY Portable Kid’s Climbing Wall

I have 5 boys, so needless to say there’s a lot of activity in our house.  Our 2nd son is by far the most active (at the moment anyhow) and Amy and I couldn’t resist buying him some rock climbing holds for his birthday.  Originally I was going to mount them on the back of our garage, or outside somewhere, but the other night the idea came to me.  Use some wood I had lying around to build an indoor climbing wall for the basement.  I literally thought of this and built it the next day.  The kids helped and within a matter of hours they were climbing away and having a great time!

Caleb's Climbing Wall

Here’s the finished product.

Idea

The ideas was to use two pieces of plywood I had lying around to make a triangle structure. The more I thought, the more refined the idea.  Using bolts to connect the wood accomplished a couple of things.

  1. Theoretically I could change the board length at the top and bottom to change the angle of the unit and make it steeper or easier.
  2. The bolts make the whole unit disassemble into a fairly portable unit.  This is great if you want to take it outside, take it to a family runion or just stow it away when not in use.

Another port of the idea was to attach indoor/outdoor carpeting.  This protected the kids from splinters (it was really rough plywood) and makes it a little more weather proof if I take it outside (If I take it outside I would also paint the side boards because they are not pressure treated.

If you build something like this I hope you’ll use your own creativity to improve the idea.

Parts List

  • 40 Climbing holds from EMS
  • 2pc.  4 x 8 plywood (I used B Grade)
  • 2×4 lumber – various lengths depending on the size of your unit
  • 4×4 lumber – for the base
  • 4pc. 4” Galvanized 1/2” Bolts
  • 4pc.  6′” Galvanized 1/2” Bolts
  • 16pc. 1/2” Galvanized Washers
  • 8pc. 1/2” Galvanized Nuts
  • 6’ x 8’ section of indoor/outdoor carpet
  • 8’ Poly Rope

 

Step 1: Build the Frames

Caleb's Climbing Wall

  • The frames are made of 2×4 lumber.  My wall was going to be about 5-1/2’ tall so I cut my 2x4s just a couple inches longer. 
  • I used a jig saw to round the ends of the height boards.  That allowed the unit to be pivoted and got rid of sharp edges when the kids were climbing.
  • I screwed the whole thing together with 2-1/2” in screws. 
  • I spaced the cross supports about 6” from either end.  A little bit longer on the top.Make sure you measure from one end.  Because the rounding of the he 2x4s will make them uneven, you don’t want to measure from both sides.

 

Step 2 – Cut and Drill the Support Lumber

Caleb's Climbing Wall

  • On the top I simply used some of the remnant 2×4 to create the connection points.
  • On the bottom I used some old 4×4 lumber that was lying around in the backyard.  This gives a nice solid base and also some durability if I do place it outside.

 

Step 3 – Drilling the Holes

  • This was hardest part of the project.  if the holes are off then the unit will not hinge properly.  In the end I basically made my holes on center in the 2×4 lumber.  So for instance a 2×4 is 3-1/2” wide.  So I centered my holes at 1-3/4” from the sizdes and ends. 
  • On the bottom I centered my holes more toward the top of the 4×4 so that only the 4x4s are touching the ground.

Caleb's Climbing Wall

Caleb's Climbing Wall

 

Step 4 – Test Fit

Once the holes are drilled then you can test fit the structure by inserting the bolts.  Everything should come together nicely.  If it doesn’t make your adjustments now before you mount the plywood

 

Step 5 – Attach Plywood

Caleb's Climbing Wall

Caleb's Climbing Wall

  • I cut my plywood down to about 5-1/2” feet.
  • I attached all over the frame using 2” decking screws.  If you built your frames correctly it should mount perfectly
  • I left a little bit of room at both ends so that the 2x4s just peak out on either side of the unit – this allows the carpeting to be tucked under the unit.

 

Step 6 – Attach the Carpet

  • I got some indoor outdoor carpet.  This stuff is really inexpensive and gives the climbing wall a very nice finish.
  • I cut the carpet to be a little longer so that it could be wrapped around the ends.
  • Glue the carpet down with some adhesive and then staple the carpet on the “bottom” of the plywood. 

 

Step 7 – Layout and Attach the Climbing Holds

  • I am no expert at climbing layouts, so we basically laid them out in a way that made sense for small guys. 
  • After laying them out, the boys and I screwed them down.

Caleb's Climbing Wall

Caleb's Climbing Wall

Caleb's Climbing Wall

 

Step 8 – Assemble and Finishing Touches

  • Once the glue has dried (the label says 24 hours, but my boys were not going to wait that long) then attach the top with 4” Galvanized 1/2′” bolts
  • Connect the bottom with 6” Galvanized 1/2” bolts
  • When talking this over with a friend, we talked about the possible need for an additional support to fix the angle.  After tightening down the bolts, I saw no need to to add the additional supports, but depending on your angle and and lumber its something you might want to consider.
  • To finish it off I attached poly rope by drilling a hole into one of the supporting 2x4s to add some interest and variety to the climbing. 

Caleb's Climbing Wall

 

Let the Fun Begin

Caleb's Climbing WallCaleb's Climbing WallCaleb's Climbing WallCaleb's Climbing WallCaleb's Climbing WallCaleb's Climbing WallCaleb's Climbing Wall

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You know you’ve risen in the industry when…

You can call me Mr. Kee Klamp

You can call me Mr. Kee Klamp.

PS > Google’s new image search is pretty stinking cool!

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Stand and Work!

On my company blog I posted a complete step by step processes with videos of a standing desk that I built.  As a programmer I do a lot of sitting and the standing desk is a great way to get out of the seat and be productive.  Learn more about this project: Simplified Building – Standing Desk

Standing Desk - Finished! Standing at the Desk

Standing Desk - Finished!

Standing Desk - Finished!

Standing Desk - Finished!

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How To: Build a Custom Ergonomic Computer Desk

As a web developer, I spend LOTS of time at the keyboard.   For me, having an ergonomic computer desk is an absolute essential.  Recently, making the transition to working full time for myself, I decided that I needed a quality computer desk that would be adjustable and ergonomic.  I quickly found myself frustrated with the high cost of ergonomic desks on the market.

Researching desks started to give me an idea of what I did and did not want in a computer desk.  After a discussion with a friend I decided to make the plunge into building a desk to fit my needs.

Basic Strategy

I'm not a woodworker at heart, so I knew I needed to keep the construction of the desk simple.  I decided to build the desk legs and foundation using Kee Klamp fittings and fence post.  The aesthetic look isn't for everyone, but it makes construction MUCH EASIER. Building the foundation of the desk is as simple as cutting some pipe and using an Allen wrench.

For the desk top I used a custom cut piece of MDF that I primed, painted and sealed (a must if you are using MDF).

To make the desk ergonomic I custom cut some of the remaining MDF into a keyboard tray and bought an articulating keyboard adjustable unit.

Getting Started

The first thing I did was make a plan.  I drew out several sketches on some graph paper to see how I wanted the desktop surface to look.  Having a particular space in mind, I made one side of the desk longer than the other.

Here's my drawing:

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Cutting the Top

After I had my design, I marked the outline onto a  4×8 sheet of MDF.  I used the top of a coffee can as a stencil for my rounded corners.

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I supported it on saw horses and made the first couple of straight cuts with a circular saw.  I used a straight edge to guide the circular saw so that the edges were perfectly straight.

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Then I used a HIGH QUALITY jig saw with a SHARP BLADE to cut out the curves and corners.

TIP: You need to be careful with how you support MDF — it is not as study as plywood and could crack if mishandled.

TIP: I borrowed a high quality jig saw. The performance of a high quality jig saw with a sharp blade is astounding compared to a cheaper unit.

An idea I got while cutting the desk was to include a section in the back for cord management.  I cut out an inch deep section in the back of the desk to accommodate power cords and various cables running off the desk.

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With that, the initial cut of the top was finished.

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At this point the desk had a rough edge.  I wanted a nice rounded edge.  Thankfully, a friend of mine had a high quality router.  With a simple pass around the edge, the desk top went from a rough cut piece of material to a smooth edged desktop.

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Attaching the Base

At this point we were ready to start attaching the fittings that would connect the legs to the desk top.  I spaced out the Kee Klamp L61-7 fittings on the bottom of the desktop and screwed them in with 3/4" #10 wood screws.

The fence post was cut (you can use a pipe cutter or a sawz-all — or just have the home center do it for you) to just under the desktop height (measure a height that works for you) and then attached to the fittings.

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A Word About Kee Klamp Fittings and Fence Post

I chose to use Kee Klamp fittings on this project for several reasons.

1. They are easy to use.  I'm not a carpenter, so it was a quick and easy way to build a study foundation for a desk that would look good.  Kee Klamp fittings slip onto pipe and then "bite down" into the pipe with a set screw.  Normally they are used as an alternative to welding in the handrail world, but they work great for all sorts of DIY projects as well.

2. I am partner in a company that distributes them so I get a pretty good discount on them (if you're a DIYer, mention this post and I'll cut you a small discount on the parts).  They can be expensive, but when you consider the time and resources saved in other areas I think they are "worth" the investment.  Literally, it took me minutes to get the desk upright once the desktop was cut out.

3. The Aluminum fittings (Kee Lite) have some aesthetic value for a modern looking office.

4. The size 7 (1 1/4") fittings work well with fence post.  I used about 3 1/2 – 8 foot lengths of galvanized fence posts that can be obtained at any home store.  Fence post is a lot cheaper than the using galvanized schedule 40 pipe (not to mention it's easier to work with too).

Building the Base

The base consisted of six uprights with a pipe running between each of the uprights. The cross supports made the entire unit very stable.  They are necessary so that the horizontal forces on the desk (like when moving it) are not placed upon the MDF.  I think without the cross supports it would be easy for the MDF top to crack and break.

The pipe is held in the fittings with a set screw that is tightened down with a standard allen wrench.

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Here the cross supports are added with Kee Klamp L10-7 Fittings.  They were staggered in height for even greater stability.   Once the desk is in its final location the fittings can be adjusted and retightened.

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Painting the Desk

Painting the MDF desktop is a must. Without paint, the first time you set a glass of water on your desk you'll really wish you hadn't!  The MDF grain swells very easily and also continues to put off dust.

I painted the desk top in a thee part process.

1) Primed with a NON WATER BASED – BIN Primer
2) Painted with an Indoor Latex Paint
3) Finished with a Polycrylic to provide a protective finish.

I put one coat of primer on the surface and two on the edges, sanding lightly in between each coat.  I also wiped the surfaces down with a tack cloth.  Using a mini roller made the paint go on quickly and smoothly.

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When I was painting both sides (for the keyboard tray and shelves), I supported them with nails driven into the saw horses.  This allowed minimal damage to the underside of the painted surface.

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Here is the paint and Polycrylic that I used.

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Finished Painting:

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Finishing Touches

At this point the basic desk was done.  Now the only thing that needed to be added was the keyboard tray.  I ordered an articulating unit from www.ergoindemand.com.  I found their customer service people very helpful.

Here is the unit I ordered.

Here is the desk in place, ready for keyboard tray.

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Once the desk is in place, I adjusted the cross pieces to make sure that they were spaced properly and evenly.

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First I screwed the unit into the bottom of the keyboard tray.

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Then I screwed the track onto the bottom of the desk.

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The keyboard tray slid right into the track and worked perfectly.

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The cord management cut also worked very well.

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In order to keep the pipe from ruining the floor, I also added some plastic pipe end caps to make the desk easier to move around.

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Admiring the Finished Product

To finish it off I laid down some laminate floor so that my chair would roll.   I made the extra shelves out of MDF in hopes of using them down the road (that'll be another post).

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Desk setup with 22" wide screen monitors and ergonomic mouse and keyboard.

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At the time of writing I have been using the setup for about two weeks and am very happy with how everything turned out.

Counting the Cost

I mentioned that this was cheaper than buying your own ergonomic desk.  The cheapest ergonomic desk that I could find was around $600 (not including shipping), so what did this desk cost:

  1. 1pc. – 3/4” thick 4×8 MDF – $25
  2. 10pc. – L10-7 Tee Fitting – $80
  3. 6pc. -  L61-7 Flange – $65
  4. 6pc – 77-7 Plastic Plug – $9
  5. 4pc – 8ft Fence Post – $35
  6. Various Paint Supplies – $30
  7. Articulating Keyboard Unit – $100

Total Cost: ~ $350

$350 is NOT Cheap, but it is less expensive than the ergonomic desks that I could find on the market.  Of course that also doesn't include the fact that you get the satisfaction of building it yourself and customizing the desk to fit your space.

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Three Step Kitchen Stool (Popular Mechanics)

In thinking my three (soon to be four) boys I want to be able to teach to use their hands to make and fix things.  Being a computer programmer I know that in order to pass on these skills to my sons that I need to develop them myself. 

The kids are frequently in the kitchen trying to help mommy or washing their hands so a stool seemed like a useful project to start honing my skills.  I did some Googling and I found a plan to build a three step kitchen stool on the Popular Mechanics web site.  

Overall I was very satisfied with this stool.  It's rock solid and is definitely something that will be around for years and years (unlike something you would buy at Walmart or even IKEA). 

Here are a few things I learned while making this stool.

Don't be intimidated by new tools or processes – I never used a chisel, glued boards together, planed boards or recessed screws with wood plugs, but I found each of things steps to be fairly straight forward.  I dove right in an was able to learn a few things.

Lining up boards joined with dowels is tricky.  I think if I were going to join boards together on a regular basis I'd look into a joining tool. Lining up the holes where the dowels sit was not very straightforward (even though I marked the middle of the board, the drill seemed to shift). 

Be careful of different colored wood filler - I had some white color wood filer hanging around and decided to use it to fill in the gaps that were left by my cutting.  Bad idea, I should have gotten some wood filer that was the same color as my boards.  The result is that the filler did not blend in when the stool was stained.

Watch carefully if cutting a curve with a jig saw – I don't know happened, but I must have stopped paying attention for a second while cutting the bottom curve with my jig saw.  What I got a flat spot in the curve that I tried to smooth out with my Dremel tool. 

Overall the project was a success.  The boys watched the construction of the whole project (preoccupying them for many evenings) and now they have a piece of furniture that they helped to construct.  It was a learning process for Daddy as much as for them, but after all, that was the point of this particular project. 

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If your dryer sounds like its grinding metal on metal, then it probably is!

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Our family has been tormented by a metal on metal sound from our dryer for months.  It suddenly got worse and my wife wanted it fixed.  I delved into home appliance repair heads first deconstructing my dryer to find the culprit.  Props to my wife who did the research online to find the possible problem.  Our problem was that the back bearing was none existent (who knows how long its been gone) and then support axle was running metal on metal again the bracket.  You can tell from the pictures that it had been going on for quite some time.

I've got hand it to GE, despite all this carnage inside the dryer, it was still functioning quite well (just a little noisy).  I was also pleased to find out that inside a dryer is not a mangled mess of wires and equipment but a very straight forward system that I am sure just about any man with a mechanical mind could figure out (so save yourself the service call).  

I also want to express appreciation to the helpful people Affordable Appliance Service: http://www.affordableappliance.com  They helped my wife initially determine what the problem might be and they sent us a replacement part at a very good price and very quickly. 

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Corner Desk – Plywood, Pipe & Fittings

We needed a desk to put in the corner of our downstairs, so I decided to make one from a piece of plywood, some fence posts and fittings.  I think in the end it came out pretty nice.  We've been using it for over 6 months and it has been very functional.

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Click here for Complete Instructions on Making this Desk 

More project ideas…

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Things I see

Tooth-less. Makes him look younger ;). #lifewithboys"Can you please peel the sweet potatoes?" I asked. I did not specify that the resulting peels should be contained in some sort of trash receptacle ;) #lifewithboysThis is a stick-up. Early morning bed buddy.Parents and children in the pool. A dangerous combination. #waterfightIn the pool with GrandmaHuge crowd at wings gameFeeling the love from my brother Gary! #pertussis #cantstoploveBug congrats to #JRW in winning the #llws2014 us championship. Huge accomplishment beating the West!Simon has been making these incredibly accessorized Lego creations. And he's really a stickler about them being symmetrical. #lego #lifewithboysFrom the SouthLearning #bookbinding from Jay at the Central Library #homeschoolingDowntown with the gang #rochesterThey did a great job. One more coat!Working hard at painting the porch. Making some $$. I learned that baby wipes will remove porch paint from couch :/Ari, just being Ari.

Chris Pollock

Web Developer - proficient in both PHP and ASP.NET.
Rochester, New York

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Tooth-less. Makes him look younger ;). #lifewithboys"Can you please peel the sweet potatoes?" I asked. I did not specify that the resulting peels should be contained in some sort of trash receptacle ;) #lifewithboysThis is a stick-up. Early morning bed buddy.Parents and children in the pool. A dangerous combination. #waterfightIn the pool with GrandmaHuge crowd at wings gameFeeling the love from my brother Gary! #pertussis #cantstoploveBug congrats to #JRW in winning the #llws2014 us championship. Huge accomplishment beating the West!Simon has been making these incredibly accessorized Lego creations. And he's really a stickler about them being symmetrical. #lego #lifewithboysFrom the SouthLearning #bookbinding from Jay at the Central Library #homeschoolingDowntown with the gang #rochesterThey did a great job. One more coat!Working hard at painting the porch. Making some $$. I learned that baby wipes will remove porch paint from couch :/Ari, just being Ari.