Saturday, July 31, 2010

Rescuing a CedarWorks Swing Set

We had the good fortune recently of being offered an old play-structure by a lovely couple who'd recently bought a house with it in the garden, but their kid was too old for it. They'd tried to give it away a few times over the last year or so, but no one who came to look at it had any clue how to take it apart - I'm beginning to suspect that they were just sensible and realised how much work would be involved in deconstructing and reconstructing it all ;)

It was completely worth the effort though. These CedarWorks play-structures are fantastic (seriously, check out that link, it's like swing set porn) and there's no way our kids would ever have had anything like this under other circumstances. We managed to salvage the whole thing for about the cost of the metal steering wheel it came with (~$160).

I took a look and thought, yeah, that'll come apart easy and should squeeze in our back-yard. So the missus and I went down one Sunday with a big U-Haul truck (one of these) and spent about 4 1/2 hours taking it apart with the help of the original owners (and Jessen and Lani who were looking after the filthwizards). We'd actually been down the day before to show the kids and to get started (we spent about 1 1/2 hours there that day). These things are definitely built to stay up!

Most of it was pretty straightforward to deconstruct, it's mostly held together by long bolts and hex-screws. The hardest part was removing all the dowel rods... These were all kept in place with nails driven through the main posts... this turned out to be the biggest pita time-sink of the day. I ended up clearing some of the wood around each of the nail heads by hammering a 7mm socket around the top of them and then using a claw hammer to pull the nail out. We left parts of the structure intact (the smaller tower, the monkey bars and 3 rows of the larger tower). Phew! That was quite hard in the midday sunshine... and guess who forgot his hat! Doh!

We did joke a couple of times that we may have landed ourselves some very elaborate firewood.

Here it is, taken apart and stored down the side of our house waiting for some attention (both of us quietly hoping not of the bonfire variety):

Whilst taking it apart we found that the lower 6 inches of the structure was rotten (including the A-frame support beams/crossmembers) so we'd have to come up with a plan for fixing it up. A few of the dowels were rotten as well and one of them wouldn't come out, so we ended up sawing it in half in order to get the frame apart and out of the garden.

We decided to stain the wood to protect it from further water damage and to make it look a bit nicer. We picked up the stain from Home Depot (Red, Brown and a small pot of green for the horse swing) and set to work.

It took a couple of weeks of preparation (mainly painting and grabbing some supplies) and an entire weekend of painting, sawing, hammering, drilling, lifting, squeezing, sneezing, spluttering (I got a lot of sawdust up my nose and in my mouth) and standing on-top of things with my mate, Jessen, bashing away with a big rubber mallet to get it finished and in a good state to play on. I sawed off the lower 6" or so of the entire structure (16 vertical legs and 3 A-frame legs) and replaced the unsalvageable, A-frame crossmembers with some 8' 4"x4" from Home Depot.

It was going dark on Monday night by the time the kids got a chance to test it out - They were very excited and I had to fend them off for a little while whilst finishing up the A-frames. You would have thought the sight of me running back and forth with a big drill in the twilight would have been intimidating enough... apparently not.

Well, it's still not quite finished. The platforms that go inside the main structure still need sanding and painting, but we can do those piecemeal. Hopefully this means I've got some time to get back to building that CNC machine!

It feels like we're pretty good at not necessarily biting off more than we can chew, but rather biting off enough to give us very sore jaws... It really felt worthwhile when Ffion came running over and hugged my leg, saying "you're the best dad ever!" and Carys shouts out (from the apex of a high swing) "This is AWESOME!". Yeah fine... they have me wrapped around their little fingers...