What's all this, then?
Since I’m making a bigger and better reaper I figured I’d make this blog to answer those questions. This is also a way for interested parties to ask questions and see the progress of the project.
The only regular time I spend building is on the week-ends, so it’s likely posts will appear early in the week.
The posts appear with the newest on top, so if you're new to the sight scroll to the bottom to read the beginning.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Well, after 2 years of struggling with the second version of the Reaper I decided to re-redesign the basic structure. The big problem was the raising of the torso. It was just too heavy and cumbersome. My solution was to simply weld the top structure to the bottom and leave it up all year. The base structure could potentially be used for other holiday decorations (either with or without the skull).
Since it will be up all year I decided to re-make the top section and make it look less torso-like. After a bit of research I borrowed design elements from the Eiffel Tower and The Space Needle .
Sunday, January 10, 2010
There are quite a few ways to resolve this problem, I could rent a scissor-lift every year, I could build a crane on my roof, I could just leave the Reaper up all year round, ...or I could just eliminate the need to raise the torso.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Start sketching and collecting useful junk…
find a tool and learn how to use it…
conspire with your friends and neighbors…
be creative and don’t be afraid to fail!
Formulate, craft, create, build and construct!
Feel free to write to me if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to help.
I hope to see a whole legion of yard critters out there next year.
Big thanks to strixboy (Wayne Buck) for the great photo! http://www.flickr.com/photos/14114878@N00/
Monday, October 6, 2008
…wait, did I say simple?
Rigging: With the able-bodied help of Dave, we rigged a modified mechanical belay system (replacing the center snap link with a pulley) between the chimney and the far corner of the arbor. This was the best way we devised to get the pulley point as high as possible. A rope was attached to the torso (about 2/3 of the way up the spine), through the pulley then down to the ground.
Joining: This step involved connecting the torso to the legs. Two of us held the torso in place while a third inserted the hinge pin (see Structure Basics for more details).
Lifting: Two of us lifted the torso from the front until the angle was right for the rope to pull effectively.
The landscape lighting kit came with a timer.
I ‘sharpened’ the blade with an angle grinder and left the tool marks for texture.
After that, I fastened a 3” ABS ‘T’ joint to the aluminum tube.
The post was fifteen feet of bent ABS smudged with some brown spray paint.
My original plan for the Reaper's Robe was to use the modern, light-weight nylon fabric one would find a tent made out of… but then I spied a roll of landscape weed-block in the corner of the yard.
This particular stuff was/is pretty rugged. It’s stiff like construction paper and looks to be made out of fiberglass. I got my trusty sketches of the robe, tallied up the square footage needed and started unrolling. There was plenty for the job.
One Saturday morning Suzanne (my wife) and I sewed all 93 total feet of the outfit. I showed her the sketches and made a very quick scale model out of paper. Once it all gelled for her she said “Oh, like a party dress?”
I stared blankly and replied “Uhhh…, yeaaa…”
To get everything lined up I used a regular office stapler to hold the pieces in place. I piled all of the stapled pieces in the living room and walked them into the dining room (where the sewing machine was) and, as they were sewed, pulled them into the kitchen. The fabric sewed surprisingly easy. No catches, no bunching and very little swearing.
Once it was all sewed and pulled out into the yard and the scale of the nearly 100 feet of costume came into focus Suz chuckled and said “That’s one big party dress.”
Then one night while I was watching the Discovery channel (which is almost all I watch) I came to realize that maybe it doesn’t need to be completely modular…
The documentary was about one of those enormous tunnel-digging machines. Turns out that even though that gigantic machine is assembled on-site there are still tons of pieces that need to be welded in place. This ‘allowance’ made the last part of the torso construction move right along.
I needed to make sure all of the parts were going to fit properly as well as make sure the geometry and stresses were geometry-ing and stressing correctly, so I ended up putting together the torso 4 or 5 times.
The girls next door (Paige and Lauren) appreciated this since they are big fans of “The Scary Guy”.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Monday, September 8, 2008
Since the post holes (in the metal and concrete foundation) are set at four feet and the hips are only three feet wide I needed to make two bends in the legs. I used a 12 ton pipe bender for this.
Once I was satisfied with the bends I temporarily set the legs and hips in place. I was pretty happy with the fit.
Fiber-glassing the arms and chest plate started off as a procedure of measuring, mixing, daubing, brushing and applying. Over the next few hours this eroded into squirting, sloshing, smearing, swearing and shoving. Although Connie and I were very ‘done’ with the fiberglassing process at the end of the day, the pieces came out pretty well.
Since one of the arms will need to be wired to accommodate low-voltage landscape lights I opted to make it out of ½” steel pipe and rebar in a truss configuration (sort of like the way a construction crane is made).
When it was all welded together I ran the wire through the arm and zip-tied the end of the wire to the index finger.
To ensure the knuckles looked like knuckles I cut pieces of PVC pipe and taped them to the joints.
That done I covered the whole thing in expanding foam, let it cure,
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
When I made the first reaper I wanted to make sure that the end-product didn’t look like a tent with a skull on it, so I added a an aesthetic rib-cage (a chest plate) to the front. This was something that I had been thinking about for a while but didn’t have any real plans for. I ended up spending an hour or so drywall-screwing and duct taping together some PVC pipe and sheet metal. The end result was passable, and I liked the effect, but it was not my best work.
The new chest plate needed to be light-weight and durable so I went with fiberglass over foam. To get the correct, scale shape I used my life-sized plastic skeleton and a ruler and made a drawing on my shop floor (scaled up, of course) using sidewalk chalk. I then covered the drawing with plastic wrap and duplicated the shape in expanding foam.
Once the foam was cured I pulled off the plastic wrap and carved off the non-rib-cage-looking bits. Since the foam ribs were so thin and would not keep the intended shape I needed to hold them in shape while the fiberglass was applied. I used a piece of galvanized sheet metal bowed across a trashcan. I duct-taped down the ribs (I should have used masking tape) and started the fiberglass. Having learned my lesson last time I opted to do the work in the open air of the driveway rather than inside the shop.
Monday, September 1, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
The first reaper relied on the posts that extended from his feet (and acted like stakes) for stability. I wanted the new reaper to have something a bit more. I decided on making a full on re-enforced concrete foundation that would lie below ground level.
I decided to repurpose the leg trusses from another project (Mary Annette) for the base structure. Since the whole design is a tapered, triangular column, the base is, of course, a triangle.
Using the same super heavy-duty steel pipe that will end up being the new legs, I cut off three 9” sections and welded them to the corners of the base.
…then gave the whole thing a coat of RustOleum. Since I am not the most patient person I typically do not use RustOleum (it takes longer to dry than Krylon), but in this case I really needed something that was gong to work well on top of surface oxidation and armor-coat the rebar while underground.
After about an hour of digging (and sweating and swearing) the hole was ready for the metal base. It took a while to get the base plumb in the hole, but with help from Connie we made it work.
600 pounds of concrete later the base was done.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
The problem was the design.
With the original Reaper (at 13 feet) I could stand on a ladder and put on the head and arms without too much of a problem. At 18 feet that tactic was not an option for Mary. I would have no way to put on her head or arms. The plan was to have her fully assembled while laying down and simply stand her up. 'Simple' it was not. After much pushing and pulling and grunting we finally got her standing. Even though I lashed her down very securely, I stressed out every time the wind blew and I was certain she would become the target of vandals. Taking her down was pretty easy, I just loosened the tie-downs and let gravity do it's thing. I really didn't care if she got damaged.
Although Mary had a short life, her parts will live on. I re-used the central truss for the new Reaper. The new strategy for erecting such a tall piece is to take a lesson from nature (one of my favorite engineers), and have the Reaper bend at the waist. Using a steel pipe and some round-stock I made a very large hinge. This hinge will connect the bottom section to the top section.
Monday, March 31, 2008
I did some research (on-line) trying to find a classic ye oldee lantern that wouldn’t be too difficult to scale up and fabricate.
This is what I decided on.
Simple, basic lines that are immediately recognized as a lamp or lantern.
My two goals for the construction of the new lamp (after picking the style) were low weight and high strength. I figured if this thing is going to be 18 feet in the air that a flimsy, heavy object flapping around in the wind was not a good plan.
A steel frame made of ¼” round-stock, blanketed with aluminum angle ought to do the trick.
I was going to need about 50 linear feet of round-stock and aluminum angle each. Doing the math in my head at Lowe’s while standing in front of their metals section, it turned out that it was going to be waaay out of budget buy raw materials in the standard way.
Time for plan ‘b’.
Plan ‘b’ happens a lot. It’s not very often that I just go out and buy raw materials, I almost always need to find less expensive way.
First, I spent about an hour in the lighting section hoping to find a porch-light or something similar that would work. There were a few promising candidates but they were either too expensive, too heavy or the wrong scale. Next, I went to the ‘storage’ area hoping to find a tall, wire laundry basket that was about the size of the lamp. No go. While in the roofing section I found some drip flashing (used to protect the bottom edge of a roof from drips). It was like aluminum angle but steel, thinner, ten feet long and far cheaper. After a second pass by the lighting section (and a second time talking myself out of spending $100 on a lantern) I found some ¼” all-thread that is normally used to hang lighting in commercial construction. It was 10 feet long and $2.44 each. They were threaded and galvanized, but I could live with that. $40 later I was on my way. Bonus! I got a $10 off coupon attached to my receipt.
Making a rectangular box out of round-stock isn’t all that hard, particularly when it’s going to be covered with flashing. Once I got done with the basic shape I took a long hard look from different distances. The shape was just ‘ok’ and the structure was a bit wobbly. Using the flashing, I made the bottom part and one of the corners of the lamp and temporarily attached them to the frame then had another look… still just ‘ok’. I took the flashing off and went back over all of the joints of the frame with big, thick welds… Or that was the plan anyway until I ran out of welding wire. I was sure I had a second roll… dang it. Back to Lowe’s…
I got two rolls of welding wire and some sheet-metal screws to attach the flashing together. In addition I was going to use some construction adhesive to glue the whole thing together, but for some reason instead of getting Liquid Nails I ended up back in the dang lighting section. Lo and behold, a lamp appears. I’m sure I had seen it before, but dismissed it due to its price. But there was something that I didn’t notice before, it was on sale…
and I have a coupon…hmmm.
After doing more mental math exercises, adding up the rest of the supplies I’d need to fabricate the lamp I took the easy way out and just bought dang lamp.