What's all this, then?

Each Halloween season, when the Greenwood Reaper inhabits my yard, people ask me “How did you make it?” and “What is it made from?”.

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.


Monday, March 31, 2008

The Lantern

The lantern for the original reaper was (see the picture in the very first entry) a candle-holder lamp thing that I found at Costco on clearance for $10. It worked well enough, but it was a bit heavier than I wanted it to be and it used actual glass for the panes. I always hesitate using any glass in my outdoor projects since Fall can get pretty windy in Seattle.
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.

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