Meet our girls, Penny and Pepper.
Penny is the one looking like a sperm whale about to eat a giant squid, and Pepper is the one looking like a Little Red Chewbacca.
Like all creatures, they seek comfort and cool in the heat of the summer. In our yard, they used to find cool places in Handan’s gardens, under a hosta or a hydrangea or some other shrub. They engineered comfort with the
skilled restructuring paw-scooping of mulch into makeshift dog beds. Any flowers trampled in the process were simply collateral damage and not remotely the girls’ problem nor concern. We spent half our first summer chasing the dogs out of the garden like a crazy old man chases rambunctious kids off his lawn.
During one of our weekly sojourns to the dump, Handan spied half a Papasan chair in Put & Take. We gathered it up, saucer and cushion, and crammed it into our car. Back home, the cushion became Penny and Pepper’s new bed until it finally disintegrated into a heap of torn fabric and shredded foam padding after a vigorous fight with the spin cycle. The bamboo saucer bade its time in the Basement of Unloved Castaways until last spring when Handan emerged with it, proclaiming: “Babes, you will make a dog igloo with this!”
I kept a straight face and stayed silent.
“Babes?” Handan looked this way and that. I hoped she would go away if I didn’t move or say anything. I remembered a scene from Jurassic Park in which Dr. Grant says to the young girl, Lex, as she screams at the sight of a Tyrannosaurus rex crushing the SUV she has just evacuated, “Don’t move! He can’t see us if we don’t move!” I prayed my wife was like a T. rex. She looked around, uncertain, then sniffed the air. Once. Twice. Damn! She caught my scent! Her pupil constricted as she brought her great and powerful eye to bear on me. A bead of sweat rolled down my forehead, betraying my presence. “Ah, there you are. Yeah, like I said, we’re going to turn this chair into a shade structure for the girls.” She smiled and walked away with a bounce in her step.
I feigned1 stupidity – the last refuge of the desperate. “How?”
Handan started to explain. I countered her efforts with a blank stare. Heheheh, it was working. She couldn’t explain it, at least not to a pseudo-stupid2 like me! She tried drawing her plans. It looked like a plate of spaghetti, so I nodded enthusiastically, rubbed my belly and made slurping noises. She threw down the pencil and paper in frustration. Her head snapped up. “AHA!” She said. “I’ll show you what I mean!”
Damn! Defeated again. She was about to go all engineer-y on me. I could feel it.
“Get those Dollar Store tiki torches in the shed! I’ll get some jute.”
I got the torches, and she got the jute. We set them on the deck.
Handan removed the yellow and orange fuel reservoirs and set them aside for some unknown future use. She started lashing the bamboo stakes to the Papasan chair.
When she had lashed a few more stakes to the saucer, she carried it to the garden and continued her lashings there.
“Hey Babes!” I called.
She turned. “What?”
She finished her lashings and stood.
I looked on, pleased and beaming. “Great job, my babes! The girls are going to love it!” That wasn’t so bad. Really, I didn’t do much at all!
“You silly bugger! This isn’t for the girls! This is to show you what I want!” She went on to explain the ins and outs of the real project, using her mock-up as a teaching aid.
My face fell. Awwwwwwwww….nuts!
The jig was up. She had me hooked, landed and gutted. I grabbed the damn Papasan, went down to the basement and gave it the stink eye while I figured out a plan.
I remembered Handan babbling something about a planter ring around it so
weeds morning glories could grow up and over the top, creating some sort of magical floral canopy. Okay, a circular planter box. Out of wood. Yeah, that wasn’t going to work. Hmmmm…how about an octagonal box, since there were eight radial support arms? Yeah, that could work. And how about if I left two sections out of the octagon to serve as the entrance? Yep, that might be pretty okay. Time to get busy with the chopper. But first, some angles and measurements. If we consider a square frame, we know that each corner is a 90 degree angle. The sum of the angles is 360 degrees. To make that corner from two pieces of wood, we would cut each piece to a 45 degree angle and glue them together. For an octagon (8-sides), each corner is a 45 degree angle (360/8). To make that angle from two pieces of wood, we simply chop them at a 22.5 degree angle. I set my miter saw to 22.5 degrees. Since this is a common setting, it is marked on my saw and has a stop-lock there.
I can hear you, you know. I can hear your thoughts. “Oh, well that’s great for you, but I don’t have a miter saw! How am I supposed to make a 22.5 degree cut?!?” The answer is simple, madam. You only need a protractor a pencil and a hand saw to achieve the same cut.
But how long to make each piece? I wanted the inner diameter of the octagonal ring to be equal to the diameter of the Papasan chair. I knew how wide my cedar planks were, so a bunch of math happened, and I had my answer.
I cut six pieces in this fashion and laid them out on the floor.
Using my Kreg Jig, screws and wood glue, I joined the pieces into pairs.
I can hear you again. “Well, that’s just great, but how the hell are you going to plant morning glories on planks, eh smart guy?”
Madam, please. Strap yourself in, because we are about to enter….THE THIRD DIMENSION! [cue spooky music]
Years of rigorous study taught me that dirt stays better in a box than on a plank, so I set out to create vertical walls for my quasi-octagonal ring. More math happened. I also had to employ the “compound” part of my “compound miter saw.”
Okay, madam, you’re right about this part. Compound cuts, while not impossible, are much more difficult to do by hand.
I worked in sections, building up my plank pairs into THE THIRD DIMENSION. [cue spoo….ah never mind!]
When my sections were complete, I glued and screwed them all together.
Now that I had a fancy three dimensional box, fully capable of holding dirt, I needed to suspend the Papasan above it.
Here was my problem: I wanted to have the round bamboo ring of the Papasan…
…inside a circular cutout in the supports. But how was I going to do that? The Papasan ring was closed, so I wouldn’t be able to thread it through anything. I had an idea. I’m not sure even today if it is a good idea or a bad idea. More time will tell. But here was my solution. I cut six pairs of cedar planks. Each pair would be a support leg.
I clamped each pair together…
Then I sized them up with a Forstner drill bit that was just a tiny bit wider than the diameter of the bamboo ring around the Papasan chair.
It would be cutting it close (ugh, pun not intended), but it should work.
No, that would never hold up. I decided to reinforce those areas by gluing small blocks of cedar to either side.
They’re not going to win any beauty contests. Then again…neither will I!
I fit them onto the chair to see how everything lined up. I noticed that my measurements were a little bit off, so I had to cut one side of each pair a little shorter. It will become clear in a moment, when I show that photo. First though, I glued and clamped each pair onto the chair. When the glue was set, I had legs that swung freely about the outer ring of the chair.
If I ever decide to dismantle the thing, the legs fold up for easy storage. (I don’t see that happening…still it’s nice to know the option is there).
Here is a closeup of the joint.
Next, I bolted the legs onto the planter box
And there you can see why I needed to cut one leg shorter. My original intent was for the entire leg to fit inside the planter box, but I built the box just a little bit too big. This modification looks okay though, so I’m fine with it. Yeah, so you noticed my big screws, did you? Well, they’re covered in dirt now, so, out of sight, out of mind!
We bought four handles for the sides from Hobby Lobby to make carrying easier.
We installed the dog hut on the edge of one of the gardens. While the magical floral roof germinated in the soil, Handan sewed on a temporary roof made from burlap coffee sacks. At first, the only occupants were human.
But Pepper soon warmed to it, and it became her favorite hangout.
The magical floral roof never grew. Oh, sure, a few scraggly vines reached halfheartedly up the legs, but they never coalesced into the living shade structure we imagined.
Over the winter and into this spring, the burlap rotted, so we cut it off. With the Big Backyard Makeover 2016 about to begin, we decided it was time for a change of location and a bit of a makeover for the dog hut. Many of you have already seen it placed in its new location in Handan’s DiY Garden Decor post, but it was not yet finished in that post.
Handan added a roof made from a cheap Dollar Store tablecloth, and we laid down a mulch floor. We removed those hanging lights, because they were really annoying at night – all garish flashing colors, like a carnival seen through the eyes of a madman.
That corner doesn’t see much direct sunlight, so the girls can hang out and chill all summer long.
“But where are Penny and Pepper? Why don’t you have a photo with them in the hut?” Jeez, you ask a lot of questions, you know that? Well, lemme tell you…herding those girls ain’t easy. When I want them to do something, they find something totally engaging and urgent on the other side of the yard. It’s like when you take your car to the mechanic so he can hear that sound you’ve been worried about…
But with the aid of a few treats, I was able to corral them in long enough to get a few beauty shots.
1 Some may argue it is not “feigned.”
2 Some may argue it is not “pseudo.”