Step 1: Create the main support beams.

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With the plan out of the way (see earlier post), we move on to start the actual construction. The first step was the creation of the main support beams for the panels. If you refer to the diagrams in my previous post detailing the plan for this design, you will note that these beams have one square-cut end (at the outside or bottom of each pannel) and a somewhat rounded end at the top of the panel (where the two panels will be joined).

For materials, I chose to use pressure treated 2×4′s. These beams will carry the full weight of the wall and so I tried to find good, solid, straight 2×4′s. These 2×4′s had to be 75.577″ long from the tip of the rounded portion to the base. For my project, I needed 4 of them with these dimensions. For ease of transport, I chose to purchase 2 of these 2x4s that were 16 feet long each and have the friendly folks at the big-box store cut them in half for me. I thought about having them cut them to the exact length (since that service was free), but I decided that I’d cut them to the final length myself looking to cut off any nasty knots or other imperfections after more closely examining them in the privacy of my workshop (read: garage :) ). Most “big-box” hardware stores such as Home Depot or Lowes will carry this product. In my area, I found that Lowes had a significantly higher quality product for sale than did Home Depot. The wood at Home Depot was warped, twisted, beat up and generally looked as though it had been salvaged from some demolition project rather than 1st quality wood. Lowes 2x4s looked clean, straight and high quality. They were rather wet still with the solution from the pressure treating process so handing with gloves is definitely recommended (as with any pressure treated lumber).

I also selected a number of shorter lengths to server as the cross support beams and internal bracing beams. I had Lowes cut these down to a manageable size for easy transport. I purchased eight 6 foot sections for this purpose (4 for each panel).

You will also need some copper tubing. Most big box stores sell it in 2 foot lengths. You will need 1 to 2 pieces of this tubing depending on whether you are going to put wheels on your wall or not. In any case, there are typically two grades of copper tubing for sale. They are designated by the color of printing on the sides of the tube. The printing is either red or blue in color. One of them has thicker walls than the other. I believe taht the blue stuff is thicker. You want the thicker stuff if you can get it. The thickness of the wall is about 1/16″ thick. I think the thicker stuff is marked in blue writing but don’t quote me on that. Just get the thicker stuff if you have a choice. Your axles will run nicer in the thicker stuff. You need 7/8″ diameter copper tubing (outside diameter). This size of the tubing allows a 3/4″ piece of steel rod (threaded or smooth) to spin inside of it with as little space around it as possible. To make sure that you have the correct diameter copper pipe, go grab a short piece of the 3/4″ threaded rod from the hardware section of the store and see if it fits inside the copper pipe with very little room to spare around it.

Hmmm, now that I think of it, to complete this project, you will need to buy at least one 6 foot long piece of the 3/4″ threaded rod, so you might want to grab it now and buy it with this batch of stuff so you have it. You can use it to test your copper tubing for the correct diameter and then you won’t have to return that back to the hardware department before buying your copper pipe. Note that it is sometimes hard to find a piece that long at these big box stores depending on the size of your store (no, they are not all created equally). If they don’t have it in stock you will have to order it and just use a shorter piece of the 3/4″ threaded rod just to gage the size of your copper tubing. You don’t want to buy a smaller piece of the threaded rod though as it will not be of use to you on this project.

Speaking of rods, eventually, if you want to have the option for wheels on this bad boy, you will also need 2 lengths of 3/4″ steel rod, preferably not threaded, which tends to be even more difficult to get. You can check with your local welding/steel fabrication shop in your area. That was where I got mine. I ended up with hot-rolled steel rod but I would have preferred cold-rolled which is more expensive but doesn’t bend as easily. The hot-rolled is sufficient I think though since it still doesn’t bend *that* easily. I guess I’ll find out if I really do need the cold-rolled steel rod once this puppy is ready and I put it to the test :)

After getting these items home, I laid them all down flat on the ground with their narrow widths resting on the flat, relatively level floor of my basement. Knowing I wouldn’t be using all of them right away (this would be a multi-weekend project), I wanted to ensure they wouldn’t warp and might actually relax any minor warping that might be in them from their storage at the big-box store — it is really hard to find perfectly straight lumber, I found. Sad, really.

With the lumber purchased and safely stored, it was time to begin. The following photos shows the end result of this phase of the construction.

This first photo shows a side view of 3.5″ wide side of the 2×4. In this photo, you can see the rounded end of the 2×4 support beams showing curved cut of the end as well as the hole drilled in the end and lined with copper. Notice that the hole is drilled somewhat off-center relative to the width of the 2×4′s side. More on the construction process and rationale below. The plywood will be attached to the bottom-side of this beam as portrayed in the picture below.

Rounded end of the 2x4 support beams

Rounded end of the 2x4 support beams

The next photo shows the same info as the above photo, just from a greater distance and from another angle.

Broader view of the rounded-end of the 2x4 support beams

Broader view of the rounded-end of the 2x4 support beams

The final picture for this section is of the tail-end of the 2×4 beam. This photo shows the two copper-lined holes in the bottom or tail end of each support beam.

Tail end of the 2x4 support beams

Tail end of the 2x4 support beams

Notice the two holes, one right at the bottom and one a little further up. Again, both of these holes are offset somewhat from the centerline of the 2×4 for reasons explained below.

What the odd shaped top end of the 2×4? The curve will allow the 2×4 support beams of one panel to rotate along with the PVC pipe in a circular motion against the 2×4 support beams of the second panel. The curve the cut follows is actually a circle which is offset by about 3/4″ or so due to the fact that the plywood (which is 3/4″ thick) will be rotating with the beams and therefore must be included in the “circle” that rotates. Refer back to the “plan” post and examine the close-up or zoomed diagrams of the wall as it is layed flat on the ground as well as when it is in its “A” or elevated position to see a visual of what I am trying to describe.

The hole in the rounded end will accept the 3/4″ thick “axle” which will run through all of the support beams and provide the pivot point around which the two panels will rotate. The hole is lined with metal (copper) for three reasons: (a) It protects the wood from being worn and chipped as the axle is inserted, rotated and removed (b) it provides a stable, consistent and smooth surface for the threaded or smooth rod of the axle to slide against and (c) It is cool and looks nice, at least in person if not in photos — especially in the sun !!!

The hole at the very bottom of the beam will be used to accept an axle on which tires will be mounted. It is located approximately 1.5″ from the end of the beam as well as 2.0″ from the “bottom” of the panel. This allows a 10″ diameter wheel to have ample clearance to effectively assist in moving the wall either when in its “A” configuration or while lying flat on the ground. It is lined with metal (copper) for the same reasons as previously explained.

The hole a little ways up from the bottom of the beam will be used to attach a winch-like cable device to assist in raising and lowering the wall to and from its “A” configuration. This is really an optional “accessory” and is not needed for the functioning of the wall or for transport, especially if you have 2 relatively strong folks in the club to help raise or lower the wall when needed. Although not as important to line this one with metal, I figured I was in the “groove” when I was doing the other holes, so I just did all of them :)

Construction steps:

1. Examine the 8′ lengths of 2×4 and determine the best parts of the beams to cut off of the ends to eliminate the most knots and to try to ensure that the holes to be drilled do not end up right over a knot where possible.

2. Print out the pattern for the circular cut on the inkjet printer. Use this as a tracing pattern to ensure consistently and accurately shaped rounded ends of the 2×4 beams. There is some tollerance in the design for slight imperfections, but we want to be as tight to the specs as we can get.

3. Cut the 8′ sections of 2×4 to the proper length (75.577″). I actually cut mine a little longer to 76″ expecting that the ends of the 2×4′s will probably sink into the ground a little (which is a good thing to help stablize the wall even more. I did not think they would sink more than the 1/2″ that I allowed for and although the wall is not yet complete and, as such, has not yet been tested, I still feel that this will be sufficient. You can always trim more off the bottom, you can’t add. I hope that I don’t have to cut more than 1/4″ or so off as that will start to interfere with my bottom axle guide. I’ll update this if I find this becomes a problem.

4. Transfer the rounded curve to the beam including the hole outline for the top support axle or rod. I also marked out the outlines for the holes at the bottom of the beam at this time as well. MAKE SURE YOU OFFSET THE HOLE CENTERS the same amount at the top and the bottom. The centers of the holes should all be offset from the centerline of the 2×4 and they should all line up in a straight line and be offset on the same side of the centerline of the 2×4, not on opposite sides of that centerline.

5. Use roller or flip-top work station support stands (available from Lowes or Home Depot for about $20-$25 each) to support your work while drilling, cutting or sawing the lumber. Having an assistant to move the stands around as you cut makes things go faster. Don’t use an assistant in place of the fixed stand though as your cuts or holes will not come out straight or accurate.

6. Set up your support stands and your drill press so your 2×4′s are fed into your drillpress in a level fashion. Use Quick Clamps or other bar-type clamps to clamp your 2×4 in place. I clamped mine to the base of my drillpress. Drill a guide hole in the center of the top hole (in the end which will be rounded). I used a 1/4″ or 3/8″ drill to start with, then progressively increased the drill size to about 1/2″. Then I switched to a 7/8″ auger bit. We need to make the hole bigger than the desired finished diameter of 3/4″ because we want to line the hole with metal. On my drill press, I couldn’t quite get it to completely go through the 2×4. It was so close but not quite deep enough of a travel motion on the press. However, it was really simple to un-clamp the piece, flip it and, using the guide hole as a centerpoint, just auger from the other side. You could almost push the plug out just with the pressure of the drill press handle, but having the power on resulted in a cleaner hole :) NOTE: You should insert some sort of a thin piece of wood between the underside of your 2×4 beam and the steel platform of the drill press to protect the outer cutters of the 7/8″ auger bit from coming through the underside of the 2×4, hitting the steel of the support platform and ruining them.

7. Repeat on the other holes. You can save some time by drilling all 3 holes with each side of drill progressively depending on how quickly you can switch drill bits on your press. NOTE I would not attempt this project without a drill press unless you have a really powerful hand drill and a VERY steady hand. The pressure treated wood is very hard and tough and makes for hard going with a hand drill. You also have to ensure that the holes are drilled very straight and perpendicular. Best to invest the hundred or so bucks in a drill press :)

8. Use a jigsaw or scroll saw to cut the circular pattern again using your work stands and moving them around as you make your cuts. You really want to ensure that you get the cut as accurate to your outline as you can.

9. Use a bench type belt sander with a side plate (round disc of sandpaper which rotates on the side of the main belt sander unit) along with your portable work supports to LIGHTLY sand the rounded end. You would like that to be smooth, but you don’t want to remove too much material. Again, you want all 4 beams to be consistently shaped with the same overall length. Tricky … but take your time and it will come.

10. Take a copper tube cleaning brush (looks like a round or cone shaped wire brush — used in soldering of copper tubing to clean the inside of the copper tube after cutting it) and clean the inside of the holes on one of the 2×4 beams. Insert the brush and twist and pull at the same time a few times to remove any loose material or ridges. Not too much, you want a tight fit between the wood hole and the copper tube you are going to insert (glue) into it. Take the beam and lay it flat on a hard surface with the hole opening facing up. Take your copper tubing length and insert it into the hole until it hits the hard surface on which the beam is lying. Take a pencil and mark the pipe where it disappears into the hole, all around that opening. You are basically marking the tube so that when you cut it on that line and re-insert the cut piece into that hole, the cut piece of pipe will be completely inside the beam and be even with the sides of the beam on both sides of the hole — as close as possible.

11. Cut the copper tubing at that line using the pipe cutter (see pic below). Clean the (usually inside) ends of the copper tubing with the de-burrer usually located on the copper tube cutter (usually a little black triangle on the back of the cutter that you can rotate out into position by pulling it out with your thumbnail or pulling it out until it clicks into position – see pic below). Insert the de-burrer into the end of the pipe and scrape around until all “burrs” or slivers of metal are removed and you have a nicely beveled interior edge to the pipe end. After de-burring both ends of the cut piece, use emery cloth to clean both ends. Then use the wire pipe cleaner (that you used to clean the wood hole earlier) to clean the inside of the pipe (it will be visible in the finished product and you want it to shine :) ) as well as the outside of the pipe using the circular wire ring brush in the pipe cleaner.

Copper tube (pipe) cutter

Copper tube (pipe) cutter

Copper tube (pipe) cutter with de-burrer sticking out.

Copper tube (pipe) cutter with de-burrer sticking out.

Pipe cleaner (wire brush)

Pipe cleaner (wire brush)

Close up of pipe cleaning tool focusing on the side for 3/4" tubing.

Close up of pipe cleaning tool focusing on the side for 3/4" tubing.

Roll of emery cloth. This is about 2-3" tall.

Roll of emery cloth. This is about 2-3" tall.

12. Repeat for all other holes in this and the other 3 beams. Remember to keep the cut tubes correlated with the holes that they belong to. They will typically vary a little in thickness so you want to make sure the right cut tube goes in the right hole or some will be sticking out when you are done and some will be too short for the hole they go in.

13. Brush off the beams near the holes and blow out the holes with compressed air or brush them out to remove loose sawdust. Clean up all sawdust and debris in the work area.

14. Place one of the beams on the flat surface again. Put some sort of flat metal under the beam under the first hole to be lined with metal. Drizzle some Gorilla Glue (green/brown glue in a squeeze bottle — see pic below) onto the outside of the pipe. I found that one ring around the top (one end only) and then another around the middle worked nicely. Make sure the glue is relatively evenly spread in the ring around the top and center. Insert the end with the glue into the hole SLOWLY rotating the pipe back and forth as you do and pushing it down about 1/4″ and then pulling it back out repeated while twisting, going deeper each cycle. You will notice that this will help spread the glue and suck it into the hole as the pipe is “drilled” into the wood hole. When you get to the point that the glue is about to overflow and come over the edge of the pipe as you push it futher into the hole, stop, take a paper towel and wipe the excess from around the remaining exposed portion of the pipe sticking out of the hole. Leave some small amount to be carried by the remainder of the pipe into the hole. Push the pipe down until it contacts the metal sheet under the beam. Wipe up the remaining excess glue from the top of the beam. Stand the beam on its side and wipe up the remaining excess glue from both sides of the pipe/hole opening. Using your fingers (gloved if you follow the glue’s instructions — I just accepted the temporary stains on my fingers from the glue), make sure the pipe piece is centered in the wood hole and doesn’t protrude out of either side. If it turns out to be a little too long (should not be since you tested it first, right :) ) then just make sure the excess is protruding the same amount on both sides. If it is too excessive (more than 1/16″ on each side) you will want to pull your hair out and redo it :) .

Gorilla Glue. Expands as it dries. Makes a great bond.

Gorilla Glue. Expands as it dries. Makes a great bond.

15. Repeat on the remaining holes on this beam.

16. Lay the beam down flat somewhere safe, level and clean with the hole openings not on the ground (if a pipe went through them, the pipe would be parallel to the ground). Do a final check to ensure that all of the pipes are centered in the holes and that any minor protrusions are equal on both sides of the hole. Wipe up any excess glue that might have oozed out around the holes/pipes.

17. Repeat for the next beam. When wiping up the final excels (as in step 16) go back and check the previously completed beam(s) and wipe up any additional excess that might have oozed out since your last round.

18. Repeat for the last two beams.

19. Leave all 4 beams for the time recommended by the glue bottle. I left mine for 16 hours.

20. Sand off the excess “foam” that oozed out around your pipes in the holes.

21. Take a dremel tool with a cone or barrel shaped grinder attachment and make one or two passes around the inside of each end of the mounted/glued pipes holding the surface of the grinder stone at about a 45-60 degree angle to the surface of the pipe inside wall. You only have to affect the outside edge and about 1/16″ or 1/8″ inside of the lip of the pipe. This will clean off any oozed and dried glue as well as put a slight outward bevel on the copper tube opening making it easier to insert the smooth or threaded rods later.

22. Do a final cleaning of the insides of the pipes with the conical wire pipe cleaner. Buff out any loose metal dust from the inside of the tubes.

23. Set the finished beams back in their level, safe, storage location until needed later.

That is it for this step. You now have 4 finished beams ready for incorporation into your panels. This step took me the better part of a weekend to accomplish not including multiple trips to the “big box store” for parts, accessories, wood, etc … makes for great reasons to upgrade your tools and supplies :)

Next we will construct the PVC pipe end caps.

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