Step 3: Build one side (panel) of the wall.

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With the detail work out of the way, the next step is to build one of the two panels for the wall. To do this, two of the main support beams will be connected by three cross-beams and one internal, horizonal beam using 1/4″ lag bolts 3.5″ long. Reinforcing angle brackets will be attached and then plywood will be trimmed and attached to the frame with deck screws.

This is the point at which it will help to have acquired your two smooth 3/4″ rods. Again, I called around my local area welding/steel fabrication shops to find one which stocked 3/4″ steel rods and had them cut them for me to a length of 7′ each. This is more than I will need but I decided to be safe rather than sorry.

So to get started, I first set up two 6 foot long poly-resin tables side-by-side with their long sides facing each other in my garage. I ensured that both tables were level both across the long and short ends. Further, I put a piece of straight wood between these two tables at both ends and ensured that the two tables were level going between the two of them (if that makes sense at all). I used “shims” from Home Depot to make whatever adjustments were needed to achieve this leveling goal.

Next, I placed the two main support beams across the gap between the two tables. I took one of my smooth 3/4″ rods and threaded it through the rounded ends of both of these members. I took the other smooth 3/4″ rod and did the same thing at the square end of the two members. This resulted in my having a big rectangle spanning the gap between the two tables with its “narrow” ends resting on the two tables. The rods formed the ends of the rectangle and ran parallel with the long sides of the two tables. Make sure that the side of the 2×4 beams which will eventually have the plywood screwed to them are facing up.

Using my square, I made sure that the two beams met the rods at 90 degree angles and that they measured 59″ across the ends that had the rods through them as measured from outside edge of each beam. This assumes that your rods are relatively straight and unbent — probably a good assumption unless you have mistreated them.

NOTE: The smooth rods should spin smoothly (well, relatively so) in the metal lined holes at almost any time during this whole assembly/construction phase. I often would check this right before measuring, cutting, bolting or screwing just about anything … just because I was paranoid that something would get out of whack and my whole plan would be for naught. I checked by grabbing the protruding end of one of the smooth steel rods and twisting it and pulling and pushing it in and out of the holes (not all the way … but a good 3-4″ in each direction). It should move relatively freely and not bind. If it does, either your rod has become somewhat bent …. or you have messed something up. As soon as you notice this, you need to figure out what went wrong and unbolt or unscrew whatever you just did and shim/trim/adjust as need be to restore that free movement on those rods. I did this during the construction of both sides of the wall. I paid special attention to the rod going through the rounded ends and made sure that I adjusted things so that I had the most play and the most freedom when moving that rod as it will have the least tolerance to binding in the finished product. I won’t be mentioning this rather anal check again but you should be doing this VERY frequently during the construction. This was why I said you really need to get these rods before beginning this phase of the project. You could use threaded rod but it would be a lot nastier and probably wouldn’t give you as good results as you would be less likely to do it as often since the threaded rod will be more difficult to slide in and out of the holes I would expect. Enough said on this topic I think but definitely keep it in mind during step 4 and beyond as well.

I then measured from inside edge to inside edge of the beams measuring about 7.25″ from the bottom (square end) of each beam and cut another pressure-treated 2×4 to be that length. I did the same at the other end (the rounded ends) of the main beams but measuring down from the top of the rounded ends about 12.5″ from the top of the curve. This measurement is somewhat important as it will determine how steep an angle you can raise the wall to. The 2×4 that will go across at the top will prevent the other panel’s 2×4 support beams from slipping between this panel’s support beams. This is a good thing because if the beams from the two different panels were permitted to sissor together completely, it would result in pressure being applied to the underside of the plywood at the rounded ends of the beams since the beams are wider than would able to be accomodated in the space under the plywood. Putting the top cross-beam at this height allows for the maximum angle to be achived without any pressure being applied to the plywood decking. This maximum angle allows for an overall height well above the required 71″ and so is more than sufficient. If you put a rod through the two beams as though they were one from each of the two panels and move them up and down forming the A-frame angle you will see what I am talking about as you make that angle steeper and steeper. Note that for me this distance also will measure 63.25″ from the bottom of the 2×4 beams square ends but remember that I made my beams slightly longer than the 75.577 that the plan called for so that might change once I make the final adjustments to height of these beams (if necessary) that I discussed in the “Step 1″ post.

I then took these two cross beams, set their center points at the distances mentioned above at top and bottom with them spanning the 59″ side of the big rectangle, clamped them in place where needed or just friction fitted them between the main support beams and supported them with portable work stands underneath (using shims to level their top surfaces with the top surfaces of the support beams and pre-drilled holes through the outter support beams and into these cross-beam’s ends to accomodate the 3.5″ long, 1/4″ lag bolts with washers on the ends of them. Below are pictures of the joints at various stages of completion.

Partially inserted lag bolt

Partially inserted lag bolt

Finished joint showing lag bolts properly seated.

Finished joint showing lag bolts properly seated.

Finished joint plus extra lag bolt shown lying on top.

Another finished joint plus extra lag bolt shown lying on top. Note the shim under the joint supporting the cross beam. Note also that it is a good idea to draw guide lines to ensure your bolts line up (compare this one with the previous pic :) )

Note that the lag bolts are positioned so as to be in between the screw holes for the angle brackets we will be attaching to the inside joints between these support beams and the main support beams so that the screws won’t interfere with the bolts inside the wood beams. See photo below.

Partially inserted lag bolt showing spacing consideration to allow clearance with screws that will attach the angle brackets to the inside of the joints.

Partially inserted lag bolt showing spacing consideration to allow clearance with screws that will attach the angle brackets to the inside of the joints.

Next the length measurement is taken for the vertical support beam which will run parallel to the main support beams but will run down the center of the panel between the other two cross beams we just installed. I made this measurement just a little (1/32″ to 1/16″) longer than needed to ensure a snug, friction fit but you can use your own judgment on this. The beam was cut, positioned, pre-drilled and attached with two lag bolts to the just installed cross beams with the lag bolts positioned as with the other cross-beams.

We have one last support beam to add which is a cross-beam which will mainly be used to support the seam between the two pieces of plywood which will serve as decking for the panel. Recall that these pieces of plywood were cut to be 59″ long (to be used across the 59″ wide dimension of the panel). One piece was left to be 48″ wide (this will be the piece used at the top of the panel) and the other was cut to be 27″ (this will be too long to use to cover the bottom part of the panel, but we will cut it to size later. The 48″ piece will be trimmed along the edge which will run from one side of the panel to the other along the top “edge” of the panel (along the 59″ width of the panel at the top of the panel). This trim cut will be cut at a 45 degree angle. Here is a pic of my budget tablesaw set up to do this cut.

Table saw set to 45 degree bevel cut.

Table saw set to 45 degree bevel cut.

Note that I positioned the fence as close to the saw blade teeth as I felt comfortable with. I didn’t want to cut too much off of the end of the plywood piece. Note that with this setup, I cut the plywood along the 59″ long side with the “finished” side of the plywood facing up.

With this cut made, I then had to cut the piece of PVC pipe so that I could figure out the positioning of the plywood on the frame with the PVC pipe (complete with end caps) in place. That way I could adjust the position of the plywood so as to have it as high up on the frame without the bevel cut edge crowding the PVC pipe to the point that it couldn’t spin freely on the rod passing through it. Also I wanted to ensure that the other set of main support beams could rotate on the rod freely without their rounded ends getting bound up by plywood that was positioned too far up on the panel frame.

To cut the PVC pipe, I first needed a measurement of what its length should be. I positioned two work supports about 50″ away from the table that held the rounded ends of the panel I was constructing. Note that the rod was still in place through the two holes in those rounded ends as it had been since the beginning of the construction phase. I then placed the other two support beams (the ones for the second panel) so that they ran from the work supports to the table and made sure that they were level. I pulled the rod out from the two rounded ends on the table. I positioned the two new rounded ends as they would be in the finished wall if the wall was laid down flat on the ground. I then took the rod from the square ends of the panel I was constructing and threaded it through the square ends of the two new support beams (for the second panel) so that I could square up the beams (by moving the work supports around if need be). I then re-inserted/threaded the other smooth rod back in through ALL 4 rounded ends and pushed the rounded end pairs together and re-squared the square ends of the new support beams. That way, I could get an accurate measurement of the length that I would need of PVC pipe to go between the two pairs of beams. Of course, I had to measure the thickness of the thinner, outer layer of the end caps so that I could subtract enough to allow for two of these to be accomodated in addition to the PVC pipe between the two sets of support beams.

I then used a hacksaw mounted in a sort of miter cutting frame to cut the PVC pipe. I used velcro straps to secure both ends of the pvc pipe to the miter cutting frame so that the PVC pipe would not move during my cutting operation and to ensure that the cut would be nice and square.

The PVC pipe being cut, I popped the end caps in its ends, pulled the rod from out of the rounded ends of the 4 beams, positioned the capped PVC pipe between the two sets of support beams and rethreaded the rod through the round ends of the beams on one side of the panel + the support beam from the second panel on the same side + the end cap of the PVC pipe + the PVC pipe itself + the other end cap of the PVC pipe + the other support beam from the second panel + the final support beam from the panel being constructed. It took some jiggling around to get it through the second end cap but with a little patience, I got it through. I might think about putting some vertical slots about 3/4″ wide and about 2-3″ long running lengthwise on the pipe at both (or really only one end) of that pipe about 2-3″ from the end. This would facilitate being able to either stick your finger or some other aid in there to help guide the rod through the second end cap from inside the PVC Pipe. If this becomes a huge pain to do this threading without those aids, I’ll consider doing it.

In any case, I now had a sort of fully assembled wall frame as it would appear while lying flat on the ground except that the plywood, carpeting and cleats were not yet attached and the second panel only consisted of the two main support beams with nothing else done to it yet, if that makes any sense at all :)

I now positioned my 45 degree trimmed piece of plywood on the panel frame being constructed with the point of the bevel extending sort of “over top” of the PVC pipe by a little bit. I then used my bar clamps to clamp both sides of this plywood to the main support beams and pulled it down tight against those beams top surface. This acted to slide the plywood down on the frame as the bevel slid down against the curved surface of the PVC pipe. I then loosened the clamps again and slid the plywood down the frame just a little more (1/8″ or less”) just to make sure I had enough room for the PVC pipe to spin freely with its endcaps without being encumbered or bound up by the beveled edge of the plywood piece. I reclamped the plywood in its adjusted position again. I then removed the work supports from the square ends of the support beams for the second panel and allowed those square ends to rotate down to the ground. This allowed me to ensure that the rounded ends of those support beams for the second panel could rotate on the rod without binding up against that beveled edge of the plywood. I adjusted the position of the plywood (loosening the clamps, repositioning the plywood and reclamping) until I had the plywood as close to the end of the frame as I could get it without having either the end-capped PVC pipe or the rounded ends of the support beams for the second panel bind against the beveled edge of that plywood. Of course, I also made sure that the plywood was as squarely situated on the frame as possible. See pics below.

Showing plywood in place ready for marking where thebottom end of it meets the main support beams.

Showing plywood in place ready for marking where thebottom end of it meets the main support beams.

With the plywood securely in place in its most optimal position, I marked where that piece of plywood ended on the tops of both of the main support beams for the panel being constructed at the end towards the square ends of those support beams. This mark would serve as the centerline for the last support member to be added to the frame. I then unclamped the plywood, removed it from the frame and set it aside.

Showing the plywood in place over top of finished cross-beam support for the plywood seam

Showing the plywood in place over top of finished cross-beam support for the plywood seam

Finally, a measurement was taken for the final cross-beam which, as I said, would mainly be used to support the seam between the two pieces of plywood which will serve as the decking for the panel. On my frame, this seam (which was then indicated by the lines on the main support beams that I drew in the last step above) was located about 25.25″ from the bottom of the members (if you made them the same length as I did) or it was about 50.5″ from the top of the rounded ends of the support beams.

I then chose another pressure treated 2×4 and cut it to that length. I placed that cut 2×4 across the 59″ wide frame so that it layed with its 3.5″ side parallel to the ground. Note that it is rotated 90 degrees from the other cross-beams that run the same way as it does in this frame. This allows us to have a good 3.5″ wide surface into which to screw both sides of the plywood seam. I positioned it so that the center line for this 3.5″ wide member was aligned on both sides with the line that I drew when marking the end of the piece of plywood on the main support members. I clamped this final member in place (well, as best as I could) and then marked where it intersected the center vertical support beam. I then removed it so that I could cut that vertical support beam — notch it actually. I drew lines and marked the appropriate depth on that member and then, using a nice sharp saw, cut two lines down through that beam until I reached a depth equal to the thickness of the final cross-beam (about 1.5″). Using a chisel, I chiseled out the notch, fitting the final cross-beam in place so that its surface was even with the top of the vertical support beam and its end surfaces were flush with the surface of the main support beams as well. Below are pics of the finished joint.

Close up of the middle joint between the vertical support member and the "flat" cross-beam support member.

Close up of the middle joint between the vertical support member and the "flat" cross-beam support member.

I did not secure this with any screws or bolts. I would use the 3″ deck screws through the plywood to do this later as well as securing it from the back with angle brackets.

Now we add the angle brackets to hold everything nice and rigid. I attached these to the 2×4′s with 1″ long #8 wood screws.

Shoing the attachment of the angle supports along with the front and back of one of the supports.

Shoing the attachment of the angle supports along with the front and back of one of the supports.

Showing two angle supports in place for a single cross-beam support.

Showing two angle supports in place for a single cross-beam support.

At this point I felt it wise to treat all non-pressure-treated wood components with some sort of water repellent and preservative. I wanted to have something which was dog, people and environment friendly. I found a good product at my local lumber store. Here is the picture of it:

Preservative used to treat all non-pressure treated wood components.

Preservative used to treat all non-pressure treated wood components.

Below are a few pictures of the finished frame for the first side having attached the top piece of plywood to the panel frame. Note that not all of the angle brackets had been attached in some of the photos.

Finished frame for one panel

Finished frame for one panel
Finished frame for one panel - closer view

Finished frame for one panel - closer view

And finally, below are shots of the finished panel frame with the top piece of plywood attached to the frame and with the support beams from the second panel and the end-capped PVC pipe in place.

Close up of the interaction between the plywood, PVC pipe, end cap, and main support beams from the two panels

Close up of the interaction between the plywood, PVC pipe, end cap, and main support beams from the two panels

Three-quarter view of finished frame for one panel with top piece of plywood attached plus the PVC Pipe and support beams for the other panel still in place.

Three-quarter view of finished frame for one panel with top piece of plywood attached plus the PVC Pipe and support beams for the other panel still in place.

Side-on view of finished frame for one panel with top piece of plywood attached and PVC pipe and support beams for the second panel still in place.

Side-on view of finished frame for one panel with top piece of plywood attached and PVC pipe and support beams for the second panel still in place.

The next step is to complete the second panel and make sure the two panels work well together.

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