Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mighty Trellises

So this is what Matt & I have been working on for the past several weeks:

Trellis plans. Click to enlarge

We're in the process of making 5 trellises: two for the climbers along the driveway (in the rose bed) and 3 to add a little privacy around the pond/terrace.

They are, as you can see, mighty and rugged beasts, with chunky zinc, aluminum, and steel hardware. By the time we completed our fourth trellis (yesterday), we had reduced the process to an exact science that takes about 2-1/2 hours per trellis. Feel free to use our plans, if you like, with the usual legal caveats: blah blah at your own risk, blah blah agree to hold harmless, blah blah promise to donate kidney to authors if requested at unspecified future date.

We needed big trellises, both for privacy and because they need to hold big plants: 'New Dawn' rose, which had entirely consumed the dinky wire trellis we bought as a stop-gap measure a couple of years ago; 'Red Fountain', a robust 'Don Juan'/'Blaze offspring'; and evergreen wisteria (Millettia reticulata).

Since the livestock panels we use in the bottom came free with the house, we thought we could assemble these puppies on the cheap--just a little inexpensive lumber and some screws.


Between the hardware and the lumber, each trellis cost over $100.

Yeek. This is one reason the project has taken several weeks and still isn't complete.

Still, I don't think we could have easily bought a pre-fab trellis of comparable size and toughness for less.

Here's what we used for each trellis with their (estimated) prices:

(6) 10' sections of 1 × 6" treated pine ($5/6 ea)
(20) L-shaped rigid ties ($1.30 ea)
(160) 1" lath screws ($5/6 per 170-pack)
~(30) 2-1/2" carriage bolts ($0.36 ea)
(4) 3" carriage bolts ($0.38 ea)**
~(60) 7/16" flat washers ($4/5 per 50-pack)*
~(30) 7/16" hex nuts ($4/5 per 100-pack)***
nails or staples to tack wire panels in place
3' × 4' wire livestock panels, e.g. hogwire or cattle panels
2 regular-sized bags of sacrete/quickrete ($2.50 ea)

*Note that we used a combination of 5/16" and 7/16" nuts and bolts. Oops. Do try not to repeat our goofup--it just makes things confusing. The 7/16" nuts are more stylishly blocky, so I'd recommend using them.

**If you can find 2-3/4" carriage bolts, that might be easier--we had to use a C-clamp to press the boards close enough to be able to fasten the nuts to the bolts. On the crosspieces around the wire panel we had to use 3" bolts, though they're longer than needed for the rest of the trellis.

***If you have small, accident-prone children running around, consider using acorn nuts to avoid potential scratching and scrapings.

Here are the lengths of wood we used:
(1) 45-1/4" (top front)
(5) 34" (all other crosspieces)
(2) 120-1/2" (back legs)
(2) 114-3/4" (front legs)

To Assemble:
(1) Cut all wood
(2) Lay out front with most attractive sides of wood facing up
(3) Screw together using rigid ties
(4) Lay out back side--may want to lay it on top of front as template
(5) Screw back together using rigid ties
(6) Use staples or nail to tack wire panel to inside of back.
(7) Place front side over wire on top of back side--like an unpleasantly lignous giant Oreo.
(8) Drill holes and attach front to back using bolts, like this: bolt head, washer, trellis, washer, nut. Use the 3" bolts for the middle and bottom crosspieces.

The wood is cut into lengths with fractions because (as we realized partway through the first trellis) 1 × 6" doesn't mean that it is actually 1 inch thick or 6 inches wide. And since we had certain other measurements we wanted to retain (e.g. the height of the upper window, the length and width of the wire section, and the height of the wire section above the ground), other lengths had to go a little goofy.

Which reminds me: what is it about lumber these days? Our trellises look like they come from the dendrological equivalent of crack babies. Every time we go to the hardware store, we spend a good 15 minutes plowing through the lumber pile trying to find a handful of pieces that aren't completely crapped out. And in the end, the best treated pine we can find is spongy, knot-riddled, gouged, and splitting. And the knots are extra-specially unwholesome-looking: pitted, dark, and cavernous. Is there some secret store somewhere that only the truly hardcore know about where one can buy lumber that doesn't decompose while you look at it?

Anyway, we got the first two assembled, and Matt used his post-hole diggers to dig a hole...

...a very, VERY deep hole. I like to think that it was our little way of honoring Hu Jintao's visit, since it allowed us to peep at his homeland on the other side of the planet.

Then we tied a string to two stakes and used a level to try to get the blasted things to be parallel and perpendicular in the appropriate dimensions so we could cement them in. That wasn't fun. Matt gave his arsenal of swear words quite the workout that day.

But in the end: voila! Two new trellises.

We'll install stained glass windows in the top portions of the trellises... once I make the stained glass windows. Someday. Eventually. Just any day now.

I'm hoping we can get the remaining three trellises in the ground this week and then take a well-deserved break start work on the front walkway. Or the extensions to the irrigation system. Or begin planting the new beds. Or mulch the yard...

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