Scrolling down the page will quickly show how varied and wide-ranging the projects are.

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1a. Recent PHD projects: gardening and building (in this column)
1b. Recent PHD projects:other (in column 2)  
1c. Less recent projects (in column 3)

Introduction

This is a 'split introduction,' in two parts. One way of approaching the page would be to scroll down quite quickly. You'll find that the images are a  prominent part of the page and are very varied. It seemed better for the images in this column not to appear only after a long section of text.   If you think the material seems to merit a closer look, you might read the rest of the introduction, which is at the end of the page, and /or  the explanation and background information which relate to the images, or take a longer look at the images. Clicking on this highlighted text takes you to the second part of the introduction.

Section 1a  Recent PHD projects: gardening and building

The greenhouse and its extensions

Pumpkins of the variety 'Rouge Vif d' Etampes,' supported on the roof of the West extension of the greenhouse. There are climbing plants on the roof of the East extension too, a grapevine, growing in soil inside the greenhouse, and hop plants, growing in soil just outside the greenhouse. The East extension also collects rainwater, stored in a container nearby.

In  the photograph above, the triangular roof of the main greenhouse structure is clearly visible beyond. The roots and lower stem and foliage of the plant are inside the solar composter, which is part of this extension. The solar composter speeds up the breakdown of material, producing compost more quickly by the heating effect of solar radiation. The outer wall of the solar composter is of polycarbonate sheet, like the walls of the main greenhouse.


Above, the  PHD solar composter viewed here from the lower allotment. The solar composter is one of the extensions to the greenhouse: a large composter, with polycarbonate  sheets on all sides.  The composter is a 'walk-in' structure. It has plenty of internal space so that the compost can be turned (with a manure fork) very easily.

Below, view into the interior of the composter, after removal of the door, which is made of flat polycarbonate sheeting. The compostable materials are covered with flat polycarbonate to increase insulation. Photograph taken  a few days after the design idea, which was followed by very rapid construction. 


Above, the North side of the main greenhouse structure, triangular, with a sheet metal roof and on the left, the East extension of the greenhouse, with a flat / sloping roof: it uses the new roofing system I've devised. It took very little time to construct and has many advantages. The top layer is flat. This isn't the main waterproof layer which protects the extension from the elements - this layer is lower and is sloping. In this position it's within the walls and protected from wind damage. Water falling on this sloping layer falls on the black sloping layer at the left and runs into a collecting container, not visible here.

The north-facing wall of the extension is constructed from straw bales. The wall can be coated with lime plaster, as in straw bale buildings, but I prefer to leave it uncoated. I like the look of barley or wheat straw. The straw bales keep their appearance, and their protective function, for years.

Clearly visible, in front of the main greenhouse structure the storage box, ladder and aluminium platform which gives access to some of the green roof.  Prominent, climbing Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) plants in flower.

Above, two views of the straw bale wall, details. Most of the plastic sheets which form part of the new roof design are hidden within the structure. The parts which project aren't aesthetically pleasing but components are available which hide them, whilst still allowing them to function as water-collecting and water transfer surfaces.

Above, a less recent photograph of the North side of the greenhouse, showing storage of straw bales.

Below, two photographs of the North side of the main greenhouse structure by night.


 

Above, a view of the West side of the greenhouse extension. A closer look at part of the new roofing system and the upper part of the straw bale wall. The wooden box on the roof, seen from the side here, isn't an essential part of the basic design. Its function is simply to increase the height of the climbing plant, the part that has reached as far as this, so that it's displayed more effectively. Visible also, the highest thing in the photograph, upper branches of a plum tree, variety Marjorie's Seedling.

View of the greenhouse from the orchard. On the left, Dabinett cider apples, on the right, Bramley cooking apples.

Growing in the East extension of the greenhouse, a vine of the red grape variety 'Regent.' The vine has been trained and the upper growth is on the roof. This green roof supports the upper growth of a hop plant as well. This method of implementing a green roof, a roof which supports the upper growth of climbing plants, is far easier than green roofs of the usual kind, which need the transportation of large quantities of soil / compost to the roof area. More information below.

The main greenhouse structure is used only for growing tomato plants, except for some Basil grown earlier in the year. All the tomato plants are grafted plants, which have very substantial advantages - in particular, their heavier yield and their resistance to soil-borne diseases, even when the compost is used for years.

The roof of the new roofing system of the East extension. It's vastly superior to the roof it replaced, part of it shown here, before removal of one of the OSB3 sections. These sections supported sections of sheet metal. The roof was flat. To make the roof pitched, so that rainwater could drain away easily, would have involved prohibitive effort at the time. i installed the roof after a long, hard day of work and used just enough screws (self-drilling wing tip screws) to secure the roof. To have used all the screws needed for permanent security was out of the question. I was working at a height and so fatigued that i would have risked an accident. Not long after, before I could complete the work, very strong winds caused severe damage to the roof.

I instinctively felt that the roof wasn't good enough, that I could do better. I decided not to use a standard design, such as the use of Onduline corrugated sheets but it was a long time before this new design came to me. It involves lowering the roof so that the water resistant surface, in this case also a water-resistant surface, is within the walls, the top part of the walls. The panel is light-transmitting, raising temperatures in the space below by the greenhouse effect. I use it for storage - the drier atmosphere prevents or restricts rusting of garden tools stored there - but it can also be used for growing plants. This design makes it very easy to introduce pitch, to construct a sloping roof rather than a flat roof. Wire mesh panels above the corrugated panel allow for support of climbing plants, in this case a hop plant and a grape vine. An opaque horizontal roof layer can be fitted below the sloping water-collecting layer and the layer can be of various materials, such as plasterboard. This prevents the use of the space for growing plants, or makes it less efficient for this purpose, but it's a way of making the interior look like a 'standard' interior, not the interior of a greenhouse extension.

The new roof design makes it easy to grow climbing plants, provided that the plants are tall enough for their top growth to reach the roof area, This is the case for the hop plants and the grape vines I grow. Before this new system, I grew the hop plant near to the north and east sides of the greenhouse up a vertical support, to make a 'hop spire.' This is shown in the photograph above, with runner bean pyarimids in the foreground.

More information on the top layer of the new roofing system, the mesh panels above the polycarbonate and PVC layers. These mesh panels support the upper growth of the climbing plants, to form the 'green roof' layer.

Part of the wire mesh panel which supports some of the growth of the plants of the 'roof garden.'

Growth of the hop plant, variety 'Target,' on the roof.

The hop plant had to be trained to climb from ground level to the roof extension. The hop plants would have been unable to climb the vertical polycarbonate walls of the extension. I  put in place a fairly elaborate system of supports but none of it is visible here. The hop plant using the support system has produced cones, usable in brewing beer.

A view

The view is of some of the lower allotment, seen from the path leading to the gates of the lower and upper allotment. In the foreground, one of the platforms, with one of the metal storage containers for water.On the left, gorse (Ulex europaeus) in flower - the gorse was planted by me - and the sheet metal roof of the small, tall shelter on the platform.  On the right, the versatile metal structure and some apple blossom, variety: Spartan. Also visible, part of the long wooden path leading to the pond of the lower allotment.

Two small buildings: a shelter / store on the 'lower platform' and a replacement shelter/store on the same platform, with propagator

Obviously, the two small buildings can't occupy the same platform at the same time. First, information about the original structures at this site, then information about the replacement structures, a shelter with a large propagator. This is followed by information about the other platform, the 'higher' platform - that is, higher up the slope of the allotment. The propagator panels can easily be removed so that the extension can be used for storage of apples or other things. The new structures are much simpler and easier to construct than the original structures.

 

A new design, a versatile structure with many advantages. I make use of mainly slender components, to produce a structure which has a light appearance but has the strength to withstand strong winds, and, of course, can stand without collapsing. The tubular metal supports would fail, would fall if it were not for the components which stop that from happening. I've been careful to use more than one method of achieving this, to make use of 'redundancy.' Not all the components are light. The platform which supports the structure has a fairly light surface, of plywood, sheet metal and rubber matting but it's supported by scaffold boards, supported in their turn by oak pillars concreted in the ground. The structure itself has only two walls. There's no West facing wall. i wanted to have an uninterrupted view towards the West. The stone of the long boundary wall supplies an East wall. The stone wall has the advantage of thermal mass, raising the temperature inside the shelter. Pots, not all of them visible here, supply contrast. They're there simply because I like to see them there and because I already had them available. Despite any apparent fragility, the shelter is rock solid in strong winds. It doesn't move at all.

A photograph with nearby plants in bloom, roses and apples of a Dabinett cider apple tree and a Bramley apple tree. I've planted four Dabinett trees and two Bramley trees in the allotments.

A closer view of some of the Dabinett apples.

Apples in storage, mainly from three of the trees in the orchard, a Dabinett tree, a Bramley tree and the Winston tree. The relatively bulky objects on the platform floor form a contrast with the slenderness of the shelter. I've begun to move rocks to the ground near the platform and underneath the platform. These are intended to become another source of contrast with the platform. The rocks come from the allotment itself. Slightly further away from the platform are more rocks, not seen in this photograph. These are rocks which have enough bulk to give a suggestion of the parent rocks, which of course are the source of soil. The rocks here are mainly from outside the area. They include Welsh slate (not the thin roofing slate.) I intend to add to the geological collection. Cotswold stone would be an essential addition. Of course, by far the bulkiest and most prominent thing to contrast with the shelter is the wall. Only a short section can be seen here.

The area available for apple storage and other purposes. Only some of the lower shelf can be seen here - it's the same length as the upper one.

Not all the apple trees are in the orchard and none of the plum trees are in the orchard. The orchard includes Bramley trees (cooking apples), Dabinett trees (cider apples) and trees which produce dessert apples, Spartan, Winston and Katy. This is the Spartan apple tree. I pruned it in the winter, like all the other apple trees - plum trees have to be pruned later in the year - but since then, growth has produced quite an untidy tree:

The shelter at night.

To the right of the shelter, the versatile metal structure, the triangular supports almost hidden by runner beans, in the distance, the greenhouse main structure - its triangular structure isn't apparent in this view, but it would be obvious in a side view, from the west. The trees to the right are hazel trees, allowed to grow tall this season.

The replacement structures - shelter and propagator

Above, views of the shelter-propagator from the side and the front

Below, after installation of a galvanized container, used for growing herbs: basil, oregano, marjoram and thyme. The sheet metal surface of the platform now has a covering of stone.

These structures are very easy to construct. There are details, not shown in the image above, which are essential for the stability of the structure, particularly in strong winds. With these in place, the structure is rock-solid, despite the use of polycarbonate sheets - their curvature increases its strength.

To the left is the smaller curved surface of the propagator roof. A flat polycarbonate sheet is used in a vertical position to close the one open side of the propagator compartment. Seed trays containing compost are placed on the wooden boards which make up the  upper floor of the structure, which is retained from the earlier structure and which can still be used for storing apples and other things. The wall is West-facing and heat-retaining.

To the right is the larger curved surface of the shelter roof, made up of two linked polycarbonate sheets. The oak boards supported by the two black water storage containers are retained from the earlier structure. Also retained, of course, is the platform which supported the earlier structure, made of sheet metal. The photograph shows the structures before cleaning work has been carried out.

Beneath the platform and towards the front of the platform are some of the rubble stones which are a feature of this part of the allotment. Not shown in the photograph are the rubble stones which form a rockery, with ornamental plants. All the stones have been removed from the soil of my two allotments, except for some Welsh slate (again, rubble stone, not roofing slate), not visible in the photograph. Geology, including the geology of this area, is an interest.

This platform, the 'lower platform,' like the 'upper platform' of the next section, gives a good view of the gardens, not available at ground level. The small increase in height is significant.

Already, this shelter has had important benefits, particularly when the Spring weather has been too cold for comfort or too windy for comfort. Working in poor weather is one thing, resting in these conditions for a time after working is another.

Below, a very small greenhouse building in the lower allotment, dismantled now:

The 'upper platform'

This platform is amongst other things a viewing platform, giving a viewpoint obviously very different from other fixed viewing points. Most of my time in these allotments is spent working, obviously not all of it. In rest periods, I prefer to sit in a place with some visual interest, but this photo isn't about the view from the platform but a view of the platform.

Visible here are the two oak beams supported by four vertical oak beams, the galvanized water tank which can be used as a subsidiary water source but is also a container for water with a calm, limpid surface. In the water is a water lily, variety James Brydon, which produced an abundance of flowers earlier in the season.  It's described by Stefan Buczacki in these terms, 'deep red-pink, semi-double to double, fragrant, red stamens with gold tips, dark green to purple, leaves with reddish flecks, justifiably one of the most famous and popular of all water lilies.' Also visible, at top left, one of the walls of the narrow shelter.

Since the photograph was taken, this wall has been given more visual interest by the installation of a large wooden trellis panel. The trellis wall is visible in this photograph of blossom on one of the cider apple trees, variety Dabinett:

 

The shelter contains a cupboard for storage, with more storage space available on top of the cupboard. A feature of the interior is the wood, easily visible from the exterior. Interiors seen from exteriors constitute a field which interests me. Quite ambitious projects would be possible - wood panelling and other surfaces, in larger spaces furniture with aesthetic attractions - as well as usefulness.

Below, all that can be seen of the platform here is the sheet metal roof of the shelter, part of the boards and part of the galvanized water container on the upper part of the shelter - there's a similar water container on the lower part. More obvious, gorse in flower on the left, the apple tree 'Spartan' in flower on the right and a row of houses in the distance.

The platform has multiple functions. One of these is  container growing. Visible are some of the galvanized metal containers, with lettuces. To the right of the platform, the purple flowers of purple loosestrife  (Lythrum salicaria) and a Bramley apple tree.

A closer view of the containers, which are sheep troughs, available from agricultural merchants.

The galvanized container on the platform used as a water container (and a place for growing a water lily) is one of many water containers I use or have used. Watering with a watering can is much more convenient than watering with a hosepipe and I've made sure that no part of any growing area in the two allotments is far from a water container.

The water containers are of very different sizes and very different kinds. None of them have a single use, water storage, except for the large water storage container outside the greenhouse, the agricultural container made of plastic inside a metal framework, holding 1000 litres (1 tonne) of water.  Apart from this one, all of them provide a habitat for water lilies and other plants and in some cases for frogs and other animals.

This is a raised pond I constructed for water storage, aquatic plant growing and a base for frogs, with, to the left, a squash plant growing strongly, some of its growth against the wall, and a trellis for growing climbing plants. The pond was dismantled when I constructed the much larger pond at the bottom of the allotment.

This is the pond inside one of the greenhouse extensions, underneath a curved polycarbonate roof (which can be used to direct rainwater to the pond.) I often take water from it with a watering can to water tomato plants in the greenhouse but it's popular with frogs. On the left, there's the floating board which makes it easy for them to leave the pond if they so wish. The pond isn't looking at its best here. It needs some maintenance, of course, and the water taken out has to be replaced.

The main pond and the structure for protected growing of squash or other tender plants

A view of part of the pond. The long wooden path which runs a long distance from the lower boundary of the allotment, almost, to a higher point, crosses the pond here. As the 'centres,' or support points for the boards, are quite far apart, more than the recommended distances, the wooden boards are strengthened with steel rectangular section, underneath the boards. The protected cropping, or protected growing of the squash plants is achieved by two curved polycarbonate sections, only one of them visible here. There are also galvanized mesh panels to support the squashes (variety Uchiki kuri.)

Another view of the pond, obviously from a higher point, and of the surroundings, including the public road.  I laid down aggregate, of Welsh slate, in the band at the North side of the pond, between the two oak boards. The slate doesn't have the strong blue colour shown here. I never adjust  the colour of photographs even in a case like this, when colour adjustment would make the colour of the slate more 'natural.' The wooden walkway over the pond gives access to the growing area at the bottom of the allotment.

Another view of part of the pond, including a flower and leaves of the native water lily, Nymphaea alba. Hanging over the leaves of the water lily, one of the many graceful pendulous sedge plants (Carex pendula).

All the other plants in the pond and near the pond are British natives, including these: Common bistort (Persicaria bistorta). The leaves are edible and used in bistort pudding, made particularly in the north Pennines,  water violet (Hottonia polustris), mare's tail (Hippuris vulgaris), scouring rush (Equisetum hyemale), marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), water mint (Mentha aquatica), water forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides), great reedmace (Typha latifolia), T. minima, hemp agrimony (Eupatorium canabinum), meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria), water avens (Geum rivale), marsh cinquefoil (Potentilla palustris).

Below, another view of the British water lily  Nymphaea alba in bloom in the pond

Below, marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), foreground, with dandelions, background. Every year, particularly in one period of concentrated attack, dandelion seeds are parachuted into this area in immense numbers from outside the area. To watch them slowly descend is to realize the difficulty of controlling them, the futility of trying to control them, even. I dig up dandelions when they are obviously going to interfere with a particular plant I want to encourage. In some cases, the dandelions can be made to fit into the area by blending them with other yellow flowered plants, such as the marsh marigold here.

Above, view to the South: the water collecting surface which directs water to the  pond or the bog garden in rainy weather and reduces the need to use tap water. The surface is fixed firmly in place and is unaffected by high winds. Between the pond and the near edge of the water collecting surface is an area of bog garden, not shown in the photograph above. It was taken before the establishment of the bog garden. Water from the plastic sheet now goes into the bog garden, but an extension can be added to the plastic sheet so that the water from the water collecting surface goes into the pond itself.

Above, view to the North, showing the water-collecting surface in its setting, a double row of hazel nut trees. THere are six trees here (and others higher up the slope.) The trees are much larger now and cast a dense shade, For most of the time, the plastic surface isn't in place and I've allowed the plants that grow in the area between the hazel nut trees to grow without much intervention - apart from the planting of bluebells. The hazelnut trees do need intervention - they now need drastic pruning. 

The water collecting surface can be used for plant propagation and for growing plants in containers, whilst continuing to collect water and take it to the pond.  The containers are placed on structures which are supported by the aluminium bars shown in the photograph.

Alternatively, the water collecting surface can be put in place in rainy weather and removed in dry weather, to allow the vegetation in the area to grow naturally. When the plastic sheeting is in place, then the plants will still grow, of course, but in a form of 'protective growing,' the air temperature raised by the plastic sheet.

This waterlily - the native waterlily Nymphaea alba - has continued to bloom well into November, but the weather hasn't co-operated and the flower hasn't opened to reveal the golden core hidden here by white petals.

A view of the squashes in late October from another direction, from the road, with a background of grape vine and hop plant growing against the stone wall.

A  welcome visitor, a dragonfly (Aeshna cyanea.) A dragonfly of this species has visited the pond every year since i constructed it and they aren't at all wary of people - quite the opposite. I've so often seen them but never actually seen them hunting anything, let alone killing and eating the prey.

Welcome visitors / residents: frogs (Rana temporaria) resting.

Adult frogs come to the pond in spring to mate in large numbers. The photo here shows some disturbance of the water but not the commotion of their mass frolicking, which is accompanied by sustained and surprisingly loud booming sounds. Later, after they hatch, the density of tadpoles in the water gives me cause to think gloomy thoughts, about the waste of nature, the fact that of the very large number of tadpoles I see swimming, only a very small proportion will survive to adulthood.

The area immediately above the main pond: beans, hops, grapevine, hemp agrimony and meadowsweet

In the distance, low hills and Sheffield houses. In the foreground, runner beans (variety 'Lady Di') growing up cane pyramids, In the foreground, Vitis vinifera 'Brandt,' which has made full use of the strong supports I made for it against the stone wall, and on the left, hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum.)

In front of the triangular support structure, a runner bean pyramid, hemp agrimony to its left, and to the right, hazel nut trees. In the lower right hand corner, a flower of Persicaria bistorta.

Upper allotment growing area and storage area

Above, two French bean pyramids (variety 'Cobra') growing up cane pyramids, partially hiding the curved sheet metal wall / roof of the pizza oven I constructed, with, beyond, the small building which was one of the first that I constructed in the allotments. Right, a very fragrant rose, variety Arthur Bell.

Above, the same elements as in the previous photograph, with the addition of sections of my vine trellising system used to grow the red grape vine variety 'Regent,' and the water-collecting path, described in the first section of the third column of the page - a long ladder as the foundation, short boards forming a surface which can be walked on, covered by the impermeable black surface sheets (easily detachable) which direct water to a galvanized storage container at the base. The entrance to the greenhouse is very near to the container and using a watering can to transfer water from the storage container to the plants growing in the greenhouse is the quickest and most convenient method of watering. There's a much larger water storage container in this area, one of the agricultural storage containers often seen, a plastic container holding 1 tonne of water inside a metal framework for support. This has to be filled with a hosepipe from a mains tap not far away.

The trellising system for support of grape vines is intended to eliminate some disadvantages of the post and wire system, by far the most widely used system of support. It eliminates the work of anchoring the post in the soil and it eliminates the inconvenience and worse of working with wire.

Instead, I make use of lightweight metal sections which are easily slotted together, kept in place with ground anchors or simply metal pegs - which, after all, are capable of keeping tents in place even in very strong winds. The system also makes possible the use of  plastic sheets for harvesting of grapes under cover, and a method of transporting the harvested grapes the length of the structure, within the structure. Of course, commercial implementations of this system would be much longer than the short section here.

Above, part of the vine trellising system and the rose Arthur Bell, downhill view, from the North. In the previous image, the view was uphill, from the South. The golden yellow of the flowers fades and the flowers become creamy and then white. Sometimes I remove the paler flowers and sometimes I let them remain, removing the flowers later, when they are shrivelled.

Below, traditional honeysuckle, in direct sunlight and light shade, the upper boundary of the upper allotment:

Below, the main path of the upper allotment, before installation of the water-collecting surface:

Other areas

Nasturtium plants (Tropaeolum majus.) The plants are growing on an earthwork I constructed, to the left, over a privet hedge, which forms part of the boundary of the upper part of the lower allotment, which would take a great deal of work to convert from unsightly to slightly attractive, and, lower down, to the right the semi-composting system which I've been adding to and using for years. This is a minimum-work system which has produced good compost. The bindweed which would be growing rampantly on the privet hedge if the Nasturtium plants weren't here is nowhere to be seen. The Nasturtium has been steadily advancing to the right (and the other directions) and is beginning to smother the bindweed which has assumed right of way. Nasturtium has the advantage of being edible. Nasturtium is a plant I encourage.

The same bank in autumn. Photograph taken 14 November, 2021.

Below, Hemerocallis growing at the base of the Nasturtium bank. Photograph taken summer, 2022.

Below, another view of Hemerocallis:






Growing against the low wall, a fig tree, variety 'Brown Turkey.'



Growing near to the fig tree, by the same low wall, Lavatera.

Above, a thick application of manure and straw to a bed between the wall, left and the wooden path, right.

Above, two views of the same bed, showing potatoes in full growth, the variety 'Kestrel,' with pink flowers.

I hardly ever take photographs of the produce after harvesting.These are exceptions. I'm self-sufficient to a very large extent in fruit and vegetables.

An allotment next to a road has advantages and disadvantages. This area in the lower allotment is useful as a delivery area for manure, which can be tipped from a tractor equipped with a front bucket. I use another place here for delivering bulky materials. Some of the manure will be used for suppressing weeds, such as the nettles visible at top left.

A general vew of part of my lower allotment (and, to the right, a neighbouring allotment) seen from the busy public road. In the foreground, two small Yew trees can be seen, in my allotment. To the right, there's a tall Lombardy cypress hiding another cypress, in the neighbouring allotment.

General comments

I did very little work at the allotment from late autumn of last year (2021) through the winter and into the spring of 2022. I pruned the apple trees quickly. The plum trees and fig trees received no pruning at all.

 I was committed to a practical objective which I found absorbing but which hadn't been solved - designing hydraulic machinery for log splitting as well as apple pressing which was easy to assemble and easy to dismantle.

Designing these machines wasn't at all easy. I designed and constructed a machine which paid attention to ergonomics, so that the different operations - pressing the apples is only the last of these - could be carried out at the one 'workstation.'  The machine was successfully used for apple pressing but it was obvious that it couldn't be used for log splitting. Commercially available machines are designed and used for one purpose or the other, not both. I wanted a versatile machine which could handle both.

I eventually came up with a very different machine, which made extensive use of threaded rods and perforated steel bars, the lower steel bars concealed by wooden components, as well as ratchet straps, used in tension, not compression, of course. The use of ratchet straps eliminates the need for some strong metal or wooden components -  so far as I know, a unique feature for this kind of machine. The machine is tall. It includes supports for roofing panels. I've used polycarbonate sheets as the roofing panels. The machine is indoors, without the panels, but if the machine is used outside, then construction of a small building to protect the machine against the weather and to provide shelter for the wood splitting or apple pressing operations would be simple enough.

The most difficult part, one which took me a long time to solve, was designing and constructing the multiple cutting head, using various items available to me. This machine can be used for log splitting and apple pressing. It has only been tested on logs but log splitting is a far more severe test of a hydraulic machine than apple pressing, so I can be sure it will succeed with crushing apples. I installed supports for another hydraulic machine, a very simple but strong hydraulic machine, in the lower allotment, for use with a ratchet strap with a rating of 10 tonne, the hooks of the ratchet strap attached to ground anchors in concrete. This is intended to be the only machine for apple pressing - it's near to the apple trees - whilst the machine which uses steel threaded rods will be kept in the house and used for log splitting. The solid fuel and wood burning stove is very near to the machine.

There have been radical changes to the rectangular greenhouse extension, the one with a wall made up of straw bales. Years ago, when I constructed the extension, I chose to construct a flat roof, made up of OSB3 boards covered with sheet metal. After a long and exhausting day, I drilled holes into the sheet metal and installed screws (self-drllling wingtip screws.) Although the screws were 'self-drilling' it was easier to drill preliminary holes. I didn't fix in place all the screws I intended to place. If I'd continued working, I felt that there was a danger of an accident. I'm used to working at a height but it would have been stupid to continue under the circumstances. Not long after, before I was able to make the roof fully secure, there was very bad weather - very strong winds, which damaged the roof severely.

I didn't repair the roof. I had the instinctive feeling that the design of the roof could be improved. I could do much better, but I had no ideas which could lead to an improved roof, not just an improved roof but one which didn't depend on conventional roofing methods.

This year, I did solve the problem, with new and radical method which will need to be explained much more fully than I can at the moment. Installing the new roofing was very easy and very much safer than the previous method, or, I think, any conventional method. It makes very easy the implementation of slope, essential, of course, for the draining of water from the roof.

There are various components. The main one is corrugated clear (or opaque) plastic sheeting, easy available, which is sloping. In conventional systems, the roof is higher than the walls and implemtation of sloping for a roof isn't an easy matter. In this design, the roof is lower - slightly lower - than the walls. In this position, the roof is protected from strong winds by the walls. The roof is sheltered rather than exposed. Plasterboard or another suitable material can be installed below the corrugated sheet so that it can't be seen, but in this garden building, I've allowed the corrugated sheet to be visible. The sheet extends the full length of the building and protrudes from the wall at the front. This can easily be seen in some of the images. The plastic sheet is a water-collecting surface. Rain  water is directed to the lower end (obviously) and then makes a small waterfall, being collected below, in a container at ground level.

Above the corrugated plastic sheet are wire mesh panels, which also run the full length of the building extension. These are used to provide attachments and support for plants, if the roof is intended to be a 'green roof.' The roof here supports the upper growth of a hop plant, variety Target hop, as well as the upper growth of a grape vine, variety Regent, a red grape variety. Hops and grapes can be harvested from the roof as well as the lower growth on the walls - a ladder allows easy access. The wire mesh also prevents leaves, or most leaves, from falling on to the plastic sheet, important particularly in autumn at the time of leaf fall.

I've designed and constructed an addition to the roof rack of my van. The design, which utilizes wood and ratchet straps, is quite intricate. I've made the utmost attempt to make the system as strong and safe as possible. Roof racks have the potential to be very dangerous. It's very difficult to prevent some materials from sliding. This system allows me to transport materials such as long lengths of timber and bulky sheet materials, sheet metal or plastic or wood, which are too large to fit in the interior of the van.

Ridges in the sides of the long wooden components - they're 2.7m long - allow the insertion of the upper ends of polycarbonate sheets. Four of these sheets, with their upper ends inserted into the space, can be bent to form curving sides, with their lower ends kept in place at ground level by a variety of methods. I've also designed supports for straight polycarbonate sheets at the rear of the van.

This design is much quicker to erect than my existing design, described, with images, on my main page on PHD Design.

I designed a workbench constructed from oak with a thick beech top, one which for all its size and solidity is very easy to install and very easy to dismantle. It's described on another page. I've now designed and constructed a less elaborate workbench with a long sheet metal work surface for outdoor use. Outdoor working has advantages for both woodworking and metalworking if the weather is suitable. For example, hazardous dust produced by the sawing or routing of oak and other materials is less hazardous in the open air. My workshop is cramped. It has to be used for the storage of timber and metal, such as long steel hollow section, storage of hand tools and power tools, storage of many other things. The space is used effectively, I'm sure, but there isn't enough space.

An outdoor roof which is level, not inclined, should be avoided, as there's the problem of shedding water. A sloping roof is far preferable. For this reason, the working surface of the workbench slopes! A sloping workbench is perfectly usable for many or most operations. In some ways, there are advantages as compared with the usual horizontal surface.

At the bottom of the lower allotment is a small structure made up of two curved polycarbonate sheets which has been used for storing sraw bales under cover. I've made use of the straw bales and now the double structure is used for growing squash plants. I added steel mesh sections which give vertical and horizontal support to the plants. The squash has covered a large part of the area available, despite the poor growing conditions this year for squash and other plants which thrive in higher temperatures (the tomatoes in the greenhouse have grown well but there haven't been nearly enough ripe tomatoes. I'm not surprised.

   PHD: Paul Hurt Design   More and less recent projects in gardening and construction








 

 

 

Section 1b  Recent PHD projects: other

Structure for transporting sheet materials and long lengths of timber. Also part of van-campervan extension.




My van is quite a long one, but I sometimes need to transport things that don't fit in. The roof rack I designed gives me a means of transporting sheet materials and long lengths of timber safely. Safety is paramount - avoiding the danger of whatever is being transported from falling off the rack, and avoiding the danger of the roof rack parting company with the roof. I've done everything possible to avoid the possibility, with multiple safety mechanisms.


The van - the better side - with roof rack. The other side has an unattractive hole with untidy edges, caused by someone who tried break into the van - unsuccessfully - and who had the use of a power tool.

Van-campervan extension

Above, the van at Newfold campsite, Edale, Derbyshire

The new van-campervan extension at Newfold Campsite Edale, an outstanding campsite. The afternoon had been almost windless and sunny for most of the time but as darkness fell, it started to rain. The night photographs here were taken in the rain. My first van-campervan extension had been based on the rear of the van and for quite a long time, I worked with this location in mind, with strong timber supports extending from the rear of the van. My ideas changed quite suddenly and I saw the advantages of a side location , using the twin fluted wooden components which are part of the roof rack. A much lighter extension was now possible. The roof rack is used to transport some of the polycarbonate sheets used for the designed, the curved sheets shown here. The straight sheets fit inside the van.

Above, the two vertical polycarbonate components

Above, the two vertical polycarbonate sheets and between them curved polycarbonate sheets.

Above, two views from inside the van-campervan extension 

Below, photographs of the van-campervan extension at Hardhurst Farm campsite, Hope Valley, Derbyshire.

Van - interior fittings

It was only after this visit that I turned my attention to the interior of the van and designed a layout which made it possible to carry out the basic activities of camping inside the van, without erecting the external structures: the basic activities include a place to sit, with enough headroom - the place to sit is a place to eat as well - a place to sleep, which obviously must be long enough and wide enough for one person, and toilet facilities. It would be too much to expect to include cooking facilities in this very small space. I started with a pallet placed on the floor of the van which gives a place to store many of the things necessary for camping. It also gives opportunities for tying down (I prefer chaining down) itms. Later, I bought a solid oak bench, which shifted and was liable to turn on its side until I found a method of chaining it effectively.

Above, the oak bench which is now a fixture in the van. Shelving is useful for storage of items during transport and sometimes for longer - but not for longer storage of valuable things. I believe in practicality and cutting costs whenever I can but sometimes, it can be worthwhile spending more for things which have practical value but which also make a contribution to aesthetics. The oak bench here was very good value for money and it has practical value. Things can be placed underneath the bench as well as on top. Large polycarbonate sheets which are used in the van -campervan extension can be placed on the top and can be transported in a horizontal position.

After this, it was some time before I made additions to the design to achieve completion.

Above, a recent image of the interior of the van. The first addition I made was to the ceiling. I designed supports for oak boards - usually used for flooring rather than interior roofing. These enhance insulation as well as looking far better than the original internal roofing of the van. The bench is left in place, secured by a new configuration of chains. The two chain diagonals to the right can be removed quickly to give unobstructed access. Objects placed between the chains on the left and the left wall of the van can be transported securely. Here, a folding chair can be seen.

Also visible are parts of two aluminium supports which are essential for standing on, to reach the roof structure of the van, to put in place or remove the polycarbonate sheets, for example.

The bench is used to support heavier objects during transport, including one side of the polycarbonate sheets used to construct the external structures shown already. There are methods of preventing movement of the bench without using these side chairs. When the polycarbonate sheets are transported, one of these alternative methods is necessary.

The bench also forms the 'sleeping platform.'  When it's used for this purpose, the two side chains to the right are obviously removed. The bench is  long enough but not quite wide enough as the. support for sleeping. Visible in the image is part of an OSB 2 board which is a little longer than the bench and appreciably wider. It's stored and transported in a sloping position, with the lower end at the back of the van and the higher end towards the front, resting on the vertical bulkhead which separates the driving compartment from the rear space.

Clearly visible is a large flexible storage bag. Its original use is for storage and transportation of objects and materials, as an alternative to a rigid roof box. It can be used for storage of things such as a sleeping bag, a camping mattress and clothes.

Between the pallet and this sloping board there's a space for storage of other things, useful for storage of quite heavy or very heavy - but not very large - objects, such a camp stove.

Not visible are some objects stored underneath the OSB 3 board, next to the bulkhead. At the time the photograph was taken, there was a portable toilet, enclosed in two plastic components which together make a box, a  container which stores the water for washing, drinking and cooking - and for supplying the portable toilet, and a wire mesh basket, with many uses, of course.

Above, view of the interior showing recent modification to the interior but without any stored items visible, except for the two aluminium supports which can be used for access to the roof rack and for other purposes.

Above, an image which shows some of the interior of the van and some of the exterior, part of the roof rack structure.

Below, reminders of a previous design, for a van I no longer own, in the street outside my house, not at a campsite. Some of the designs I've made and still value have had to be dismantled, are no longer current, but I still value them - although the second image here would have benefitted from some simplification of the design, in particular, a less ornate, less fussy support for the long metal structure.

(Indoor) workbench

Above, the workbench at an early stage. This has now become a very different workbench, at least as regards the top. The supports and other structures below the top are essentially unchanged.

Above, the most recent version of the workbench.

Above, another view.

The dimensions of the workbench:
L  197cm
W  75cm
H   197cm

Before I give details about the construction of the top of the workbench, I'll explain why I didn't use the two sections of beech I bought for the purpose. I'd intended to follow the familiar method of planing the beech. To obtain a smooth, flat surface by this method would have taken a long time. I have the knowledge and the tools. I would have used my Clifton five-and-a-half inch plane (made in Sheffield.) I decided that I couldn't justify the time this would take. I decided that solid, thick, heavy pieces of wood aren't in general a good choice for the top of a workbench, at least for many people.

I'm in the older age group. I transported the two sections of beech to my workshop but their weight is a factor to be taken into account. Each section is a little more than 4cm thick. One of them weighs 25kg (4 stone), the other 28.5kg (4.5 stone). A workbench top made up of a single piece of beech of this thickness, weighing 53kg, would be difficult even for many young and fit people. This is one factor to be taken into accoun when deciding if a workbench should have a split-top or not.

 Above, the two sections of beech.

Above, the plane

The top of the workbench (most recent version)  has the appearance of being split but is actually single. The prominent divider running the whole length of the workbench simple rests on the top boards, secured in this case by G clamps. The divider here is hollow steel section but dividers made of other materials can be used. Oak would be a good alternative. The apparent divider can easily be removed or replaced with one made of other material. and is made up of layers. Alternatively, the bench top can be really split, the two sections physically separated. Dividers of different widths can be used. This facility can be very useful, making it possible to use boards of different widths.

The layers I've used to construct this particular workbench aren't a necessity in the least. A different number of layers can be used, more or less, depending on availability and cost, of course.  The materials making up the layers can be different from the ones I've used. I used a door simply because I had a good quality door, a door which was very good value. I bought it at an antiques shop.

The length and width are the dimensions of the door which forms part of the composite top surface. Later, I added a plywood layer, layer 1, with the door above it, layer 2. For a long time, this was the workbench I used. The door had obvious disadvantages as a working surface, but the workbench was still very useful - indispensable. The door became more and more unsightly with use but the workbench was still just as useful.

Above, the door. At lower left, the engineer's vice, useful for woodworking as well as metal working.

The top is thicker now, 9cm (3.5 inch). Layer 3 is made up of two sub-layers. Layer 3a is a layer made up of oak boards, thickness 2cm. Layer 3b is made up of oak boards of the same thickness. This, the top layer, is the new working surface:

Another view of the top of the bench. On the right side of the bench, the face vice of a radical new design. Instead of exerting pressure on the work piece by means of a screw thread, I make use of a ratchet strap - much easier to install, much cheaper, and very easy to use. It's a quick release vice, releasing the work piece in a second or two. More on the vice below.

Layer 3a provides the foundation for layer 3b, the working surface  A single layer resting on the door wouldn't be adequate. Layer 3b, the actual working surface, will become more and more unsightly but still just as usable. If appearances are important, rather than removing any deposits and sanding the surface, there's a quick and easy way to restore the original look. The top layer could be removed and replaced   with new oak boards (or reclaimed oak boards which will provide a good or adequate working surface.) Easier still - simply switch the two layers. Layer 3a will still be smooth, unmarked, unstained - it becomes the new working surface. Layer 3b becomes the lower layer and it's hidden from view, of course. Its appearance isn't important. If holes have been drilled through the top of the workbench to secure heavy tools, such as a vice, but you think that the vice would be better somewhere else on the bench or should be removed from the bench, only the holes in the top layer can be seen. The holes in the lower layers can't be seen. Simply replace the board or boards in the top layer or remove a small section of the board or boards and replace with a new section or sections.

The workbench is  very, very easy to construct. There are no woodworking joints. Instead, I make use of bolts. The workbench is very, very easy to take apart. The workbench is heavy but none of the components are heavy. Reassembly in a different place is very easy. The workbench can be moved inside the workbench without the need for disassembly and reassembly. The corner vertical supports have holes drilled in the base so that stem casters can be inserted into the holes, after each end has been lifted up using a hydraulic jack. 

The workbench has substantial storage space. I use it for storage of tools, drill bits, nuts and bolts, screws, clamps and many other things. My workbench vacuum extractor for removal of wood dust is stored there. In general, items are placed on storage racks which are part of the internal structure of the workbench rather than inside the structure but on the floor of the workshop. This is so as to increase the mass of the workbench, although the workbench is fully stable, not subject to vibration, even without the added mass.

Below,storage containers in a space on the side of the bench under the overhang:

The original plan of the workbench

was modified. I intended the top of the workbench to extend to the outer edges of the four corner supports, with no overhang. This is still the case on the right side (and the top and lower sides.) An overhand on the right side would make it impossible to install and use the new face vice. On the left side, the top protrudes: there's now an overhang of 4cm. The section of oak board (two layers, 4cm total thickness) makes it possible to use clamps here to secure material for sawing and other operations. For holding material, I favour the use of vices - the engineer's vice and the ratchet strap vice I designed - and G-clamps of different sizes and spring clamps of different sizes.

Below, spring clamps securing wood before sawing. (The saw is made in Sheffield, by E. Garlick and Son.) Larger sizes of wood need larger clamps than these. The extension to the bench can support quite heavy pieces but not very heavy ones.

Modifications to the workbench include not just a new top surface but the addition of a new kind of vice.

Another PHD bench

This is very similar to the earlier bench. I make use of larger supports, sections of larch sleeper, each 80 cm long, at the corners. The bench top is 200cm long and 90cm wide. There will be two further supports at the mid point of the bench, as in the earlier model. For this bench, I used screws rather than bolts. Although the earlier bench can be constructed quickly, for this bench, speed of construction was very important. I needed to be able to use the bench as soon as possible for a project.

Above, wood for constructing the bench in storage, not all of the wood shown here needed. On the far left are sections of oak sleeper. On the right, not all the sections were used (as horizontal connectors) but another longer length (200cm) was needed. To the right of the sections of oak sleeper (60cm long), the sections of larch sleeper used in the project (80 cm long), and the plywood sheets (200cm) long used for the top of the bench.

Above, the first stage in the construction of the workbench - the basic structure. Getting to this stage takes very little time. The sections of larch sleeper are placed at the corners - they are self-supporting and will stay in place without falling over. The horizontal sections at floor level are added and secured with screws. The top of the workbench consists of two layers of plywood 90 x 200 cm secured to the sections of larch sleeper at the corners with screws and two movable / easily removable narrower pieces of plywood held in place with clamps. There are various advantages to this system. For work which needs a flat, continuous serface, the narrower pieces can be removed quickly.

Above, the next stage: adding sleeper-sections at the mid points of the long axis to provide support and to prevent sagging, the supports iset, towards the centre, to give support nearer to the centre. Addition of crossed metal bars at both ends. With these additions, a workbench which was able to sway a little becomes absolutely firm, rock solid, with no detectable swaying at all.

Above, after installation of oak boards, which conceal the items stored inside. There are four sections of boards on the sides, two on each side, one on either side of the vertical support at the mid-point. I intend using the storage space for general storage, not storage of tools or equipment, but one or more board-sections can be removed for quick access to the contents. The boards at the ends are fixed but when boards at the sides are used, as here, they can readily be removed for access.

Above, the oak boards were cut to length outside. Only part of the image shown here, the essentials - the machine on the left, designed by 'Evolution,' based in Sheffield, and the sloping workbench on the right, with a board waiting to be sawn at top left, boards already sawn at top right  and offcuts at lower left.

Working outside has advantages, if, of course, the weather is suitable - no rain. The dust released by sawing oak is hazardous indoors, much less hazardous outdoors. The sawing machine is heavy, but there's no need to lift it to the height of a workbench. Sawing by machine can be carried out just as well at ground level. If work will take a long time, low seating can be used.

Below, machines and tool storage near to the back door. The machines include the power saw at the left side of the door, on a movable support, with castors (not visible here.) When the door is opened, the saw can be easily moved to the yard / garden outside, where the dust from sawing - usually oak - is far less harmful than it would be if the machine were to be used inside the workshop. The saw is left on the low trolley - a form of simply moveable 'low level' workbench. It can be used very easily, sitting on one form or another of suitable seating, such as a low wooden stool or the metal support I use. There's no need at all to lift the heavy saw to the workbench I have available in the outside area, no need to risk back strain. I use the workbench for a different purpose, simple as a convenient place for the simple tools I also need for the work, for goggles for eye protection, for the oak sections I'll be sawing and the sections and offcuts which are the result of sawing. On the right here is the bandsaw, also on a support with castors. It can be moved outside for use when needed, although that takes longer than moving the much smaller saw. Again, there's the advantage of vastly decreased problems to do with wood dust.

A face vice of a new design

Above, a new design of mine: a face vice which is very easy to install, very simple, very cheap, very easy to use, very flexible - able to hold work-pieces of very different size - very quick to use, including quick release, a radical design which uses a ratchet strap rather than a screw to exert pressure on the work-piece.

This new design didn't involve a long period of gestation. The ideas came quite quite quickly. Once I had the ideas, the vice obviously had to be constructed and tested. Would it work? Would it hold wood firmly, without any movement, when woodworking operations are carried out. It took very little time to construct. I made a modification in the design, removing a component which was found to be unnecessary. When I tested it, I found there was a little movement in the workpiece. I came up with an idea for a solution the same day and tested the vice again the same day. This time, there was no movement in the workpiece at all. The solution involves use of a cheap and simple component I already had. For the time being, I won't say what it is, but it's a small tool without any moving parts, without any parts at all, something I use as part of wood processing to produce usable wood for my stove.

The part in the interior of the workbench, hidden in the image above,  is as simple as the exterior. The ratchet strap fits round one of the workbench supports. There are 6 of them, shown in dark brown in the diagram. The support is the one in the diagram in the middle row, on the right, inset. The broken line shows the edge of the workbench top.

Another advantage: the vice is much, much cheaper than a face vice with a screw and it's so much easier to fit.

Outdoor sloping workbench



This is a fixture of my small back yard. I prefer to work in the open air if I can and if the weather is good enough. My workshop is  cramped and sometimes I work with materials which produce harmful dust, in particular oak. I have protection equipment - a head covering with powered air intake and filtration - but I still prefer harmful dust to settle outdoors rather than inside. The surface is sheet metal and is sloping. I find that the slope has far more advantages than disadvantages. In only a minority of operations would the slope be a disadvantage. The fact that the slope sheds rain is an obvious advantage. The workbench shelters things stored beneath it. I use the space for storing sections of oak.

Trolley tools for outdoor use and indoor storage

Above, two power tools, very close together, in storage in the workshop, each on a trolley. To the left, a garden tiller / cultivator, to the right, a power saw for cutting metal and wood. Also visible, one of two large beech slabs in storage and a helmet Trend Airshield Pro) for eye protection and protection against wood dust. Air is filtered through the respirator - the airflow through the helmet is maintained by battery power.

Above, a corner of my workshop showing the two storage and transport trolleys with the metalworking vice in the foreground and the bandsaw on the right.

Above, why this room is no longer usable as a kitchen. Why the kitchen is now upstairs. Tools stored in the area above the kitchen sink. With view through the window, showing Pelargonium (Geranium plants) growing in a container on the outside windowsill, the sheet metal sloping workbench and the backyard, converted into a small back garden a long time ago. The soil is covered with a thick layer of straw. There's a plum tree in the area, not shown here.

Above, the power saw on its trolley

On the right, a few of the oak boards which need sawing, near to the drill press.

In the section above: some disadvantages of working indoors, including lack of space (in my workshop) and the hazards of dust. I use a very versatile power saw manufactured (but not in Sheffield) by Evolution (headquarters in Sheffield.) I use it far sawing wood, including oak and larch sleepers. These are 200mm wide and 10mm thick - the width is just above the maximum dimension given in the specifications but I can use it perfectly easily. After the first cut, there's a short uncut part left. After turning the wood over, it's easy to cut the remaining part. I use it for sawing metal too, most often for cutting rectangular steel section and perforated steel bars.

For a long time, this amazing machine has been mounted on a very good portable folding workbench next to the workbench I desined and constructed. The disadvantage has been that wood chips and dust and metal fragments are scattered far and wide, on the bench and floor. I constructed a polycarbonate shelter which partially enclosed the machine, to confine the wood chips and dust and metal fragments so that it was easier to use my vacuum machinery to clean up the waste.

I've now put in place a system which suits me far more. Now, I can move the machine outdoors  and  use the machine outdoors much more easily. The machine stays on the trolley. It isn't moved outdoors on the trolley and then lifted on to the outdoor work bench (which includes a flat area as well as the larger sloping area.)

Working at a level much nearer the ground is quite easy. Low-level seating is needed, of course, a low stool or improvised seating. One advantage of working at a low level is that heavy materials, such as long oak sleepers, don't need to be lifted to a workbench of the usual height. I have a great many long oak boards which need to be sawed to length. Although each one isn't too heavy, the cumulative effort of lifting them one after the other has to be taken into account. For people in an older age group, like myself, the decreased effort is important.

The tiller / cultivator and the power saw would be stored upstairs, in the storage room, if only there were enough space, but it's more practicable to store them in the workshop, despite the lack of space in the workshop. In the workshop, they can easily be wheeled out of the room on the trolleys if more free space is needed.

In the workshop, there's ready access to the workbench (which has plenty of storage space, but not unused storage space) on three sides. The narrow 'walkways' in the workshop are quite easy to use. I'd commend the use of trolleys for storage in workshops like this one, not spacious but with adequate (just enough) space.

The manufacturer's wheeled attachment for transporting the garden tiller / cultivator costs about £100. This device is more versatile - I can use the trolley for other purposes, not only for wheeling the machine from one location to another. Although I can use my van to transport the machine to the land I rent, the path to the land isn't a short one, and carrying the machine this distance isn't feasible for me. The land is only 10 minutes walk from the house and this trolley conversion makes it possible to transport the tiller / cultivator to the land without using the van.

 I've been using a spade to cultivate the land for many, many years and although I'm in the older age group, I'm still able to do the job using hand tools but I've come to the realization that digging the growing areas by hand would take up far too much of my time and there are so many demands on my time.

The handles can be folded - here in the 'above' position rather than the 'below' position.' The tops of the handles fit neatly inside the verticals of the trolley. The machine is prevented from falling forwards by the sections of oak board, which  keep in place the 'front loop handle' (not visible here), and, also the red and black strap. The machine can easily be lowered to the horizontal position needed when oil is added to the reservoir.

Early hydraulic press for apple-pressing




This press has been dismantled. I found designing and constructing it a very interesting, in fact compelling experience. It worked, it pressed apples to produce apple juice, but I wanted a press which could also split wood - the wood-burning stove is in the same room. This press couldn't achieve that.



Whenever possible, I like to design and construct equipment intended to carry out one particular task to also make easier or make provision for other, related tasks. The image above doesn't show the hydraulic press in action but it does show the provision for work which comes before apple pressing: space to store a quantity of apples before cutting, a small table, with chopping board and knife,  used for cutting the apples into quarters, reducing the apple pieces to smaller pieces by using the 'scratter,' the machine operated by the green handle here.

Below, the hydraulic press in action, or the upper part of the press in action. Shortage of space makes necessary carrying out some operations wherever space can be found, in this instance, in the front room where most of my books are kept.

Later hydraulic machine for pressing apples and splitting wood



This hydraulic machine is versatile. It achieves what I wanted to achieve - a machine which can split logs as well as press apples. Splitting logs is the more demanding task by far. It has facilities for storing some apples before working on them, the oak surface higher up, also used for holding the chopping board and cutting the apples into quarters. The scratter machine, with handle, is fixed to the side of the machine but isn't shown here. The machine is very easy to construct (although it wasn't easy to design.) It makes use of threaded rods, which are easily available, and sections of perforated metal bar. It has castors for moving from place to place. If it needs to be moved to a location further away, it can easily be dismantled. Threaded rods are slender things, of course, but the machine is designed to have the strength needed to withstand the forces. A ratchet strap is used. This allows the weight of the machine to be kept low - traditional presses, as well as sophisticated presses, generally rely upon very strong but heavy components capable of withstanding the forces. Only some of the machine is shown. The machine is 1.94 metres tall and at the top, there's a metal frame which can be used to support sheets of polycarbonate. This system is used if the machine is outdoors. The polycarbonate sheets can shelter the machine and the people using the machine. With the addition of suitable walls, a small building can be quickly constructed.

After removal of the wooden boards of the lower platform, the metal frame is revealed. The perforated bars can be put together quickly. The threaded rods fit in holes of the perorated bars. The handle of the splitting axe can be seen. The cutting edge of the axe forms part of the cutting head.


This component, the cutting head, is used when the machine is splitting wood, not pressing apples. The cutting head gave rise to greater problems than any other component of the machine. I originally used a single cutting edge. I tested the machine on a variety of sizeable logs and the machine was able to split them all - but in every case, only into two pieces. I wanted a machine which could split logs into multiple pieces. I eventually designed and constructed the cutting head shown here, with multiple cutting edges. One belongs to the wood splitting axe, retaining the handle. The axe can still be used for splitting of wood by hand, after removal from the cutting head. Another cutting edge comes from a maul. In this case, I removed the handle. Another cutting edge comes from a triangular cutting wedge, with subsidiary edges as well as the main edge. After many attempts, I found a way of fitting these diverse edges together securely.

Splitting logs using the hydraulic machine, on the right into two pieces, on the left into multiple pieces.

The machine is very versatile, with various configurations. As there are castors, the structure can easily be moved. The machine shown above has three horizontal board-layers: a 'two storey structure.' The uppermost board-layer can easily be removed, with the threaded rods which support it, to form a 'one-storey layer with two board-layers:

Both the two-storey and one-storey configuration can be used for pressing apples and splitting wood.

The configuration for pressing apples to produce apple juice (and pulp) is obviously different from the configuration for splitting wood. Converting the wood splitting machine into an apple pressing machine involves removing the cutting head and inserting boards into the lowest horizontal layer ('board-layer 1,') This rests on solid supports which in turn rest on the floor. This resists the force of the hydraulic jack much more effectively than other arrangements, such as a lower layer supported by legs at the corners.

On board-layer 1 are placed such components as the tray for juice-collecting, the racks which are separators between the layers of pomace and the top plate.

The layer above this, board-layer 2 can be used for cutting the apples into quarters (from a standing position) on a chopping board placed on these boards.

The PHD A-frame support and crane

My earlier page on PHD projects has a section on 'the PHD A-frame support and crane'

www.linkagenet.com/phd/phd.htm#crane

but since then, I've increased its functionality as a crane. In the original design, the structure was placed against a wall for lifting objects. This image from the earlier page shows the simple crane lifting the head of a pillar drill. It would have been far too heavy for me to lift on my own - the manual makes it clear that this is a two person job.

Obviously, a structure with two legs isn't self-supporting but for this use, the wall provides the necessary support when the structure is leaned against the wall.

It would be easy, or relatively easy, to make a self-supporting  structure by adding another leg, a tripod, or a structure with four legs, but a structure with just two legs has the significant advantage of allowing less restricted access.  The more legs, the more difficulty in lifting larger objects.  A crane with two supports or just one support is perfectly feasible, but the base and the pillar or pillars need to be substantial, with weight penalties. The crane is light and very easily transported. The wooden legs can be carried easily with one hand, with the metal hoist with lifting mechanism carried in the other hand.

I've now designed a crane which retains the two legs but is usable away from a wall. In the photographs below, the crane is used to lift a log to a convenient height for putting into the van. The crane can lift much bigger objects and much heavier objects, to a maximum load of 250 kg.

The hoist I have is a good quality one but operating the lever to lift the log section takes time - but anyone with a bad back, anyone with a concern for safe working in tasks like this, anyone who takes a cautious view of working, may well appreciate the advantages of the machine - and it is a machine, a device for doing work, even if it's a simple machine.

The van isn't a substitute for the wall which provided support in the earlier use of the crane, in the workshop. The A-frame doesn't lean against the van, using the van for support and the A-frame isn't vertical. It's tilted away from the van. The angle can be altered easily. For many use, particularly with objects much more bulky than this log section, the object needs to be further away from the van, nearer to the ground, before lifting and during lifting.

In the load compartment of the van, there are tie-down rings used to secure loads, usually with straps. The A-frame crane is prevented from falling to the ground by chain, secured to the two tie-down rings at the back of the van.

The van provides a secure attachment point for the chain. The crane can be used in this way away from the van, provided that a secure attachment point is available.   Another possibility is a heavy workbench which can be relied upon not to move. Yet another is a heavy, immovable rock, provided it can be encircled by a strap or chain.

Obviously, any straps or chains used for these applications have to be strong enough, more than that , much more than strong enough.

The crane can be used away from a vehicle, of course. There are various ways of providing a secure anchorage for the chain. A tree can be used - a fairly slender tree may well be sufficient. If the ground allows for  the insertion of a ground anchor, or better still, two ground anchors - the use of two ground anchors as attachment points for chain or rope will give addded security - the A-frame can't fall in any direction.  Two strong ground anchors, each 45cm long, not including the top part above ground, rotated to insert the ground anchor.

A light crane, easily transported, carried by hand if necessary, capable of lifting loads up to 200 kg in the case of this model, has many, many uses. Lifting logs or sections of logs to a vehicle is just one use.

Once a load has been lifted to the required height, it's likely that it won't be in the required position. How is the log section which has been lifted in the example her to be moved into the van, where it can be stored and transported?

Different methods are available but a very useful one involves use of a horizontal or sloping platform. I have a lightweight one which folds up. Here, most of the platform is inside the van, with some of it projecting to the outside.  The part outside the van can be supported on a trestle or other support, or the far edge can be secured so that the platform has the form of a cantilever.

Since these photographs were taken, I've constructed a new crane. The prototype was made very quickly. I'd good reason to believe that the crane would work but it was possible that there would be unexpected difficulties. At this stage, attention to finish and detail would have taken up too much time. I drilled the holes towards the top of the two timber sections with a hand held drill, without attending to the exact placing of the drill holes. For the new version, more care could be justified and I used my floor-standing pillar drill, which allows drilling to be much more accurate. Even so, the prototype worked perfectly well.

Below, one of the wood stores in my workshop. The two parts which make up the new crane towards the left, fastened to the wire mesh panel with chain, the older crane next to the pillar drill press. In the centre, the hoist which hangs from the bolt at the top of the new crane. Also shown, oak boards, used for a wide range of projects, most recently for renovating and extending the surface of the computer desk and for constructing a bookcas.

Below, another view:

The Workshop: extracts from a panorama

The workshop is used for storage as well as working, storage of machinery, tools, wood, metal, fixings and many more things. Upstairs,  a room of similar size to the one shown provides more storage space and it wouldn't be possible to store very much more there.

 None of the stored items are out of reach. There's a narrow 'path' on three sides of the workbench and it's possible to reach almost all  the stored items in the workshop easily. Although the workshop hasn't very much free space, I don't find it cluttered. The workbench has an important role here, apart from its use for storage - many, many things are stored underneath the workbench.  Except when I'm using it for its primary purpose, working in wood and metal, I keep the surface clear. It provides an 'expanse,' a clear area in contrast with the masses and detail on most of the horizontal surfaces and many of the vertical surfaces.

In landscape design, I provide 'expanses, areas of repose which contrast with the fullness and detail of other surfaces.

PHD bookcase and renovation and extension of the top of a computer desk

Information about these two projects in this section. Oak boards are used in both projects. The bookcase and the computer desk are near each other in the room, which is next to my workshop.

The top of the computer desk was, and is, melamine. The computer monitor I had on the work surface was, and is, quite heavy and with time, the top has acquired an obvious bend. That was one reason for resurfacing the work surface with sections of oak board. A more important reason was to extend the top layer. I wanted to use two large monitors, not just one, but two monitors couldn't be fitted onto the existing top.

I work extensively on Large Page Designs but a single monitor is adequate for working on a Large Page Design. I use a dual monitor system now for other reasons. The advantages of having two monitors connected to the computer are very, very substantial, The mouse pointer can sweep from the left hand screen to the right hand screen with complete ease. I can copy an extract from a document on the lift hand screen and paste it into a Web page which is open on my Web page creation program very quickly. This is only to begin to give the advantages.

The base of the two monitors fit on the new oak work surface, without one monitor obscuring part of the view on the screen of the other monitor, but the screens themselves do project beyond the sides of the computer desk top. Unless they're secured, the monitors can easily be toppled when walking near them. I've ensured that this can't happen, by clamping the bases to the oak surface and by using two more clamps to secure the oak surface to the melamine surface of the computer desk.

Below, the bookcase, soon after construction, with two of the shelves not yet fully used. The decorative fluting of the verticals clearly visible - the shelves also have these grooves.

Below, part of the bookcase on the left. Next to it, a smaller bookcase and a taller bookcase at the right, both of them bought, not made by me. In the foreground, a view of the oak top of the computer desk with the two large monitors on the desk, seen from the rear.

Below, a view of the computer desk from the front, with a view of three of the eight bookcases in the room. (There's another bookcase outside the door to the room, at the bottom of the stairs.) The black straps across the bookcase on the left are visible. These connect the bookcase  with the new bookcase, not visible here.

The new bookcase is plain, but it does have decoration on the sides and the top - fluting.  Its main advantage is that it's very, very easy to make and very easy to dismantle. Once the oak boards have been sawn to length, the bookcase can be erected in about ten minutes. Dismantling takes a similar time. The only tool needed is a handsaw, although power tools can obviously be used. The components - oak boards, a single larch sleeper and a few straps - are easy to transport. Despite the fact that oak is used, the bookcase is very cost effective. The decorative fluting arises from the design. It's far easier to implement than any of the traditional or more modern woodworking techniques, such as using a router. 

The oak boards come with tongue-and-groove projections and channels. The boards are simply installed in a way which gives a view of the lines of grooves, the lines running horizontally and vertically on the structure, giving the appearance of  decorative 'fluting.'

The bookcase is made almost entirely of oak boards - with no screws, bolts or nails, no fixings of any kind - apart from a base of larch sleeper and some straps. I didn't cut the tongue-and-groove joints and in fact, these joints play no part in joining boards. There are other projects where the tongue-and-groove joints of the oak boards do link boards, but again, the joints weren't cut by me. I haven't used tongue-and-groove joints or the related mortise-and-tenon joints, or dovetail joints, or any of the woodworking joints apart from the very simple butt joints, in any of my projects. I recognize the usefulness and attractiveness  of the classic woodworking joints, but the emphasis is upon ease of construction, for anyone who cares to make any of the designs. The process of design and construction of prototypes, the work of refining and improving designs, has almost always been long and arduous, and to have included woodworking joints would have taken me away from the fundamentals.

One woodworking joint which particularly interests me is the dowelling joint. I own a dowelling jig for constructing these joints, but none of my existing projects make use of dowelling joints.

In this diagram, the larch sleeper which form the base is shown as a brown rectangle. Other woods can  be used.

Each of the shelves - horizontals, obviously, shown here as red - is supported by the shorter vertical oak boards shown here as yellow. They are next to the longer verticals on each side.

I don't explain here how the bookcase remains erect and how it supports the loads - the books and any other items stored on the shelves, but one of the factors making for stability is the weight of the items exerting their downward force.

PHD general storage furniture

In the bedroom:

The vertical supports are sections of larch sleeper. The two shelves are of very different materials. The lower shelf is far more substantial than it appears in the image - a heavy slab of beech. The upper shelf is of plywood and very light. Any loads placed on it will be very light. The storage furniture can easily be dismantled. It took very little time to construct.

Below, view of far less of the structure - only the top shelf and some items on the top shelf - and more of this part of the room.

In the room which contains the new workbench:

The vertical supports (only a little of the support on the right) shown here, have oak cladding, worn in appearance. The cladding conceals sections of oak sleeper which make up these very substantial supports. As always so far, I haven't applied finishing of varnish or another material. Finishing would improve the appearance of the cladding. The design is quite radical, but I don't give any further information here about the hidden features and my reasons for claiming that the design is radical. The storage here is mainly for kitchen equipment. Below the lower shelf are glass demi-johns and other bottles for storing liquids. Apart from the workshop and general storage facilities, this room is used as a kitchen. The kitchen downstairs was converted into a workshop and cooking wouldn't be possible there. To the left of the wider vertical support is a conventional storage structure constructed from Dexion components. This is used to store some gardening and other equipment, including a hedge trimmer, grass cutter and chain saw, some heavy duty ratchet equipment and some brewing equipment and chemicals.

Also in the room which contains the new workbench:

 As with the storage furniture in the bedroom, this makes use of sections of larch sleeper, with the addition of oak. The two shelves are of the same materials as the bedroom storage sleeper, heavy beech and lighweight plywood. I make use of another, bought, support for storage containers and another one for food preparation. I could have used the workbench for food preparation but  as liquids are involved, it wouldn't be a good use of the bench. The vegetables and fruit are from the allotments.

Graphic Design in wood

 The letters making up 'FEFE' in this heading, from my pages on 'FEFE'


can be given many other typographical forms, including ones which can be used not only in paper or Web media but given material form in many cases, of course. This version could easily be constructed with wood and other materials (the larger capital letters):

Other examples of 'logo' design which can easily be created in wood and other materials:

 

Other examples of graphic design:

 

     linkage

 

             {theme} 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Section 1c. Less recent projects

PHD swift nesting box
PHD workbench
 PHD low-level sheet metal workbench
 Another sheet metal workbench
 Safety in sheet metal work
 The workshop
 PHD solar wood store
 A non-solar outdoor wood store
 PHD A-frame indoor wood store and crane
 A chainsaw stand

 Steam bending of wood
 PHD outdoor oven

PHD swift nesting box

Below this image, a link to a video (length:1 minute: 24 seconds) showing how easy it is to install the swift nesting box and how little time it takes.

The swift nesting box takes about an hour to construct, using only a few commonly available tools. It can be installed in less than a minute. A link to very short video showing installation of the swift nesting box, beginning at 50 seconds into the video. (Before, that, there's installation of a protective polycarbonate sheet to the lower part of the window. Not shown in the video, attachment of the upper polycarbonate sheet with two clamps. The upper sheet is shown in the image above.)

Click on the highlighted text to see the video:

swift nesting box installation

The video first gives a view of the scene. For a short time, nothing happens, then the simple installation of the nesting box is shown. From the video (1 minute, 01 seconds): moving the nesting box from inside the room to outside the window. The nesting box is then secured.

I've already installed a polycarbonate sheet on the lower part of the window. After the nesting box was secured, I installed a smaller polycarbonate sheet on the upper part of the window.  Polycarbonate sheets act as  anti-reflective surfaces. Glass windows are very reflective and when the reflected image is an image of the sky, swifts (and other birds) can fly into the glass and be injured or killed. There are many anti-reflective coatings available for glass which prevent harm to birds and which have minimal effects on light transmission but polycarbonate has the advantage that it provides a much softer surface if a bird ever did collide with it.

This is a new design, a  swift nesting box which is installed  outside a window but from within the house, without the need to climb a ladder and work at a height to drill holes in masonry, to attach a nesting box to its support. From the site of the Health and Safety Executive,

https://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/height.htm

Working at a height remains one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries ... avoid working at height where it is reasonably practical to do so.'

I own a very good ladder, tall enough to reach the upper wall of the house and I'm used to working at a height, but I wanted to design a swift nesting box which doesn't require a ladder or the confidence to work at a height. Installing a box of standard design isn't a job to be undertaken lightly, but I support completely people and organizations installing swift boxes of standard design - the standard design has many variations, of course - when, as will almost always be the case, safe working is practised.

This new design offers  the advantage of easy construction and ease of installation.  Some other advantages of the design: The box can be checked for unwanted users, such as starlings and other birds using the Swift Box instead of swifts. If birds other than swifts are seen entering the swift box, then the box can easily be taken into the room temporarily for a check. If any eggs laid by intruders are found, the eggs can then be removed. Swift boxes are for swifts, and only for swifts. Starlings and birds other than swifts which lay their eggs in swift boxes are much more common than swifts. For example, the breeding population of Sturnus vulgaris, the starling, is about 1.8 million.

This is what the eggs of the swift Apus apus look like:

 
Checking the eggs is one operation which this swift nesting box makes easy. At the end of the season, when the box is taken down, the interior can be cleaned. This is another operation which this swift nesting box makes easy.

A short section of contrasting, supplementary information before I return to the swift nesting box, including this: how I store my longest ladder, the one I would have used if I'd installed a swift nesting box high up, at roof level. Click here to go to the rest of the information on the swift nesting box and the background information on swifts in this column, which includes links to Websites.

I store the ladder at my upper allotment. The area where the ladder is stored used to be a sea of mud in very wet weather - or at least a large patch of mud:

I extended the ladder and covered the area of the rungs with wooden boards:

After putting all the boards in place:

I covered the area taken up by the ladder and a further area, up to the two lines of vertical boards on either side of the ladder with sheets of 'Proplex' material, which is waterproof and very cheap. The water runs down the water-collecting surface and is collected in a storage container at the bottom of the structure, not shown here. The water storage container is a galvanized metal container bought at an agricultural supplies store.  Before making necessary adjustments to the sheet to give a more tidy appearance:

The Proplex sheets can be removed, and replaced, very quickly. The path after removal of the sheets, with a flower bed to the left:

I haven't seen swifts in the skies above my allotments very often - when I have, the sight has always been thrilling, momentous, in fact. It's cause for regret that the school buildings next to the allotments aren't used by swifts for nesting.

More about the swift nesting box:

This is a design which fits this particular window. The box is supported by fabric straps with additional light security chain (information about the chain not provided in this introductory material.)

If, hypothetically, the straps failed (but I've good reason to believe this is a very remote possibility)  the chains would ensure that the box couldn't possibly fall to the ground. This would benefit any swifts inside the box, of course, as well as anyone below the box.

I use fabric of various dimensions and with various maximum loads in a variety of designs, including the use of ratchet straps with a rating of 10 tonne in my apple pressing and log splitting hydraulic machines. Fabric can be immensely strong. Modifications to the design  - again, no further information provided here - allow for the installation of the nesting box in windows of widely different kinds, with varying methods of opening.

The danger of swifts (or other birds) colliding with the window is avoided by the use of polycarbonate sheets, installed at the same time as the box. There are many other anti-reflective techniques which can be used to avoid the danger of collisions with windows. The polycarbonate sheets also protect the window from any slight movement of the box in strong winds. The box has been tested in strong winds. The dimensions of the polycarbonate sheets obviously differ when windows of different sizes are used for placing the nesting box.

The material in this section is wide-ranging. It includes the practicalities of constructing a swift nesting box and my gratitude for the exhilarating, deeply satisfying, experience of watching, and hearing, these magnificent birds.

I live in an area of Sheffield where swifts are plentiful, for the time being. My own small terraced house doesn't offer any entrance holes for swifts. I designed this nesting box to make it much easier to help these wonderful visitors to maintain their numbers, to increase their numbers - and to continue to bring to people like me inexhaustible joy when we watch their soaring and swooping and turning and when we listen to their cries in the summer sky.

The swift box is lower than it would be if it were fixed below the gutter of the house, and not slightly lower, but the height is just about adequate. The entrance holes are a little more than 5 metres above the ground, the recommended minimum height for installation of swift nesting boxes - although swifts have nested in boxes much lower. In houses where the upper room is higher than in this house, the height above the ground would be more than adequate.

Instead of climbing a ladder and working at a height to attach a nesting box underneath the gutter, I  open the window wide, attach two light clamps to the window frame, pass the swift box from the room to the outside, and, holding the box in one hand (the box is light), use the other hand to push the fixings attached to the red webbing straps (steel snap hooks) onto the handles which open the upper part of the window. The box is held securely in place.

Below, the swift nesting box on the workbench in my workshop. A workshop isn't necessary to construct the nesting box in the least. It consists of a black plastic upper part and a wooden base. The two components are fastened together with the two red webbing straps. The base can be easily removed. The view below is of the edge of the base. The flat lower side can easily be seen in the video above, with the two entrance and exit holes for the swifts. 

In the image below, the metalworking vice at the right and the pillar drill at the back aren't needed. The upper part of the swift nesting box needs no construction at all all - it's simply a black plastic planter, easily obtained. The wooden base, seen edge on here and secured with the two red straps, is the same width as the planter. It simply needs sawing to length with the handsaw (or, of course, a power saw). The board can be secured to a table or bench with two clamps, one of them shown here. After that, the corners are rounded with the craft knife.

To form two entrance holes for the swifts towards the ends of the wooden base, two holes are drilled close together using the portable power drill (or a hand drill) and the circular holes are formed into two oblong holes using the craft knife.

On top of the nesting box, secured by the red straps, are two metal snap hooks. These simply fit over the handles used to open the upper part of the window and the nesting box is dropped into place. Thin, unobtrusive chains attached to the handles supplement the straps. With the straps and chains in place, the box is secure and can't fall.

The actual procedure is marginally more involved than this but perfectly simple and straightforward. After opening the window, I pass through the window opening a sheet of twin-wall polycarbonate and use two  clamps to hold the polycarbonate sheet in place. The fixings are then pushed onto the handles of the clamps. Then I pass through the window opening a second, smaller piece of polycarbonate sheeting, securing it with a second pair of clamps, the prominent red, white and orange clamps in the photo above (the lower parts of the first set of clamps are also visible.)

Below, a view from within the room before attachment of the swift nesting box - the two handles used to open the upper part of the window are raised. The window is opened, the box is moved outside the window and the two metal snap hooks on top of the swift box are lowered into place, fitting round the two handles. Clamps are added, together with chains are added for additional security.

Below, another view from within the room - the nesting box just outside the window, held in place by two of the clamps, which also support one of the polycarbonate sheets. The polycarbonate sheet for the upper part of the window isn't shown here. It's secured by two more clamps. Beyond, a view of the motor body repair shop across the road, now closed.  I could achieve a clear view of the motor body repair shop by using a different method of protecting swifts and other birds from colliding with the window. I prefer to use these polycarbonate sheets. They can obviously be removed at the end of the swift season.

 

The polycarbonate sheets are to protect swifts (and other birds) from injury or worse by collision with the glass of the window. Polycarbonate is a much softer and more yielding surface than glass and polycarbonate, unlike glass, doesn't give reflections or the illusion that a free flight path is available to the bird through the window. Polycarbonate has high light transmission and inside the building, there's still a view to be had, although obviously a more diffuse one. There are various other methods of protecting birds which don't involve the use of these sheets.

Further information about construction. The box consists of a plastic planter, black in this case, available from suppliers of gardening equipment, together with a base, made of timber board in this case. I did varnish the base, which obviously adds to the construction time, but this isn't essential. Planters come in a variety of sizes, including ones suitable for smaller, single nest boxes. The planter here has a width of 20cm and the timberboard as bought has a width of 20 cm. All that has to be done is to saw it to the right length - a metre, in this case. Plastic protectors can be added to the corners of the base, but I used a jigsaw to round off the corners. A jigsaw isn't an essential tool, though - a rounded corner can be approximated by making cuts at the corner with a saw.

The only tools which are essential to construct the nesting box are these:

A saw (handsaw or power saw) to cut the wooden base to length and to cut the corners of the base if a jigsaw isn't used. (The base may also need to be cut to width.) I used a handsaw.

A drill, mains or battery-powered - or a hand drill -  to make two holes close together in the base for each entrance hole. The space between the two holes is then cut away. This is very easily done.  I used a battery-powered saw. A suitable drill bit is quite substantial but not expensive. The diameter needed is 28 mm. I used a 28 mm auger drill bit of length 210 mm. The point of the auger drill bit allows the centre of each circle to be placed precisely.

A chisel or knife - I used a craft knife - is used to trim away excess wood, in this diagram the light area between the two shaded circular holes. This gives an entrance hole of the right shape and a suitable size, in this case 28 mm x 65 mm.

The plastic compartment is held to the base by two narrow  webbing straps which can be put into place in very little time. In the top photograph above and in the two videos, these straps, narrow and red in colour, are easily visible. These webbing straps are very strong. I use webbing straps (of greater width) in the design of hydraulic equipment, for bending sheet metal and pressing apples to produce apple juice.

Obviously, taking the nesting box back into the room and dismantling it, perhaps for cleaning at the end of the season, is a very quick and easy matter too.

Installing (and removing) this nesting box is a much less hazardous activity than installing or removing an external nesting box of the usual kind, one which is higher, perhaps beneath a gutter, working on a ladder, but there are possible hazards to passers by. These hazards are easily avoided. Two people are needed to place or remove this nesting box, one inside the room, at the window, and one at street level, who can warn the person inside the room if people are approaching and who can request that they keep away from the area underneath the window. This is a light piece of equipment, not at a great height, but obviously, hitting a passer by has to be avoided - made impossible. 

The common - most common - design of swift nesting box, installed under the gutter, is kept in place by fixings which can fail. Boxes of this design are in place for years, exposed to the weather, and parts of the box and its supports can fail. Visual checks on the box should be carried out from time to time - binoculars can give a better view, of course - and every so often, when possible, a safety check from the top of a ladder is advisable.

 A falling nesting box would probably harm any swifts inside at the time - this too has to be avoided - made impossible.  The clamps and webbing straps are so strong that the possibility of their failing can be discounted and in any case, if one clamp or strap did fail, the box can be held in place by the other clamp and strap. The box is unaffected by strong winds but hasn't been tested in gale-force winds, of the kind which cause widespread damage. I've good reason to believe that it would withstand these winds.

It's very unlikely that the nesting box will be used by any swifts in the area for bringing up young this season, and perhaps for several seasons. More often than not, this is the case with any nesting box installed in or outside a house. The chances of success are increased by playing a CD of swift calls. The open window (only slightly open) would allow the sound to reach the surroundings easily but so far, I haven't played a 'Symphony of Swifts' CD.

Very much recommended, established Websites and blogs concerned with swifts, including their material on internal and external nest boxes, as well as other material to do with swifts.

Some  Internet sites, all of them impressive and well worth consulting and reading (I intend to add more sites to the list):

The site of S6 Swifts Sheffield is

https://s6swiftssheffield.org/

From their site:

Our thinking was that plenty of people are interested in wildlife, but that the long ladders and head for heights required to fit swift boxes up under eaves puts even the keenest people off, or at least means that fitting a nest box ends up sitting on a to do list for years.

We’re so proud of our local swift colonies and want to do something to help these amazing birds before they decline further

Lots of people don’t really notice our wonderful, joyful, screeching, soaring swifts. Many people don’t know the difference between a swift and a swallow. We want people to feel proud of “our swifts” and that, seemingly against all the odds, they choose to keep returning to our small corner of Sheffield each year. To soar and scream over the terraces of Hillsborough, to squeeze unnoticed under a wonky roof tile in Walkley.

I think that people in Sheffield S6 who want to help swifts would be well advised to make use of their advice service, which is imbued with a passion for helping the swifts but takes full account of practicalities, such as the  inconvenience and hazards of working at a height.

Their are other considerations, too, which the S6 swift group obviously take into account. If a wooden swift box is chosen, and there are  good reasons for choosing a wooden box, I regard it as important that the box should be very well made. The Website of 'Peak Boxes,' makers of a wide range of bird boxes, including swift boxes

https://peakboxes.co.uk/

includes this, 'Bird boxes built with thought, care and craft. Superbly built, specialist boxes for birds, craftsman-made, in the heart of the Peak District.'

To mention just some of their work, the images on the page

https://peakboxes.co.uk/contact-1

show impressive design and craftsmanship.

It's not always possible to choose something made by a craftsman rather than a mass-manufactured article and sometimes a mass-manufactured article is the best choice, but craftsmanship and support for craftsmanship are very important and in the case of wooden bird boxes, my own view is that a product of craftsmanship is the one to buy, unless finances make that difficult or impossible.

For the time being, the people at S6 Swiftsare taking a break - definitely a well-earned break - from their full service. In this field, as in so many others, it's impossible for people to give their full attention to a cause, to spend every waking moment on the cause. There are responsibilities, demands on time and money, pressures - and other interests as well as legitimate pleasures - which obviously make full-time preoccupation with the cause absolutely impossible.

The Facebook page on the swifts of the Walkley, Crookes and Hillsborough area of Sheffield is at

https://www.facebook.com/groups/418459102563616

https://www.swift-conservation.org/

https://actionforswifts.blogspot.com/

The site of 'Bristol Swifts'

https://www.bristolswifts.co.uk/

gives this information:

'I found that my designs with a bottom entrance have the highest occupancy rate.

The nest box ideally should be at least 5 metres above the ground, although swifts have been known to nest as low as 1.5 metres.

The 2017 trial results confirmed that if given a choice swifts preferred boxes with dark interiors. So in readiness for the start of the 2018 season the interiors of all 25 boxes were painted black.' 

My swift nesting boxes have a bottom entrance, are black inside on all surfaces - the wooden base has a black lining - and are about 5 metres from the ground - low but usable by swifts.

https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/

The Wildlife Trusts are 'a federation of 46 independent wildlife conservation charities covering the whole of the UK.' The Wildlife Trusts carry out impressive work for swift conservation as well as the conservation and appreciation of animal and plant life.

The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) site has an excellent general page on swifts, with links to more detailed pages.

https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/swift/

From the general page on swifts. The page makes clear that the swift here is the bird belonging to the species 'Apus apus.'

'The swift is ... a superb flyer. Sleeping, eating, bathing and even mating on the wing ...  Spending their winters in Africa, swifts migrate 3,400 miles twice a year ... as more old buildings are renovated and gaps in soffits closed up, swift nest sites are fast disappearing. This, in part, has resulted in swifts being added to the Red list in the 2021 UK Conservation Status Report

'Red is the highest conservation priority, with species on this list needing urgent action. Species on this list, such as swifts, are globally threatened, with big declines in breeding populations and ranges. That’s why swifts urgently need our help. By installing a swift brick in a wall, or putting up a nestbox, you could give a swift a place to rest and raise a family.'

The page provides a 'Swift call audio' and it gives a figure for the breeding population of swifts in the UK: only 59, 000 pairs. This is a very small population for such an area.

This is not to forget publication (and reading, and buying) of material published in books and magazines. One book published fairly recently is 'Swifts and Us' by Sarah Gibson. Until recently, she worked for the Shropshire Wildlife Trust.

This is just a preliminary appreciation of the book. It deserves longer, more detailed coverage. This is a recently published book but already, to me, something of a classic of nature writing, with writing which can sometimes soar, like the swifts, the ideal word placed in the ideal place in the phrase or sentence to lift it, informative and useful  material placed in the text with complete naturalness too, a well balanced book, a book which suits its subject, the very varied lives of swifts, the very varied experiences and actions needed to appreciate them and help them. Action to help them is necessarily humdrum much of the time, technical some of the time, a very different matter from the joyous, almost ecstatic response to the joyous, almost ecstatic flight of the swifts.

Any comments - including critical comments and suggestions for improving the design - are welcome. I recognize, of course, that the best way of providing a place for swifts to lay their eggs and bring up their young isn't by means of a box installed on the outside of a building, whether the box is under a gutter or, as in the case of this design, outside a window, but by installations provided at the time of building, by swift bricks, and the other means which established Websites on swifts describe and illustrate, and, also, free-standing structures which provide many nesting places. Even so, these methods can't, realistically, be used in nearly enough places. To implement them will generally require contacting builders and architects and the use of methods which are very different from personal construction.

After any box of any design has been installed, there's no guarantee of success. Swifts may not use the box, or perhaps not for years, but there's also a  chance that swifts will use it, helping to arrest the decline in their numbers, helping these wonderful birds. Simply a suggestion - when a swift box is installed, if the end user agrees, then it would be useful to provide lettering  which informs passers by about the purpose of the box - Swift Box or Swift Nesting Box  (The particular colour isn't important but obviously it should stand out from the background). Alternatively, an unobtrusive box may be preferred.

The nesting box has been placed outside the window during two seasons and so far, the swifts haven't used it. I live on a street which is quite long. In my part of the street, there have never been swifts nesting. Swifts do nest every season at the other end of the street and swifts nest on streets adjacent to this one.

I don't live in an idyllic village but in a suburb of Sheffield, not far from the Hillsborough football stadium. Swifts are birds of town and city suburbs rather than beautiful and idyllic villages. If, hypothetically, I were offered the chance to live in a beautiful and idyllic village without swifts rather than here, I wouldn't. I'd far rather live in an ordinary suburb with swifts than a beautiful and idyllic village without swifts. Without the sight of the swifts, the summer skies would seem empty. Without the sound of the swifts, the summer skies would seem silent.

These are birds of extraordinary variety, but not an extraordinary variety in their appearance. Their appearance is nondescript rather than extraordinary, a plain sooty blackish-brown with a short forked tail, a reminder that it's not only exotic birds with colourful plumage which deserve attention.

Despite the uniform or near-uniform appearance of the adults and the not so uniform appearance of juveniles, in other respects, this is a bird of great contrasts.

In the nesting area, adults as well as infants may indulge in squabbles, but the squabbles are endearing and touching. Grounded, swifts are more or less helpless. If they are found on the ground, they have to be given help to fly again, but not if they are injured. Helping injured swifts is an important part of human care for swifts but not one of which I've any experience. In the past I've done my best to help injured hedgehogs. 

Once they resume their flight, the swifts are changed, transformed. Their flight is very varied. The 'screaming parties' of summer evenings, made up of 10 to 20 swifts, are exultant, exciting. The swifts which sail in the skies higher than that are often solitaries, and again, a joy to watch. Better to spend time watching them when possible, time that is very well spent. As night falls, they go higher and higher. In this realm, what they do can only be investigated electronically. What they feel as they fly is completely unknown, of course.

Human navigation is an extraordinary achievement, the kind of precision navigation achievable by electronic means, that is. Without the aid of specialized equipment, human navigational skills are necessarily very limited. It's very different in the case of swifts (and many other birds.) The navigational skills of swifts, their ability to find the same place they used for nesting last year, are extraordinary. So much else is extraordinary in the case of these birds, even if their body colour is far from extraordinary.

The PHD workbench

No innovations are possible in workbench design and construction - everything that could have been thought of has already been thought of. That's one opinion, but I don't share it. I'd claim that the PHD workbench does incorporate one or two innovations. I don't claim, of course, that an improved workbench necessarily leads to improved woodworking or metal working.

There's general agreement that a good workbench has to be solid and heavy, to provide a stable base for holding the wood or metal which is being worked. I don't dispute that in the least. I think the same. The workbench I've designed is solid and heavy.

Manufacturers charge much more for very solid and heavy workbenches than  for very light and flimsy ones, but this one is cheap to construct. I had available an old door for the top of the bench - it had been thrown out and put in a skip - together with a plywood sheet, but if a free-of-charge door can't be found, the cost of the workbench is still very low.  I put the door on top and the plywood sheet underneath. Anyone who wants to build a similar workbench and has a usable door is completely free to do it differently.

The workbench is also easy to construct. No woodworking joints are used. The components are fitted together only with bolts and nuts. The workbench is easy to dismantle and easy to move from place to place, or to put into storage if need be by dismantling it.

Workbenches which are solid and heavy are difficult to move. Shifting loads of this size is a job which should preferably be avoided. Changed circumstances may make it essential to move a  wonderful and very substantial workbench some distance. There are any number of reasons - a bad leak in the roof above the workbench, the purchase of a new piece of equipment which would be better off in the place where the workbench is now.

This workbench is very easy to move, as I explain now. Workbench design doesn't have to be like tent design - the ideal backpacking tent is very spacious, very light, very strong - capable of withstanding gales - very cheap, very easy to erect and very easy to dismantle. In tent design, far more than workbench design, the problem of incompatible ends is a real one. In workbench design, it's much easier to achieve advantages without corresponding disadvantages.

We can move the workbench within the workshop or working area very easily, without taking it to bits. We can move the workbench longer distances by taking it to bits, something which is very easy. It's just as easy to assemble it.

How do we move such a heavy object within the workshop or working area? Answer, the bench has a jacking point. Place a heavy hydraulic jack or a small and light hydraulic bottle jack or a non-hydraulic vehicle jack under the jacking beam, at more or less the centre of the beam.

I see advantages in equipping workbenches, like motor vehicles, with beams which are strong enough for the purpose. These beams are at the ends of the workbench, not the sides, of course.

When one end is in the air, attach blocks to the two legs - or supporting members - of the workbench at this end. The blocks are equipped with heavy-duty spindle castors. These castors have brakes, so that once the other end is raised, the castors don't move. Operate the jack so that this end is gently lowered and the castors take the weight of the workbench. Go to the opposite end and do the same. There's no need for the castors at this end to have brakes. Once this end has been gently lowered, the workbench is mobile. 

My workshop is small and has limited storage space. For this reason, and the convenience of having tools and materials close at hand, I use the bench surface for storage as well as a working area. I don't tend to work on large objects on this bench and a large working area is unnecessary.

A number of my designs have extensions. A strong structure, whether it's a workbench, an A-frame greenhouse (triangular structures are intrinsically strong) or a metal framework, can help to support and to strengthen other structures. In the case of this workbench, scaffold boards are attached to the bench and to another strong strong structure, the one which incorporates the sink and cupboard storage units, forming a bridge between the two. The boards lack the unmoving rock solid strength of the bench itself, but they are more than adequate for a wide range of topics. Obviously, the top of the worbench can be cleared, if not completely, to give more working space.

The four  recesses in the top of the workbench are useful for retaining a wide range of tools, fixings and other items, largely eliminating the risk of accidental falls  from the bench onto the floor.

Working at a workbench should give the feeling of being at one with the work. Workbenches often keep the user at too great a distance from the work, literally. If the long horizontal component at the base had been continuous with the vertical supports at the corners, then when feet were touching the long horizontal component, the user wouldn't be as near to the work as in this design.

There's a great deal of storage space underneath the bench. My large vacuum extractor is on the workshop floor. Trays at floor level provide storage space. At the level above this, there's additional storage space.


PHD low-level sheet metal workbench



Above, the workbench. The wooden straight edge for guiding the jigsaw has now been replaced with a metal straight edge, which has the advantage of greater weight as well as an edge which is more exact. The workbench is suitable for work with a router as well as a jigsaw.

What are the advantages of having a sheet metal workbench as low as this? Above all, much greater safety in handling sheet metal. The sheet metal I have is stored against the wall to the right of the bench. If I had a bench of the usual 'bench height,' I would have to get hold of the sheet and lift it on to the bench. A sheet of sheet metal isn't too heavy but it is large and unwieldy. It flops around in an irritating - and potentially dangerous - way. The corners of the sheet metal are protected by my system of plastic clip-on units, more or less eliminating the dangers but not eliminating in the least the difficulties - these materials are much more difficult to handle than structural steel bars or most other things, even for two people. I do need help bringing in the sheets from outside to this storage area. A fork-lift truck can transport sheet metal in a horizontal position, but people always carry them in a vertical position, for obvious reasons. Why should anyone need to take out a vertical sheet from storage, rotate it to the horizontal position and then lift this very, very cumbersome thing quite some distance and then place it on a bench at approximately waist height?

The section which follows this describes my earlier sheet metal workbench - a good design, I think, in many ways, but with the great disadvantage of being simply too high.

My bench allows a far easier way of working. I simply get hold of the upper edge of the sheet - with an extended arm, keeping a safe distance - and pull it away from the wall so that it falls to the left, onto the low-level bench. Adjustments are made to the position of the sheet and then the sheet is clamped to the bench. The clamps shown in the image above are spring clamps, used in pairs. One clamp grips a wooden support, a scaffolding board. (The placing of these boards is explained below.) The other clamp grips the edge of the sheet metal and the clamp which has already been applied. This system is very, very quick and very secure. The sheet metal can't move at all. In this stable position, the sheet metal can be cut. For straight cuts, including long straight cuts, the wooden straight edge shown in the image above is used. It acts as a guide for a jigsaw. The wooden straight edge is clamped to the sheet metal at the front edge using one spring clamp. The straight edge is secured at the far side using a very simple but very effective method. It's simply weighed down with the two blocks, which are oak and heavy - heavy enough to allow no movement of the straight edge during cutting.

Moving a sheet from storage to its position on the bench  only takes a few moments - from a position of safety - rather than a much longer time, in a position which is potentially dangerous and at the least, something of a struggle for two people and all but impossible for one. When the work has been carried out, it's very easy to lift the sheet - or sheets, if the sheet has been cut into more than one piece - back into the storage position by the wall. Setting up the straight edge takes only a few moments.



Above, the components of the workbench

The workbench is very simple and very quick to set up, and  to dismantle. The components can easily be stored and take up very little space. The main components are simply four sections of scaffolding board, each of them 22cm high, separated by six sections of oak sleeper. Sections of softwood sleeper can also be use. Each of these sections is 30 cm long and 10cm high. These sections of sleeper and scaffolding board (longer, complete scaffolding boards can also be used) aren't joined in any way, by nails, screws or bolts. The components are simply held in place by two long pieces of webbing. The ones here are the kind used to secure loads to roof racks. The components rest on hardboard here, but can also rest on the floor directly. The weight of the oak sections effectively prevents any movement during cutting.

Longitudinal cutting of sheet metal is obviously carried out parallel with the sleepers. If it's necessary to cut the sheet metal in a place where one of the scaffolding boards would get in the way, the sheet metal is simply unclamped and moved to the left or right, so that there's no obstruction, and then re-clamped.

Transverse cutting takes place nearer to the three blocks at the far side. A straight edge is secured, and the metal can be cut easily.

Another sheet metal workbench

This section is archived material.



Above, a view of part of the machine I designed and built for bending sheet metal and for making the cutting of sheet metal easier. It's also a workbench for general sheet metal work (to mention just one activity, joining sheet metal sections by riveting) and a supplementary bench for other work, such as general metalwork and woodwork.  It can be used for joining sheet metal sections by riveting, for example.  It's housed not in my workshop but in another room. The sheet metal is fed into the machine between the two perforated steel bars. I already owned a machine for bending sheet metal but the maximum width of the sheet metal which the machine can bend (by non-hydraulic power) is only 600 mm. This machine will bend sheet metal up to a width of 1300 mm by hydraulic power.

I made use of webbing straps (one of the two red straps visible here) rather than steel components when the forces are purely tensile, not compressive. I think this is a very useful design feature, which can be used in machines of many different kinds. Webbing straps can withstand considerable forces without breaking.

When the machine is used for cutting sheet metal, the sheet is placed on top of the two long and strong boards which form the upper surface and secured with clamps - there are two G-clamps which can be seen towards the left. To the right of the G-clamps is another clamp. Its main use is clamping  metal which is being drilled in the pillar drill of the workshop. On the far left is the equipment which does the cutting (Stakesy's throatless hand shear.) On the right is a bench swager and slip roller used amongst other things for strengthening sheet metal. On the nearer of the top boards is a router guide, useful for measurements of length.

To cut the sheet metal, the cutter is placed within the channel which separates the two boards, at one end of the channel. The channel is 12 cm wide and 10 cm deep. The cutting blade is at the correct height for cutting the sheet metal. In this position, the cutter can be moved forward. As it advances, the handle is operated to cut the metal with the blade. The cutter can be used without the machine, but it's much harder to obtain a straight cut - if a straight cut is the intention. The machine, and the separate cutter, can also be used for curved cuts. Again, the machine makes the process easier.

Safety in sheet metal work


Above, reducing dangers in sheet metal work: unprotected and protected corners of sheet metal sections. Unprotected corners are very sharp corners, which can kill or injure.

Experienced sheet metal workers know about the hazards of sheet metal and take good care to avoid them. Even so, they may well be injured, perhaps when they're very tired and don't keep well away from the hazards, which include not just sharp corners but jagged edges of sheet metal.

The companies which sell sheet metal, in my experience, take absolutely no interest in matters of safety. They may assume that every customer is an experienced sheet metal but someone who has only recently become interested in working with this very interesting material is able to take away the sheet metal, with unprotected corners. Sheet metal comes in large sheets. Moving them calls for great care, but even with great care care, accidents can easily happen, when sheets have to be taken up stairs or moved round corners, for example.

In the lower part of the image here, the corners are made more or less harmless by the addition of plastic corner pieces. I use the plastic pieces which are sold to hold together loose printed sheets, easily obtainable from shops which sell stationery materials. It's just as easy to protect any jagged edges of sheet metal in the same way, although it will take more of these plastic pieces.

I'm glad that Dr Marcus Bowman points out the dangers in his book 'Sheet Metal Work.' It's one of the books on sheet metal work which I own. In the chapter 'Safety First,' he writes,

'Because the edge of a sheet is so thin, the pressure it exerts is very high. You might get a nasty bruise or even break a bone if you strike your hand with a hammer or a large flat piece of metal, but strike your hand with the edge of a sheet and the injuries are likely to be much more severe ...

'The edges left after a cutting operation usually have a fine, almost invisible burr which acts like a sharp razor saw ... Yes, the edges of sheet metal deserve the utmost respect. Whenever possible, avoid handling the edges of sheets, and atthe very least, wear good, heavy-duty, procetcive gloves of leather or Kevlar, and do not allow your hand to slide along an edge.'

He also writes well on the risks to hearing and sight, including this:

'Wear good eye protection made to proper industrial standards at all times.'

He gives many recommendations in the section, 'Creating a safe environment' including this,

'Watch those sharp corners if you are moving sheets when others are present ...' but of course, there's a need to watch those sharp corners when others aren't present. It's much better to take great care but to have the sharp corners made blunt and more or less harmless by such a method as the one I've suggested
.

The workshop



Above, part of my kitchen-workshop, not in the least elaborate. This isn't a recent view. Most of my work is carried out with portable tools in the open air. On the workbench here there are  tools which do use mains power, a router, with attachment, a drill press, a saw, manufactured by 'Evolution,' which can cut a range of materials, structural steel as well as wood, and an Evolution jigsaw. Some tools can be stored underneath the bench, but others are fixed. These include a sheet metal bead roller and a sheet metal folder. The bench is a 'transverse extension bench.' The wooden extension houses a very substantial Record metalworking swivel vice on the night but there's free space available to the left. The extension can be extended, giving more available space to the right of the vice. There are many more tools than the ones shown here. Some of them, including a chainsaw, an electric planer and a rotary sander are stored underneath the bench. Others are stored in tools cabinets in the workshop, or on one of the walls not shown here.





Above, a closer view of routing equipment

The PHD solar wood store

 

Logs stored in my back yard before construction of the solar wood store (What I call a 'solar wood store' here is usually referred to as a 'solar kiln'):

A solar wood store makes use of the greenhouse effect to increase the environmental temperature, and so increase the rate of moisture loss from chopped and sawn wood - the process called 'seasoning.' This is the solar wood store I designed and constructed.

View from the North:

 

The logs are supported on three scaffolding boards, which are supported by a galvanized bin on the left and the wall on the right. The PVC roof is supported by two aluminium C-channels, which are light, strong and cheap. There are four short sections of C-channel inserted into the two long sections, to give support to the PVC throughout its length. Another PVC sheet, placed vertically, forms the wall of the log store to the South.

 View from the South:

 

View from the West (on the left sections of Larch logs.)

 

A non-solar outside wood store


Above, an outdoor project, in the backyard / back garden - a very simple structure for storing wood to be used in a multi-fuel stove. The wood store is in my small back garden. The wood store is constructed from off-cuts of railway sleepers, which support horizontals made from decking boards. The store still has to be finished with oil/varnish after it has dried out. The log sections here still have to be cut into smaller sections for seasoning.

A  chainsaw stand




Another outdoor project, a stand for supporting a chainsaw, used for sawing logs and branches, particularly repetitive sawing. A safer way of using a chainsaw for tasks like these. This chainsaw has now been replaced with a better model, a Grizzly chainsaw.

Steam bending of wood







Above, two views of the equipment I made for steam bending of wood. The wood to be bent is placed in the inner steel container, which is filled with steam from a steam generator. The container is well insulated with the foam, inside the larger steel container. Next to the steam bending equipment, the chainsaw stand.

PHD outdoor oven

The outdoor oven is located in my upper allotment.

A new design, with advantages. The oven can be used for cooking pizza and for many other purposes. This photo shows the view to the North. There's a pizza stone placed on top of the oven, which is here at an early stage of development. The rose shown here is the variety Arthur Bell. The oven blends with the greenhouse and extensions.

In October, I placed more bricks in the oven to increase thermal mass. More bricks were placed on the left of the open side, to reduce the size of the opening. The opening is now 64% of this side. The figure of 63% is often given as the optimum. I also added a horizontal section of welded wire mesh to the top of the oven, the section supported by another section of wire mesh at the rear. The horizontal wire mesh can be used for various purposes. The primary use is for storing, not seasoned wood to be used in the oven, but unseasoned wood whose drying will be aided (even if not very much) by the heat given off by the oven. The roof of the oven incorporates rectangular steel section, supporting fire bricks. The roof is well insulated, then, but the stored wood increases the level of insulation.

Very soon after, a curved galvanized sheet was added to protect the wood, which, after all, is drying, from the rain. It also improves the appearance.

The curvature of the sheet allows it to shed rain easily but the top of the sheet (which is supported by the wood stored below) has very gentle curvature and can be used for supporting all kinds of things when the oven is used - cooking equipment, for example - and as a work surface. I use it for transferring rolled-out dough to a metal pizza support before adding the topping. This is much more convenient than having a table nearby and using that.

The wood stored on top of the oven and on the sloping metal rack near to the chimney comes from the wood store in my back yard. The sloping metal rack is just visible in the image below, at the left. This rack supports the horizontal rack which in turn supports the wood shown above, hidden from view now by the curved sheet metal.