Way back in the last century when mars bars were fourpence, I was a pupil at Prince Henry’s Grammar School, Evesham. It was a very good school and quite academic, so although I was fairly bright I spend most years in the middle B stream. The kids in the A stream were all bound for Oxbridge and the like. I ended up scraping my degree at the less distinguished Portsmouth Polytechnic. Nevertheless in that grammar school B stream I held my own pretty well and kept clear of the bottom of the class in all subjects bar one – woodwork. (Aah, now you see where this is going.) At woodwork (and football now I come to think of it) I was exceptionally un-gifted. My teapot stand, perhaps the only thing I ever finished, didn’t get a lot of use at home as the tea poured out of the teapot spout all by itself because of the slope of the stand. My annual place at the bottom of the carpentry class was, i suspect, regarded as a given by my unfortunate teacher. Nevertheless, in my old age I have managed to cobble together a few wooden structures which have found their place aboard Herbie. While none bear close scrutiny, they function in an endearingly crude fashion.
So now as I embark upon my mark II roof box, I thought it might be useful to reveal my construction techniques and their shortcomings in order that others may avoid them. Here are the findings thus far.
The roof box is a simple rectangular frame consisting of four planks arranged in a rectangle and screwed and glued to square section corner posts which also act as legs to lift the box clear of the roof. The floor of the box I will come on to in a later episode.
So to these planks. Roof box mark one which did a reasonable 7 years service was made with plywood which eventually began to delaminate, so this time I’m having a go with tongue and groove floorboard which will probably rot but not delaminate. In order to get the correct box height (low enough to get under bridges but high enough to store stuff), the planks have to be one and two thirds floorboard width. So half the planks have to have their width reduced by a third. Sawing across the ends of the board by hand to get the right length I don’t mind, but for ripping along the length I resorted to my terrifying electric circular saw. Here’s where i come to my first bit of ‘how not to’ advice.
When working indoors with a circular saw, you can achieve pleasant decorative effects in your workshop by failing to connect any sort of sawdust gathering device to your saw. As well as revealing any cobwebs there might be, your workbench and surroundings will take on a charming snow scene type effect and you will be surprised at how cleverly the dust finds its way into he smallest nooks and crannies. Should you wish to find any tools later on, please allow approximately twenty times the amount of time actually spend sawing, to hoovering up afterwards.
Once your planks are sawn to size, on the ‘inside’ faces of the box, carefully mark out the fixing point for the corner legs and drill pilot holes for the screws then paint primer over that side, leaving a gap where the legs will be so that the glue will work directly on the wood. After you have done this you can check whether you have the plank the right way up so that the T&G groove is at the lower edge ( so as not to collect rain) – the same as the box feet. I found it prolongs the fun of marking out as you turn the plank the proper way up and do the marking all over again. Only then can you turn over the plank to check if there are any large knot holes or other disfigurements on the other face which would marr the appearance of the outside of the box. The advantage of this method is that you have yet another go at everything as you re-measure and re-mark the face you should have used in the first place. By now you should be good at marking up.
Applying primer paint. I like to paint fast (keep a wet edge and all that.) Load the brush generously and splish splosh vigorously on the wood. Work fast – dip, splish splosh, dip, splish splosh. It soon becomes automatic, and if you have carefully placed your cup of tea next to the paint tin, you may find some dips come out an interesting brownish colour. Drinking the tea afterwards is optional.
Well that’s as far as I have got. Stay tuned for more handy hints on how not to make a roof box.