Monthly Archives: January 2012

Deck lights

I wanted to have some lighting on the deck and in the area, but I didn’t want to have some sort of spotlight in your eyes while you’re trying to relax.

I decided that I would make my own LED lights to build into the deck and bring an ambiance rather than harsh lighting. If you look elsewhere in this blog you will find a thread about how I dismally failed at that so I went to the hardware shop and bought a do-it-yourself kit.

It seemed relatively easy to do the kit and it was. I took maybe an hour or so to string it all up according to the instructions and then had to fix a few that I did wrong. All in all a pretty easy experience.

Anyway, I decided that I would set it all up prior to putting the boards on because it would be so much easier. Then I also needed to check how it would look at night and how bright the actual lights were. For this I used the most reliable and widely acclaimed fastening system available – gaff tape. 🙂

I went through and placed the lights where I thought they would be finally and gaff taped them in place to get an idea of how bright they would be and how the light would be distributed. Then I loosely strung the wire up under the deck skeleton while it was easy.

Once the boards are on it will be easier to then mount the lights in the deck and pull the cable tight. Here are the pictures of the lights in place prior to the boards going on.

Once all set up, I had to wait for nightfall to test. I was pretty happy with the highlighting of the trees and the light it put out on to the paving. The following picture is pretty grainy, but obviously…. it’s dark. 🙂

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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Decking [COMPLETE]



Okay, so the last update was that the rails had been finished on the deck. The next step is the skeleton, or the battons that the decking boards will actually be screwed to.

There is a bunch of steps involved with this and none of them simple and straight forward. The first thing I did was get out there and make sure I had a clean work area to start with. Sound weird? Not really, you see it IS in a garden and with that comes certain problems. Although most problems can be killed with insect spray…

This was one of about 8 little fellas who came out to visit when I sprayed. Each one was about the size of an iPod Nano. As you can see in this photo above, I went all Godfather on this one – killed him and killed his family. However, it must be said that I don’t like killing any living being without reason, but this was in preemptive self defence since it really was a safety hazard to be doing so much work that close to where they were lurking. And to clarify further, they aren’t actually bad spiders – they are venomous, but not dangerous as they hardly ever come out of their “house” let alone bite people ( – but I’m more worried about one crawling on me while I’m using a circular saw… resulting in much more damage than a spider bite.

But, on to decking things. The next step was to cut enough timber for the skeleton, which involved getting more wood from Bunnings. I ended up buying the decking boards as well since I was already there. I bought every last stick of decking boards that they had (56 boards) and brought them home and laid them in the backyard.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the boards are Ekodeck – –  and are fantastic. They also have a product fact sheet thing on their site (under downloads) that gives all the specs on how to construct the frame of the deck itself (as far as minimum distances and so on go). I read through and checked this document – I had already done so before even starting the frame, but recapped – and saw that the maximum space between battons was 450mm.

Therefore, I would need to position the battons as equally as possible and preferably closer than 450mm. I went through and cut a bunch of the timber to the right lengths (measured with a little extra to spare) and then laid them all out to see how they fit together.

You can see the decking boards in front of the frame in the picture above, but more importantly, you can see how I’ve laid the battons out. Now, obviously, I had existing ones in there to hold the posts up, so I had to work within those constraints. I also needed to avoid the trees and preferably frame them, while still trying to keep the battons as equidistant as possible.

This took some time. However, the easiest way, I found was to measure the distance from the front of the deck, guess, and then move the battons in place. Then measure them and  adjust slightly to make it more even. Once you’ve done the front, then measure the back as well (distance between battons) to ensure that it’s even across the length of the deck.

As you can see in this horribly blurry shot above, some of the battons that held the posts up were not exactly straight. I had to actually move those as well, which in some cases involved cutting them to fit. Once they were spaced that worked out okay, though. You can also see on the right hand side of the frame that I’m going to have problems in fitting that corner together.

As you can see, I ended up with putting a batton on the end of the side deck and then screwing the cross battons straight into it. I had to be really careful and fairly precise with this as I still needed to have strength there. Also I had a small problem when I looked at it because the boards for the side deck would finish butt up against the back deck boards. That meant I needed a second batton for that. It also needed to be exactly in the right spot, so I used a couple of left over bolts and nuts to space them apart. Worked a treat.

Next post will be getting the deck lighting ready and then the boards go on!!!


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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Decking [COMPLETE]


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Quick Art Update

Just a quick update as I have a lot to blog about at the moment. These are a few of the drawings I did at life drawing last night. I’m starting to get a bit proud because I’m finally getting to the point where it’s coming more naturally now and I can worry less about the correctness and a bit more on the artistic side of things. I’m really happy where things are at the moment and really looking forward to how this is going to look as I get better. 🙂

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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Drawing


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Lessons Learned

Hi all,

I will be blogging the updates on my deck this week, but since I spent about 50 hours over the last 4 days working on it, there’s a lot of updates. Therefore I thought I would do a quick update to record the key lessons I have learned in the last couple of days that would have made things a lot easier, or that did make things easier.

Lesson #1 – Use a string line

I didn’t really think of this at the time, and I made sure everything was perfectly level, however, I forgot that the front of the deck would need to be straight. I mean, it looked straight, but when it came to putting the boards on, not so much.

A string line is a great way to make sure that everything lines up. In fact, if I was to do it again, I would be a lot more particular with concreting in the stirrups and bracing them to ensure that they were perfectly level horizontally and vertically, but also in line with each other. That would have saved a lot of grief.

Lesson #2 – You can fix it

Even when you do everything perfect, there will always be something that doesn’t quite work out right. However, instead of hoping for the best and just soldiering on, it’s best to take the time to fix it.

I thought that the supports would be strong enough with the gap they had. They may be, but to make sure, I put in some extra support posts just in case. Turns out that the deck is so much more solid for it, and if I hadn’t have spend half a day messing around with them, the deck may not be as solid.

Lesson #3 – Overkill is good

There are times when you can take small short cuts because is going to be hidden when the job is finished. There are times when it will probably do, but the best rule of thumb is over kill.

I wish I had been a lot more gungho in the beginning and just put a lot more posts in. There would have been more support, I wouldn’t have had to go back and put some extra ones in later, and where I thought there would have been enough, it wouldn’t have hurt to go for the overkill.

Lesson #4 – Don’t have a deadline

Setting a deadline or working towards one is great, but it can lead to shortcuts that will make things more difficult in the end. It also puts a lot of pressure on you to kill yourself trying to finish things.

Set a tentative deadline and work towards it as much as you can, but be aware that things happen (eg rain) that will slow things down. It’s better to have a quality finished product that will be ready once it’s done than having something delivered on time that is sub-par.

Lesson #5 – “Ekodeck” is awesome

The product I have used for the decking boards is called Ekodeck( ). It’s pretty much made from plantation bamboo and recycled bottles. Sounds weird, I know, but it’s awesome.

It is a little heavier than wood, and a lot more flexible (which can be good for working with, not so great for carrying). It looks like wood, but doesn’t have much of a grain – however, nor does it have imperfections like knot holes. You work with it just like wood (screw, drill, cut, etc) with one massive difference – no sawdust! Yes there are shavings, but they’re pretty soft and don’t tend to clog things up. The material itself is very easy to shape (chisel, sand, cut, etc) and is really solid.

I’m yet to find out first hand how it weathers, but it didn’t need to be oiled, treated or anything like that. You just screw it down and it’s ready. And it looks awesome!!

Anyway… more updates through the week with lots and lots of progress. In fact, the end is in sight! 🙂

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Posted by on January 30, 2012 in Decking [COMPLETE]


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Derby Drawing

So, I want to start doing some Roller Derby drawings, but it’s a little difficult because I don’t do it myself and therefore not really sure how everything fits together in the terms of safety gear and skates. I’ve started doing a few drawings from photos to try to get the proportions right but it’s going to take a bit of practice. It would probably be better to draw from real life, but they move so damn fast!!

Anyway, here’s a couple of done that the awesome Captain Ratz was nice enough to unknowingly pose for (these are from action shots of her in photos). The last one was of Feisty Cuffs – a present for her birthday. 🙂

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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Drawing, Roller Derby


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Drawing Update

Today’s update is still catching up on previous drawings. This collection is a few drawings I’ve done outside the life drawing night. I tried to capture a few people on the street, in the crowd or on the train.


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Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Drawing


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Rails Finished

Again, rain stopped play.

But the advantage is that I can catch up with previous photos. This post brings us up to date and then later this week I’ll be doing the majority of the work to finsh the deck off. Very exciting!

As per last post, I need to go through and redo all the posts to be recessed and strengthen the frame in general. I have taken each post out of the garden (now that I’ve put them all in place) individually and finished them off.

The first step is to do the recess where the bearer will lock into. To do this, I measured out the size of the recess and then used the circular drop saw to make a row of cuts to build the recess. Below is a picture of my half way through.

Once the recess is done, the next step is to measure exactly 180cm from the recess to the top of the post. This means that the post is the same height from the deck the whole way around the fence line. Once measured, it’s just a simple cut.

After the post is the right height, the second bolt to the stirrup is required. Remember I only put one bolt in to hold the post? Well, I need to put the second bolt through to hold the post solid.

You can see in the above shot that I have used a sharpie to mark the outside of the hole where the second bolt needs to go. Because the first bolt holds tightly, the second bolt just needs to go through and then it will tighten the stirrup to hols the post solid. Therefore the next step is to make the second hole bigger just so that the bolt will go through.

Once the holes are done, the recess is made and the post is the right height, the post needs to go back in the stirrup and be solidly bolted in. Obviously it needs to be level in both left/right and front/back.

You can see in the above picture that I haven’t fully tightened the bolts, and will do that once I’m sure it’s level. Once the bolts are tightened, I check again to makes sure we’re good. Using the support post that I originally put on to ensure the post was level, helps a lot with doing this.

Once the post is in place, I need to do the bearer. It needs to sit in the recess and be exactly the length between the two posts. I also want the to bearers to over lap, so that means cutting half of the bearer end off and then bolting them together. I came up with the most efficient way I had available to me, which isn’t the safest, but seemed to work really well.

I measured the half of the bearer I need to cut off so that it had a recess that sat inside the post recess. The next bearer would them have one on the opposite side and they would fit together perfectly and be bolted to the post. I marked the lines (note the shading of the waste side) and then I made the cuts. I used a combination of the drop saw and a hand saw to finish it off. The photos below are pretty self explanatory…

The final product…

Okay,k sure it’s not perfect. But it’s close enough and the bolts will pull them together nicely.

The best thing is that at the ends, the recess doesn’t need to be made and the bearer just bolts on. From there each bearer overlaps and fits together perfectly…

And then once it all fits together it looks like this…

The corner, of course, provided the biggest problem, but that just consisted of some accurate measuring and some more shallow recesses…. and a rubber mallet. 🙂

And then, once all of this has been done, I have ended up with an extremely solid framework that will support the last step of framing before the deck goes on.

And now the final step is to go through and put all the framework in place for the decking to sit on. That is the next step I need to do (when it stops raining) and then the deck boards go on!

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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in Decking [COMPLETE]


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Drawing Update

Well, it’s Tuesday. Drawing update day.

I’m still catching up on bringing my blog up to date, so here’s a session I did at the Arthouse with a model called Pixie recently. She was very, very short and had this kind of mohawky hair that stood up. It kind of reminded me of a super hero with flames for hair so that theme pervaded my drawings. I was pretty happy how these turned out, and I was loving the super hero vibe. : )

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Posted by on January 17, 2012 in Drawing


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Deck update

The weekend just gone was way too wet to do any decking, but luckily I’m still a little behind in blogging the work I’ve been doing on the deck. I’ve decided to go all arty and start this post by showing you a photo of what I saw while I had my face in the dirt tightening bolts on a post….

Okay, so the next step was to continue on as planned and make sure that the frame was in place with the posts being level in themselves, and that the bearers were level with the front rail. I didn’t have to be too pretty with how I put all of this together, it just had to be held solidly level.

Once all this is in place, I will then go back and re-do them by recessing each post and bolting the bearers in properly. You may also notice in a couple of the photos, I did a cross beam near the corner. This was mostly to test the strength of that method and also to hold the post more sturdy.

The above shows the posts in place ready to be stood up. They will get one bolt in the base and the bearers put on with cross beams to ensure they are held level.

I didn’t want to have to cut up another bearer here for the short piece of timber to brace the corner, so I did it this way. It was still solid, but looks a little dodgy. Still all level, though. In the end, each post will have a bearer in between it, so they will be cut to size. Screw holes won’t make a difference, but if I cut short pieces, I risk not having enough wood.

Just to make sure the corner post is held well, I have braced it from a couple of points as you can see above. I also put in the cross beam to test the strength of it. I put it close to the tree as I will be doing that in the end so I can deck around the trees leaving enough room for them to grow. I put 100 kgs of weight onto the cross beam and it held well.

Most of the posts are in place as shown in the photo above. The tricky bit came next where I had to do the last post. The post itself was difficult, but the bearer was the biggest problem, being very close to the ground to make it level with the front rail. In fact, to make it fit in place, I had to cut a root out from the tree! I also had to dig a trench for it to go in, but at least it all fit. At this point all still level and almost done!

The two photos above show the finished product! All nicely in place, all level and done. Except of course, now I have to go back, pull them all apart and the finish it off.

What this means is:

  • Mark where the bearers are so that the recess will be in the right place to keep the bearer level
  • Remove the bearer and support beams
  • Unbolt the post
  • Measure the post to be exactly 180cm from the bearer and cut it to size (this means the wall will be the same height all around the deck)
  • Recess the point for the bearer
  • Drill the hole for the second bolt
  • Bolt the post back in using both bolts and ensuring that the post is up straight
  • Cut the bearer to the right length and make it have a recess to fit two bearers in the same post recess
  • Bolt the bearer in and make sure the deck is still level
  • Reattach the support beams if needed.

Simple. See? But, that’s work for the next blog.

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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Decking [COMPLETE]


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My first electronics project – Deck Lighting

Wow. This is actually really cool. I need lights to put inside the deck I’m building and thought it would be cooler and cheaper if I did it myself.

Firstly, it must be said that there is a thing called a “hack-space”. It’s a shelter for nerds, geeks, artists and any combination of the three, to gather and support each other. Not in a Nerds Anonymous way, but to help each with projects, all chip in for new equipment, have a place to leave junk that you can raid, etc.

So I’m affiliated with a Sydney based hack-space called Robots And Dinosaurs, which is rad. There’s a lot of knowledgable people there and they helped me a couple of days ago to put together my first circuit containing electronic components. I learned how to solder onto a board, use a prototyping board, how to wire up components and how to do formulas that apparently mean stuff.

The very next night, I took the components home and wired them all up and the circuit didn’t work. I gotta say, I’m a little disappointed. I expected to be an electronics genius after one lesson. Anyway, I have had offers of help to work out why it’s not going and this is the reason for this post.

First things first, planning. The following photo is a page from my moleskine where we worked out all the numbers and did diagrams and so on. Any one reading this, I’m happy for you to point out errors, but it must be said that we got this all working on the prototyping board, so I’m thinking the maths is good.

So, as I said we got it working on the prototyping board and it was all good. All three LEDs lit up enough to walk around the back yard in darkness. I did not buy any extra stuff and I didn’t have any other gear at home.

When I got home, I thought about it and realised that I wanted the lights spaced out. I decided then that I should connect up the circuit using wires instead of using a board. So I grabbed some left over good quality speaker wire and used that to wire the circuit up.

I also decided to use connectors to make sure they were solidly in place, but so I could remove them once I’d tested it and seen how bright they were in situ. The above picture shows how I have connected them. What it doesn’t clearly show is that the cable has two wires initially joined together (I split them and taped them up to prevent pulling on the connection). The positive wire is square in shape and the negative is round. This makes them easy to tell apart, but also easy to hide away. I connected the positive to the positive leg and negative to the negative leg. I also then put each end of the wires on to two batteries held together so I could test everything was fine.

The final circuit looks like this on the ground.

There’s not much detail, but you can see it’s all connected. Also, don’t be put off by the LEDs glowing, that’s just the reflection of the camera flash.

To give more detail, here is a close up of where the power source and resistor are all connected.

Now keeping in mind that this worked perfectly on the prototyping board, I was a bit sad it didn’t light up. I have placed it on my dining table (on top of a towel) and pulled the multimeter out… I discovered that if you try to check how much resistance there is through the LEDs they actually glow a little. This at least meant that they were connected fine and that they work. Below are the three LEDs being tested.

Then I checked the resistor is working. It is a 120 ohm resistor and therefore should have a resistance of around 120 ohms.

Then I worried about the way these banked connectors would work. Therefore I put one of the tips of the multimeter on one end and the other on the alternative end. It was still all good.

And then since everything else is working, it is probably the battery pack, right? Wrong. Here’s the proof.

The only thing that seems a little out of place is the slightly higher than 12 v reading. I’m not sure if it’s enough to throw out the resistor, but a) I don’t know why it worked before then, and b) I can get a new resistor if needed.

So I’m asking for thoughts, comments and suggestions. I need to get this up and running pretty damn quick.

I will also post the solution and how I went about fixing it.

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Posted by on January 12, 2012 in Decking [COMPLETE], Electronics


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