Stuff I made in 2017

December 28, 2017

This year has been a year of making - mostly jobs around the house and garden. It’s been great fun and I thought I’d document some of the projects here for posterity.


First make of the year was a mini Ikea Billy bookcase. It only took a couple of hours, but it was very satisfying indeed (and saw me joining the millions of Ikea hackers on the internet).

We’d put three large bookcases across a wall in our living room, but this left a bit of a gap at one side, not quite wide enough for one of the smaller bookcases. Since I didn’t have anything but the bandsaw at the time, I made a crude fence to ensure a straight and consistent cut and proceeded to chop all the shelves down to size. Since you can’t see the sides of the bookcase itself, you can’t see the wood screws I used to secure the shelves!

The Lawn

Undoubtedly the hardest thing I’ve ever made (physically at least), this project saw me carting several tons of soil and hardcore backwards and forwards, and laying turf in rainy and miserable weather. The results are pretty awesome though. Our garden now has plenty of space for the kids to practice cartwheels and generally go bananas.

Laying the brick edging round the lawn was incredibly difficult because I foolishly decided to mix all the cement by hand. For future projects I’ll buy or hire a cement mixer!

The Barbecue

Having been given a welder (thanks Dad!) and an oil drum (thanks Mother in Law!) for Christmas, and with the lawn out of action, the next project on the list was a new barbecue. I used some heavy gauge, 100-year old steel fence posts rescued from a friend’s garden to make a solid base, then chopped up the oil drum before adding hinges, a chimney and a grill.

The chimney is made of old welding gas bottles, chopped and welded into a tube and the side tables and bottom shelf are made of pallet wood from the turf delivery for the lawn so the total materials cost was no more than some hinges and a couple of oven shelves from eBay!

The Playhouse

With a newly cleared gap in the bottom corner of the garden, it seemed only fitting to build a playhouse for the girls! This was pretty expensive, with most of the timber, cladding and OSB coming from the timber merchants. Not to mention over 800 wood screws!

I built the house in pre-fab sections, since there was very little room on the “site”, I had to complete each section then lift it into place and secure it with screws on the inside. I deliberately left everything as “wonky” as possible, aiming for a gingerbread house sort of look.

The windows are made of 10mm perspex (found in a skip!) which worked really well as it’s the same thickness as the OSB skin on the walls. This meant I could attach the windows and OSB together in square sections then screw the window frames and cladding over the top in whatever shape I wanted.

The roof is OSB too, with 250+ wooden tiles made from pallet wood nailed on. I should have left bigger gaps between the tiles though, a few months on they have expanded in the rain and lifted in places.

The Mood Bot

I haven’t done many software projects this year, but the Mood Bot is one I’m quite happy with. It’s a Slack integration which tests a team’s mood and draws some pretty graphs. You can read more about it here.

The Coffee Table

Well, actually it’s more of a TV stand for the loft conversion in our house, which we converted into a study/second living room this year. The table top is a slab of oak and the legs are 25x50mm steel box section. I’m pretty happy with the results, but I need to find a tougher, child-resistant finish!

The Map

While looking for an unusual picture for the top room, we thought about buying some kind of world map.  This led me to start looking at Mapserver again, and ultimately the creation of this map of Thatcham.  We got it printed on a canvas by one of those online photo companies and I matched the colours to our garish new sofa!

The Skull Mask

For one of this year’s work events we were supposed to dress for a “masked ball”.  I couldn’t find any masks I liked on the internet and I left it too late to go to a fancy dress shop, so the weekend before the party I headed out to the garage and started snipping and hammering some scrap steel from an old office letter tray.  I was very pleased with the results, but sadly proceeded to get so drunk I left the mask itself behind!  I might have to make another…

So all in all it’s been a make-tastic year. I’ll have to start thinking about what projects to do in 2018 - though I suspect a new desk for the top room, a snazzy interior for the playhouse and maybe an electric rotisserie for the barbecue are on the cards at some stage…