Thursday, 26 February 2015


In days of yore in order to prove yourself you were challenged to slay a dragon, rescue a maiden from a castle tower or undergo some dangerous initiation ceremony like running through fire blindfolded!  These days the challenges are equally taxing but they take a different form.  So when my daughter threw down the gauntlet with the dreaded IKEA CHALLENGE I felt I had to rise to the occasion to prove myself.  Her particular challenge was to assemble an IKEA sofa bed aided only by the infamous IKEA cartoon picture book.  (I am convinced that IKEA's target market is people who cannot read!)

So I called on reinforcements in the form of my wife Rosalind as she is good at Suduko and crosswords and would have helped the war effort at Bletchley Park had she been born earlier.

Confronted with three large cardboard boxes with no indication of which to open first, where the instructions were and whether there should have been four boxes, we drew swords and commenced battle. Eventually we had opened everything and completely blocked the hallway, and our only means of escape with acres of cardboard. 

Finally we discovered the instructions hidden inside the blanket box item and managed to work out that there were two set of instructions and which you used depended on whether you were going for the right handed or left handed configuration. It was a relief to know you only had to work your way through 10 pages and not all 20.  

There is no point in having someone help you unless you put them to work, so I assigned Rosalind the complicated task of fitting the loose fabric to the appropriate blanket box side using the Velcro provided.  This she achieved perfectly on the second attempt.

I undertook the more challenging engineering tasks such as trying to make sense of the diagrams and screwing components together using the tool named after me (they spell it wrong).  I then entrusted Rosalind to screw the feet on, something she did with poise.
 Things were starting to take shape big time and we even managed to work out how the "goes under" goes under!

 As there were health and safety issues at stake I bravely checked out the integrity of the assembly by lowering my full body weight on it.  There is no truth in the rumor that I actually dozed off.
 Rosalind then decided that she ought to read the instructions to make sure we had done it right.
 Rachel having arrived home from work, announced that she ought to check it out from a horizontal position and fortunately gave it ten out of ten!

So survived the IKEA challenge and in the future I hope to sleep well on the bed after a day's fishing on the chalk streams.

Monday, 23 February 2015


We had planned to fish on Monday so when the weather man said 5 degrees C, strong winds and the risk of showers we did hesitate!  But then you can wrap up, don fancy head gear, break out the finger-less mitts and wear two pairs of thick socks and if all else fails skin is waterproof!
In the end we had wind and sun, cloud and a 10 minute snow shower but we survived and we even caught.
Malcolm was the first to catch but Richard (pictured above and below) had only been fishing the Wood Lodge Pool for 15 minutes when he caught on a blood worm with long rubber legs. 

 Later we moved down to Mill House Lake and found some fish deep by the monk.  I caught on a gold head daddy with rubber legs.

 The monk (seen below) is the name given to the outflow structure one side of which features a series of wooden slats.  The level of the lake is controlled by the height of the slats.  When the lake is to be drained the slats are removed and the water flows into the structure and down a pipe at the bottom.  The monk is always at the deep end of the lake, where fish may hang out in very cold or very warm weather. 
 Malcolm (below), well wrapped up, survived the snow shower but missed his fingerless mitts.

So we all came away with a brace each.  The fish were all 2lb plus and one was a 3, all in perfect fighting condition.

I noticed on the Albury web site that there was an aerial video of the lakes we had been fishing. You can see it at

Monday, 9 February 2015

Fencing Fun With Recycled Pallets

I had mentioned that one of the things keeping me from fishing and posting was my fencing project.  I thought it might be helpful if I shared some of the techniques I used and the how I had been able to recycle old pallets into pretty neat picket fencing.

Now in my back garden (called a back yard by my American friends) the fence on one side is my responsibility (as detailed on the house deeds). The fence is about 120 feet long.  The existing fence is a low one not the usual 6 feet solid type.  This we like because it means that we can enjoy our neighbor's flowers and shrubs and they can enjoy ours. However, bear in mind that the following photos were taken in January so don't expect to see flowers. The picture below shows the new fencing bordering the top part of the garden where I have put purchased trellis work between posts.  Along the base of the trellis I had set paving slabs on their edge in concrete. Once everything has grown this fencing tends to be hidden by the plants.  So there was nothing clever about that fence.

Down at the bottom part of the garden the fence borders my vegetable plot and historically it was pretty basic plastic fencing as the next photo shows.
It was whilst looking at a fencing suppliers website that I noticed an advert on the page mentioning recycling pallets as fencing.  That sounded interesting so I gave it a click and watched a video of an American chap cutting up pallets and turning them into fencing.  So I decided to give it a go.  Now previously I had tried to take pallets apart and I knew that, because they were manufactured using ridged nails fired in with a nail gun, you could destroy the wood trying to take them apart.  However, there was a section of fencing (behind my compost bins) where some of the pallets could be used complete if they were just cut to the right length. 

In the picture below you can see cutting the pointed fence tops with my pull saw. Incidentally, I had never seen a pull saw until my son Dan had one and gave it to me when he moved to the States. It is my favourite saw as it always cuts easy and clean.
This section of fencing is substantial because it is made of whole pallets but it is attractive. To finish it off I had to fit narrow battens between the wide verticals. Then before putting them into position I painted the wood with a preservative (I want this fencing to see me out)! I also had to fit two extra posts in concrete between the pallets. I will elaborate on how I did that later.
My remaining pallets were less substantial so I decided to dismantle them completely to get the timber for the picket fence verticals.  The way I did this without doing any serious damage to the wood is as follows:-
  1. Stand the pallet upright on concrete and using a bolster (a wide chisel for cutting masonry) and a hammer open up a crack between the two pieces of wood.  Then insert a hacksaw blade and cut through the nails. 
  2. If the nails are of softer material sometimes you can cut through them by just repeatedly hitting the bolster.
  3. Because the bolster has a wide blade you reduce the risk of breaking or splitting the wood.
  4. It is not a quick process but practice speeds thing up.
  5. Make sure you wear thick gloves to protect your hands (especially the one holding the bolster) and don't leave any nails sticking out.
The bolster is in the middle.

I decided to buy arris rails (long horizontal triangular sections of treated timber) to fix the ex-pallet verticals to, as that would be neater than using the heavier sections from the pallets and I also decided to use the metal arris rail brackets.  All the fixing I did with screws as I did not want to damage the wood or loosen the fence supports by hammering.  Cordless drills are so adept at drilling pilot holes and powering in screws that they speed up the process.

The end product looked pretty neat and I followed the UK tradition of having the best side facing my neighbour's property as the picture below shows.

My side looked pretty good too!
The little gate in the middle is so I can get my lawn mower in her garden to cut her grass.  Dark brown wood preserver finished it off nicely.

So now for the long awaited mention of the new supporting posts.  Where I needed additional supports (because of the length of the span between existing supports) I used those pictured below.

My dodge was to drive them into the ground and carefully line them up, then to dig around them to enable me to give them a concrete collar as part of laying the base slabs.  This made them a lot more stable.

My final dodge was for mixing the concrete mix without making a lot of mess.  I learnt this from Brian my daughter's neighbour when we were replacing her garden fence.  You mix the ballast (small stones and sand) with the cement in a wheel barrow, having first lined the barrow with some heavy duty plastic.  I used part of an old shower curtain.  Then you do the mixing, not with a spade or trowel, but just by lifting first one side of the plastic and then the other side, alternately. This way you mix the contents just like a cement mixer would.  As my ballast was pretty damp I didn't add any water which made it a lot easier to handle the mix and put it where I wanted it.  After a couple of days the end product was rock solid.

I enjoyed building the fence and keep walking down the garden to view my efforts.  I hope this might prove useful to you.