Thursday, 17 March 2011

DIY fun with the kids - Build a Seed Tray & then paint it

Here's a simple DIY project that the kids can help with. Rather than buying a seed tray; with a few tools, some short lengths of timber (here I have recycled an old broken pallet) and a spare hour or so, you can have some family time, building a wooden seed tray. Afterwards, if you want to add to the fun, let the kids paint their seed tray in their choice of colours and design. When complete, they can plant seeds of their favourite vegies in it.

A few weeks later, they will have achieved two successes in one, a building project and grown some new young plants.

The image here shows the tools required to build this wooden seed tray.

If you are recycling old timber, in this case a broken pallet, it is first necessary to dismantle the pallet and remove the nails.

Carefully slide a wide mouth wood chisel under the board and prise upwards. Be sure to avoid the nails or you will damage the chisel edge.

Once the board is loosened slightly, take a claw hammer and drag the nail head as far into the claw as possible.

To increase the power of the claw, wedge a small piece wood between the board and the claw hammer. This will act as a fulcrum and increase the leverage action, lifting the nail much easier.

Now that you have your selection of boards and planks, it is time to start to prepare the pieces for the seed tray. The Seed Tray has the dimensions 300mm (12") x 450mm (18") x 50mm (2").

First select the piece of wood to be used for the two ends. This should be thicker than the base, preferably 25mm (1") thick. My timber from the pallet was too thick, so I rip sawed a board in two, producing two narrower end pieces. If you have two pieces of 50mm x 25mm (2"x1") then cut to 300mm (12") long. Use a set square for straight edges and a hint for the young ones; always make the cuts on the outside edge of their marked lines. This will allow them to watch the line as they saw through their piece of wood and it will be the same for both pieces - a matching pair.

The timber that I recycled from my pallet was rough sawn. To create smooth surfaces, use a wood plane and then sand the edges. A trick when using a wood plane, is always plane with the 'grain' and set the depth of the blade shallow.

If it isn't immediately obvious; one way the wood plane will glide smoothly across the timber, the other will likely bite into the wood and take chunks out of it. If the going is a little tough; I keep the plane level, but slide it at a slight angle so that the cutting blade gradually starts to shave the surface. 

Once it is shaving smoothly, square up the plane and finish the stroke.

The base timber should be 450mm (18") long and ideally 6mm (1/4") to 12.5mm (1/2") thick. If it is any thicker, it will be too heavy when planted out.  When setting out, the base timber should be 300mm wide. This can be made up of two to four 'slats'. Leave a slight gap, say 1mm between each piece, for drainage. If the wood is fresh from the hardware shop, then it is likely to shrink with age and it is best to butt each board up tighter.

The last pieces to cut to length are the side walls of the tray.

These run between the two end pieces and if using recycled timber may not be exactly the same. Set in place, mark, and then cut to length.

Assemble the top of the tray first.

Pre-drill all the screw holes for ease of assembly.

Follow safety precautions and always wear eye protection when using power tools such as electric drills.

Once the holes are drilled, use a 'countersink drill bit' to ensure that the screw head will be recessed into the timber.

This avoids catching your hands on the top of exposed screw heads. If you don't have the special drill bit, use a large bit (say 6mm -1/4") and carefully drill a few mm deep over each hole.

When complete, screw in place. Preferably use galvanised screws as the tray will be exposed to the elements outside.

When the top of the tray is complete, turn it over and screw on the base. I haven't used glue on any of the joints, but you could if you wanted.

This tray is complete, but unpainted.

In the next blog we will plant the seed tray - it will give you time to let the paint dry.


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