Category Archives: Child’s Play

Jungle Fort, Annual Maintenance and Final Images

We have just started a new month, April, which is closing in on the anniversary of the start of the Jungle Fort project and as you all know it was only a couple of months ago that I actually completed the whole structure. During that period of time my children have grown to love all the activities that it has to offer, from the dressing up of the fort structure during the Christmas period with tinsel and garlands, to this Easter, with the hiding of Easter eggs.

Jungle fort complete, viewing swings and trapeze bar.

The endless options that it has to offer far outweighs the amount of time that it took for me to construct, mind you little hands had a lot to play with the construction as well.

Helping with the ratcheting of the bolts, placement of the climbing wall rocks, bringing nails and screws to the construction site, it all brings back those memories that will last a lifetime. So now that it is finished, what’s next?

With any large construction project it is important to ensure that all bolts are kept tight and during the course of the construction the timbers have shrunk and expanded with the bolts loosening up to where they need to be cinched tight again. I had noticed that the swings had been slipping when in full flight with the tell-tale signs of wear around the hangers. I remember when I had tighted these bolts up initially and how difficult it was to wind them in to the full depth, probably because of the moisture content of the timber but now that it had dried out fully it was far easier to lock up tight again. Continue reading Jungle Fort, Annual Maintenance and Final Images

Roof Tarp and Grab Handles

This post has been a long time coming and will finally round up the Jungle Fort major construction which has lingered on for many months. Overall everything has worked out great and my children have been enjoying it immensely. With all the major construction out of the way the final safety fixings will complete a very enjoyable job and a great learning curve. Many of the openings have had grab handles installed which is a very easy fix. The grab handles come in various colors and have inch and a half long lag bolts with washers to keep them securely in place. The placement of the grab handles was based on the reach of my children when scaling the rock wall or climbing the ramp. The grab handles at the slide entrance was also based on the children sitting ready to slide down, so you can see this is all dependent on arms length and for me it had to suit my daughter as she is the smallest.

Multicolored grab handles.

I found when fixing the grab handles the use of a pilot hole for the bolts and a little grease on the thread made it easier to ratchet the bolts into place and also prevented the timber from puckering up when winding them in tight. This ensured the handles ended up with a nice flush fit eliminating any rocking effect from ill fitted handles.

These handles from Detailed Play Systems are made from a high quality plastic and seem to be able to take plenty of abuse from the children, even though they are very smooth they offer plenty of grip with finger ridges inside. I would imagine that they have been tried and tested for being outside in the elements but only time will tell if they will crack or become brittle. I have tried pulling on them and they have been very secure but they are very slick so any moisture on them will increase the slipperiness of the surface so I have made a mental note to warn the children to be extra careful on those damp days.

All in all I have fitted a total of four sets of grab handles to all the openings and I’m glad I did as they hang out of the entrances calling to each other, much to my anxiety! Continue reading Roof Tarp and Grab Handles

Jungle Fort Vertical Rock Wall

With the dividends of the picnic bench being enjoyed, now was the time to partly enclose the space with the rock wall. This rock wall would enclose the back face of the Jungle Fort and also provide a wind break. Our property is fortunate to be only one and a half miles from the ocean and at around eleven o’clock each day the wind picks up and there is a steady breeze. This is a great relief during the summer months but as the season changes and the winter months approach it can get a little chilly so this rock wall will provide a welcome refuge for my children when they sit at the picnic bench.

I had decided to split the vertical rock wall so that it had a high section and a lower section, by doing this it would satisfy both my childrens skill levels and also provide an easy access to the back of the fort platform. The plans had provided both a vertical wall and a sloped climbing wall but as our space was just with six feet of clearance from the vertical wall, an angled alterative was out of the question. Continue reading Jungle Fort Vertical Rock Wall

Picnic Bench and Lunch!

Finishing all the main players on the Jungle Fort has certainly taken many of my weekends but the satisfaction of this construction shows on my childrens face every time they play on it. The one main outstanding item that is missing is the climbing wall but this can only be installed after I’ve fitted the picnic bench.

I had already cut to size the pressure treated lumber rather than using the WPL (wood polymer lumber) so as to keep the look consistent. This would be used for the seats and the table top. The first phase of the installation would be to secure the supports for the seats and the table top to the uprights of the Jungle Fort. These supports would be secured by 5 inch by 3/8 inch galvanized lag bolts. I had decided to counterbore the position of these bolts so that the head would not be protruding from the material after tightening, even though it would only be by a small amount. The instuctions only called for the lag bolts to be fastened into position. I later found out why, with the counterbore the lag bolt would be tightened and it would burst through the other side of the upright. this would entail cutting off the offending point with a hacksaw and then filing flush with the timber. This was an unfortunate oversight by myself but the end result left no sharp edges, it was additional work but I was pleased with the result. Continue reading Picnic Bench and Lunch!

Installing the Monkey Bars

My big push is on to erect the next stage of the playset, this stage should go reasonably fast as all the preparation has already been done. I’ve already installed the additional upright that the Monkey Bars will bolt on to, the only additional item is to drill the main corner upright for bolting the left upper rail of the Monkey Bars to the Jungle Fort.

Opening in the Jungle Fort for installing the Monkey Bars.

The length of the Monkey Bars from the Jungle Fort is eight feet with a height of just over seven feet. This gives a good workout for my son who just loves the Monkey Bars, even though as a three year old he had an accident that resulted in eight staple stitches being used to close up a gash in his head. This accident was the result of him trying to do the Monkey Bars at his pre-school group, he would persist in trying to get across to the other side and slipped, hitting his head on the step. Fortunately my wife was at hand to take him to the closest emergency medical center. This mishap had not phased him at all, in fact he’s more determined than ever, the very next week he was back on the bars.

Metal staples to close a gash to my sons head.
Continue reading Installing the Monkey Bars

Detailed Play Systems come up Big

In my previous post on my series of constructing the Jungle Fort I spoke about the discrepancy with the slide that was ordered with the main hardware back in April of this year. It was only when I started to assemble the slide that it dawned on me that the slide was in fact different to the one that we ordered. With that knowledge I emailed the company Detailed Play Systems together with images of the slide together with the original order email from April 21st 2007, the email I sent was dated September 18th 2007, nearly five months after the fact. Continue reading Detailed Play Systems come up Big

Ramp Up to the Jungle Fort, Slide Down

With the safety on top of the decking pretty much assured now, my main focus was to enable the children to be able to get up there. I had earlier on decided to eliminate the ladder configuration and replace it with a ramp, I felt that this would be more in line with the theme that they would use the structure for, a pirate enclave as such. We had saved the pirate flag that Jackson had made for the previous swingset, it was from one of my old black T-shirts. He had painted with my help a yellow skull and crossbones on it and this would be reattached to the new fort after everything was done. The marketing from the Pirates of the Carribean together with all the paraphernalia that goes with it had sparked his desire to make his own flag. Once finished it had been flying from the old swingset for over a year before we had to dismantled it. Although looking a bit tired I’m still surprised that it’s in reasonably good condition but a repaint will certainly spruce it up again.

The ramp material had already been precut, sanded, coated with green preserve and then coated with redwood stain. The first test for me was to collect all the labeled parts for the ramp from the remaining pile of lumber. There had been a vast change in the size of the pile because a good deal of the material had already been assembled but there was still enough left to make it awkward. The two main rails were laid out on the lawn as this was the only place that was free enough to maneuver the length, together with the slats that would line the inside of rails and act as a support for the boards that would be the gangplank. Continue reading Ramp Up to the Jungle Fort, Slide Down

Wall-In the Decking and Roof Frame Construction

The success of erecting the swing beam with swings and hardware paid dividends during the week while I was at work. My children had plenty of playtime testing out the new swings with my young daughter pleading to her brother to push her on her swing, gone was the baby swing as she was a “big girl now.” No mention had been made of putting up the previous baby swing as her new “blue” colored swing gave her the additional thrill of being able to go higher, meanwhile you could hear the cries from her mother, “not too high” ringing from the house.

The task for the weekend was to progress the safety of the decking by erecting the walls. Even though there would be numerous openings for the Monkey Bars, Rock Wall, Slide and Ramp, the remaining openings would have to be filled. The most difficult aspect was to reconfigure the upright supports that would provide support for the cross members. The back wall would be split between a high and a low Rock Wall, I would have to start there with a cross member first. The cross member would span across the back face with a gap of 14 inches between the decking and the bottom of the rail allowing enough room to crawl in from the lower Rock Wall with a hand grip providing additional safety. This part had already been cut, predrilled and coated with redwood stain making it an easy installation. I had also cut enough upright rails that would span the whole back face but as I had decided to do a split level Rock Wall I would also need to install a fixed upright at the center point of the decking to support the boards that would make up the higher Rock Wall. Continue reading Wall-In the Decking and Roof Frame Construction

Installing the Swings plus Lateral Bracing

The previous post saw me constructing the “A Frame” and placing the main swing beam into position and whilst finalizing the swing beam and “A Frame” it did give the swing set a whole new dimension but there is still plenty to do, needless to say I felt that the momentum was back. With the Jungle Fort I had to install extra bracing to compensate for the swing momentum so that would mean an additional four braces installed underneath the decking to reduce lateral sway. I had already cut these items to a set length during the big “cut to size” weekend and now I had to modify the length because of the floor beam interference. I decided to cut the corner off of the brace where it fouled up on the joist hangers which meant cutting off a slice of about 3/4 of an inch.

Each brace was individually marked for position, while the lag bolts, clearance hole and counterbore were drilled on the drill press. The only exception was counterboring the hole that is placed on the edge face of the brace. This will be done in-situ once the lag bolts have secured the brace to the cross member first.

Extra bracing to avoid lateral sway.

To keep a common look to the fort I made sure to line the bottom edge of the brace to correspond with the height of the bottom edge of the outer brace, then I proceeded to pilot drill and bolt the brace to the cross member with 2 1/2 inch x 3/8 inch lag bolts. Once I had the brace secured to the cross member I found that the twist in the timber would either make the opposite end bend into the fort or bend out beyond the upright. I wanted the brace to remain flush to the 4 inch by 4 inch upright.

To correct this I either pulled the brace flush with a clamp and secured with a decking screw before locking it down tight with the lag bolt. If the brace was sprung inboard I would use a G-clamp placed on the outside of the upright and use this as a means to pull the brace into position with a second clamp, then again securing with a deck screw. Once in the correct position I could counterbore the hole to accept the lag bolt and ratchet down until tight, making sure that the head was sunk beneath surface. Continue reading Installing the Swings plus Lateral Bracing

Hoisting the Swing Set

For everyone who has been following this series of posts on my building of the activity come playground set I’m glad to say that I’ve started to get some traction into the build. I’ve continued with the Fort Swing Set wall after last weekends mishap, the progress went forward with no new mind lapses and the spacing of 3 1/4 inches worked out well with the overall width. I made sure that I lined up the bottom edge of the slats with the bottom edge of the cross member which ensured that the top edges of the slats stayed consistent in height. To keep them in place I clamped each slat with quick release clamps that I got from Harbor Freight, again they were very cheap at $1.99 each but the quality just wasn’t there. If you applied too much pressure to clamp the wood in place you just stripped the plastic from the side that retained the trigger, rendering the clamp useless. So I guess, not everything cheap will get you by, if the plastic had been a harder type rather than the ABS that they were made from then they would have held up to the job.

Now that I’ve got over that hurdle, I’ve made sure just to apply enough pressure to hold the part in place then use a framing square to check that they were square to the deck before drilling. I had a set up of three corded drills from a triple socket extension cord, this allowed me to arm each drill with the drill bit, countersink and the screw bit. You may be asking if it would be simplier to have cordless drills instead but the cost of the corded drills from Harbor Freight worked out at $13.00 a piece at sale price. Even at full price they’re under $20.00, so even if they just survived this one project, it’s cheaper than buying one cordless drill. There’s no concern about batteries running flat and consistent torque with the corded drill gives good results every time. Continue reading Hoisting the Swing Set