Up-cycling from Drier to Washer Tub Wood Burner

I’ve stored an old washing machine at the back of the house for years. Today I decided to have a look at it and see what to do with it. It got damaged in a flood and was full of gravel and mud – so basically a write-off. But thanks to to some inspiration from some surfer buddies I met this year (they had a wash drum burner), I though it would make a nice little wood burner. A couple of crow bars and some socket wrenches were all I needed.

Two hours later said machine was transformed to a pile of useful bits and a pile of junk.

The useful bits included two drums , a glass bowl ( from the front door) and some nice weights – one concrete and one cast iron.


The inner drum was perfect – it even ended up with it’s own special base (the drive wheel)


It is significantly smaller than its predecessor (the drier drum) and has significantly more holes in it, making it burn better, give out more heat and look prettier!

The end-effect is superb!

Link to previous burner posts – previous-burner

I’ll post a blog on the tripod separately.

Standing Desk – Giving My Back Half a Chance

Gardening Peril

Spring was in the air and I managed to do my annual trick of pulling my back while gardening. It happens most years and it’s not only annoying but very inconvenient and embarrassing.

On My Knees

I had a trouble-shooting workshop up in London that I had to keep, so had to conduct half the meeting on my knees. Thankfully that was with some lovely clients that I know well.

Need to Change

I have virtually no problems throughout the year – just the first foray into the garden when my body hasn’t got used to extending the way gardening requires. Apart from banging my head on the wall while chanting, “I will exercise first before I do gardening”, I’m putting some other changes into place. I’ll be doing some remedial yoga and I’ve changed my office desk system around.

£600 – No!

There are  plenty of standing desks available online, but I couldn’t bring myself to part with upwards of £600 for one.

My wife had a great idea. Why didn’t I plonk the top of my desk onto a waist high bookshelf?

Standing Desk Come Bookshelf

The result is a lot more than impressive, it’s highly functional, very stable, doesn’t look half bad and cost me the sum-total of about an hour of my time to get in place including clearing off my old desk. See what you think.



Tarp for VW Roll-out Canopy

This summer, one of the extras that I noted would make camping life for short stays a lot easier, is a tarp for the roll-out awning. It would provide an additional  degree of privacy, as well as wind and rain protection.

The cost of a 3rd party tarp (e.g. Brandrup) to fit a VW Cali canopy is around £160. The cost of a Quechua tarp around £20. The cost of a Kandor strip to fit canopy (6mm) channel around £15. As we have a good sewing machine already, the cost of sewing was around 30 minutes on the machine.

The result – a great, large, multipurpose canopy/ awning tarp. I’m extremely pleased with the result. And my wife is very impressed with my sewing skills!


Kyham Portable Cupboard Repair

This summer, we parked the Cali for quite a few days in one spot. As is customary, I like to tinker. My  brainwave, for next year, was to set up an organised area in the awning. I have an old camping cupboard that would be ideal. But the joints have snapped which made it more like a jelly than a cupboard.


This is a quick, relatively inexpensive solution that is not going to break anytime soon.


I needed to pack out of couple of the holes for the thinner poles to fit well, so I cut down some old gazebo tubing together with some insulating tape to do the job.



The cupboard is now rock solid!




Great Step Up

My wife’s colleague showed me utility box he made for storing stuff and helping to step up into the roof bed.

This is my variation on that theme and it works brilliantly. Cost only a few £’s to make.

Components: one utility bag from Lidl, a few bits of 1 by 1 inch wood, screws  and some plywood offcuts. Box measures L33 x H28 x W17 cm.

Tools: Electric screwdriver, saw and sander:



Sanded all the components to get rid of all rough edges


Nice and smooth


Assembled with some screws – you need a power driver to do this easily.

Holes drilled in top to aid removal.



Fitted beautifully in Lidl bag.


It took about 3 hours to get this far.


Now, I  needed to make a wider platform to put between the seats and secure the box and bag with velcro.


Best with a bit of stabilization from a strap to the roof slats to stop any wobbling.


and can be stored neatly and usefully between the seats for driving.

It can hold a load of stuff when in either step or storage positions.


Enhancements to Great Step Up

Grow House – Glazing is In

I have now panelled the inside of the the grow-house, put in some shelving and added the glazing. The glazing is amazing stuff: light, crystal clear, not too wobbly (4mm thick) and cheaper than glass. I’m using clear polycarbonate and fitting it with silicon and some recycled beading. The beading was a tad fiddly, but the end effect has been superb, and since it’s all been re-purposed – for free.

P1090534 P1090572 P1090552 P1090549 P1090545 P1090539 P1090538

Grow House – Lining

The Grow House is coming along nicely now. Using loads of salvaged material – this time old insulation re-cut. Not quite as messy as I had imagined, but needs a strong sharp knife instead of a saw if you want to keep the number of flying bits down.

Next steps:

  • add plywood lining to cover insulation;
  • add glass/ plastic to frames;
  • fit parliament door hinges – so that door can hinge backwards properly;
  • sort out area around shed (levelling/ trimming);
  • plug the gaps – to stop the mice and slugs; and
  • make it look pretty (on wife’s orders!).

Grow House – Developing Nicely

The grow house is coming along nicely. I had to chop the re-purposed patio doors down to size. My rotary saw failed, the blade on an old one was too small, so we had to wheel out the big boy. It took two of us to slide the doors through the saw. Not too much cursing and relatively straight cuts!


We tried the first door for size – perfect!



Six doors later, came the front fitting:


Then with a little help from #2 son we peeled off the west facing wall with a reciprocating saw – it worked like magic.

P1090357 P1090351

This is where I put two more of the doors, one hinged to provide some very useful garden access to the grow-house.


Now, just need to fill in the gaps, order some polycarbonate glass and polish it off. Should be ready for its first plant inhabitants in the next couple of days.


Canoe Handling and Transportation for a Van

I thought these details would be worth sharing after a request for something like this on Facebook. I used a couple of glass handling suction pads bought off e-bay and a piece of plastic tubing I had hanging around. The suction pads need to fit so that the hollow handles face sideways across the vehicle roof – total cost less than £20  for 2 of these. I used quads, but doubles would also work, although the handles would be set relatively further back on the roof. The tube needs to be flexible because it has to bend slightly. This has the very useful side effect of holding itself tightly in the pad handles.


I also recommend putting some end stops onto the rear roof bar to stop the canoe sliding off sideways! Catching a falling canoe is no joke. A set of small steps is also very useful, because working at a roof height of around 2 metres is very different from working at normal car height.

This set-up works brilliantly. Not really for leaving on the van when you are driving – but I do for short journeys and just tie the pads on with some rope.

The rolling wheels on the end of the canoe are highly recommended. The first set were a bit flimsy, so I made some more substantial ones which I use all the time. These were cobbled together from some angle iron and a couple of cheap e-bay wheels (£10 for these).


I’ve included a picture of my winch system as well because it makes the whole loading and unloading process very simple. I leave the bow wheels on the canoe when I store it. So from from car port to top of van is around 10 minutes with relatively little lifting. Just as well, as the Venture Prospector feels a lot heavier than the claimed 32kgs!


Any questions – please ask in comments.



Machete Handle Replacement


Last summer we had a few great garden bonfires. On one occasion one of my son’s friends was chopping some branches for the fire and left the machete on the ground next to the branches.

When it was dark I just picked up the branches and tossed them onto the fire. The next day I was searching around for my machete and couldn’t find it anywhere. I even looked in the fire, but couldn’t see it first time. It was only when I raked through the ashes that I found my (once) lovely machete destroyed! I wanted to put a decent handle back on it – so came up with the idea of using an axe handle – which worked brilliantly.

The picture below shows the end result:


and here’s a video of what I did: