Sky Fort Day 2: Sealing wood, Henry Ford style.

So last night before we turned in, Sara and I sorted all the screws, nuts and bolts, and various fasteners for the playset.  It didn’t take as long as we thought but I wanted to put down some thoughts here for anyone else out there doing this project.

To keep all the nuts and bolts, etc., nice and tidy (and safe from little fingers—those screws are sharp) I came up with the idea when we ordered this thing to collect all the plastic containers (butter, cream cheese, etc.) I could.   Last night that growing collection of plastic bins paid off.  We were able to put all the individual sizes in their own containers, label the lid and container with the part number and keep it all secure and organized.

Then, I had a brainstorm as the thunderstorm broke over our heads (yes, really—as we wrapped up and headed out the garage to sort the wood, a severe thunderstorm smashed into us…made for an interesting time in the garage!).  Why not put all 20 pounds of fasteners in the wheeled cooler?  They filled up the cooler (which was doing nothing important at the moment) and allowed us to kill two birds with one stone: (1) we could keep the fasteners out of sight of the little ones (2) we can keep the fasteners mobile—I can now wheel everything down the hill to the job site (LOL) and haul it all back inside when we’re done.  Nice.

So.  There we stood, listening to the thunder, wind, and rain lash at the house, staring at the enormous pile of wood in our garage.   Okay, so the four big boxes didn’t look like all that much, but I remember how much wood was packed into the boxes that my brother-in-law had for their playset and something told me the garage wouldn’t be big enough.

We started to unpack and hunt for the first pieces we would need to begin construction and I discovered I was right.  There is a lot of wood in this kit.  The funny thing is, I can’t help but think of this thing as the biggest model I’ve ever put together.  Beats the pants off the space shuttle and launch tower model I put together back in…what, middle school?  Anyway…the picture below is what the garage looked like an hour and a half after we opened the first box.

The wood on the left of the picture, sitting on the plastic drop cloth is what’s going to be sealed with Thompson’s Waterproofer Plus Clear Wood Protector first.  After reading the 200+ reviews and blogs out there on the Sky Fort, we decided to seal it (which the manufacturer recommends as well).  Turns out you need about 2 gallons to do the whole thing (again, according to those who have posted on reviews and blogs…I will of course post on here if I find things different).

Our plan is to use a brush to seal the first few steps worth of wood now (which will basically get all the stuff that will be in immediate contact with the ground), then as we start to build we’ll take the little garden pump-sprayer I also picked up today and spray sections as we go.  The can says it takes 24-48 hours to dry, depending on ambient conditions, but I spent an hour and a half today sealing the wood on the tarp and for the most part, the stuff I sealed at the beginning is probably 80% dry (on the surface at least).  I think waiting 24 hours will give it more than enough time for me to flip the pieces and seal the last side.

Here’s how I did it:

I started out the way we had talked about it last night—get down and seal stuff on the tarp, holding the pieces in my gloved hands (I was wearing eye protection and a NIOSH 95 mask as well per the warnings on the sealer) and slopping it on one side at a time.  Well, that lasted all of two mouse farts.  Getting up and down started to cause an irritating ache in my back and knees.  Screw that!

I used one of the box lids from the original packaging and set up our saw horses inside the upside down lid.  Perfect fit.  Then I would grab four or five sections at a time and lay them across the horses.  Line up all the sides and it’s a quick and dirty production line.  Saved me a lot of time and a lot of wear and tear on the old back…remember, I’ve got to get the kiddos up after this, no rest for daddy!  With this setup I was able to tear through everything you see on the tarp in an hour and a half.

Here’s the plan going forward: during the rest of this week at naptime, I will venture into the garage and seal up as much wood as I can for the upcoming first steps.  Since I’ll have to let it dry to flip it and coat the second side, this will take the rest of this week.  This weekend we can work on actually putting things together.  Next week, I will work on gathering the pieces for the next steps during nap time, if I don’t actually work on the fort itself.  Then during the weekend or nights, Sara and I can work together and really get stuff done.  As we complete sections (the first floor, the second floor, etc.) I will go out during nap times on weekdays to spray sealer on the completed sections.  By the time we’re done, the whole thing will have been coated and sealed and I won’t have to spend every waking minute sealing every little piece in the garage first.  Which is good because it will pretty much take over the entire garage if I do so.

At least, that’s the plan we came up with last night.  We’ll see how putting it into practice will work for us!   So far, so good.  We’re right on schedule.

For those of you curious, I will post the time it takes us to put this beastie together (including the two hours from last night of prep work and unpacking).

[edit: After this post was published I happened to go into the garage and notice all the wood was dry that I had coated earlier…so I flipped it all and gave it the final coat on the last side.  Took about 30 minutes.  I have updated the times.]

Time for today: 2 hours.

TOTAL BUILD TIME: 4 hours.

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About Marcus Richardson

Marcus attended the University of Delaware and later graduated from law school at the age of 26. Since then, he has at times been employed (or not) as: a stock boy, a cashier, a department manager at a home furnishing store, an assistant manager at and arts and crafts store, an unemployed handyman, husband, cook, groundskeeper, spider killer extraordinaire, stay at home dad, and a writer.
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