20080828

Sandbox

I debated writing about this. After all, it isn't about hacking code. Instead, it is about hacking together a sandbox. It is about making stupid design choices and then over engineering "solutions" to those problems. It is a cautionary tale about doing the design right from the start and sometimes "free" lumber costs a lot in time and effort.

So, I wanted to make a 4'x4' (just a little over 1m x 1m) sandbox for my 2 year old. He loves sand in the parks and I wanted him to have a place to play in the back yard. My wife suggested we just get one of those turtles, but I wouldn't hear of it. After all, I had a bunch of 2x4's in the garage. Why pay good money for a plastic turtle when I could just build a simple box out of the 2x4's.

I wanted a 4" depth of sand, so I figured I'd have to stack the 2x4's. Rather than just buy a couple of 2x8's and bolt them together, I had to use 2x4's. Of course, I had planned on stacking them, but what I hadn't planned well was how to do it. I wound up with small 2x2's as wooden cleats. So I get the box put together. It was fairly straight forward to do this. I connected the two halves of the box with short 2x2's. I proudly showed it to my wife who immediately said "those sharp edges sticking out look dangerous." She was talking about the 2x2's. Once I saw it from her point of view, I realized she was right.

Now, rather than spend $8.00 on 2 2x6's or 2x8's for the box, I spent $9.86 on 12 6" ceramic coated screws to hold the box together. I then drilled holes and recessed the heads (why? I don't know, just seemed like a good idea even though they were on the bottom). I drove the screws in and removed the 2x2 cleats. The box looked great! And I even managed to add the trip onto another trip to a near by store, so I didn't blow a ton of time and gas getting them. That was luck, pure and simple, since usually for things like this I'm making another trip...

I then went to put it where we'd agreed and realized I had no bottom. I had to do something about a bottom. I thought I'd just use some of the yard fabric I had left over from all my landscaping chores. Turns out that I left all that at my old house. So instead I took and old tarp with a tear in it and cut a 4'x4' section and laid it on the ground and put the sandbox on top of it. I then filled it with the play sand I'd been lugging around in my car for a week while I finished the box. Time will tell if I secured things in place well enough or not. I was planning on going to the store to get a bunch of rebar to drive into the ground to keep the box from moving, but I realized just how crazy this was getting and I just made a couple of wooden wedges to hold the thing in place. We'll see how that works out, but they are likely good enough, and were scrap anyway...

In the end, I spent 4 hours building this box. While a turtle would have saved me a bunch of time, and would likely have cost about the same as what I spent on wood, nails and screws (all but the last one had already been purchased, but I did pay for them). I'd have been done in 30 minutes. Of course, I wouldn't have gotten to use the power tools, and I really like the idea of building things for my son. I put the sand in tomorrow and we'll see how well he likes the box.

So, am I crazy? Did I go overboard on trying to save a nickle only to cost myself a ton of time? Maybe. Did I have fun putting it together? You bet! Was it worth it? Yes...

3 comments:

meka said...

This is great. I thought it's sandbox (command), and I started celebrating because someone from FreeBSD comunity is finaly working on this. This is great article. I really enjoyed. :o) The fact that my band is working on some basement to put some isolation on it instead of going to the some cheep studio every now and then for few bucks. It's good to make your own things (or things for your son/band). :o)

laemodost said...

Where is the picture of you son enjoying his new playsite? ;-)

Warner Losh said...

You should check out this post for pictures.