Finished my Grinch illustration for work, looking a lot better now it’s got more triangles. 


Finished my Grinch illustration for work, looking a lot better now it’s got more triangles. 

Chandelier over the clearing!

Left with an old garden umbrella and a set of LED lights I decided the clearing could do with a little more light. I removed the cover leaving just the ‘skeleton’ of the umbrella and cable tied the lights to the frame. I had to do a little rewiring so the controller can be operated at the power socket. I also added a quick release clip to the top so it could be hung from a steel cable I have running over the clearing (used to support a removable tarp).

We’ve just added our place to campinmygarden.com see details for how to book camping at: http://campinmygarden.com/campsites/311..

We’ve just added our place to campinmygarden.com see details for how to book camping at: http://campinmygarden.com/campsites/311..

Tags: camping

Outdoor Cinema

OK, this isn’t really a step by step guide as the thing is built but I thought it might make an interesting post. We are lucky in that we own a small piece of woodland next to the house; I initially made a large clearing and, over time, got power there through an armoured cable. The clearing is approx. 100 metres from the house so I can’t have electric fires running up there but I do own a projector. I used to project on to a white tarpaulin and have a large tarp as shelter held up by a myriad of blue poly rope festooned everywhere.

The ropes kept stretching when the wind / storms hit the tarpaulin and it was a real pain to keep the thing properly adjusted and the whole rats nest of blue ropes looked a mess. Anyway one day a good friend of mine Ray Hatley,  who is a man of quite amazing talents suggested that I construct  a structure from natural materials. He outlined the basic idea of the construction and gave me invaluable help in planning and setting the uprights.

I bought the trees from the local estate (our property is in the middle of a large estate with hundreds of acres of managed woodland). I was astonished to discover that the estate would deliver the cut larch trees for just £9.80 each! Each upright is buried four feet into the ground in a very tight hole dug by hand. Ray showed me how to carefully pack all the excavated soil back around the trees when stood upright into the holes.

The entire construction was completed with just two of us with ropes and a couple of ladders. The trees when freshly cut weighed a tremendous amount and were very difficult (and dangerous) to manoeuvre into position. The roof went on last and was the most expensive part of the project. The timber supports cost around £120 and the roofing sheets were £210. I put the first half of the roof on my own; sliding 16ft lengths of corrugated roofing sheets up a ladder until the ‘tipping point’ was reached while all the time the whole sheet threatened to slide back on me and cut me in two!

The screen frame was made of some old timber lengths I had lying around and the screen itself was some double width fabric from Dunelm stretched and stable gunned into place. The screen was then painted to make it opaque.

I added a logitech 5.1 surround sound system with the speakers tucked up under the eaves. Despite some really foul weather over the last few years and some hard winters the speakers are still in tip top condition. When the whole thing is going the sound quality is amazing and we’ve had some great evenings watching films and playing on the xbox on the big screen..

Building a charcoal firetub step-by-step

Building a FireTub

About two years ago a friend of mine told me that you could use washing machine drums as charcoal burners. Generally they would be placed on bricks, filled with charcoal and because of the holes in the sides they put out a lot of heat. It just so happened that we had recently had a good marquee blow down and I’d kept the tubing because I’m a bit of a womble (it drives my wife nuts). Anyway I set about building a tripod frame to hold the washing machine drum off the ground. After a number of different designs I ended up with this:

Now, this design has a number of advantages. Firstly because the drum is secured to the legs it gives an unprecedented level of stability. No matter how hard you kick the legs the whole thing will just settle lower (a big advantage if there are lots of drunk people at festivals). Secondly the whole thing can be unhooked, the legs fold neatly together making the transportation of the firetub very easy. Finally, because the drum is off the ground you won’t be scorching any grass and you can also tuck your feet underneath if they are cold!

In this article I’m going to take you, step by step, through how to build your own firetub from scratch.

If you like the idea of owning one of these but can’t be bothered with the hassle of making one I can make one to order for £65


  • 1 washing machine drum
  • Three poles approx 1.2 metres in length
  • approx 20cm of small gauge chain (often used for things like hanging baskets)
  • 6 small S hooks (can be bought cheaply at most hardware stores)
  • 3 30mm split rings (trickier to get hold of but I bought mine from ebay)


Drum Extraction

Be warned, removing a washing machine drum from an old washing machine is not for the faint hearted. Seriously even now with many firetubs made it still takes me a good 45 minutes with an angle grinder, crow bar, lump hammer, socket set and screwdrivers to remove the drum. I can’t tell you just how tough it is. Also WEAR GLOVES. I can categorically guarantee that you will cut yourself if you don’t.


I’m lucky enough to have an uncle who runs an engineering firm. He orders me aluminium tubing for my firetubs. They look lovely and don’t rust but are quite expensive (approx £20 for 1 firetub). Initially though I used reclaimed tubing. This was absolutely fine but was often made of mild steel which rusts. For a one off and your first firetub I would use some reclaimed tubing.

OK lets start…

Cut three lengths of tubing 122cm long; be careful to cut them exactly or your firetub wont stand straight

Next mark 1cm from the top edge:

Centre punch on the mark (if you don’t do this the drill slides everywhere); I don’t have a centre punch so I used an old nail. This works fine for aluminium and should also be OK for mild steel..

Once you’ve punched, drill a 8mm hole..

Repeat for the other two poles, you should now have three poles with identical holes..

Tip: make sure you clean off all the swarf / jagged edges from inside as this will help with the next stage..

Adding the split rings; start by sliding a split through the hole on each pole. You should then have somthing like this:

Now this gets increasingly trickier. You are now going to feed each split ring through the hole in the tube next to it. Try not to over stretch the split rings. There is a definite knack of turning the rings in place and adjusting the poles. You should now have the three poles fixed together like this:

So far so good. Now you slide the spare split ring on the left through the hole in the pole on the right.  It can be a pain but take it carefully and you should have the poles joined like this:

Now time to stand them up. Space the legs out evenly and twist on one of the poles. You should find that the poles lock beautifully together into a sturdy tripod. When locked the tops of the poles should look like this:

Space the legs out evenly

OK, now the poles are standing we are going to mark the inner holes that the drum will hang off. Holding the tape measure  on the inner part of each tube mark off 50cm. My son Zak demonstrates how this should be done (that’s my boy!). Also note the small snail that decided to crawl out of one of the tubes at this stage!

and up close..Make sure you mark right inside the tube..

When you have marked all three tubes at 50cm carefully lay the first tube mark side up on your workbench. Be careful NOT to strain the split rings at this stage. You should be able to arrange the tubes so that one of them lays nicely on your bench. Punch the mark and drill a 8mm hole.

Repeat for the other two poles. When you’ve done this place the poles upright and lock them into position. It’s now time to drill your drum.

Most washing machine drums rather helpfully have 3 or 6 points marked on the edge (a few have four and you have to measure the perimeter into three). We want to hang our chains at three equi-distant points on the edge. Lightly punch and drill a 5mm hole.

Try to drill the holes close the edge fold of the drum:

When you’ve done all three holes do the same at the side directly underneath the top holes you’ve drilled.

Now for the supporting chains..

You need to make three chains up with ‘S’ hooks at each end. The total length of the supporting chains including ‘S’ hooks should be approx. 14cm. The links of my chain are quite long so I only need 3 links plus the ‘S’ hooks. First clip your chain to length then close the ‘S’ hooks at each end of the chain like this:

I have used slightly larger ‘S’ hooks for the drum hooks to go right through the holes. Also note that I have ‘splayed’ the smaller ‘S’ hooks a little so they will go easily into the holes on the inside of the tripod poles. Now we push each of the larger ‘S’ hooks through the holes we made in the drum:

Once pushed through I used a pair of pliers to pinch the ‘S’ hook closed:

Repeat for the other holes / chains then place your drum underneath your tripod with the chains lined up with the holes in the poles:

Finally hook each chain into the corresponding hole (if you can’t get the s hook through the hole use a pair of pliers to widen the hook) and you should now have a finished firetub!