Monday, May 01, 2006

Gonna Build a Castle

Each year for my younger boy's birthday, we've had a big party. When he was young, he had cranial stenostosis (of the sagittal variety) and the good doctors at Children's Hospital performed surgery when he was 3 months old (another post entirely, and I could go on at length about the problem) to correct the skull abnormality where his skull grew over his soft spot too early. Anyway, for the last three years, for his birthday, in lieu of presents, we accept donations to the Children's Hospital, specifically to help out the work of Dr. John Grant (the plastic surgeon who performed the surgery), in his effort to take his services to the needy -- starting with what's called the "Black Belt" of Alabama -- most of whom have no insurance, and to perform his surgeries on a volunteer/donation-funded basis on children with cranial stenostosis and craniofacial problems (cleft palates).

Well, this year, my wife's invited the doctor and also the local and Birmingham media to come to the party to generate additional support here in Huntsville for Dr. Grant's work.

For the past two years, my son's had a Captain Hook/pirate b-day and a Peter Pan Neverland party. For each of these shen-digs, I've made a major construction out of mainly cheap lumber and refrigerator boxes. The first time was a huge ship around our fort in the back yard. The thing ended up looking more like Noah's ark with Jolly roger flags than it did a pirate boat, although I had nets tied from the boat to the fort and the fort tarp colored black with a skull and crossbones. the next year I constructed a Neverland Lost Boys hideout, which didn't turn out nearly as good. Well, this year, my wife has requested a castle. And she has a threshold of satisfaction that I need to meet in my castle-building as she completes all the other stuff required for the party (i.e. invitations, cake, giveaways, etc.).

So here's the deal. I'm planning on having four circular turrets (which I've started and the process is painfully slow) made of two planks, cardboard circles duck-taped to them to hold the form, and then roofing material (the back stuff that goes under the shingles) circling the planks. I'll cover that with gray butcher paper, and then I'll use black paint to create a stone-like look. I'll use cardboard to create the circular chess-rook top of the tower. Or so I'm thinking. For the castle walls, refrigerator boxes covered by the butcher paper. For the front, I'll have a upper wooden frame connected to two turrets, and a refrigerator box will be staped to the front of the frame. I'll cut a drawbridge from the fridge box with pulleys to raise and lower the thing, and then I'll have a cardboard portcullis stuck on the back stapled halfway down.

So that's the plan. However, these turrets are problematic because they're not sturdy, and it's hard for me to make them alone without someone holding up the planks. All the work is done in the late night hours, which is fine except the no help thing. Anyway, if anyone has a better plan -- beside just renting a moonbounce castle [that won't cut it] -- especially for the turret-building, let me know. I'm REALLY, REALLY open to suggestions. Keep in your consideration that I'm not handy at all. But let me know.

My wife's sent out 67 invitations, so the pressure's on to make this thing look pretty good.



WandaV said...

Uhm, if you're shooting for a castle like the one you've got pictured, well, Lord love you and good luck.

Otherwise... hmm.. The first thing that popped into my mind was some paper maciet (sp?) work. It would definitely add weight to the project and it's pretty easily done when done in stages.

Am I talking out of my head? Does it sound feasible? Well it's all I can do for free advice.

BTW hope Little Bit has a wonderful B'Day!


Milly said...

Go to your local Home Depot and ask for someone in building supplies. I'd call ahead Tell them you are doing it for a good cause. You could talk to the HR person and the mgr also. They might be able to swing some ideas to you.

DugALug said...


What about using 12 2x4's to make a rectangular box frame. The using hoola-hoops that you nail to the top and bottom of the frame.

Drop butcher paper in bands to contour the hoop.

To mate the hoola-hoop to the frame, measure the diameter of the hoop (I will call this 'd' in my equation) and use the following equation to resolve the side length ('l')

l = Square Root of ( d / 2.0 )

in Excel us the @sqrt() functino.

The height of your rectangular box is your call, but by using a box frame like this, you should be able to attach planks with nails and keep it very sturdy.

Also all of this can be done by one shmoo in a short amount of time: especially if you can borrow a nail-gun from someone.

Just a thought


Milly said...

I'm speachless, dude.

Tarps are ez to paint also.

codepoke said...

I can't top Doug on the construction, but can you be my Dad?


Rich said...


Those are awesome instructions... at least till you mentioned square roots and differential equations and calculus problems.

Oh, and one other thing. There will be no hoola hoop and frame "mating" in my back yard. This is a kid's birthday party, for criminy's sake.

All in all, though, Doug, you're a genius. I can definitely use some of those ideas even though I've already started. Thanks, bud!