A playpen / baby fenceBaby, Woodworking ·Sunday March 25, 2018 @ 16:18 EDT (link)
Since young David is rapidly becoming (more) mobile, we thought about bringing his small portable playpen/bed down from our bedroom—he'll sometimes sleep in it; he doesn't sleep in his crib in his room yet. But it's somewhat small (as portable gear tends to be) and wouldn't give him much space; hardly enough to turn around. It also wasn't feasible to baby-proof the living room (hard stone fireplace, TV furniture and cables, etc.).
I decided to build him some panels that could be connected together to wall in a play area. I couldn't find plans online, so I experimented a little with some 2x4s I had, and bought some green plastic poultry fence to use as backing. I split a 2x4 both ways on the table saw to make slats at least 22" long, 3/4" thick, and 1.75" wide (minus kerf). Some were wider, depending on the 2x4s I had, to make longer panels, but since my fence was 2' high I stuck with 22" since that was an inner dimension, with 1" overhang top and bottom. Once I was happy with my prototype, it was a lot quicker to set up the saw and Grippers once and do all the cuts of the same type together. I sanded the sides and screwed the panels together with 2 1/4" screws, pre-drilling to avoid splitting, and attached the fencing with a Surebonder 9600B pneumatic stapler that took the same T50 staples I already had for putting up shooting targets (but hadn't used for a while since our range has clips… er, I mean magazines, no, wait, clips is fine). Loved using the air stapler. I put a staple every three links and extras on the corners.
For connecting the panels my initial plan was to use eye bolts and connect them with quick links (a chain link that opens by unscrewing one side), but they held the panels far too loosely and they didn't stand securely. I brainstormed a little; I tried cutting dowels and putting a brad through one end as a stop, but although Home Depot claims to have hardwood dowels the only ones they had in 5/16" were too flimsy to survive a brad even with the compressor dialed way down to 35 psi. I decided to try either hitch pins or bolts, and bought a few of each. The hitch pins were too tight to easily connect, but some 1" 5/16" hex bolts and nuts worked great. To make a gate so Honey can get in/out (can't step over the panels), I did use the quick links for one connection, but I may try carribeaners instead so they can be opened with one hand.
All told I built it for about $3/panel including fasteners.
When I got it set up in the living room, I put a blanket (that was inside, but was slippery and made it harder for him to crawl) over one end that is likely to get sun so that David Geoffrey has a covered area in his Babbisiet Fortress. I expect I'll be able to build all sorts of pieces for forts and such for him—tunnels, windows that open, etc., as he gets old enough.