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Post and Panel Construction System #2: Building Complicated Structures

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Blog entry by Pete Tevonian posted 1503 days ago 6029 reads 0 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: What Is It? Part 2 of Post and Panel Construction System series Part 3: Much More Than Castles »

The basic assembly process is simple: Slide a panel’s edge bead into a groove in a post—that’s it. Incidentally, this basic interaction is so intuitive that my 4 yr old took one look at a post and panel and immediately put them together. Within seconds, he had grabbed two more posts and panels and added them to the wall.

Tall Walls and Towers
However, to build a wall that is taller than a single post, there’s a very simple additional trick: Instead of using a tall post and regular panel—which are the same height—you instead mismatch the post and panel. For example, if you start with a short panel and a regular post, the post will extend well above the top of the panel. You can then add a regular panel on top of the short panel, connected to the same post. But this time the panel will extend above the top of the post. Then add another tall post to that panel, and so on. Much like alternating bricks in a wall, the one short panel will offset the remaining posts and panels, interlocking them together. Finish the wall section with a short post on top to even things out. If you do this on four walls, you end up with a tower. Note the short and tall posts and panels alternating in the image below.




Windows and Doorways
But what if you want to have a door opening at the base of that tower? If you simply leave out the bottom panel, the panels above will simply slide down the grooves to fill in the hole. This problem is solved by using Pins to hold up the upper panels.

The pin is simply a piece of dowel that slides into the groove in a post. The next panel added above it will rest on the top of the pin and stay in place. When the rest of the tower is constructed, you’ll be left with an open doorway the size of one panel.





A window can be built the same way, except that the pins are inserted higher up the wall, creating an opening in the middle of the wall instead of at the bottom.

Swinging Doors
This trick is courtesy of my 4yr old son, Owen. The first day they he received the Post and Panel set, he asked me how to build a door. He had immediately constructed a giant garage for his John Deere tractor, and needed a door so that no robbers would get in to steal it. Alas, I hadn’t built any hinges, and because the panels and posts fit somewhat snugly, the panels would only pivot about 5 degrees offline. I told him I would have to build some special hinge pieces, but I never got around to it.

A month later, after again asking how to build a door, and again being told Daddy would have to create something to do that, he suddenly announced “I figured it out!” This is what he came up with:





Start with a regular panel, and attach a short post to the edge. Then place a regular pin in an unused groove in that short post, most likely using the groove opposite the panel. Next, slide another short post onto the top half of the pin, and then attach another regular panel to an unused groove on that second short post. You now have two short posts, held together by a pin, with each post attached to a panel. Because the posts are offset, their corners don’t bind and they can pivot. Depending on which panel you attach to your permanent walls, the other panel becomes the door.

When I saw this in action, I almost fell out of my chair! Having designed the pieces, and knowing I had never designed them to pivot, I “knew” it couldn’t be done. My son had no preconceived limitations, and so he wasn’t bound by them. Fantastic example of thinking outside the box.

A Complete Castle
Here is a quick movie showing the assembly of a full castle, piece by piece…





Now that you’ve seen a castle being built, check out all the non-castle things you can build in the next entry, titled Much More Than Castles.

-- Pete in Wilmette, IL



5 comments so far

View wseand's profile

wseand

2118 posts in 1665 days


#1 posted 1503 days ago

well very cool, kids are wonders aren’t they.

-- Bill - "Freedom flies in your heart like an Eagle" Audie Murphy

View Pete Tevonian's profile

Pete Tevonian

73 posts in 1542 days


#2 posted 1503 days ago

I’ll some revised and additional photos up soon, and get some video as well. No better feeling than watching kids play with toys you built…

-- Pete in Wilmette, IL

View ~Julie~'s profile

~Julie~

572 posts in 1658 days


#3 posted 1503 days ago

That is really cool, Pete. I’d like to see more.
Is there a reason you went with a bead rather than a dovetail, say?

-- ~Julie~ followyourheartwoodworking.blogspot.ca

View Pete Tevonian's profile

Pete Tevonian

73 posts in 1542 days


#4 posted 1502 days ago

Julie, glad you like it.

I did try a dovetail first, in some test pieces, mostly because I had dovetail bits available. But once I had a sample post and panel, I discovered three reasons to go with the bead and groove instead:

1. I wanted to make sure it would be easy for little fingers and hands to assemble. The round groove, with a bead that is just slightly undersized, mean that the panel and post don’t have to be perfectly aligned to slide together. If the panel is rotated just a bit from perpendicular to the post face, the pieces can still marry up easily.

2. With a round bead and groove, and the aforementioned “slop”, the panels can rotate about 5 degrees to either side before the shoulder of the panel hits the post. That again provides some forgiveness during assembly. If the walls aren’t exactly aligned (or even if the wood warps a bit, which it did), you can just pull on the wall and it will flex a bit, allowing you to connect wall sections more easily. A dovetail, with it’s straight sides, would fit tightly, and would allow less movement. All the reasons the dovetails are great for furniture made them less than optimal for this.

3. I wanted to avoid corners that could scratch little hands or splinter. As it is, all of the outside corners of the posts took plenty of sanding to knock them all down, and same with the “inside” corners along each groove, and along the panel shoulders. But really, with 4yr-old play, I figured the panels would be dropped and whacked and manhandled, and the dovetail corners would just wear down and/or splinter.

I have more posts planned showing more details, unexpected options that my kids have discovered, and the construction process.

-- Pete in Wilmette, IL

View ~Julie~'s profile

~Julie~

572 posts in 1658 days


#5 posted 1502 days ago

Thanks for the explanation. I do look forward to seeing more posts.

-- ~Julie~ followyourheartwoodworking.blogspot.ca

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