Truss Chair, Part 1

A new garden chair, designed within the limits of the materials.

I love redwood, it weathers beautifully and lasts well outdoors in the sun, water and rain. However, it is very soft. Screws don’t hold well, square connections tend to be weak and wiggle.

I have been building garden chairs off and on for years, and for years I have been bothered by the slight wiggles in my designs. And for years I have been trying to create a chair design that used the strength and stability of triangles (like the trusses that hold up wooden bridges) rather than squares. Recently we needed to replace some garden chairs (that I didn’t build), so I gave it another try. After many false starts, I came up with this design using 2x redwood. 

The legs, arm and seat supports form a pair of triangles on each side. The angle of the seat back is echoed in the angle of the legs. The pairs of triangles are formed with supports that lay flat against each other, which makes the connections strong. I used heavy galvanized bolts at the corners of the triangles instead of screws. Bolts are much stronger, hold better in redwood and are more decorative.

In addition to my usual large scale drawings, I drew full size templates to help cut the angles on the legs. The chair is very solid-no wiggles.

Plant Stand

A quick design and build project.

A stand for a potted epiphyllum in our garden. The plant is placed in a cluster of other larger plants, and needs to be raised above them.  Outdoor furniture takes a beating from the sun and daily over-spray from misting plants. I build outdoor pieces on the substantial side, and they last far longer than anything we can buy. Like all of my outdoor furniture, it is made from 2x redwood with galvanized screws, and is designed to be built with simple tools.

I start with sketches, then make large scale drawings like these at left to understand how the piece comes together and solve any problems.

Photographs of the finished stand.


Water Variance and Regulations

This is an example of ordinance interpretation, dealing with a difficult approval process and getting ordinances changed. I worked on this effort with my wife, Lisa Rini, who is the gardener for our house.

In response to a Stage 2 drought, San Diego adopted landscape watering restrictions on June 1, 2009 (  ). Watering is restricted  to certain days and hours. The restrictions may work for some traditional landscape-trees and bushes planted in the ground, however they do not work for plants like ours: low-water use plants in pots, mounted on bark and tillandsias (air plants).

After 3 months working our way through the overly complicated variance process, preparing a large number of supporting documents, and many conversations with Water Department staff and our Council person’s office, we finally received our water schedule variance.

The Water Department has proposed changes to the restrictions and variance process, some that directly respond to our problems and concerns ( ). We attended the recent committee hearing where these changes were reviewed. We presented revisions that will clarify the definitions, and ensure the type of plants in our garden are included in the revisions. The language changes were well received and are expected to be in the final language of the Municipal Code.

This is our recommendation for the Municode change:
(new) Plants not rooted in the ground that can be moved, which includes plants in containers, pots, or similar receptacles, plants mounted on bark or wood, as well as plants that do not grow in soil (such as air plants), (same) are considered the same as any other type of landscape and must follow time of day restrictions, but can be watered any day.

Our effort was mostly educational, making Water and City staff aware of our unusual plants and their unique water needs. We sent photos, slide shows, gave garden tours and even brought a tillandsia to the hearing. We found the process long and often frustrating, but feel that we won a victory for specialty gardeners and water conservation. We have shown that there are alternatives to a (sadly) common water saving solution: the dead lawn.