Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Job Finished

I was able to finish the roof on the rabbit hutch last Saturday, after a friend brought me a full piece of sheet metal from the market. I bent the edges of the roof over the wood to make it safer, since sheet metal can easily cut a person. It also looks nicer this way.Overall I'm satisfied. I learned some useful techniques as I proceeded with the work and if I should ever build another one (which I hope I won't have to do!) I think I could do even better. Now I need to buy a sheet of plywood and construct a nesting box. I'm waiting for our car to be delivered, since my friend's car is too small to carry the plywood from the market to our house. Then Teresa wants to begin breeding rabbits--and that will be yet another adventure.

Friday, June 25, 2010

It is (almost) finished

Thanks to another day of reasonably cool weather I was able to make good progress today. In fact, only one thing remains to be done.

I began the day by constructing the door for the small section of the hutch. This went reasonably smoothly, until it came time to hang it on the frame. Then I discovered that the door and the opening didn't match as well as I would have liked. However, with a slight adjustment I was able to make a workable solution.
I was not so fortunate with the second door. After my difficulties with the first door, I should have been more attentive to the sizing of the second door. In fact I was, measuring carefully and framing my door very carefully. This second door was probably the most square of anything I'd constructed so far. After attaching my wire mesh I was ready to hang it...only to discover that my nice square door didn't fit the not-so-square opening. This time the problem could not be resolved with a quick adjustment. The door simply was not going to fit in its current form. Time to take a break and come back with a fresh perspective.

After a trip to the bazaar to get some more nails (and a fresh watermelon!), I tackled the problem with the door. I removed the wire mesh, took the frame partially apart and analyzed where I needed to make adjustments. I had to cut down the vertical parts of the door frame by 1 1/2 centimeters and cut a new top piece in order to fit the opening. I wasn't happy about the extra work, but it was my own fault for not testing the door initially. Having reassembled the door, I mounted it in the frame as well. Now it was time to construct the frame for the roof.
My plan for the roof was to construct a basic frame similar to the base with with supports running the length of the hutch. This will give me something to which I can attach the metal roof. This task went rather smoothly, with no unexpected difficulties. Dietrich was quite helpful in this stage, cutting all the boards and helping me nail the frame together. Here is the completed frame.
And here is the roof frame mounted on the hutch. About the time I began to build the roof frame I realized I had a problem. I thought I had a sheet of metal the right dimensions to completely cover the roof. But when I unrolled the sheet, I discovered (or remembered) that at some point a piece had been cut out of it. The remnant would not be enough to cover the whole hutch. I really wanted to make this hutch usable tonight so we could get the rabbit out of her box in the living room. I called a friend who is building some new rooms on his house and asked him if he would pick up a sheet of metal at the bazaar tomorrow when he goes for his own needs. In the meantime I considered covering the roof with some thick plastic for the night. Instead my wife suggested that I just use the piece of metal I have, which was adequate to cover one of the sections of the hutch, making it safe and weather proof for the night. Tomorrow I can remove that metal and attach the new sheet.

With that task accomplished, the hutch was ready for its first inhabitant. The male rabbit (seen in the picture below) was moved from the old hutch into the smaller section of the new hutch. The two female rabbits will currently live in the old hutch until Teresa is ready to mate one of them next month. Before then I have to build a nesting box, which may prove to be yet another experience to share with you.
In the end I have had several moments of frustration and have had to accept that my results would not be the perfect model I would like them to be. I have found a certain satisfaction in working with my hands and constructing something useful, though I think I still prefer expressing myself creatively in other ways. But this experience has given more added confidence to tackle future challenges like this.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Much Progress Today

I decided to take advantage of the fact that the weather was much cooler today, with overcast skies and intermittent rain. Between the rain showers I worked almost all day, even canceling my language lesson so I could work more. So we've got a lot to show today.

I began the day by finishing the base, covering the remaining two supports with sheet metal and then assembling the pieces into the base structure.I then laid the wire mesh over the top and began securing it to the base. I found it difficult to secure it with the sheet metal covering the wood, but in the end it worked.
Here is the completed base with mesh covering. The mesh allows the rabbit's waste to fall through to the ground, where Teresa gets the job of cleaning it up (since this whole rabbit project is her idea!) At the same time the mesh needs to be small enough that the rabbit's paws don't pass through, potentially causing them injury.After a break for rain and dealing with a plumbing problem in the house I returned to work, cutting and assembling the two end pieces and middle divider. Here are the two end pieces before I added the wire mesh.
I covered the center divider with sheet metal to keep the rabbits apart. One half of this hutch will be a nursery, so it will be good for the mother rabbit to not be disturbed by her neighbor.

After covering the outer edges with wire mesh I mounted them on the base frame, adding a board across the top for stability, although I may remove it later depending on how I do the roof. At this point I really saw the effect of not having a square to make sure my cuts were even and my joints squared up. The three pieces I added here all varied to some extent from each other and it was impossible to get everything lined up perfectly. This frustrated me a great deal. Thankfully I am building a rabbit hutch, not a jet plane, so the tolerances are a lot looser.
Finally, I framed in the larger half of the hutch and added wire mesh to the back and to the section of the front that will not be a door. Throughout the day I had the intermittent help of Dietrich. On the one hand this was a good thing, but in terms of having an extra pair of hands and as an opportunity for teaching him some basics of carpentry. On the other hand, because he is very new at these things, he works slowly and with less accuracy than even I can manage at present. I had to discipline myself to be very patient with him and to not criticize any errors he made. Instead I tried to use them as teaching moments so he can improve next time.
Tomorrow I will try to build the two doors and mount them on the frame. Then I need to build the roof frame, cover it with sheet metal and attach it to the rest of the hutch. I hope it will not be too hot so that I can finish all this tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Confronting Fears

When I was in junior high school I signed up for shop class (called Industrial Arts in my school.) I don't know why I chose this class. I guess I wanted to learn some things about woodworking and other practical skills. Instead I learned that I am not particularly handy with wood, metal and the tools humans use to work them. My grades for the two semesters of that class were the lowest I received in my entire academic career. I did finish all the projects, but the only thing I did particularly well at was drafting.

This failure year ago left me with a strong sense of ineptitude when it comes to building things with my own hands. I have made some improvement and will tackle small household tasks when necessary. But whenever possible, I prefer to ask someone more skilled to take care of such needs. A few months ago I needed a rabbit hutch built for my daughter's rabbits, so I found a man who could do it, drew out a plan for him and let him handle the rest. Now we need a second hutch for our expanding rabbit family. I tried to hire the same man, but he has not been available. The need has become urgent, since a third rabbit currently lives in a box indoors and has already escaped from the box once. Lacking a good alternative, I decided to undertake this project myself.

I thought I would share the process of construction with you. Because the summer temperatures are quite hot, I will only be able to work a few hours a day in the morning and/or evening. I began today.

Here is the basic model of the hutch. The one I build will follow the same pattern but the two cages will not be equally sized. One will be larger than the other.
Here is the set of tools available to me for my work. Not much to look at, but it sufficed for the building of the first cage.
Here is my work area. I'm sure you're impressed!Here are some of my materials. Wood, wire screen and, not pictured, some sheet metal.
Here are the results of today's labor. My wife asked me to wrap the boards that will form the base of the cage in sheet metal so that the rabbit's urine and feces will not corrode the wood so quickly. You will notice that the first hutch doesn't have this feature, which may affect its lifespan. The two short boards will also be wrapped and together the six pieces wrapped in sheet metal will form the base of the hutch. I hope to finish that part tomorrow and cover it with the wire mesh that will form the floor of the hutch.
I could refuse to try this work out of my fear of failure. I am by nature a perfectionist, but with the resources I have available perfection will be hard to achieve. Can I allow myself to accept doing the best I am able? It's not easy for me to confront my fear of failure, but God is slowly teaching me to not allow fear to determine what I do and don't do.

Monday, June 14, 2010


I am an idolator. This painful realization struck me this morning as I read Paul's words to the Colossians. In chapter 3 verse 5 he writes:

Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires. Don't be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry. (NLT)

On a recent business trip I traveled to the large city where our family lived for more than three years. I had several things I wanted to buy there, things that we needed but cannot find in the city where we currently lived. As I visited the various shops where I could find these items, my eyes were regularly captured by numerous other items on display. I do not normally think of myself as an avid consumer, but seeing all the things around me that are not normally available to me drew out of me a strong temptation to spend far more than I could afford. To my shame I displayed exactly the behavior Paul writes about. I had become greedy for the good things of this life.

As I reflected on this verse this morning I saw that many believers, particularly in America, are very good at concerning themselves with the dangers of the temptations listed in the first sentence. But we give scant attention to that second sentence. We may feel that we are not greedy. After all we are not longing for "sinful" pleasures. But notice that Paul doesn't say "Don't be greedy for the sinful pleasures of this life." He says we shouldn't be greedy for the "good things" of this life. Thinking about the things that tempted me on my recent trip, they were all "good things," things that I could easily argue would be useful for us or simply nice to have. They were not immoral or illicit things. (Can a new propane tank be considered immoral?) But my desire for them indicated that my heart was longing for them inordinately and they had become idols to me.

Paul's words in this passage indicate that God views our consumer mentality and consumer lifestyle with the same degree of anger that he directs toward sexual immorality. A friend of mine who travels regularly to east Asia sees this consumerism growing like a weed in that culture as well, with negative impacts on the society. Yet I don't see that most of my fellow believers in the US really recognize the impact this lifestyle has on us. We don't accept it as idolatry and therefore do not regard it seriously. I am not exempt from this. My experience during my recent trip was quite a shocking wake up call for me as I realized how easily my heart can be pulled toward the things of this world, even good and potentially useful things. But I don't want to be an idolator so I pray that God will help me replace the desires for the things of this world with a desire for the things that will last.