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Thursday, May 24, 2012

No clothesline? No problem with this DIY dropcloth tent

This weekend many families will be headed to their summer cottage or some remote campsite. Others will camp out at home. Remember how easy it was to make a backyard tent when you were a kid? Just toss an old blanket over a clothesline, stretch out the corners, secure them to the ground with a tent spike, and you and your friends were good to go.

That’s back in the day when most families had clotheslines.

So now what?

You could buy your child a tent, but what made the clothesline tent fun was making it yourself. Since I know of a few parents who are the adventurous types, I’ve enlisted the help of the creative ideas team at Lowe’s and its plans for a dropcloth tent. What’s nice about this tent is you can store it away once the kids are ready to come indoors, and you can turn it into a second project: After making the tent, let the kids paint a motif of their choosing on the sides.

The supplies add up to about $38. Here’s what you need: one dozen 1-by-2-inch by 6-foot boards (#1407); two or three 1-1/4-inch wood screws (#8); two 3/8-inch wing nuts; two 3/8-inch flat washers; two 3/8-by-2-inch hex bolts; and a 6-by-9-foot canvas dropcloth (#74135). Also needed are a drill, countersinking pilot bit for #8 screws, 3/8-inch drill bit, framing square, tape measure, staple gun, wood glue and paint supplies (optional).

Step 1: Wash the dropcloth to make it soft, and sand the boards to remove sharp edges and rough spots.

Step 2: Pick out four straight boards to use as the vertical ends for both frames. Measure 20-1/2 inches down from the top end of each piece of wood and mark the center of the board. Then drill 3/8-inch holes at each mark for the wing nuts. The holes should be 90 degrees to the wood surface.

Step 3: Begin by building one frame side at a time. On a flat surface place two of the vertical ends on edge so they’re parallel and about 6 feet apart. The 3/8-inch holes should be at the top. Lay the cross brace with the face spanning the two parallel boards and flush with their ends. Use the carpenter’s square to make sure they are 90 degrees to each other. Now drill two countersunk pilot holes about 3/8 inches from the edges of the top board. Then add glue and screw the top board to the two vertical boards.

Photos courtesy of Lowe's

Step 4: Measure 23 inches from the edge of the bottom board and mark the two vertical boards. Glue, drill and screw a second horizontal board in place. Measure another 23 inches and repeat to add a third horizontal board to complete one tent frame side. Repeat steps 3 and 4 to make a second side. Set aside to dry.


Step 5: Now join the frames by standing them together with the holes overlapping. Place a washer on a 3/8-by-2-inch hex bolt, slide the bolt through the holes, and hold it in place with a second washer and a wing nut. Repeat this for the other side.


Step 6: Now you’re ready to drape the canvas over the “A” shape frame. It should reach to the bottom board on each side. Once in place, staple one end to the bottom board on one side, repeat on the other side while pulling it tight. If needed, use a few quick-clip bar clamps to hold the canvas in place.


Step 7: Drill and screw (but don’t glue) a reinforcement on top of the stapled bottom board to create a clean look and keep any staples from popping loose. Repeat for the other side.

If you run into trouble check out the Dropcloth Tent Diagram
Looking for more to do? Check out Lowe's Novice Weekend Projects

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