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Picture of A FAILED!!! Recycled Geodesic dome greenhouse
First off - this is not my original idea. The inspiration for this came from another instructable on here located at this link: http://www.instructables.com/id/Geodesic-Dome-Greenhouse/  
T
he kids at the original link are really the inventors and inspiration behind this.

My idea was simple: Seeing how they did it, I wanted to do it too, but spend no money on it and use recycled materials in the process.    

I managed to do that in quite a bit of it, and had to buy staples to attach the plastic to the frame.  All in all I spent about $8 on staples but the rest came from recycled materials and other things I had laying around.

This was an experiment and it failed for several reasons. In the last step I'll discuss what I learned from this, what I would do differently, and where improvements could be made to make this a success.

I am putting this up here to show that it can be done with a minimal cash investment, and some time and ingenuity.

Also, it's a "See what I made sort of thing" that my wife thought I should put up here, so I am doing that at long last.

Another point I wish to make- This is a failure. Yes! I am posting this here to show that we will all have failures and that we can't get discouraged from it, but can move on and learn from them.  This is my failure that I'm choosing to share with all of you and hopefully help in some way to encourage others to fail more often, more spectacularly, and with more energy than I!  

Enjoy and comments, suggestions, and questions are ecouraged so we can all learn from this!


 
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Step 1: What you will need: Stuff!

Picture of What you will need: Stuff!
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To make this greenhouse dome I used several items in the construction that I had easy access to or had around already.

Materials: 
Wooden slats & strips of at least 4 feet in length-
     You will need 35 pieces at 48" long
     You will also need 30 pieces at 42" long
     For the door you will need 7 pieces at least 5' long.
     For stakes you will need about 20 to 30 - 18" pieces.
     For the strips I used about 50 of them in all and they varied in length from 6 to 10 feet.
(I got these free at a cabinet maker near me that sets them out as scraps for the public on the weekends. If you check your area for such companies they may have scrap bins you can dig through if you are polite and clean up after yourself.) 
Aluminum Wire - (I used a roll I bought years ago of aluminum electric fence wire.)
1 1/2" screws - (I salvaged most of these from wood people gave me. I put them in an old coffee can for things like this)
6mm Plastic - (I get mine from a fiend in construction and it was scraps left-over after various jobs that he saved for me.)
Staples for a staple gun - (the only thing I bought)
Some Nails of at least 2 1/2 inches (salvage again)
Duct Tape
Plastic coffee can lids (at least 6 of them)
4 hinges

Tools:
A saw
A razor or knife
Pliers with a wire cutter or needle nose pliers
Screwdriver
Hammer
Shovel
Tape Measure
Staple Gun

Step 2: Cut & Drill Your Wood.

Picture of Cut & Drill Your Wood.
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Once you have your wood cut them to 35 pieces that are 48" long and 30 pieces to be 42"  long.

I used a jig saw and accomplished this fairly quickly - Make sure you keep them separate as they are for two different things.

Once all your pieces have been cut use a drill with a 1/8" bit to drill a single hole in each end of the 42" pieces.

Next drill two holes in each end of all the "48 inch pieces.  

You can alternate the directions of the holes and when working with soft wood I recommend alternating the direction of the holes.

Once done with all this you are ready for the next step.

Step 3: Start to assemble your Pentagon centers.

Picture of Start to assemble your Pentagon centers.
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To make this geodesic done greenhouse you are going to make 5 pentagons with centers made out of 42" pieces and the outer edge made of 48" pieces.

To attach all these I am using Aluminum electric fence wire because I had it on hand, it is very strong and easy to work with.

Start by laying out 5 pieces of 42" slats in a star shape and run a wire through the holes at those ends.

When all of them are "laced" together, twist the wire together at the end - Make sure to leave a little slack to allow them to move a bit.

At first I trimmed the excess wire, but as I would over twist or break wires it was easier to leave the excess on for now and just curl it up and against the center of the star.

Do this 6 times. The last set of center-slats will need to placed aside for now.

Step 4: Make your pentagons.

Picture of Make your pentagons.
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To make the pentagons you take your 48" pieces and attach them to the outer edges of the star to make a pentagon.

From the measurements and the pictures above, you can see that it will be necessary to Pop up the center of each pentagon to complete it.

Repeat this process until you have 5 completed pentagons.

Note: you will have one center piece left over and a few boards of 48" long left over- they will be used for the next step.

With the completed 5 pentagons, take your coffee can lids and screws. You are now going to reinforce each pentagon center.

Cut the coffee can lid from edge to the center and then overlap one edge over the other.  This will make a slight cone to attach to the center.

Screw the coffee can lid to the center of the frame with one screw for each of the 5 star legs.  I overlap the edges of my cut pieces until the lid touches all the legs. 

Step 5: Assemble your Dome!

Picture of Assemble your Dome!
With the five pentagons completed it is time to start assembling the dome.

(Sorry, My camera ran out of batteries at this point and I didn't get new ones until I took a break.)

Take two pentagons and wire one corner to the corner of another pentagon.

Attach a third pentagon to the previous two - moving in a circle - to the outside corner.

I used some help at this point as I had to stand the frame up.

Wire the fourth and fifth pentagons to the frame completing the circle and wire the fifth pentagon to the first to complete the basic start of your dome.

Once this step is completed wire the remaining 48" pieces to the spots on the ground to join all five pentagons together at the ground level and help keep the dome upright.

After all this is done grab the remaining star set of 42" pieces.  Attach this to the top of each pentagon in the center to make the top of your dome.

Once done, stand back and admire your work.  Have some iced tea- and if you are like me, go get some new batteries for your camera and wonder what the Heck you got yourself into!

Step 6: Making a Door for the Greenhouse!

Picture of Making a Door for the Greenhouse!
making the door.jpg
door attached and frame covered.jpg
To get into and out of the greenhouse I chose the weakest and flimsiest pentagon of the dome and cut out the center - removing the lid reinforcement.

Taking 3 of my 5' sections I laid them against the dome frame of this pentagon and marked where I wanted them to attach to the frame.

Next I cut the door frame to match and screwed it to the frame.

With the door frame on I took the legs of the center of the pentagon and cut them to pit against the door frame.

Once the legs are cut I screwed them to the door-frame and reinforce the edges of that pentagon again.

With that completed take your 4 remaining 5' pieces and hold them up to the door-frame you just created.  Mark each piece if you need to and cut them.  Once completed you screw these pieces together and using the left over scrap make some braces in the corners for the door to reduce wobbling.

Taking two of your hinges attach the door to the frame and make sure it can open and close easily.

Step 7: Stake down the greenhouse!

Picture of Stake down the greenhouse!
At this point I made a mistake and didn't do this step until after I had covered my greenhouse.  That turned out to be a problem as a Kansas wind-storm upended it and caused damage to a lot of the plastic.  After recovering it I realized I needed to stake this thing down..

At this point take 5 of your 18" stakes and cut one end with to a point.  

Using a hammer, drive them into the ground  around the outside of your greenhouse.

(Note: because I know someone is going to say it- Dial before you dig or go driving random stakes in the ground to make sure you don't hit your water line, gas line, an underground electric line, or the sewer line!  Always be safe and make sure you know what is under you when you dig or drive things into the ground!)

Nail each stake to the frame of the greenhouse.


Step 8: Time to Cover the Dome!

Picture of Time to Cover the Dome!
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To cover the dome I used some clear 6mm plastic I got for free from a friend in construction.  

These started life as large sorts of garbage bags but I cut each one at the outer edges and used them to attach to the frame with a staple-gun.    

As you can see in some of the pictures I had to use a step-stool to get to the very top of the Dome.

Also, in the windy Kansas weather (where the wind never seems to stop!) I had some help from my daughter to hold down the plastic as I was putting it on.  I cut off excess plastic with a knife as I went.

Keep doing this until  the dome is entirely covered. -- except for the door way!  Instead cut some plastic to fit around your door in the inside and outside and with 6" excess on all sides.   Staple it to the door on the front and back - leaving the excess hanging off.  This excess will for a sort of seal for the doorway and keep the air inside pretty warm.

Step 9: Installing a Vent

Picture of Installing a Vent
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I installed a vent to help keep the heat at bay during the day.

I used some scrap slats and cut three of them to fit inside one of the triangles on the top.

Next I cut out the plastic there and attached plastic to the outside of my new triangle.

To prob the vent up, I cut another slat and attached it with a screw to the top of the triangle and then attached screws to it along various parts so I could adjust how far I had the vent open.

Again, I left an excess of about three inches on all sides to form a seal when closed.

On the frame inside I placed a few screws to keep the vent from falling inside when closed and one at the top near the adjustment stick to put the screws on when open and give it a place to rest.

I attached the vent with the remaining two hinges and then I was done.

Step 10: Building a Grow Area

Picture of Building a Grow Area
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One thing not in the orginal design and I thought could be better was a dedicated grow area.  

Once completed I took a shovel and scraped all the crabgrass and a couple of inches of the top soil from the entire of the inside.
Some of this I deposited out around the edge of the greenhouse along the ground to form a seal, and the rest I placed in low spots in the yard to even it out.

Next I took my remaining 15 stakes and drove them into the ground, forming a tear-drop sort of shape from one side of the door frame around a center of the dome floor and around to the other frame.

After that was completed I wove a fence of sorts using thin pieces of wood strips and wove them in an out among the stakes in an alternating pattern from bottom to top.  Then ends I tucked into the frame pieces of the door at the ground.

I didn't picture it with the top soil filled in and by the time it was done the entire project failed, but that will be covered in the last step.

Step 11: OPTIONAL - The interior pond!

Picture of OPTIONAL - The interior pond!
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One option I thought of and am quite proud of is the use of the pond I had lying around.

Our air conditioner runs all the time due to my mother-in-law having health problems that require a steady temperature in the home.

The result of this is that the drip line for the AC is constantly working and making a muddy mess at the corner of the house.

Since I had the pond, realized that the humidity would help the interior of the green-house, I figured a way to make use of both.

Using duct tape I attached an old garden hose to the AC drip line.
I ran the line along the ground, under the greenhouse edge, dug out a spot in the center of the greenhouse and placed the plastic pond liner in it.

With that done the water from the AC dripped along the hose and into my pond, filling it in a couple of days and dried up the continuous mud-hole it had previously created!

Step 12: I'm Done- Now What????

Picture of I'm Done- Now What????
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With the greenhouse completed I managed to secure a few truck loads of soil for the interior growing area and filled in it.

I built this in June of 2011 and then we had one of the hottest summers on record.  For months this thing sat out in the heat and weather, unused because the temperatures inside would soar to 130 to 140 degrees F. quite often!

As fall came on one wind-storm and then a thunderstorm too many proved that this became a failure for many reasons!

The first problem was the plastic I was using was too thin and not made to take the hot summer sun, strong winds and UV rays.  It fell apart all summer and I kept replacing it as needed - waiting for fall when I could finally use this thing!

The second problem was that the joints of the dome weren't strong enough for our winds and storms and continued to fall in on themselves.  I think this problem could be solved with using tin cans instead of cheap plastic like I did and would be stronger overall if I reinforced all the joints this way.

Finally, the spot I chose was close to the street and several times I had to get kids out of it that would wander in from the sidewalk.  I didn't mind the looking, but a few of them decided to poke holes and do other things to it that didn't help my already flawed and weak design. <sigh>

After a summer of frustration and one storm too many I finally yanked up the stakes and threw the whole thing in the trash heap, to be recycled as something else in bits and pieces and many of the wooden parts burned in my chimnea over the following winter!

I hope you enjoyed the process I went through and this inspired you to try something like this on your own.  One thing I think I did successfully here was to prove I could build something from what others considered trash and make it work - if only for awhile.

I will probably build another greenhouse like this in the future and I know that this one taught me many things to do differently.

Please feel free to leave comments, suggestions and questions here for others to learn from as I think even our failures help us all build better in the future!
Littlewises1 month ago
Im am thinking of recycling my kids metal geodome that no sadly no longer gets played with, by turning it into a greenhouse. But I'm concerned that the metal bars would conduct to much heats for plant viability. And then there is the issue of inserting an easier access doorway rather than climbing through the bars. Has anyone done this? Maybe I'd be better off climbing on it and being an example that your never to old to be a kid.
jsadler12 years ago
Actually I leaned from your efforts and i have worked as a pro instrument and model maker. For a youngster you are probably a bit of a genius. The way you made your pentagons and then got the angles for the struts was very intuitive and quick compared to more formal methods.
In hot climates we tend to use a lot of shade cloths which allow the escape of air as well as prevent too much heat build up as heat can be a real curse in gardening. Keep at it. You have serious talent.
milesnorth2 years ago
I think its a great attempt and appreciate the good instructions along with it. I would call it a "first attempt", not a fail if I were you. I spent all last summer building a yurt. It was a "first attempt" also. But, I had a grand time doing it and plan to work out some the kinks this summer hopefully. I think your dome is cool. And I like that you just had fun doing it like I did with my failed yurt. Sometimes its the journey :-) Cheers
wire-nut2 years ago
Failed, no just learn one more way to not do it.
l8nite2 years ago
it's a learning experience not a failure ! Just because the materials you used failed doesn't make the whole project a failure, most plastic greenhouse covers only last one season, now if you could locate a source for free acrylic sheets....
caitlinsdad2 years ago
You should not see this as a failure in any way. You should erase the word from your vocabulary. This was a valuable exercise in gaining experience. The only way to figure out something is to build a prototype and just keep building. Thanks for sharing.
wapatterson (author)  caitlinsdad2 years ago
Thank you all for the kind words of encouragement- but as a writer I have to refuse to hide behind subterfuge or whatever you want to call it. A failure is a failure is a failure. LOL There isn't anything negative to the word or the experience, but it just shows an experience that did not work.

I can't call it a prototype, a lateral success, a successful way of NOT doing something. It's a fail, and a little one all things considered.

Caitlinsdad- No, I can't erase a word from my vocabulary but I can choose what power such words have only the power we invest within them.

We spend so much time ringing from failure in our society - we don't post our mistakes here for fear of ridicule or being perceived as weak, stupid or worse. As a community we need to all put up our failures sometimes to show what we did that failed to help others avoid the same bad ideas and improve upon our bad ideas - just like scientific research.

I appreciate the trying to soften the blow of "failure" but let me know what I could have done for free to improve the design and lets build on the project instead of the syntax!
You're right, that is one monstrous POS you made that is so FUBAR the kid could have probably told you how to do it right.

Haha, sorry, it must have been our maker instinct response system that kicked in. I had to reread your ible to get that you get that failure is in perspective and is a positive reality check. If you wanted to engage the audience as a writer, you have accomplished that. Everyone has a scale on where fail is, we just set it very low and have better things to think about.

Anyway, you could have glued up your sticks into a T or I beam to strengthen your basic building beams. You could have made the fastening plates to reinforce all of the joints you had. Since this was a no-cost salvaged materials project, you did well in using clear sheet plastic. Plexiglas, glass, metal, plywood panels would have been a real cost. They do have some shed plans for geodesic dome sheds and greenhouses. Maybe following set plans where everything has been calculated out would have made it easier to construct. If you knew about conventional framing for structures, the doorways and window frames are reinforced to transmit the load from the opening. So, still a lot to learn from a good project.

By the way, a lot of my ibles are half-finished or patched up because they were designed on the fly. I share my "failures" too so that others can learn. Nothing is a wasted effort. Thanks.
I don't believe in failed projects, I prefer to look at things the way Thomas Edison did.
"If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward."
kelseymh2 years ago
This is an awesome project! Not a failure at all, it's a prototype. We build prototypes constantly in my field (experimental particle physics). They aren't supposed to work perfectly the first time!

You build the first prototype to see whether your idea is complete nonsense or not.

You build the second to see whether your refinements to the first one improve things or not.

And you build the third to get a handle on materials and costs before you send the contract to a fabricator to make ten or twenty copies.

It sounds like you learned a tremendous amount in building this and seeing how it stood up (or didn't stand up) to the real-world environment. Next spring, you can build a version which takes some of those effects into account (maybe a hole at the top for air circulation? Different plastic for the shell? Guy wires for strain relief?).

None of that was failure. It was proper engineering design and testing, and a tremendously successful process! Congratulations, and thank you for putting it up for the rest of us to learn from as well.