To avoid confusion (or to stoke it), this build is about the Wikket Gate as it was portrayed in the third book of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams, called "Life, the Universe and Everything". While it may be usable for playing cricket, I have neither the experience nor the desire to test that. If you are uncertain whether you should make this, doing a few test games would be as good a reason as any.
There is a little bit of lore behind this, which I will spare you since I will instead tell you to read the books in order to find out yourself. Also, this is my interpretation, and of course you might envision it differently. If so, why not make it and post pictures? I have added some ideas on how else to make the pieces in the appropriate steps.
A note on size - in my case it was the wooden piece that set the length for most of the others. Just as easily your metal pipe might be short enough to dictate the size of your gate. Either way, put some thought into how large you want it to turn out so you know where you want to go and how much material you need.
- Wood - for the base as well as for the wooden pillar and the two bails. I used a scrap of board for the base and two pieces of garden cutoffs to turn into the other pieces. You can use any species you want, and even plywood, for the visual appeal. You can also use storebought wooden dowels and forego the lathe, if you accept your bails being less shapely.
- Acrylic rod - for the plasstic pillar. I used a clear one with a diameter of about 1/3" or 8mm. You can use other varieties as well - I imagine using flourescent acrylic with a few deliberate sanding marks on the surface would look rather interresting.
- Metal pipe - for the metal pillar. Anything goes here, and I would recommend digging into the scrap metal bin at your local recycling center. I found myself fortunate enough to get my hands on a piece of stainless steel pipe that had been used to practice orbital welding on, which makes it look rather stylish.
- Hot glue (slightly optional) - for most of your attatchment needs.
- Screws (slightly optional) - as another way to attach pillars to the base.
- Spray paint (slightly optional) - in gold and silver. You can skip that if you are using material of the golden and silver color, but I think in most cases a coat of paint if the cheaper solution.
- Table saw - I used it to cut the base to size and to angle the sides. You can do the same with a number of other tools, especially if you renounce straight lines.
- Hacksaw - to cut the metal to length. You can also use an angle grinder or a metal cutting bandsaw.
- Hot air gun - to heat up the acrylic in order to shape it. While doing so over a barbecue may sound more delicious, and a campfire more cozy, I think the hot air gun is the easiest solution for within the confines of a workshop.
- Lathe & Lathe Tools (kinda optional) - for shaping the wooden pieces.
- Hot glue gun - in order to use the hot glue mentioned above.
- Drill & Drill Bits (a bit optional) - for drilling pilot holes for screws or larger holes to plug the pillars into directly.
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Step 1: Watch the Video!
As usual, I made a video for the project, which I invite you to watch. But on top of that, the video also contains a quote from the book explaining the Wikkit Gate, a quote that makes up for what it lacks in detail with loads of pathos. So I would invite you to watch it, basically, to hear me go over the top in the spirit of artistic pursuit (Also, please subscribe if you like what you see).
On to the build part!
Step 2: The Wooden Pillar
There are several ways to make the wooden pillar. I took a piece of branch, pruned from the garden last year, and put it skewed between the centers of my lathe in order to turn it down to a dowel thin enough to fit the overall design. The reason I put it in at an angle - as much of an angle as the size of the piece would allow, actually - was to make the grain flow more interresting on the pillar.
While I like the result I do not think that the skewed grain is actually that visible in the final piece. If your wood has a more pronounced grain this might be a good way to add some character, and the same if true if you manage to turn plywood down that way, gluing up a blank from several smaller pieces. Otherwise, you can just put your blank between centers without skew - or skip the lathe and use a piece of dowel of appropriate size.
If you want to take it further, do a search for "segmented pen turning" and get inspired by the ways people glue up smaller pieces to make for interresting blanks. I chose pen turning here because the results in this particular field are already pillar-like. There are also amazing segmented bowls out there, and the basic ideas are the same.
Moving away from the lathe, there are other possibilities (even though having a lathe to hold pieces in would be an advantage for some of these ideas). For starters, who says that pillars need to be round? You can easily take a square piece and either leave it be or riff on it a little more - and those riffs work on round ones as well.
You could drill holes into a piece, either following a pattern or at random, turning it into a kind of "drillium" piece. You can also take matching dowels of contrasting wood and glue them into the holes you drilled. Cut and sand them flush and you have a pillar that will look really unique.
Another idea would be to use a file to add flutes and spirals to the piece. This might require a little more sanding to make it look smooth, but with a little practice you can do non-symetrical shapes without patterns, making the end result look otherworldly and artistic.
Step 3: The Metal Pillar
For my build, the metal pillar was the easiest to make since all that was required was to cut the pipe down to the length of the final pillar of wood, which in my case was the size-dictating piece. I used a hacksaw to make these cuts. If you have a pretty piece of metal that is as short as you can bear the pillar to be, then this step would be even easier.
On the other hand, if you cannot get your hands on a piece that looks as interesting as a welding practice piece does, you might have to get a little more creative here. There are many ways to interpret the concept of a "metal pillar", including the use of several smaller rods instead of a larger one, and braiding some wire can produce intricate looking effects, too. I imagine that a piece of wire cable would also work quite well.
If you are into welding you could make a practice piece of your own by cutting a pipe into angled segments and putting them together again slightly askew - no worries about perfection, because alas, it is art. On the same token, you could just take a piece of rebar and add some creative pieces of slack to it. And if forging is more your thing, I imagine that there are many ways you could bend a piece to make it look more interresting, with a little twist every now and then.
Step 4: The Plastic Pillar
For my interpretation of the plastic pillar, I used transparent acrylic. I would recommend a thermoplastic material, i.e. one that gets soft and moldable when exposed to heat, in order to make shaping this piece more easy, but you can also use other materials and shape them by removing material - carving or cutting stuff away.
The rod I had fit comfortably into the pipe for the metal pillar, so I used that in a vice first as a holder for the initial bend and then, once I had the rod bent around, the pipe became a kind of bending form.
Go slow with the hot air to find the "sweet spot" where you can easily bend the acrylic but it does not become too soft. In my experience, "too soft" means that the rod will become very flexible and bend with a very tight radius in a direction that might not be the one you want. I assume that even there you can still shape it somewhat to your liking, but it is easier to do if you keep the temperature low.
With one end of the rod secured in the vice, I started wrapping the rest around the metal pipe to create a spiral. Once I had the required length I stopped, let it cool and removed the pipe, which worked better than expected. You can leave the spiral as it is, but I decided to include another length of straight acrylic at its center. Also, the bandsaw works well for cutting the ends flush.
Other methods would include bin-diving at the local recycling center for funny looking packaging or heating up a plastic bottle (of thermoplastic material) to make it soft and then squeeze it using insulating gloves to make for an abstract sculpture. You could even "forge" a piece from plastic scraps with a little practice..
Step 5: The Two Bails
There are two bails needed for this design, which are the horizontal pieces that lay across two pillars each. In the original Wikkit gate those are made of gold and silver, respectively. For budget reasons I decided to go with painted wood, and I turned both of mine from another piece of branch. I also made both look the same, which in retrospect was not the most inspired choice.
If you want to stay closer to the original, you could use wire to weave these bails - although I would still go with less expensive metals. Basically, you can use any of the ideas for the other pillars here and then spray the result gold or silver. I imagine that after wire-weaving, using a piece of deformed plastic would work rather well for these.
What you need to keep in mind is that these pieces are supposed to rest on top of two bails each, so they need to be short enough to fit whatever distance your design dictates. Flat spots on the ends would be advantageous, too, something that I did not think of when making them.
Step 6: The Base and Final Assembly
I made my base from a piece of scrap with the sides cut at an angle on the table saw. I thought this would work well with my design given the amount of almost straight lines and defined curves. Other gates might incorporate more flowing lines and organic formes, and thus benefit from a less geometric base.
In order to determine the rough size of my base, I put the three pillars next to each other with the bails in between to get the necessary distance, and then marked the centers on a piece of wood. I then added the distance again to the sides, and that gave me the rough dimensions.
To attach the pillars, I used different methods.
The wooden pillar I simply screwed into place from below, drilling a pilot hole as to not split anything.
The plastic pillar I almost screwesd into place, but to avoid cracking of the acrylic I used a shorter screw that barely made it into a short pilot hole in the pillar and then attached it to it using glue.
For the metal pillar I found a piece of dowel that fit inside and screwed that dowel onto the base. It split on me, but as it turns out that makes for a better friction fit once inside the pillar.
The two bails I attached with as little hot glue as possible to make it look like they were simply balanced on top as they should be.
Step 7: The Wicked Wikkit!
Admittedly, this is one of those items that will resonate most strongly with you if you are the right kind of person, meaning if you know the books and/or are in touch with your nerdy side. That is not to say that you have to appreciate this if you consider yourself a nerd, but in the vein of video game items turned into real-life pieces and movie props recreated as collectibles, the Wikkit gate gives you a great conversation starter, while making it is of what I would call entry-level difficulty, and very versatile to boot.
I would also appreciate it if you checked out the accompanying video - which is available in English as well as German - in Step 2. It contains the build, but also kind of a rendition of a quote from the book. Please let me know what you think about this project, too!
Thanks for checking out this Instructable, and as always, remember to be Inspired!