Kimberly has been a chicken doorstop factory of late, giving them as presents to just about everyone we know. These are weighted with sand, and when she bought a 10kg bag of the stuff from the Early Learning Centre I scoffed as I thought it would be added to the already extensive stock of crafting materials in the spare bedroom craft store. How wrong I was. The sand (apparently suitable for ages 18 months to 8 years, which excludes everyone who got one of the chickaaaaaans as a gift) was rapidly consumed by the production line, leaving just corner, barely enough for another crafted cock. So, since I am also partial to a bit of hand-makery, particularly when it means I can use my Dremel, I thought I’d see if I could knock up my very own zen garden out of bits and bobs.
Rather than search for instructions, my plan was to use a picture frame and fashion the mini rake thing out of whatever I could find. Looking back now I realise that the top Google image search result is actually on a site with a guide to help you construct your zen garden from the raw materials, but I don’t have a workshop or any timber anyway. My method is essentially to make it up as I go along.
First I had to hunt for something to make the rake with. Kimberly suggested cocktail sticks for the prongs, but these are too thin really. We have some wooden kebab skewers and they’re a bit thicker, so I chopped one up into pieces a couple of centimetres long and sanded the ends. For the head and handle of the rake I needed something a lot more substantial. In our kitchen drawer we also have wooden chopsticks. I bought these on eBay for a couple of quid as I really don’t like plastic ones (I find it difficult to maintain purchase when I’m eating with them) so I sacrificed one to the Dremel god in the name of making stuff out of other stuff.
The chopsticks are tapered to be square where you hold them and rounded at the business end, and I sawed off the rounder part to make the head. I drilled four holes just big enough to fit the prongs in, and bored out a hole in the middle of the head to fit the handle in. Having sanded the end of the handle to fit in the hole, and then made the hole bigger, then messed around trying to make sure the prongs all had the same length and orientation, I stuck the prongs into their holes with some PVA glue.
The prongs fitted snugly so I didn’t have to wait longer before assembling the handle and head, though I should have then left it to let the glue dry properly. I didn’t, and it fell apart, so in the end I whacked some fantastic super glue into the divot, which rapidly set, giving me my finished rake.
To make the base I removed the glass and backing from a photo frame, then cut a piece of cardboard to be the same size and stuck it to the back of the frame. After filling it with the sand and trying a bit of raking, it was clear that the picture frame was too small and shallow, and sand was getting everywhere, so I had a rethink.
Kimberly gave me a metal case that contained a gift voucher for her upcoming falconry experience day, and it seemed to be the ideal size, with the sand much deeper and a wider area for raking. I found a few smooth pebbles outside, cleaned them up, and decorated the finished garden with them.