Scaf 101: Introduction

(Part 1 of 13 in ~ Scaf 101)

This series of posts (12 total, navigation is at the very bottom of each post) is intended to give you enough basic information to get started with scaf. I’m going to give you a specific list of things to buy — what I’m calling “The Set” — while trying to keep the cost as low as possible. I’m also going to show you a number of completely different things you can construct using the set.

In the initial posts, I’ll assume you know nothing and I’ll explain everything. As I show various setups, I’ll initially explain every step of assembly so you understand how to put things together without killing yourself (by working too hard, or by dropping pipe on your, or your friend’s, head). I do not recommend skipping to the end because the instructions on the later setups assume you understand what’s going on, and they only mention the “this is unusual or interesting” parts.

Once you spend some time building, and playing on, scaf, you’ll understand what is easy to build, what is hard to build, what is pretty stable and what is not. But how do you get started? The hard part is figuring out what should be the very first pile of stuff you buy. You want enough to have fun and options, but not more than you need, because scaf gets very expensive very quickly. VERY roughly, it’s almost $20 for every clamp, and almost $3 per foot of pipe.

This entire set is about $400 and will build you some really neat setups. There is a detailed parts list and buying instructions/links in the next post in this series.

Safety

Hey! Let’s get this out of the way now…

This sh*t is DANGEROUS. Seriously. You have been warned. I’m not being hyperbolic here.

The easy-to-get pipe used in this set comes with threads cut into the ends. The threads are razor-sharp. (The clamps cover the ends of the pipe.) I know what I’m doing, and still I’ve cut myself many times.

Steel pipe is heavy. If you lose control of even a seven-foot piece as you stand it on end, it will KILL someone if it falls on someone’s head. But what about pinched fingers and dropped-it-on toes? …I’ve had too many to count. Plus the old (not funny at all) slap-stick humor of carrying pipe, turning and striking someone with the end behind you. Steel pipe is heavy. There’s no “oops, sorry bro’,” just lacerations, crushed fingers, concussions and broken bones.

…and there’s the danger of the clamps working loose. You are planning to jump on, step on, swing from and generally use this NOT in the way the manufacturers intended. You have to learn how to align the pipe in the clamps, (or everything will wiggle loose even more quickly). You have to learn how tight to make the clamps, (so as not to break things, but tight enough to hold). You have to be smart enough to check and tighten things occassionally.

…and THEN there’s the danger of falling OFF the scaf. Or having it topple over ONTO you, or with you ON it. …or IN it.

Terminology

Back on day one of my Life With Scaf, this was very confusing and I wished someone had written a getting-started guide. So, here it is:

Kee Safety Klamps – This is a brand name of a type of pipe clamps. There is a whole collection of clamp types with neat names like “side outlet elbow”, “90 degree two socket tee”, etc. The set I describe in this series contains just three types of clamps that will get you started. As you buy more — and you will buy more because scaf is a highly addictive habit — you’ll have no problem figuring out what the other clamps are for.

kee_clamps_examples

Set screw – Each clamp has several screws (one screw for each pipe the clamp accepts) that are threaded into recesses in the body of the clamp. You will need an 8mm Allen wrench to tighten them. Clamps come with their set screws but there’s no wrench. This isn’t IKEA. (More on wrenches later.)

kee_clamp_set_screws

Schedule 40 – You don’t really need to know this, but it’s common to encounter the terms “schedule 40”, and “schedule 80”, when talking about scaf pipe. A “schedule” is a giant table of specific details like exact dimensions, and strengths for each of the various sizes of pipe. It’s used when building engineered structures where they’re computing loading for realsies with math. What we need to know for this series is that you want “schedule 40” pipe. (If anyone should ask you, that is.) Schedule 80 is much heavier, and therefore stronger, but is the same EXTERIOR size. So it fits all the same clamps as schedule 40 pipe. Down the road, you might want to shell out for a special schedule 80 pipe or two if you’re doing a lot of gonzo bar precisions or something. Anyway. You’ll have a good understanding of schedule 40 pipe after you play with this set. The longest pieces in this set are 7-feet, and they’re going to feel pretty nearly “bomb proof”.

steel_pipe_schedule_40

1-1/4″ pipe – The least obvious thing about scaf is what size do you use? It turns out that this size is the best balance of weight, cost and strength. So the most commonly used size is “Size 7″. (For clarity: That is the seventh pipe size in schedule 40, also the seventh row in the table, and is known as 1-1/4″ or one and one-quarter inch.) Home Depot or other Big Box stores will just label it as 1-1/4”. Here’s the confusing part: There is NO dimension on 1-1/4″ pipe which is 1-1/4″. The exterior diameter is close to 1-1/4″. Anyway. Just learn: “Size 7, otherwise known as 1-1/4″ pipe.” Kee Safety clamps have their size molded into their body; They have two numbers, like “20-7”, meaning clamp style 20, size 7. Again, after you play with this set, if you ever encounter a clamp that’s not size 7, it sticks out like a sore thumb. (I once received a pile of clamps in a box, and there was one number 8 incorrectly included… it was instantly obvious.)

kee_clamp_markings

Galvanized steel – You want “galvanized steel pipe.” You will also find “black pipe” at your local Big Box store. Do not use “black pipe”. For one thing, it feels different to the bare hands, and I like it less. For another thing, it will rust if you have it outside. “Galvanized” means the steel is coated with some Zinc. The Zinc will corrode away before the steel rusts, and black pipe is NOT galvanized. For yet another thing, I have NO IDEA about the strength of “black pipe”. When you cut pipe, you expose steel which is not galvanized, and lo and behold! …it rusts. The pipe in the photo never got wet, that’s just good old humidity and oxygen doing their thing. (“Rust never sleeps!”)

galvanized_pipe_cut

Summing up

We’re building this scaf set with size 7 Kee clamps, an 8mm Allen wrench, and schedule 40 galvanized steel pipe.

Scaf 101: Parts list

(Part 2 of 13 in ~ Scaf 101)

You need about $450 for everything in the set I’m describing in this series. You’ll need a bit more if you need all the tools, and want to make the wooden “feet” too. …or a smidge less if you have the tools already and skip the feet. (But I suggest you build the feet too. You’ll be happier down the road.)

Clamps

You need only 12 clamps for this set. They’re pictured below, left-to-right.

4 of Kee Safety Klamp 20-7 – “Side Outlet Elbow”, Size 7 aka 1-1/4″ Dia. $17.50 each

4 of Kee Safety Klamp 21-7 – “90 Degree Two Socket Tee”, Size 7 / 1-1/4″ Dia. $14.00 each

4 of Kee Safety Klamp 12-7 – “45 Degree Single Socket Tee”, Size 7 / 1-1/4″ Dia. $15.75 each

kee_clamps_examples

The best place I’ve ever found for clamps is Global Industrial. Here’s the link to the Kee Safety family of clamps:

http://www.globalindustrial.com/g/storage/fittings-framing-rail/Kee-Klamp-Fittings/galvanized-kee-klamp-pipe-fittings

Currently, you have to choose brand “Kee” and then choose pipe size “1-1/4” to narrow the page down to showing just the clamps you want. The 12 clamps listed above are $170 (circa Feb 2016). When they add tax and shipping, the total comes to just under $200.

Skip to the exciting part: No don’t. But I will say, if you have just a little extra money — about $65 more — buy four additional 45° single socket tees. Way down the road, in the later builds, I’ll mention, “Hey, you’ll notice you have some 1-foot pieces you’re not using in this build! If you have those extra 45°, add a brace here…”

Pipe

7 pieces of 10 foot, galvanized steel pipe, size 1-1/4″, ~$220.

(The “breakdown list” is further down explaining the lengths to cut it into.)

Pro-tip: Steel pipe is dirty, and the threaded ends have grease on them. Don’t expect to simply toss this stuff in your car. Almost all of it will fit in a trunk, but the 7′ long pieces may give you trouble.

When I first bought this pipe it was about $23, then it was $27, and most recently $29. Since this pipe is just standard schedule 40 pipe, you can call around and price shop. But remember, you need someone to cut it for you, or you have to do a LOT of hacksawing. You definitely CAN get a better per-foot cost, but you may have to buy “bundles” of pipe. As a bonus, it won’t have any threads on it. But the pipe will be longer than 10-feet lengths, and probably delivered as “freight” by a truck. Again, the whole point of this series is to get you started on the cheap. So just buying 7 pipes from Depot is the way to go. (But don’t take my word for it, call around.)

Home Depot will cut the pipe for you. The pipe is sold with threaded ends. (They receive it that way. They don’t sell it without the threaded ends.) They charge $1 to cut the pipe AND put threads on the ends. Depending on the employee, they may cut the pipe for free (since threading the ends is the tedious part). But, if they charge you $11 for the eleven cuts (see below), be happy. $11 is WAY better than hacksawing steel pipe.

One last note about cutting the pipe. If you have Depot do it, they use a machine that grabs the pipe and spins it (it makes sense when you see it done.) The machine leaves a few little marks in the pipe. You can feel them, but they’re harmless.

clamping_marks

Tools

You need an 8mm Allen wrench. You’ll be happier if you have more than one because your new scaf set means you’re going to have new friends who you can put to work. Does this really need explaining? …fine, here’s a photo of a hand model holding a wrench:

allen_wrench

See that neck on the end of the wrench? That allows you to insert the wrench on a slight angle and spin it quickly with your fingers. Really handy to keep the upper L-bend from swinging into pipe/clamps — you’ll discover that happens ALL THE TIME, and is why people use rachet wrenches after a while of this. Seriously Craig? You took a photo of the angled Allen wrench? Yeup:

angled_allen_wrench

You can use a regular wrench as pictured, which has the advantage of keeping you from over-tightening the screws. The downside of this little wrench is you have to work pretty hard and it’s tedious to use.

Euphamism alert! The screws cut little pairs of curves into the pipes, making the scaf pipe look less sexy. The light marks (shown below) from reasonably tight screws I like to call “set screw kisses”, and the really deep gouges — that can sometimes cut your hand (none shown below) — from really tightened screws, I like to call “set screw hickies”. Yes, I’m a simple creature, easily amused.

set_screw_marks

Alternatively, you can buy the Allen driver to fit into a standard ratchet wrench if you already have one of those sets. The 8mm socket attachment should come as a 3/8″ drive socket – meaning it fits the “medium” sized driver. (Some people also buy the 3/8″-to-1/2″ drive socket adapter so they can put the 3/8″ drive socket onto the large, 1/2″ drive handle.)

IMG_1528

One last word about those set screw “kiss” marks: On the ends of the pipes, it’s not that big of a deal. The pipes will almost always be hidden inside clamps. But some of the clamps you will be positioning in the middle of the pipes. If you tighten the screws really hard, you make deep marks in parts of the pipe that you WILL be later stepping or grabbing. Experienced scaffers (did I just invent a word?) are more gentle on mid-pipe clamps, returning to snug them later, rather than tightening the daylights out of them immediately.

Break down

You need to make the following cuts. The employee at Depot is unlikely to appreciate the four, one-foot cuts. I recommend smiling, being polite and asking nicely. :)

Cut 2 pipes in half (i.e. at 5 feet.)
Cut 4 pipes at 7 feet.
Cut 1 pipe into 4 one-foot pieces, and 2 three-foot pieces.

You’ll end up with 18 pieces of pipe:
4 x 7′
4 x 5′
6 x 3′
4 x 1′

R&D digression: A bit about how I came up with this set: I have PILES of scaf and clamps. What I did was come up with small sets of parts and then figure out what I could build. I kept adding/removing/changing the pipe/clamp combinations to see what could be built. I also kept in mind that starters have to buy 10′ pipes; doesn’t make sense to go, “oh, we need just one more 4-foot piece” when they then have a 6-foot “extra”. So it’s a balance of cost, what you can cut from 10-foot pieces and how many clamps are needed. Way WAY at the end of this series I’ll mention a few places where having a few more 45-single outlets would let them add some bracing in the setups where they are not using the little 1-foot pieces. You can toss a little 1-foot angle brace in almost anywhere and it makes for bomber builds. I digress.

Extra credit: Feet

I bought a pressure treated 2×4 and made feet for the scaf. If you’re setting it up on concrete, the pipe WILL dig up the concrete when you have it set up certain ways. (The “A” frames for laché, the “railing” setup where the pipe ends rest on the ground, etc.) If you have these feet, you can just set the pipe ends in the feet.

scaf_feet

Mark out 8, 10-inch cuts on the 2×4. Use a 1-3/4″ (or whatever) hole saw to drill through 4 of the pieces. Then cut the 2×4 into pieces and screw them together. Viola!

Pro-tip: If you’re making feet, make more than 4 because the 2×4 is plenty long. You’ll use the feet down the road when you have more scaf. A lot of scaf designs I see have clamps and pipes right down on the ground to avoid the naked pipe ends resting on the floor/ground. Well, if you have feet for those pipe ends, you have a whole range of options where you move the pipes up from ground level (changing clamps of course) to give you more intermediate bar options. It will all makes sense once you are fully addicted to Pipe Culture. Anyway, if you want to go full out, make 8 feet (mark 16 10-inch pieces, drill through 8 of them) and you’ll use them on my last example setup.

Scaf 101: The set

(Part 3 of 13 in ~ Scaf 101)

This is the set:

4 feet (8 feet if you made all the ones I suggested)
4 side out elbows (lower group of clamps in the photo)
4 double socket tees (middle group)
4 45° single socket tees (8 if you bought the extras I mentioned)
4 7-foot pipes
4 5-foot pipes
6 3-foot pipes
4 1-foot pipes

Scaf 101: Inside the clamps

(Part 4 of 13 in ~ Scaf 101)

Remember when I said I’d start by explaining everything? Well, you should understand how the clamps work, so that you understand how to put them together. If you do it wrong, they wiggle loose and come apart surprisingly quickly.

Pro-tip: Scaf should be quiet! If you hear a rattle or tapping sound stop. Something is very loose — you probably forgot to tighten something. Or, you didn’t have things lined up correctly, then after the scaf is jostled a bit, things shift and voila! Loosey goosey. Learn to pay attention to your “scaf sense”. When your scaf sense tingles, stop and figure out what’s going on.

“omg Craig shut up already and let’s build something…” This is the last background information post. We’ll start building stuff in the next post. Please read this one carefully, this gets technical. But, if you understand this material, you’ll be a happy clamper later on.

Depth

On some of the clamps, you can actually insert the pipes too far. Usually, it’s the first pipe that you insert too far. In these pictures, the first shows the pipe inserted so far that the end of the pipe has bumped into the curved body of the clamp. That’s too far! You can see how the straight line of the side of the pipe looks out of whack. Tightening the screw will not fix this; although it will get tight. You will have two problems: 1) The overly inserted pipe might be in the way of some other pipe’s space, messing up alignment/lengths. 2) Things don’t turn out square/correct because when you start tightening everything else, this clamp is fighting the additional angle added by the mis-aligned pipe. If you get it right, your pipes make nice 90° (or 45° or whatever) angles.

WRONG:

pipe_insert_wrong

RIGHT:

pipe_insert_right

Bear in mind that the problem comes up when you cannot really see the angle you’re making. You have to sort of feel that the pipe is inserted correctly, while holding a pipe up over your head, or holding three pipes at once and aligning the clamp. You’ll get the hang of it.

More depth

But wait, it’s worse. Next you have to be thinking about whether each pipe will interfere with the other pipes. So in the “RIGHT” photo above, the pipe is still inserted too far. Why? Well the pipe inserted from the bottom of the photo looks like it has enough room. But the pipe inserted from your point of view probably should go father into the body. Or maybe it shouldn’t; maybe all three pipes need to be equally inserted for this setup. My point being that you have to pay attention. First, pay attention to my assembly hints. Later, you’ll understand intuitively how “an extra pipe width here”, or “a half pipe width there”, adds up to make your assemblies fit, or not fit. If I have included a close-up photo that shows the ends of pipes inside a clamp, then I’m thinking the insertion depth is really important in that clamp. As we go farther along with these setups, I’ve assembled (and photographed) some mistakes on purpose, and I’ll show you how it ends up messing up the setup and how to correct it.

Lands

In machining, a “land” is the accurately machined part (of something) that some other thing is supposed to rest on. Pipe clamps are not machined (they are cast in molds) but they do have lands; the places where the clamp actually touches the pipe. In Kee Klamps, the lands are circumferential raised ridges on the interior of the clamp. Each set key presses on the pipe midway between the two lands; it’s like how you might press down on the middle of a board resting on two saw horses as you cut the end off. The set key is pressing in the middle, and instead of flat saw horses, the clamp has round ridges that cradle the other side of the pipe. Here are photos of some pipe lands:

IMG_1359

Above: One land deep inside the clamp is easy to see. The other land is at the very face (closest to you in this view) of the clamp. (The already-inserted pipe is surely in far enough to be over both of its lands; in fact, it might be in so far as to hit the clamp body and cause that alignment problem discussed above.) When inserting a pipe in this view, the set screw will drive the pipe upward until it touches both lands, at the top of the photo.

IMG_1375

Above: Lands are the extreme nearest and farthest sides of this clamp. Set screw is pressing from the right, so the pipe will touch the lands on the left. Also, the pipe will have to go all the way through (protruding slightly) on both sides of this clamp.

In the next photo is a similar clamp where the pipe is not through (upwards towards the viewer) far enough to reach the land at the top opening of the clamp. This pipe could wiggle loose. As it is now, tightening the screw will drive the pipe into the clamp body. It looks like the end of the pipe will touch the clamp body where the body is rounding from one side-out to the other side-out. There, the body is curved (convex) enabling the pipe end to wiggle; compared to the land (concave) at the pipe opening face which would cradle the pipe.

IMG_1403

Next is just another shot of a clamp, its lands and the set screw on the bottom. Remember, you have to understand, and insert the pipes correctly when you cannot actually see what’s going on.

IMG_1458

Once you get the feel for this, you’ll recognize when you have it right. The pipe will be loose in the clamp initially. As you tighten the screw, the pipe will move to the opposing side of the clamp. Ideally, if you have it all lined up right, it reaches the lands at the same time (or things are loose enough that the clamp pivots easily to bring the second land into contact). When you do it wrong, you get one land, and the pipe hits the clamp body or the mis-aligned clamp just torques against the screw-and-one-land. That’s a recipe for wiggling-loose.

At this point, you should see why you don’t simply stuff the pipes into the clamps as far as possible and then tighten the screws. It’s all about having sufficient insertion depth to reach the lands.

Next is a photo of “this looks good”. It’s a good sign when all the space is on the side with the screw, and you can see the pipe is flush up against the other side (i.e., against the land). What you cannot see, but have to feel, is whether the pipe “registered” (i.e. “found it’s correct location”) when the end of the pipe in the clamp was driven to its land.

IMG_1364

One last item: Now that you know where the six lands in this clamp have to be, you understand how you could choose how far extra to insert the pipes. Any one of these three could be inserted (roughly) an extra half-pipe-width to occupy the central hollow of the body. Or, all three could be democratically not inserted beyond the interior land.

Mastery

In the next photo, you should now have an “a-HAH!” moment about why the threaded pipe ends are a bad thing. (Which, we’re only dealing with because this is “getting started with scaf on the cheap.”)

IMG_1488

I’ve drawn the red line parallel to the pipe’s side and offset a little so you can still see the pipe. I’ve drawn the orange line parallel to the threads (and offset a bit so you can see the threads.) Now, the pipe on the left could touch the inward land at the end of the pipe (because no taper). But the pipe on the right has it’s diameter reduced slightly by the thread cutting producing a tapered end. So if you put the threaded pipe in so the threads just reached the inward land then the pipe (or the clamp) will be pulled slightly on an angle as the pipe end has to be driven just a smidge farther to reach the land.

So it turns out that if you know this little detail you can do things like orient all the 3-foot pieces (which all have a thread on one end) the same way, and insert them all father into the clamp body so the unthreaded pipe body reaches the inward land. To do that you have to not insert some other pipe into the clamp and occupy the middle space. You’ll see an example of this in the first build. And this little trick about how to insert threaded ends just a little farther only makes sense once you understand lands and how the clamps work.

Look away, insanity ahead: So know you understand that pipe threads are bad for our scaf build. What to do? Easy, buy all your pipe by the bundle via freight without the threads. (Wee! …thousands of dollars.) Or, on the longer pieces where an inch doesn’t matter (you know, those 7-foot pipes Depot cut for you from 10-foot sticks) just cut the threads off the end of each pipe with a hacksaw. Or cut all the threads off all the pipe and deal with the fact that your scaf all has an inch missing here and there. Or, go full-on insanity mode, buy a lot of extra pipe from Depot, cut all your scaf pipe in perfect integral-foot sizes withOUT the threads, and recycle all the odd-sizes you end up with. (Bring the pipe home uncut, start with a 10-footer, cut off an inch, cut off a 7-footer, cut off a 2-footer, throw away the other few inches. etc. You can make a 9’10” stick, one-8-and-one-1, 7-and-2, 6-and-3, 5-and-4 if you’re willing to make a ZILLION hacksaw cuts.)

Whizardy

In the beginning, remembering which way to orient the 45° single outlet tees can be tricky (because they go onto different pipes at different times as you’re assembling). But beyond that, angle braces are actually pretty hard to assemble well.

Exercise: Let’s look at this photo and make some wild guesses about of what might be going on…

angle_braces_suck_actually

  • The set screw towards the bottom of the photo is snug. Gap is on the screw side. But probably not fully tightened because the screw seems to be a little proud (sticking out too far.) Opposing side of pipe has no gap, good.
  • No idea if the pipe is in so far that it’s hitting the other pipe, instead of resting in the inward land. Hmmm, would have to feel that as it was put together. WAIT… why is that screw so proud? Maybe the end of the pipe is hitting the upper pipe, that would twist the pipe clockwise, I can see the outside land is tight. Oh, the pipe is in too far. Or the pipe is being held by hand and that screw isn’t tight at all. Gah! …this is hopeless.
  • The upper screw seems to be not at all tight because the clamp is resting on the pipe (down toward the concrete.
  • IF the lower screw is tight, and IF the lower pipe is correctly landed, then the orientation of the angle brace is off; it needs to have it’s left end (out of the photo) moved clockwise. What? Why? …look at the alignment of the clamp at the very top edge and that side of the pipe. The whole clamp needs to rotate clockwise.

The best way to assemble these angles is to slide the clamps along their side pipes, and insert the brace pipe into both clamps at once. Then, get one end of the brace pipe on both lands (without inserting it so far that it hits the other side pipe in the tee), and tighten the screw moderately. Next, do the other end of the brace. Hopefully, you can still wiggle and shift the clamps on the side pipes, because you need to orient the brace so that both of the clamps will land correctly when you tighten the screws to lock them onto the side pipes. You will only be able to make all four lands on the side pipes touch if the corner is close to a 90° angle. Sometimes you land/clamp the ends onto the brace piece, only to discover that you can then not get the clamps to land perfectly on the side bars. But, if you get all eight lands to touch, you will have an insanely strong corner. Unfortunately, building good angle braces is something you just have to learn by doing.

Bam! You’re now a clampion. (What’s with the puns? I know, right!) But, as I sad at the very beginning, I wish someone had put all this together in one place when I started. Having read to this point, you have now just saved yourself about a year of “learning the hard way” about how to build with scaf.

Scaf 101: Build 1, cube

(Part 5 of 13 in ~ Scaf 101)

This first build is the most obvious thing to assemble and you can do a lot with it. (Yes, it is not actually a cube; I suppose it’s a right cubic rectangle.) I’m going to give a TON of detailed instruction on this build with a million photos. On subsequent builds I’ll be brief.

Advanced: As I’m assuming this is the first build you have ever done, I’m keeping the diagonals to only two. However, if you bought the four extra 45° single outlets, you can add two 1-foot diagonal braces to the mid-sized sides. I’ll mention how to do this as we go along.

Prep

Begin by clamping the four 3-foot pieces into the elbows. Note that the threaded ends go in the elbows.

IMG_1518

Notice the orientation of the clamps. The two set screws that will be used later, are facing the pipe. You’ll be happy these screws are facing up a few steps from now.

IMG_1519

Why are we putting the threaded ends in these clamps? You’ll see why when we clamp the other ends of these pipes. For now, recall the discussions about inserting the pipes a little farther so the body of the pipe – i.e., not the tapered threads – is touching the inward land in the clamp.

IMG_1520

The bottom

Introducing the “layout” shot. I find it really helpful to lay everything out (until you get really good at scaf) so you can see that you have all the pieces you need. This is just a partial layout; it’s obviously not all the scaf for this build. In later builds, I’ll take an entire layout shot so you can see the mess. I think the layout (looking at a photo before it’s built) helps you visualize how you convert the loose junk into the finished product. Anyway, here’s the layout shot for the first corner:

IMG_1391

Of particular interest in the above shot: I’ve slid the two 45° single outlet tees onto the side pipes. That’s a 7-foot pipe on the right, a 5-foot pipe on the left, and the cross brace is another 3-foot pipe.

Below is, basically, another layout shot. Notice that I’m putting the threaded ends of the side pipes into this clamp. Can you guess why?

IMG_1390

This is a hair splitting detail to deal with the fact that this pipe has threaded ends. This clamp already has the first pipe pushed a bit into the center space. So the next two pipes are not going to be able to be inserted extra to get their non-threaded bodies to the lands. (Boo!) But this problem has to happen somewhere in the build, right? So I’m doing this here, where there is a corner brace that will beef up this corner. Because all the pipes have one threaded end, this “fixes” two of the twelve threaded-end problems in this build.

Advanced: Turns out we’ll have both ends of the 3-foot pipes occupying the clamp bodies. So all of the 5-foot and 7-foot pipes’ threaded ends aren’t going to land perfectly. (Because, taper.) So, if you have the extra 45° single outlet tees, you can add a brace on each of the 3’x7′ sides. That will brace two more (one per each brace) of the remaining four threaded ends. Again, I’ll explain more as we go along.

Next is a finished shot of this corner assembly. Here you’ll see another reason why I love those wooden feet. Things like this are so much easier to assemble with the feet doing a little propping up. Note that this prop trick doesn’t always work. It’s handy here for this brace, but after this, the setup has to stay flat on the ground. We’ll do another angle brace soon, and it will be on the top face, so no need to prop it up.

IMG_1395

The next photo is the layout shot for the rest of the parts for this “lower” part of the cube.

Please notice that the next few photos incorrectly have the vertical 3-foot pipes with the threads out. Right after I took these photos, I realized it would be better with the threads in – which is how it’s described above, to this point. So I flipped the pipes around… and promptly forgot to retake these photos. When I realized these shots were wrong, I didn’t feel like doing the entire build all over… because this space is already full of other scaf. :^P

IMG_1396

Advanced: If you have the extra 45° clamps, and want to add a brace, you should add a clamp where I have the red arrow. That’s the end of the 7-foot pipe that has a thread, and would most benefit from bracing. The clamp should angle towards the corner, since you’ll put the other clamp for this brace on the 3-foot, vertical pole. I’m splitting hairs here about where to put braces. But, this is meant to be educational, ‘ya know?

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The next photo shows two more verticals, and the 7-foot side clamped tight. Just the fourth vertical, and the last, 5-foot side remain to be installed.

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At this point, insert the 5-foot pipe into the clamp (the one towards the top of the photo.) The pipe, of course, will just lay there when you let go. Then clamp the fourth vertical to the pipe. (That’s the clamp/set-screw where the Allen wrench is laying.) You’ll have enough swing/wiggle in the 5-foot for this to be easy even with one hand always on the vertical pipe.

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Why? Diatribe about safety: Yes, this build is pretty harmless. But as you build bigger things, you will live longer if you are always thinking, “when I forget and let go” or “when I slip” or “when I get stung by a bee and drop this part”. At this instant in the build, that fourth vertical looks like it’s attached – it’s clamped to the 5-foot side pipe, but the pipe is free to rotate but you cannot tell at a glance. The vertical may even stand for a while before falling over. This is exactly how someone gets hurt. Something that looks stable, actually isn’t clamped yet.

Now tighten the other screw on the vertical pipe’s corner clamp which fixes the 7-foot pipe into this corner.

Anything else? Yeup, the other end of that 5-foot pipe. Learn to keep track of what’s tight. Learn to spot proud set screws that need to be tightened (or whose clamp alignment needs fixing so the screw goes in farther). While you’re at it, give the structure a couple shakes, and then go check every set screw.

Pro-tip: Soon you will have a feel for “this is how much I torque these things” and you’ll go around and just sort of torque torque torque them quickly. In an instant, you can apply “just that right amount of torque”, and when the screw doesn’t move, you’re happy. This is another way to spot good scaf builders: They do not go around and actually tighten each screw a little bit more each time. (The screws cut hickies the tighter you make them.) Good scaffers know what a tight set screw feels like before it moves.

Mastery-tip: The set screws scratch the steel pipes and move the Zinc coating. That leads to a tiny bit of corrosion between the pipe and the screw, which makes the set screw stick in place. That’s a good thing because it helps prevent things wiggling loose. So if you’re in the habit of actually moving each screw when you periodically check things, then you’re messing up the one time when corrosion is actually working in your favor.

So, here’s what you have, everything tight and ready for the upper frame (except, of course, your 3-foot verticals are not upside-down like mine are in the photo):

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Advanced: If you’re doing the extra brace, you need to drop the second 45° angle outlet clamp onto the vertical (arrow). Later – no, do not do it now – we will install a 1-foot brace where the line is.

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The top frame

Attach two of the 90° two outlet tees to the tops of two diagonally opposite vertical pipes. Be sure the pipes are inserted far enough so the cut off end lands correctly.

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This is why the 3-foot pipes are threads-down. If the threads were currently UP, well, the threads would have to stick out. On the other hand, if you assembled this entire thing with the threads UP, when you flip it over, those threads would be PERFECT for dropping into those neat wood feet. This is how I actually set this cube up when I use it flat. I DON’T put the thread into the clamps at the very first step and then I flip the entire build over and use the wooden feet. It’s actually just like the “railings” build that we’ll do next. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Anyway, here’s the status shot with two clamps on two of the verticals:

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Here’s another layout shot showing the 7-foot pipe (with 45° single outlet tee) and the 5-foot pipe that will be added next. Notice I’m putting the threaded end of the 7-foot pipe down where the second diaglonal brace will go.

Advanced: The second 1-foot diagonal will go on the last 7-foot pipe, on the other side.

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Another diatribe about safety: Loose clamps on poles lead to the “sliding death clamp” problem. You’ll experience this some day. You’ll pick up a pipe, and somewhere on the part that is NOT in your field of view, there will be a loose clamp. You’ll hear the sliding sound of a clamp… and you have a split second to figure out if the clamp is coming your way and about to pinch your fingers on the bar, or if it’s going the other way and going to hit someone else. Bonus points: if the clamp falls off, the pipe balance changes quickly and you have the slap-stick, not-funny, swinging pipe joke.

…so when you put “middle” clamps on pipes that you are going to lift or carry, snug their set screw so they don’t move.

Pickup one of the 90° two outlet tees in your right hand. (Bear with me, this is clever.) Stand inside the setup, pickup the 7-foot pipe and put the left end (with the threads) into the corner clamp:

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Drop the clamp onto the vertical pipe. This is not how we’ll install this clamp, I’m just using it as an extra hand. If you’re paying attention, you’ll realize this entire build can be done by yourself perfectly safely. (Nit-picking: I was also holding a camera through all of this. I should have flipped that clamp so the screws were on the other side… you’ll see in a moment.)

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Boop! I no longer have to hold that 7-foot pipe; it’s trapped on both ends. Now go to the other end – the end we inserted first – and lock it in place with the set screw. We don’t want it coming out, and we may need to pull on it in a moment.

Next, pick up the 5-foot pipe and put the right end into the corner clamp:

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No photo for this part, but: Rest the left end on top of the 7-foot pipe, and then lock the right end of the 5-foot pipe into its corner. Like the 7-foot pipe, we may need to pull on it and we don’t want it coming out.

Now, holding the 5-foot pipe in your right hand, lift the 7-foot pipe and the clamp – and here I had to stop and flip my clamp, but you can just – rotate the clamp to receive the 5-foot pipe. (Happiness: You can’t drop either pipe because their out-of-sight ends are already locked in.)

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Line them up holding the clamp. Since we had the forethought to already clamp the other ends, the other ends won’t fall out on us as we wrestle this part.

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Now this gets tricky. You may have to coerce the vertical pipe to come over and want to go into this clamp. (If you’re doing the advanced version, the extra 1-foot brace would fight us at this time.) Eventually, you get this:

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Now tighten up all three screws on this corner clamp.

Advanced: Now you can assemble and tighten the 1-foot corner brace that is on this vertical pipe.

Finally, you now have half of the upper frame:

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Place the last 5-foot pipe into the right side; Put the threaded end to your right (towards the braced corner.) Notice the 45° single outlet tee clamp for the top face’s corner brace is on this pipe. Use the last clamp to hold the end for you. Tighten up the far end of the 5-foot pipe. (We’re going to be pulling/pushing on this pipe like we did on the other corner.)

Advanced: If you’re doing the extra 1-foot braces with your extra 45° single outlet tees, drop the one of the 45° brackets onto the vertical pipe angled upwards.

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Advanced: 1-foot corner brace? Slip your last 45° single outlet onto the 7-foot pipe, angled facing the vertical.

Slip the left end (farthest away in the next photo) of the last 7-foot pipe into the far clamp. Rest the pipe on the 5-foot pipe or temporary clamp, and tighten the far end.

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Pick up the 5-foot pipe and the clamp with your right hand, rotate the clamp to accept the 7-foot pipe:

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Make up the corner and coerce it into alignment:

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Tighten all three screws on this corner clamp.

Advanced: Make up that last 1-foot corner brace!

Finally, finish that 3-foot corner brace on the top face:

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Voila!

Flat: You can use it with the round-faced outside corners down (as you assembled it), or flip the slightly more rough 90° two outlet tees to the bottom, or (bonus points) assemble threads up so they’d be sticking up at this point, then flip it over so the threads disappear inside the feet you made!

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Side: Flip this way for 5-foot high climb-ups etc. You’ll learn how sturdy it is. (Answer: reasonably.)

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Tall: Finally, stand it up all the way for pullups or climbing challenges etc.

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Scaf 101: Build 2, railings

This is simply a slight variation on the “cube” build. You can either assemble it this way, or slide the 90° two outlet tee clamps along the vertical legs when you’re done with your cube. In the cube build, when you’re assembling the upper frame…

Scaf 101: Build 3, parallel-sorta-bars

This is another variation on the cube (the next build I’m going in a totally different direction ;). basically, take the 7-foot side pipes and turn them into stabilizing legs, so you can do some limited laché (there’s a better build for that though), pullups, climbing and under-bar stuff.

Here’s the layout shot:

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Assemble the ride side (which will be vertical). Do the two uprights and the top 3-foot first. Note the 45° single outlet tee on the righthand vertical.

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Next, clamp the verticals to the 90° two outlet tee (we’re not using one of its outlets though.) Then clamp the 90° two outlet tees to the 7-foot base pipe. I just eyeballed the centering.

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Stand this side up, and put a 7-foot pipe into one side. Remember to slip the other 45° single outlet on here. (Again, I snug these clamps down a bit so they don’t go sliding.)

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Assemble the other side; verticals, top pipe and bottom. Remember the 45° single outlet on the opposing vertical. Position the two assemblies like this:

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Stand up the side, lift up the 7-foot pipe and convince them to line up:

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Fiddle the other 7-foot long side pipe into place. Make up both braces. (Bonus, if you have the extra 45° single outlet tees, you could add two more braces to this build.) Stick the feet on it (otherwise the 7-foot base legs don’t actually touch to add stability – but you could shim them with whatever.)

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I took the above shot at about eye level – obviously, it’s a 5-foot tall setup. And stable enough to do climbing and some gentle swinging.

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Scaf 101: Build 4, rail precisions

This is a very stable, adjustable setup for learning rail precisions close to the ground.

Here’s the layout shot. The 1-foot pieces will be vertical.

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In this build, I’m going to use 3-foot braces incorrectly; I’m going to build them out-of-plane, where all the angles are just a bit off. Turns out it’s close enough to work because the brace pipes are 3-feet long. This wouldn’t work with shorter braces. (Look at it closely when you put it together to see what I mean.)

Here are closer layout shots of the two types of corners in this build. First, a corner with a brace:

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…and the corners without a brace. The upper clamp that holds the precision rail has an extra outlet we won’t be using.

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Put the 90° two outlet tees on the 7-foot bases. This is a little trick to make the pair on each pipe have matching alignments. This also makes their set screws super easy to tighten. Set the distance between the clamps (on each pipe) to be the distance of the precision you want to end up with in the finished setup.

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Put all the verticals in place. Since each of the elbows has an outlet I’m not using, I’ve turned them out/away from the jump-gap.

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Put the cross bars (the ones you’ll jump on) in place, and build the 3-foot braces. You can adjust the distance by loosening 3 set screws and sliding one side. (Another spot where you can use the wooden feet to prop up the ends of the 7-foot base pipes so yo can get at the set screws that are on the ground.)

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Minimum is about 2-feet, limited by the angle braces:

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…maximum is nearly 7-feet. If you never plan on going out to seven feet, you could also do the build using the other 5-foot pipes as bases. (Sorry about all my other scaf pipe sneaking into the shot. All of these builds I’m doing with just “the set” described in the beginning.)

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Scaf 101: Build 5, A-frame swingset

By now, you should be pretty comfortable with these builds. So for this one, I’m going to start off by making a poor decision, so you can see how it doesn’t work out at the end. Then I’ll make a change and show it rebuilt.

Here’s a layout shot for one A-frame end of a “swing set”. If you look at the apex closely, you’ll see I was considering using a side outlet elbow. (Two 7-foot legs, and a 3-foot cross pipe.)

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At which point I thought this might be an interesting teachable moment. So I swapped in the 90° two outlet tee. This seems like a good idea right? We’re going to use a 5-foot pipe across the top, one end of it has threads, I can slide this clamp further in from the end and it’ll get a much stiffer top corner.

Advanced: If you have the extra 45° single outlet tees you could add awesome little 1-foot braces on two of the corners at the top too. But DON’T – spoiler – we’ll use the 1-foot pieces for something else at the end.

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So I assembled one A-frame side and put in the 5-foot top pipe. You can see the other A-frame side is also assembled on the ground. The 7-foot pipes in this set all have threaded ends, and I’ve left them all facing down so the A-frame top clamps are more stable.

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And here’s the assembled A-frame swing set. It’s about 5 feet high and is surprising stable because of the very wide 90° angle at the top.

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So can we make this more interesting or more stable? Let’s put a 5-foot base across the bottom of one side, just to stiffen it up. (But it can also be a laché precision target too.) Two elbows, a 5-foot pipe, and you’ll see the 5-foot seems long, so bury as much of the pipe’s ends in the clamps as you can. You get this:

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We still have two elbows left, so we could do this on the other side and call it a day. But we also have two more 90° two outlet tees, so maybe we could put a bar, across the other legs, but up higher; just to make it interesting? Here you realize that using the two 90° two outlet tees on the top of the A-frame means the entire thing is too narrow to pull this off. In the photo, I have the far side clamped, and the near side just snugged and resting so I could take the photo; it’s clearly too long. If you slid this down low, you could just stretch/spread the legs, but up at this height, it’s a no-go.

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At this point (if not sooner) you’d realize that you cannot get those top clamps out and swap them. You have to tear the entire thing down; thus my thought that this would be good to show, so you never have to do it. :)

Here’s a do-over layout shot for the clamp change, and the finished do-over (with that low base with elbows installed).

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Now we can add some fun stuff. You can use the two outlet tees (you have four left) to put a base on the other side (note the clamp orientation).

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But we have that on the other side already, so you can flip those clamps and position this 5-foot pipe anywhere. You have a “window” on one side too!

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We really should flip the elbows on the other side, so they “sit” into the feet better. Now we also have a “ground rail” on one side. Perfect to start from before jumping/reaching to swing on the bar, or as a laché landing target:

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Done? …not hardly! We have clamps left over. Grab that last 5-foot pipe and your four 1-foot pieces, two 90° two outlet tees, and you can make a bomber ground rail (because you made all 8 wooden feet way back when).

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Finally, you still have two 3-foot pipes left. If you have the extra four 45° single outlet tees, you could add those pipes in somewhere. As diagonals to the base, or in the window, or something crazy like connecting the free ground rail to the A-frame somehow.

So this build ends up being full of options. Climbing/gap challenges around the side braces; balance/cat-on-a-rail challenges; precisions; swinging. This is one of my favorites that you can build with this set.