Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Building Your Own Muscadine Trellis

What’s better than muscadines?  Muscadine wine!  But before you harvest your own muscadines to produce your own wine you need to first build a trellis.  If you would have asked me a few months ago how to build a muscadine trellis I wouldn’t have been able to tell you.  However, I did know one thing about muscadine vines and that is that they can be very heavy.  As the saying goes: “necessity is the mother of invention” and I knew just enough about the vine to design and construct my own simple trellis system.  I have to apologize in advance, this will be a detailed read, and may be a bit boring, but if you are looking to build a sturdy system that will last for years then I think this will be a useful post for you.

My design consists of three “T” shaped posts spaced ten feet apart from each other and two “dead-man” posts, one at each end, and spaced five feet away from a T post.  A 3/16’s galvanized steel cable is supported by the T posts and is what vines will grow on.  Each dead-man post is buried in the ground at a forty-five degree angle and they are what the 3/16’s cable is anchored into; the dead-man posts are also what support much of the weigh of the vines themselves.  Now, let’s get started.

I'm going to include a brief materials list here:

-Four 8' pressure treated 4x4's
-Two 12' pressure treated 2x4's
-Eighty feet of galvanized steel 3/16th's cable.
-Twelve 1/4" bolts (4 1/2") with twelve nuts and twenty four washers.
-Three 3/8" lag bolts (6 1/2") with three nuts and six washers.
-Two stainless steel or galvanized turn buckles.
-Eight stainless steel or galvanized 3/16" cable clamps.
-Two 3/8" eye bolts with washers and nuts.
-Six 3" galvanized deck screws.
-Five bags of concrete

First let’s start by cutting our lumber.  Make sure that all of the lumber that you are using for this project is pressure treated.  Cut three 4x4’s at 66” and two 4x4’s at 36”.  Next cut three 2x4’s at 48” and six 2x4’s at 22 1/8” (twenty-two and one eighth inches).  While we are talking about lumber you will also need five bags of concrete to properly anchor the posts into the ground.  Now that you have all of your lumber cut let’s talk about the hardware that you will need.  The total length of this trellis, if you use the same spacing I did, will be thirty feet; the cable will run the length of the trellis system twice and it angles down into the dead-man posts so you will need approximately seventy-five to eighty feet of 3/16’s galvanized steel cable.  If you decide to add more posts you your system then you will need more cable.

To anchor the cables you will need two eye bolts with washers and nuts (I used a 3/8’s galvanized eye bolt but a 1/4” eye bolt should work) and you will also need two galvanized or stainless steel turn buckles which will be used to tension the cable.  Eight total cable clamps will be needed to properly secure the cable to the turn buckles.  Lastly, you will need twelve 1/4” by 4 1/2" bolts (with twenty-four washers and twelve nuts) and three 3/8” by 6 1/2" bolts (with six washers and three nuts).

So going back to the lumber, clamp and glue two 22 1/8” 2x4’s to a 48” 2x4.  In doing so, leave a 3 3/4" (three and three-quarters) space in the center, between the 22 1/8” boards, which will create a notch for the 66” 4x4 post; the 22 1/8” boards will be flush with the 48” boards on the ends and along the edges.  Then drill a half inch hole 2” from each end and 1 3/4” down; these will be the holes that the 3/16’s cable will run through.  Next, make marks at 5” from each end, at 15” from each end and one mark at 24” from the end (the 24” mark will be dead center).  Excluding the mark at 24”, measure down 1 3/4” and drill a 5/16’s hole; run your 1/4” bolts through these holes using a washer at each and and Loctite the nuts on.  If you decide not to use bolts for this portion of the design you could probably use 3” galvanized deck screws.  Drill a 1/2” hole at the 24” mark (also at 1 3/4” down); this will be the hole that the 3/8”  bolt travels through to attach the 48” 2x4 post to the 4x4 post.  You will need to repeat this process three times if you are going to be using three T posts.

Moving on the the 4x4 posts, mark a line at 18” on all three of the 66” posts.  These posts will be  buried in the ground, 18” deep, and this line will help you determine if the post has achieved it’s proper depth.  Then, at the other end of the post, drill a half inch hole 1 3/4” (one and three-quarters) down from the end of the post and centered in the 4x4.  Don’t attach the 2x4’s yet; wait until the posts have been secured and concreted in the ground.  If you add the 2x4’s before the posts have been concreted into the ground they will be top-heavy and may fall over while the concrete is drying.  Take your 36” 4x4 posts and mark a line at two feet; these posts will be used as the dead-man posts and will be buried two feet in the ground at a forty-five degree angle.  Drill a half inch hole four inches down from the end and centered in the 4x4 post; go ahead and run your 3/8” eye bolt through the hole, slide the washer over the threaded end and thread the nut on with Loctite.  I know that you won’t be able to tighten the nut until there is tension on the eye bolt but it will be one less step you will have to complete in the field if you do it in your workshop.  Repeat this process with the other dead-man post.

Now that you have everything fabricated and ready to go, put your boots on and let’s head out to the field.  Using a rope at least thirty feet long, stake one end of the rope into the ground and make a straight line with it where you want your trellis to be and then stake the other end down such that the line is tight.  You can also use a chalk line if you prefer- I just used a rope because I didn’t have a chalk line.  This will help you to keep all of the posts in a straight line.  Starting with one of the 66” 4x4 posts, dig a hole one and one half feet deep and then dig another one ten feet away or however far away you decide to space your posts; repeat this process until all of your 66” post holes are dug.  Next, using a level and two temporary support legs (per post) made out of some scrap lumber, insert a post into the hole and make sure that it is at the proper depth; remember that once the 66” post is properly buried that it will stand 48” as measured from ground level.  Then level the post vertically and screw on the support legs to hold it in place while you pour the concrete into the hole and once again, you will repeat this process for all of the posts.

Moving on to the dead-man posts you will need to dig a two-foot deep hole five feet away from each of the last 66” posts.  The posts will then be buried at a forty-five degree angle leaning away from the 66” posts with the eye bolts facing up.  Once you have achieved this you can pour the concrete in and let it set up.  Now it is just a waiting game.  While we are waiting I would like tell you about a product that will make your day a little simpler- the tool caddy.  I purchased a simple plastic tool caddy before we moved out here and it has been a great purchase.  Before I do any work out in the field I load all of the required tools and hardware into the caddy and I take it out to my worksite and it minimizes the amount of trips I have to make back to my workshop for tools.

So now that the concrete is set-up and dried according to the instructions on the bag, we can remove the temporary supports off of our posts; next go ahead and attach the 48” cross members you made out the 2x4’s by running the 3/8’s inch bolts through the half inch holes using the washers and Loctite.  Then place a level on top of the 2x4 cross member and level it out.  Run two 3" deck screws through the 2x4 into the 4x4 post to lock it into place.  This will finish the T posts and we are ready to attach the cables and hardware.

Run your cable through the half inch holes in the 2x4’s on the T posts so that the cable runs through all of the holes on one side of the trellis and run the cable down and through the eye bolt in one of the dead-man posts.  Keep pulling the cable through the eye bolt and feed it through the half inch hole on the other side of the 2x4’s and run it back through all of the T posts.  By the way, wrapping the end of the cable in some electrical tape will help you feed it through the holes; you may also need to use bolt cutters to cut the cable.  Once you have run the cable through all of the posts you are ready to attach the turn buckles and tension the cable.  It may also help to have another person out there with you to run the cable through the posts.

If you have vice-grip pliers go get them, they will help you tension the cable before you attach the turn buckles.  Clamp down on one end of the cable with the pliers where it feeds into the last 2x4 nearest where you are going to be attaching the turn buckles.  Then go over to the other side of the same T post and pull tension on the cable with your hand; then attach another vice grip clamp once the cable is tight.  This procedure will allow you to attach the turn buckles easily with a tight cable.

Next, make sure that the eye bolts in the turn buckles are screwed out all of the way.  If they are not and you attach them to the cable you may not be able to tension the cable properly.  Using the cable clamps and a socket wrench, attach the turn buckles to the cables; use two cable clamps per eye bolt- there will be four cable clamps per turn buckle.  If you just use two cable clamps per turn buckle there is a chance that the cable will slip under tension; use electrical tape the clean up the ends.  Now I forgot to mention the cable on the other side of the turn buckles but it’s simple- you will just use another section of 3/16’s cable and run it through the other dead man post, attaching the ends to the turn buckles.  Once everything is tightened down, remove the vice-grip pliers and tension the line with your turn buckles.

If you stuck with me this long and read this post I would like to thank you… I realize that this was a detailed read but I think that you will be happy with your trellis.  The only thing left to do at this point is to add your muscadine vines!  I hope that you will be able to use this post to construct your trellis or I hope that it at least gives you some ideas about how to design your own.  If you have any questions please leave them in the comment box and I will get back with you.  Thanks for reading.

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