4th of July 2011 Preparation

4th of July and Halloween are the two holidays most celebrated at the Wirehed Compound, with the 4th involving a big party every year. The first 4th of July at the compound in 2008, we had the idea to create a reflecting pool in order to enhance our safe and sane fireworks display. In the years prior, we displayed our fireworks on an elevated plank in the street in front of our house. Our options were fairly limited. After moving to the compound, we had almost a half acre of asphalt in our backyard to use as our stage.

We also had a quonset hut full of large pieces of lumber and various metal objects and other random items you’d find in the workshop of your grandfather who frequented auctions and kept anything that could potentially be useful. We found four 8′ 4″ x 6″ boards which we strapped together and placed a plastic liner inside to create our reflecting pool.

In 2009, we felt that we needed to top the previous year because that’s how we roll. We happened to have 2 pallets of cinderblocks for a retaining wall we were going to build. We put together an approximately 10′ x 25′ pool, which turned out nicely. I apparently didn’t take any day time photos of just the pool.

In 2010, we went back to the 8′ x 8′ pool, but we added a 55 gallon drum that we painted to look like a tiki. We found an old pool pump in the workshop that we used to create a waterfall effect over the lip of the tiki. We came up with this brilliant idea on July 2nd, so we spent two late nights and long days in the creation of this. We were thrilled with the results.

This year, we started building over a week before the 4th, which was a first for us. Since our fallback 8′ boards were put into use as a tiki bar for our October 2010 Attack of the Iguana Man party, and the cinderblocks became a retaining wall, we had to come up with a new plan.

The quonset hut didn’t let us down. With our neighbor’s help, 4 large wood beams were located and put into use. They even found some trim pieces, creating one of the nicest pools we’ve made so far. It was so nice, that as I was sitting enjoying the newly finished pool, I had an idea to create a papier maché rock wall behind the tiki. Not the best idea for practicality, putting paper near fire and water, but it was the best way to create a wall cheaply and quickly.

After some some design changes to the idea, our neighbor, Matt, said he’d help build it. I ran out to acquire beer for the build while the guys got to work. More digging around in the quonset hut and Matt’s backyard, and we had the lumber necessary to create an armature for the wall. Within a couple of hours, they had a frame ready for the chicken wire. The final size was about 18′ long by 6′ high at the highest point.

I used a mixture of 8 cups of warm water, 8 cups of flour and 1 cup of liquid starch for paste. Sometimes, I would need to add a little more flour to make it thick enough. I wasn’t being too careful with the measuring. For part of the construction, I placed strips of maché for support of the squares of maché to be placed on top. Unfortunately, this took too much time, so I skipped it for the remainder of the project.

My original plan was to put at least 2 layers of papier maché, but it took about 25 hours to put one layer on, which left me just enough time to paint. Since this project is temporary, one layer would do.

When doing outdoor papier maché in the heat, a canopy is recommended to avoid cracking and separating of the paste.
We had been collecting “oops” paint at hardware stores for projects such as this, so we used a can of exterior latex paint for our base layer. I wanted specific colors for the top two layers to create the rock effect, so we headed over to WalMart and purchased the cheapest interior paint they had. 2 gallons of stone grey and 1 gallon of black. The black went down as a base color in preparation for dry brushing. It turned out much better than we expected.
A few finishing touches of some plants and rocks borrowed from the front yard, and we were set!

See the photos from the 4th of July party.


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