Resurfacing the A-frame

Refinishing my A-frame was more of a project than it needed to be. Thanks to a couple of friends who helped me lock down a date to take that first step: pulling it apart to see how it had to be put back together, it finally got started. I didn’t find help when searching around the web, so I thought maybe I should put a little post about it. Both of my friends are very patient and observant, so we disassembled it quite gracefully and could see how it was built. One of them recommended using the old board as a guide for drilling the holes. So I marked the frames and the boards. A great idea, but…the wood of the larger pieces (8’x3′) is too large and untrue, with the warp and whatnot, so almost none of the guide holes lined up. And I took measures with a great number of clamps to make sure that those 2 boards lined up as precisely as possible. Well, lining up the holes ended up being one of the things that drained an inordinate amount of time (and finger skin). Judith mentioned that maybe I could slip a nail through just to get it all lined up before beginning to screw everything together. Another great idea…that didn’t work. At least it saved me from drilling in error over multiple attempts. In the end, I had to drill new holes through the new board into the frame with everything clamped snug. The other well-intentioned error was following a suggestion to use stainless steel screws. It was only after:

  • stripping lots of threads
  • snapping a lot of screws in half!
  • breaking them into fragments that sometimes partially protruded, that didn’t always come out and sometimes needed filing
  • while the hot broken bits melted their way into the wood

that I found out that Stainless screws are actually softer metal. For my upcoming job on the teeter, I’ll be using brass. Still going for a screw that ought not rust out so bad. Ric Travis of AgilityAgogo sold me the rubber almost a year before, so I called him up with a question. I found out that he’s been successful with boards that are 3/8″…which was valuable to know since adding that extra 1/8″ does increase the weight a bit. I wrestled with whether or not to go with Marine Plywood. It’s much heavier (not to mention pricey), and that combined with the fact that the rubber and the adhesive (which actually swells and dries as it’s own rubber-like layer) would make the top of the board pretty impervious to moisture made my decision for me. I did at least get a nicer plywood (not the green exterior stuff) that had the voids filled and sanded.

One of my biggest concerns was making sure the primer and then paint cured completely before moving on to the adhesive. Supposedly the adhesive does a great job of binding to the primer otherwise and then they peel right off the wood. And one thing for sure, I’m not trying to repeat my labors here! It ended up looking great, with a little bit of mixing of the rubber colors at one contact line. It was just debris that fell on top of the barrier (a board) between the 2 colors that sprinkled off when I lifted the board. The adhesive was so slippery at that stage I thought I’d clump and slide all the rubber out of place if I tried to rescue the little bit of wrong colored rubber. It’s good enough. What was really nice, though, is the adhesive swelled a lot, and filled a crack between the top and bottom boards on a side that wouldn’t sit flush, ending up in a small protrusion rather than void. And, as you can guess, filled all the screw hole mistakes like a charm.

I used paint as it shows through with loose rubber, and I made the underside the lighter color…and it really brightens things up 🙂 Use latex because oil takes forever to completely cure. I used really good paint and primer, probably too good. But, my rationale is not having to refinish it again for a long, long time.

The dogs LOVED it. I didn’t bother introducing it to anyone outside of a course sequence, and they all flew up and over it, fast, if not faster, than ever. One student, who is a small dog that doesn’t get a ton of exercise in his daily, absolutely hated the old slatted A-frame. Here’s a clip that demonstrates him descending the down ramp in more time than doing 2 complete A-frames on his first day on the new surface. That’s the kind of thing that makes all the effort even more worthwhile.

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