A step in the right direction!

As a safety measure, we started with the steps only 150mm from the ground so that any falls would not be from any great height. As the child becomes more adept on the stilts, the steps can be repositioned very easily and refastened at the described height. If necessary, the poles can be substituted later for longer ones, but one step at a time.

Caution: Allow the child to use stilts only under supervision and increase the height of the steps, if you wish to, only when absolutely satisfied the child can handle the stilts when set at the lower levels.

The reason for drilling a hole through each foot for the pole is to reinforce the strength of the step so that the bracket does not take the full weight of the user. In any event, these stilts are designed for a child of a relatively low weight – not big Daddy… no matter how much he wants to show everyone how it’s done!

Materials:

YOU WILL NEED:

  • Two SA pine curtain rods – 1.5m x 33mmØ
  • An offcut of 44x96mm SA pine, cut into two steps about 160mm long
  • Two brackets and 35mm attaching screws
  • Four rubber ferrules

Method:

  1. The materials for one pair of stilts. The ferrules not only protect the stilts’ feet and make them non-slip, but when fitted to the top of the stilts ensures that the top ends will not have any sharply cut edges.

2. Measure off the centre point for the hole for the stilt pole in the step – we placed it at 35mm from the end – there needs to be sufficient wood on the outer side of the step to provide enough strength to the step around the stilt pole.

3. We cut the steps to length and then trimmed the ends to remove 90° corners.

4. The two steps complete – before drilling the holes for the poles.

5.Using an expansive wood bit allows you to set the diameter of the hole precisely… the pole has a diameter of 33mmØ, but the nearest spade bit size to that is 32mm… a fraction too small. Remember, the pole needs to fit very snugly through the step, but not be too loose, or so tight that is cannot be shifted.

6.Adjust the bit and fasten it with the locking screws.

7.The tapered centre screw on the bit can pull the bit into the wood quite aggressively, so we drilled a 3.5mmØ pilot hole for it… so that the bit is still centred, but one can adjust the amount of cutting force on it.

8.Clamp the two steps together so that both can be drilled simultaneously to ensure a clean cut on both.

9.Drilling the pilot hole through both steps.

10.Now for the more exacting part… more error than trial, using a piece of scrap wood we drilled a series of test holes, making small adjustments to the expansive bit until we arrived at the very precise fit that we wanted.

11.Job done.

12.If drilling through one step at a time, drill through about halfway, then flip the step over and complete the hole from the reverse side, so that you have very clean edges to the holes.

13. A little cleaning out with some rolled-up sandpaper ensures the inner surface of each hole is smooth.

14.Then the step is slipped on to the pole… the fit is very snug, so some work is required to move the step to the desired position, but that means that the step itself is very unlikely to allow much flexing of the bracket.

15.A couple of pieces of scrap on either side of the pole, with a 3mm hardboard spacer on each side serendipitously centred the bracket on the pole.

16.The brackets we used are attached with two screws per arm. Naturally, when adjusting the steps’ height, only the two screws driven into the pole are removed and then driven in again when the step is at the desired height.

17.The step attached and ferrule in position.

18.A pair of stilts… ready for action.

Final shot…

Panel:

These materials are available at Selected Mica Stores. To find out which is your closest Mica and whether or not they stock the items required, please go to www.mica.co.za, find your store and call them. If your local Mica does not stock exactly what you need they will be able to order it for you or suggest an alternative product or a reputable source.

Project guide

TIME: an afternoon

COST: R300

Skill: 3

Assistant: No 

Tools required:

Circular cut-off saw, mains-powered drill, 15-45mm expansive wood bit, and cordless drill/driver.