MakeShift 03: Chris Rovers’ Most Plausible Winning Entry
by William Lidwell
November 01, 2005
Creative use of Quikrete, duct tape, and chicken wire—it doesn’t get much better. I am not really sure about the reliability of the pivot mechanism, but I like the Quikrete leg plugs and the fact that Chris Rovers thought about weathervaning as a means of reducing the cross section of the cow. And for those wondering about the joke Chris references, it is the physicist’s response to the dairy farmers query about how to increase milk production (I heard it in physics class, no doubt math students hear it in math class). Nice job and congratulations, Chris!
The punch line to an old math joke goes ‘assume a spherical cow’…
The primary difficulty with the cow is, just as in the joke, the shape of the cow, not to mention its composition. These two factors provide a difficult combination when considering how to properly attach to the permanent mounting surface, either with woodworking tools or welding tools. If you bolted the cow, you could assume that the fiberglass might crack in hurricane-force winds. You need a way to secure to a large portion of the cow without distorting the end product.
With the $20, purchase 5 large bolts (less then $1 each), a single nut to fit the bolts, a large washer, and a 20-pound bag of Quikrete-style anchoring cement. Make sure to purchase these in a jurisdiction with little or no sales tax or find a less-then-honest store and pay cash to avoid the tax.
Wrap a strip of duct tape around the lowest section of each hoof. This is to help prevent the fiberglass from cracking and will be removed later. Invert the cow. (There’s something wonderful about that sentence.) Using a drill and hole saw, remove the fiberglass from the bottom of the hoof, exposing the hollow cow interior. Create a plug from chicken wire and duct tape, about 7 inches into each leg, making sure the plug is below the hock and is firmly wedged into the leg interior. Mix the concrete and pour it into each leg, ensuring the top of the concrete is level with the bottom of the hoof. Sink the large bolts into the concrete; making sure that the top of each bolt is in line with each other, using a level (or better yet, a laser level). Allow the concrete to harden and then remove the duct tape.
While the concrete hardens, take the chicken wire and divide it into three equal parts. Tightly roll each length of chicken wire into a cylinder and tack weld to hold it in that shape. Flatten the cylinders by stomping on them (I, at least, have a suitably large beer belly that ensures the weight of me could flatten chicken wire with no difficulty). Weld these now-flat sections into an H-configuration.
We are going to use this H-configuration to support the cow and create a weather-vane-like effect. This will mitigate the effects of the wind by preventing the cow from being broadside to the wind at any time. To do this, we need a pivot. Wrap almost all of the remaining duct tape around one of the one-liter cola containers while the container is still full. Make sure the tape is applied squarely and evenly, exactly one tape-width wide, creating a thick cylinder of tape with a plastic center. (If we just left it on the roll, the cardboard center would rot out–we need to think long term here). Drink the cola and cut the bottle flush with the tape.
Place this new pivot point on the ground and place the H over it, centering the cross-member of the H over the round pivot. Bend the chicken wire frame so it touches the ground, forming a U over the duct tape pivot. Secure the pivot point in place with the remaining duct tape.
Securely weld the remaining bolt to the top of the crane tower. Set the pivot point on top of the bolt on the crane tower so that the cross piece of the H is pierced by the length of bolt. Use the washer and nut to secure the assembly to the tower. Use the other crane to lower the cow onto the assembly and weld the hoof bolts to the long arms of the H.
In a strong wind, the cow should turn to present a narrow profile to the dangerous winds; the H will scrape along the top of the tower to do so, but the H being flush to the ground will provide added stability. The concrete, bolts, and welds should secure the cow nicely to the H, and the H is secured to the tower by the pivot bolt. The cow should reign over the city for generations to come. There you have it: the largest weather vane in the city.