Saturday, April 16, 2011

Step-by-Step Instructions for Making a Conical Topiary

***Guest writer: DH***

In order to fulfill my wife's promise to enable other wives to talk their husbands into building chicken-wire cones, here are the instructions:

First, you'll need your better 75% to instruct you how tall and wide the cones have to be. It's always best to double-check those dimensions, preferably after a few days have gone by idle (idle means that the wife is still thinking about it and changing her mind while fruitlessly trying to telepathically let you know how they are no longer supposed to be 24" by 8").

Next, understand that a cone is a three-dimensional object. You may be familiar with other 3D items such as beer bottles and pool sticks. Now, in order to make a 3-dimensional object out of 2-dimensional chicken-wire will involve deconstructing the cone into a flat shape. Contrary to your initial thoughts, a cone rolled out flat is not a triangle. Go ahead, cut a triangle out of a piece of paper and roll it up, I'll wait.

See, the base isn't level, isn't it. Now, throw out that first attempt before your wife sees you doing this. After all, the blog entry told you it's not a triangle, so you shouldn't have attempted it in the first place. A rolled out cone actually looks like a triangle with a concave base. (Note to wife: insert picture here. I hate this $%*@&# Google editor and I am not fooling with images anymore.) However, trying to get the correct measurements of the chord (the base of the triangle) and the segment (the concave portion at the bottom) based on only the cone's base radius and height involves 1.5 hours of your precious ESPN-allowance and the use of 3 to 4 online calculators.

One can make a nicely shaped paper cone by drawing a circle on the paper, cutting the circle out and then from that circle remove a 90-degree triangle. Rotate the corners of the remaining 3/4 circle and voila... Now, this will require you to have a roll of chicken wire that's slightly wider than double your required height (the exact size of chicken wire required depends on the size of the base and calculating the aforementioned height again requires 3 online calculators). In my case, our chicken wire was 48" wide, which meant that I could not use that technique, as I needed about 51" of circle diameter.

However, one can also create a cone from the discarded 1/4 circle cut out above. (Yes, fish it back out of the kitchen wastebasket. If you're lucky, none of your kids' food leftovers came in touch with it.) You need a little bit of overlap ideally, but it works. I suspect that the person who suggested using 3/4 of a circle to create a cone while 1/4 is actually sufficient owns a significant amount of shares in Georgia Pacific.

Finally, let's get back to the chicken wire project. Chicken wire and paper are not quite equal in terms of their physical properties. Your wife will insist on using chicken wire because it's more durable than paper. However, a chicken wire cut is more dangerous than a paper cut. Watch out, get gloves and cut some corners. Or actually, forget about cutting corners. The less you have to cut out of chicken wire, the sooner you're done and the less risk of poking your eye out. Just cut out a square with sides a little longer than your required height (the wider the base, the more allowance you need to make). Just make sure that one side of your square is concave (recall the base of the cone requires it).

Then, take the corners adjacent to the concave side of your square and tie them together. OK, now, remove the chewing gum (it won't last) and tie them together with chicken wire scraps. Once the base corners are connected to each other ensure it looks circular (unless your supervisor directed you to create a different shape than a cone. In that case, stop what you're doing and find a blog post that addresses your needs).

With the base corners securely fastened, start rolling one of the top corners as tightly as possible inward and downward. The tighter you can roll it, the better the cone's top will look. You're going for a thin point, although that probably won't work out (as chicken wire isn't the same as paper). Keep rolling it up, while correcting the shape of the cone's sides to keep them straight. Repeat as many times as necessary, call your significant other to inspect, and catch the end of the game.

Tip 1: Pretend you don't know where the scratch on the car came from. It's unlikely your wife will actually call CSI to match the scratch to the chicken wire you used. Blame her for it next time she swings the door open too fast.

Tip 2: Further pretend you can't type. That way, you won't have to share your experiences with other husbands and get them in the same limbo.

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