Sunday, September 21, 2014

SponCon 2014 Recap

When I get asked why I like Spontaneous Construction (SponCon), I inevitably say because it is such a unique event.  It is challenging; it is a difficult test of your skills, creativity, and craftsmanship.  It is so different from other Missoula events. Yes it is a building competition (I am not aware of any others), but the competition is not really with the other teams, but with yourself.  I love building things and every year I challenge myself to build something and unique out of discarded materials.  
What a day.  SponCon 2014 is done, and it didn't disappoint.  It is always demanding and exhausting.  I look forward to it every year.
All our tools, supplies, and dreams loaded into the truck on our way to SponCon
A day devoted to building something- I love it.  Every year brings its own set of challenges and this year was no different.  We were already down a team member (my good friend and excellent woodworker, and welder, Barry, was on a much deserved vacation this week) so it was just me and my wife, Marilyn.  I was concerned about having enough time for building the project I in mind.  So concerned, I woke up at 3 am stressed about this.  Maybe I was just excited.
Moments before the competition began- team Butterfly Properties, me and my beautiful wife.
I quickly cut, grinded, and prepared all the steel stock for assembly (all of the steel in this project was from discarded bed frames- something there are a lot of in the world, and the landfill).  I switched over to welding, and that's when the day took a turn for the worse.  I turned on my welder, and pulled the gun's trigger, and got nothing.  I spent the next one and a half hours trying to figure out what was wrong with my welder, and never could get it to work.  It worked the night before- I changed the spool and tip in preparation for the day.

Around noon, with a non-functioning welder, for what I had planned to be primarily a welding project (!), I came to terms with the fact I wouldn't be able to complete a project. I was incredibly disappointed.   I had looked forward to this day for so long, and I was afraid of letting everyone down.   In retrospect I realized that there was the challenge this year, and this is why this event is so difficult- one thing goes wrong, and time keeps going by.  This is why I enjoy this event so much- you put yourself into a difficult and unique situation, and you just don't know what is going to happen.

I ended up borrowing a welder from one of the most talented SponCon builders, and former Home ReSource employees, Jimmy Willet (pictured on the left below).
Jimmy Willet (on left), the man that saved SponCon for me, and his teammate Josh Decker
I then spent the rest of the time figuring out how to use his welder!  His is actually better than mine, but I was used to using mine.  By the time I was done with all the welding, I was finally producing some good welds.
Back in the game
I ended up reevaluating my project and scaling it back.  In the end, I am happy with how it turned out, though it was not quite how I envisioned it.
Our completed potting bench
We made a potting bench that has all the features you need: a place to store soil, hooks for hanging tools, a big work surface, large lower shelf, and a grate (made from wrenches) over which you can pot plants or water them and have the soil and water drain to a basin below.   But, it also functions as an outdoor side board or buffet.
The tool hanger (made from a garden rake) also serves as a wine glass holder, and the soil container could hold ice to cool beverages and the grate works as a trivet for hot serving dishes.

It is made for the garden, so appropriately, it is made of garden tools and adorned with a couple of insects, a lady bug (whose feet are also tool hooks) and a long horned beetle, made from various shovels and diggers.
The frame is made of bed frame steel for long life outdoors and the wood is all 2 x western red cedar from a deck and raised garden beds.
It was a long, exhausting day, and I am already looking forward to next year.
Miles and Marilyn after a long day of SponCon
Miles was happy to see us when it was all over.
If you are interested in seeing this and the other creations that are grand prize contenders, from SponCon 2014, come by Home ReSource where they will be on display.  And if you are interested, you can bid on them at the auction on October 24 at the Doubletree Hotel in Missoula.


  1. How awesome is that yellow wrench grate?!? Seriously. Cool project. I like how you've made it flexible enough to serve as potting bench or backyard bar. Superb. And way to roll with the errors and mishaps. That is life! Those who can roll seem to go farther and enjoy it more along the way. Good for you.

    1. Thank you so much! I am flattered by all your compliments. Glad you like how it turned out- I am happy with it. I spent most of sunday disappointed because of the problems, setbacks and how I had to ultimately really scale back the project. But now that it is done I can appreciate what I made and not dwell on what I didn't. Thanks again!