Reverse Spelunking (now with pics!)

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Reverse Spelunking (now with pics!)

Postby Ati » Sat Apr 12, 2008 6:28 pm UTC

(scroll down for photos)

In an effort to appease the exercise gods, I have decided to dig an underground cavern in the back yard. The specs are as follows: One entry hole, two feet across, and a circular main cavern five meters in diameter, and two meter in height. In order to maintain balance in the universe, I will then get a bunch of network cables and an extension cord, and throw an LAN party.


Here is the problem: I am trying to find a way to do this that will avoid my imminent demise in the event of a cave-in.

Some background on the topography: where I live, we have about two feet of clay/topsoil, with the consistency of adobe bricks, and then below that we have a lot of sand all the way down to bed rock. A five meter wide, two foot thick disk of topsoil, falling a distance of two meters would be quite sufficient to break a large number of bones, crush the body cavity, and generally make a very large and gooey mess. In an effort to avoid this outcome, I have come up with the following plan:


Punch a hole in the topsoil, and continue to dig straight down, until I can stand up in the hole. Then, set off three different tunnel through the sand in a triangular pattern. After each one has progressed 1.25 meters, insert a post and a wide board to hold the roof up. After this has been done, then hollow the rest of the chamber out to the appropriate size, and use the sand to build arched walls for additional structural integrity.

Does this sound feasible? Does anyone have a better suggestion, or ideas for further safety measures?
Last edited by Ati on Tue Aug 26, 2008 2:57 am UTC, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby jimrandomh » Sat Apr 12, 2008 8:02 pm UTC

Unfortunately, in order to build that safely, you'd need a qualified civil engineer to look over your plans. You also have to worry about fire and earthquake safety, electrical wiring, termites, ventilation, and a host of other issues. You'd probably need permits and inspections (although there might be a loophole available, depending on where you are).

That said, there's an obvious problem with your plan: you're using sand as a load-bearing structural material. That won't work; it will either settle gradually (if you're lucky) or collapse suddenly (if you're unlucky). Normally, these things would be made with poured concrete, although that's probably not what you had in mind. Wood is also a potential problem, because your cavern will probably be very moist. Rather than try to dig under the earth and leave existing soil in place for a ceiling, it would be better to dig an open pit, build a ceiling with strong supports, and then spread a thin layer of topsoil over it. (Your supports should be strong enough to support a riding lawn mower plus several people, which won't be easy without a good foundation.)

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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby TheStranger » Sat Apr 12, 2008 8:12 pm UTC

Ati wrote:Punch a hole in the topsoil, and continue to dig straight down, until I can stand up in the hole. Then, set off three different tunnel through the sand in a triangular pattern. After each one has progressed 1.25 meters, insert a post and a wide board to hold the roof up. After this has been done, then hollow the rest of the chamber out to the appropriate size, and use the sand to build arched walls for additional structural integrity.

Does this sound feasible? Does anyone have a better suggestion, or ideas for further safety measures?


Usually for such a shallow structure to excavate a pit of the right dimensions, build the structure, then bury it with the soil used from the excavation. This way you do not have to worry about cave-ins during the construction process, as well as letting you test the strength of what you built.

I'd recommend against using sand as a construction material, without a bonding agent of some kind I wouldn't trust it for support.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby Aperfectring » Sun Apr 13, 2008 1:07 am UTC

Honestly, if you are absolutely set on making this a reality, then going the route of digging an open pit, creating a solid structure, then burying it again is probably the best path to take. In any case, sand makes a bad foundation. Take a look at the news in Florida anytime there is a big storm off the coast, there is ALWAYS someone's multi-million dollar property about to be swept off in the ocean in these cases. The main reason it is bad is that it is a bunch of small, mostly round things which you are trusting your life with. Build your structure with strong, trusted materials, then bury it using the soil you dug up.

In any matter, you will need to either be REALLY good friends with your neighbors and, if applicable, homeowner's association, or you will need to get a building permit. Chances are the building permit will be necessary, and that will require inspections, so it could be troublesome to do on your own.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby goblin_subway » Tue Apr 15, 2008 1:26 am UTC

On building codes (4th gen carpenter), the easiest way to get away with building, effectively, a bunker is to get approval for a foundation/ basement for a house, and then never go through with the above-ground structure. All of the plans are easily purchased at a local Home Depot and will likely be rubber-stamped by local government. Rent a back-hoe, and be careful. Those things have alot more kinetic pontential than most people seem to think.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby Yuri2356 » Tue Apr 15, 2008 1:43 am UTC

goblin_subway wrote:On building codes (4th gen carpenter), the easiest way to get away with building, effectively, a bunker is to get approval for a foundation/ basement for a house, and then never go through with the above-ground structure. All of the plans are easily purchased at a local Home Depot and will likely be rubber-stamped by local government. Rent a back-hoe, and be careful. Those things have alot more kinetic pontential than most people seem to think.

How do you think costs would stack up for something ~ 4m*8m*2.2m internally?

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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby goblin_subway » Tue Apr 15, 2008 2:09 am UTC

Yuri2356: You are using meters so I cannot help you on costs. I only know what it would cost in certain areas of the US.

Edit: Check a local home supply/ hardware store. The larger ones have building plans with cost outlays.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby SecondTalon » Tue Apr 15, 2008 2:15 am UTC

Ati wrote:Does this sound feasible? Does anyone have a better suggestion, or ideas for further safety measures?


Bare minimum, hire someone who knows what the hell they're doing to oversee you in what you're doing. Outside of knowing the local building codes, said person can keep you from killing yourself.

If you can't find someone, get hired on at a construction job and work it out that way.

If for some reason that isn't feasable, just dig a pit.. and make sure you're not digging in to any underground lines.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby goblin_subway » Tue Apr 15, 2008 2:18 am UTC

GOOD GOD IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP: as secondtalon pointed out, the fastest way to bite it when digging is power/ gas lines. Also, if you sever a fiber optic line you might as well declare bankruptcy.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby TizzyFoe » Tue Apr 15, 2008 4:14 am UTC

I say just go with your original plan and stair death in the eye.

unless of course you fear death, then i suggest you find a less death prone way to exercise.

in either case, can i come to your lan?
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby Aperfectring » Wed Apr 16, 2008 3:24 am UTC

goblin_subway wrote:GOOD GOD IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP: as secondtalon pointed out, the fastest way to bite it when digging is power/ gas lines. Also, if you sever a fiber optic line you might as well declare bankruptcy.
For a relatively low cost, most places (at least in the US) have a service you can call which will locate all utility lines in a given area. It really is worth it when you realize if you screw up the wrong thing, you could be dead at the worst, or in a more likely case, have all of your neighbors hate you for life.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby Nyssa » Wed Apr 16, 2008 4:49 pm UTC

I think you should scrap your plan.

Better plan:
-Locate all the Salvation Army/Goodwill type stores in your area
-Go out and buy as many blankets and couch cushions that you can possibly fit into your apartment/house
-Build the biggest, most awesome couchfort known to man
-Have a LAN party in said couchfort
-Profit
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby ParanoidDrone » Wed Apr 16, 2008 5:16 pm UTC

Nyssa wrote:I think you should scrap your plan.

Better plan:
-Locate all the Salvation Army/Goodwill type stores in your area
-Go out and buy as many blankets and couch cushions that you can possibly fit into your apartment/house
-Build the biggest, most awesome couchfort known to man
-Have a LAN party in said couchfort
-Profit

I fully support this notion and/or product.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby Coin » Wed Apr 16, 2008 5:19 pm UTC

Maybe you could create some kind of igloo with sandbags?
First build a steel frame to take the load and then staple the sandbags around and ontop of it.
With a wooden deck inside you'll have a great place for a lan-party.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby doc leech » Wed Apr 16, 2008 5:51 pm UTC

It should also emit showers of sparks. For science.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby Rippy » Wed Apr 16, 2008 9:17 pm UTC

Another point to bring up is that, if you do a shoddy job of this, you're going to have a hard time trying to sell that house someday. Noone wants to buy a house with a giant unsafe bunker in the backyard.

I'd say, if you seriously want to do this, that you'd probably want to go all the way and get a foundation and a decent ceiling. Hell, you could even find some way to make it a basement-only extension to the house (though I'm sure this is ridiculously more expensive than you had in mind)

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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby mrbaggins » Thu Apr 17, 2008 2:14 am UTC

The simple way to avopid being crushed by a half ton of dirt (And I think it is far more than that, btw) is subtley hinted to in earlier posts, but in blunt terms, is "Don't get under it."

As also already said, but I think you really need to hear it a 10th time, Sand = bad building. It is guaranteed to slowly cascade until you do have a cave in. And again, as already stated, digging a giant pit and building a mini bunker is the best way to go about it.

You're going to need a fair bit of money for this, even if you did it your way. First, you really should get an engineer to look over the plans. You need to dig a pit about 3 feet wider and longer than your bunker, and about 2 feet deeper. Possibly more for the foundation. You're going to need a good foundation (to council regulations) of whatever dimensions you want the bunker to be plus about 2 feet wide and long. You will most likely be hiring one-two ready-mix trucks for this. Then you will use (probably, as they are the cheapest) cement cinder blocks to build a wall up to somewhere between 5-7 feet. (Depends if you can handle having to crouch in the bunker. The lower it is the cheaper it is, and less difficult to screw up).

Then you're probably going to want 4x2's spaced every 2-3 feet across the top row of cinder blocks, and then sheets of mdf or ply and black plastic. I don't know a good way to keep moisture out of something like this, which may or may not be a big issue where you live. You will need to weather proof/shield the roof if it's one of these timber options, else it WILL rot and collapse. You could possibly use corrugated iron (tin roofing to some people) but you would probably want both of these. You won't be able to afford a concrete roof, I'll tell you now. I can't think of any alternative roofings, excluding going really weird and expensive and putting a 4inch thick piece of glass over it with metal framing for support.

Moisture will be the biggest problem with something like this. You can black plastic the entire thing, but if you do, you WILL want to leave the doorway open, and probably install some sort of ventilation system out through the roof/lawn. You might need to install a garden or something to disguise a vent. Heck, tell council you're just building a garden, then bring in the back hoe :P

Awesome idea, but yeah, this is on a much larger scale than I think you may have anticipated.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby goblin_subway » Thu Apr 17, 2008 2:27 am UTC

MDF = very bad. When exposed to the slightest moisture (migh humidity in the air will do it), MDF warps. If exposed directly to water, MDF rapidly expands and then falls apart. If you attempt to use wood-based sheet goods in this project, I would suggest exterior grade birch plywood (use a mask when working any birch product, nearly all humans are allergic to the dust). That being said, even exterior grade sheet goods will fall apart within a few years of direct exposure to water or wet soil. If you tour older mines, the only wood left standing is hardwood with fairly tight grain and a dense structure. Oak is the obvious example, but on the cheaper end of things any heartwod pine might work, but heartwood is really tricky to work with and has a tendancy to warp in odd ways when ripped (cut with the grain). I would suggest rebar reinforced concrete cinderblocks with concrete-filled cells for a standard bunker, and latex/ pea gravel filled cells for an anti-ATF bunker as the filler is shock-suppresant and has alot better odds of stopping larger long-rifle rounds.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby Coin » Thu Apr 17, 2008 9:39 am UTC

Coin wrote:Maybe you could create some kind of igloo with sandbags?
First build a steel frame to take the load and then staple the sandbags around and ontop of it.
With a wooden deck inside you'll have a great place for a lan-party.


I'd like to expand this.
Dig a pond for the garden and then use the sand you get from there to fill the sandbags.
That way you'll probably actually increase the value of the house and you'll get a cool bunker-like structure without having to be under ground. You could even turn it into a small hill, if you are feeling crafty, by covering the bunker with plastic and then earth and finally planting grass on it.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby alexgmcm » Thu Apr 17, 2008 10:02 am UTC

Hmm, yeah the 'not get under it' notion seems the best idea. Nice plan though it would make for an awesome place to have a LAN party as all your computer screens/photosensitive nerds will be protected from the terrible glare of the Daystar.

Also, due to Apophis, there's a 1 in 450 chance that in 2036 you will be the only LAN Party left.. think how popular you would be then!

Oh yeah you might wanna read this for how it can go wrong.. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7348949.stm

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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby goblin_subway » Fri Apr 18, 2008 2:32 am UTC

alexgmcm: Way to attempt a thread-jack. You are detected early, FAIL.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby SecondTalon » Fri Apr 18, 2008 3:05 am UTC

You could always attempt Legendary Status in your basement instead of digging a pit....
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby Pseudo-G » Sat Apr 19, 2008 6:46 am UTC

Nyssa wrote:I think you should scrap your plan.

Better plan:
-Locate all the Salvation Army/Goodwill type stores in your area
-Go out and buy as many blankets and couch cushions that you can possibly fit into your apartment/house
-Build the biggest, most awesome couchfort known to man
-Have a LAN party in said couchfort
-Profit


Epic win. I would love to throw this party. I would love to even ATTEND this party!

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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby mrbaggins » Sat Apr 19, 2008 12:41 pm UTC

Going with the "bury it" idea, my mate was talking about how his dad just bought a shipping container to store motorbikes in, and it got me thinking.

You could bury one of the smaller ones without too much trouble, and I'm pretty sure it would have the structural integrity to handle a few inches of dirt. You would want to repaint/rustproof it, and probably insulate it, and make sure that there is no chance of electrical wires coming into contact with the edges of it, else you have a large and electified steel death trap.

Even if it wasn't strong enough on its own u could add a few C-Frames / I-Beams to it at a few intervals and even add a few panels/sheets or crossbeams to help support the roof. You'd want to give a fair bit of care to making sure that it didn't rust, as a sudden cave in will still be not much fun.

You'd still have to dig and create a stairwell/ramp and fortify walls of said ramp. And these would probably need to meet specific terracing regulations. If nothing else, you'll want to be very conservative (in other words, build them highly sloped) to hold back dirt from your entrance ramp/stairs.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby goblin_subway » Sun Apr 20, 2008 1:44 am UTC

Shipping containers are an excellent idea. Throw a layer of tar on the outside to prevent rust.... not bad.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby Aglet » Sun Apr 20, 2008 2:04 am UTC

A shipping container would be like in that one part of T2 where there's all these weapons stored underground. Remember, where Arnold picked up a minigun and a grenade launcher?

HOWEVER.

The director's commentary for that movie said that it was incredibly, unbearably hot in that container. Even though it'd be shaded most of the time, if you leave the door open (which you have to, to avoid suffocation), it'd let in sunlight, and the thing would heat up like an oven. Heat would also be a problem with people's body heat. Ever been in a small, enclosed room with a bunch of people? This is kind of like that, only underground. And if it heated up, it'd take a while to cool down. Also, you'd have to waterproof THE ENTIRE THING, since if any water at all got in there, it'd probably never evaporate.

If you used a trapdoor on the ceiling, however, you could conceivably bury it if you ever sold the home and put sod over it. Nobody would ever be able to tell until they bought the house. Also, if the ceiling is seven or eight feet high, you could put people in there, take away the ladder, and have yourself a jail cell.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby EdgarJPublius » Sun Apr 20, 2008 7:17 am UTC

if you're already running electricty to it, not much more difficult to get a window AC unit and put in some ventilation.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby Southwest » Mon Apr 21, 2008 2:55 am UTC

Once again, I'm amazed at the capacity of xkcders to take the things we've all always dreamt of doing, and try to make them possible.

On another note, this is quite possibly the best thread title ever, taken out of context.

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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby Ati » Fri May 09, 2008 2:32 pm UTC

Project update:

Sorry I haven't replied, I've been a little busy. Here's how it's going so far: The cave is not to the dimensions of an exceptionally wide grave - a little less than six feet deep, six feet across, and four feet wide. The ceiling is made of rail road ties, and includes a skylight. The floor is currently sand, but I am going to replace it with brick after I get it dropped another few feet. All of the walls will be pushed back at least another foot.

Thanks for all the help and advice. Pictures to follow.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby ishikiri » Fri May 09, 2008 2:43 pm UTC

Some stuff about containers; prices and whatnot.

Spoiler:
The 40ft long containers cost more to delivery be cause they require a lorry called an "Artic" due to the extra length.

Northen Containers.
They are 8' wide x 8'6" tall with lockboxes for extra security and come in any colour.

http://www.norcon.co.uk/content/salesandhire.htm


Length Price VAT Delivery VAT Total
20ft £825.00 £144.38 £90.00 £15.75 £1,075.13
40ft £975.00 £170.62 £210.00 £36.75 £1,392.37

These are the trade prices gets with his company, but he said it'll be about £50 more to buy them commercially.

Getting an Artic into a household driveway just wouldn't happen I'm afraid. They're also so heavy they'd buckle most concrete/tarmac/brick driveways.

Edit: You can also get containers with air-con/heating.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby Ati » Fri May 09, 2008 3:20 pm UTC

Thanks for the info, but I don't actually have any money, so my options are limited.


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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby goblin_subway » Sat May 10, 2008 1:06 am UTC

ishikiri wrote:Some stuff about containers; prices and whatnot.

Spoiler:
The 40ft long containers cost more to delivery be cause they require a lorry called an "Artic" due to the extra length.

Northen Containers.
They are 8' wide x 8'6" tall with lockboxes for extra security and come in any colour.

http://www.norcon.co.uk/content/salesandhire.htm


Length Price VAT Delivery VAT Total
20ft £825.00 £144.38 £90.00 £15.75 £1,075.13
40ft £975.00 £170.62 £210.00 £36.75 £1,392.37

These are the trade prices gets with his company, but he said it'll be about £50 more to buy them commercially.

Getting an Artic into a household driveway just wouldn't happen I'm afraid. They're also so heavy they'd buckle most concrete/tarmac/brick driveways.

Edit: You can also get containers with air-con/heating.


Our shop solved the whole "buckle the concrete" problem by renting a boom-lift outfitted with oversized pneumatic tires and making a gravel bed for it to drive on. That way, it could drive on the gravel and lower the containers in place. As a side note, we needed alot of gravel on hand to fill in the ruts that were left as we went. Traction ramps also came in handy for when the whole rig gets stuck in a rut.
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby Ati » Mon Aug 25, 2008 8:27 pm UTC

An update: I have expanded the cave considerably, and I've torn the roof out, and reinforced it with some very sturdy wooden beams. I've also added the promised photos - check them out:


From the outside:

Image


Down the (freakishly huge) rabbit hole:

Image

The left wall (note the tool marks):

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The entrance from within:
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The roof (note the skylight):

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Well, that's all I've got. Cool, neh?
I can kill you with my brain.

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Bakemaster
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby Bakemaster » Mon Aug 25, 2008 9:42 pm UTC

...do you live next door to a bank?
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c0 = 2.13085531 × 1014 smoots per fortnight
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Raiku
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby Raiku » Mon Aug 25, 2008 9:46 pm UTC

Bakemaster wrote:...do you live next door to a bank?



Shhhhhhhh, you'll give him away...

But dude, that is sweet-I wanted to do something like that ever since I saw this film where a kid had that before, but I wasn't allowed seeing how I was about 6, so... But I may attempt to make a persuasion attempt again...

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Ati
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby Ati » Tue Aug 26, 2008 12:20 am UTC

Bakemaster wrote:...do you live next door to a bank?



Goddamn it. I knew there was a reason I was going to build it on the other side of the yard.
I can kill you with my brain.

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Babam
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby Babam » Tue Aug 26, 2008 1:36 am UTC

So freaking awesome!
I'd love to come to that LAN, and would love to be invited *wink wink wink*
You should keep taking pics.
Also how big is the hole?
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crucialityfactor wrote:I KNEW he could club bitches!

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4=5
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby 4=5 » Tue Aug 26, 2008 1:45 am UTC

I know where the next meetup should be held now

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Babam
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby Babam » Tue Aug 26, 2008 1:57 am UTC

4=5 wrote:I know where the next meetup should be held now

Don't we all.
Spoiler:
crucialityfactor wrote:I KNEW he could club bitches!

SecondTalon wrote:Reality - More fucked up than Photoshop.

s/notwittysig/wittysig

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Ati
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Re: How to avoid being crushed by a half ton of dirt- Anyone?

Postby Ati » Tue Aug 26, 2008 2:42 am UTC

Babamthegrunt wrote:So freaking awesome!
I'd love to come to that LAN, and would love to be invited *wink wink wink*
You should keep taking pics.
Also how big is the hole?




It'll take some expansion before it's ready for an LAN party. The current dimensions (for the main cavern) are approximately five feet from back to front, five feet in depth (which'll increase as I remove the rubble), and seven feet from left to right. There's also a half-finished secondary cavern, which needs to be reinforced and expanded a little. When that's done, it'll be about twice it's current volume. I can and have fit five people in there comfortably. Call it six people, in the end, plus computers, a fan, and some cushions/food/misc. items.

The other issue is sand, which gets everywhere. My current thinking is to widen the entrance hole, expand it as much as I can, shore everything up, then spray everything with some kind of resin (any thoughts on what kind?), before adding a blanket on the floor and a bunch of pillows. That should keep the sand from getting everywhere, especially if i plant grass on top of it to keep the stray sand bound up,and pour quickcrete around the entrance hole.

I'll keep you guys apprised of my progress.
I can kill you with my brain.

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