Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Project 'Replacement A-Frame Surface'

Out with the old, in with the super awesome....Earlier this summer I brought home shiny new-to-me a-frame and dogwalk. I had hoped that I'd be able to get through this season with the wood on the J and J dogwalk and a-frame, I was planning to rubberize them (over the wood) in the spring. When I setup the dogwalk for the first time, ran Teller over it a few times and he put a foot through the "wood"** up contact of the dogwalk. Thankfully Woo wasn't phased by this unexpected give and I only noticed it when I ran him back over the other way and he jumped over the hole in the plank. I can't imagine if another dog had punched their way through - or if Teller had gotten hurt. I don't want to think about it actually!

So clearly we're not going to get through THIS season, let alone another fall or spring. We need to replace surfaces NOW. So I went scoping around for my options. Honestly I started and finished my search on Max 200's website - once I determined that Max was going to be able to help me with my contact equipment problems, I didn't look for other alternatives. I also knew there was a local (we only have two a year) trail coming up in 4-5 weeks when I could (in theory) have the surfaces delivered to trial (free shipping).

The back of my a-frame replacement surface, molded rubber
slats, pre-drilled for your installation convenience...
So some general information. Max 200's replacement surfaces come in several options (with or without slats): Wood with Paint/Sand, Wood with rubber, Alumaskin with rubber and Plastaskin with Rubber.

Things I learned when talking to the Max 200 people: Plastaskin is lighter, but is not suitable for exterior applications in Vermont (freeze/thaw, cold, etc). I bring my equipment inside in the winter, but there are several weeks when we have frost, sun, mild temperatures, dusting of snow, etc when I don't (yet) want to put the equipment away for the winter, so plastaskin wouldn't be a suitable surface. From the Max 200 Website:

Alumaskin is an aluminum coated sheet on either side of a pvc foam core. It is 1/8" thick and 40% lighter than wood.
Plastaskin is a dense plastic that is equivalent in weight and thickness to wood but will never rot.

Overhead view of the rubber/alumaskin replacement surfaces.

I purchased the alumaskins with rubber - slatted a-frame and slatted dogwalk. The pricing was very reasonable. If the wood surface on the equipment was in a good state (salvageable) I would have purchased and applied the rubber skins over the existing surface (I rubberized my teeter last summer with Rubber on the Run skins from Max200).

Pre-made skins for the a-frame would have cost me about $400 for the a-frame and $350 for the dogwalk, plus cement (I'd imagine another $50 in contact cement - but the contact high from the cement would be a bonus right?). My complete replacement surfaces set me back $600 for the a-frame and $600 for the dogwalk. Soup to nuts. Finished products will (essentially) be a brand new dogwalk and a brand new a-frame for not much more than the cost to rubberize the two pieces.
Side view of applied surface

The great thing about Max 200 (aside from their super products) is their customer service. My order got put in the queue such that it'd be ready to ship with trial equipment to my local show. While the replacement surfaces are stock on the website, I got the distinct impression that every piece is made to order (custom order). I sent in several sets of measurements and pictures and I had a couple of requests for more information about the specifications of my equipment (ie: what kind of feet does the a-frame have?). The end result was a replacement surface that would make my equipment whole again - and a product that looked good and fit perfectly. Just looking at the final product it's clear that whomever made my surfaces cared about the workmanship.
Isn't it beeeee-you-tee-full?
I had the surfaces (HEAVY) shipped to my local trial and was so lucky to have really great friends help me load/unload and transport the replacement surfaces. This saved me a considerable amount on shipping. I never asked the folks at Max 200 what they would have charged to ship them - both pieces would have to go freight from western NY state.

Max's replacement surfaces came with all necessary hardware*** (which I promptly put someplace safe never to find again) and patch kits for the rubber to fill the bolt holes. The replacement surfaces were pre-drilled, so the application process was 1) remove crappy wood, 2) measure and drill holes in aluminum frame and 3) mount surfaces to frame.
I still need to fill the screw
holes with rubber and epoxy.

I had a friend tackle my a-frame this weekend and I have to say I LOVE it. It looks like a million bucks and I'm thrilled to have a safe a-frame for my dogs to train on - Even Murphy had a turn!

Woo Approves!
In the end (and this is not scientific) I believe that the alumaskin/rubber a-frame is about as heavy as the wood/sand a-frame. If the alumaskin is 40% lighter than wood, there's about the same weight penalty added back in for the rubber. Well worth the weight for the safety of rubber vs sand surfaces. Durability is another huge advantage - but in my opinion safety trumps all.

The dogwalk is next - hopefully in the next week or so. Should be the same procedure as the A-Frame.

**J and J's wood planking is particle board! Those surfaces were so water logged from two or three seasons (packed away in a shed for the fall, winter and spring) of use that they were basically disintegrating. The rot was helped along by water pooling at the lower slats, all four contact zones (dogwalk and a-frame) were weak.

*** In the event that someone else 'loses' their hardware for their new replacement surfaces - I found that the 10-24 2" machine bolt was the perfect fit :-) The 10-14 2.5" bolt was too long!

The original surface:
The original surface - now removed. Rotted particle board around where the slat was.

Some of this is a result of the demolition - but you can see the rotten parts of the board.


Kiyi Kiyi said...

Thanks! This was really helpful.

Steve said...

Thanks for your article! I ordered rubber covered alumaskin replacement skins from Max 200 and really like them. My only complaint is how long it took to get mine. Shipping ended up being substantial to the midwest also. I'll never buy wood covered contacts again...

Erica said...

After speaking with Irene a couple of times about the alumaskin replacement surfaces it was clear to me that each piece is custom. I sent them half a dozen measurements as they worked to get my skins completely right.

Secondly with a new product offering there was a pretty good crush of demand, I saw a lot of folks dropping their equipment off at shows (to pick up at the next one) for resurfacing.

I was very lucky - I had about a month of lead time between when I discovered I needed the replacement skins this year and one of only two local trials. The Max folks were able to get the surfaces completed and delivered to that trial - so I didn't have to pay any shipping!!