Max’s Lighthouse

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Every day, I take my dogs, Mini and Max, for a walk around our neighborhood. Our Rat Terrier, Mini, is a very loving and loyal little dog to my wife and me, and she is starting to get used to other people wanting to pet her, but she still mostly scoots away from them. On the other hand, our miniature dachshund, Max, is a little love sponge who happily trots right up to total strangers and children. He loves it when they pet, praise, and hug him, so he’s a really popular little guy in our neighborhood. In fact, we call him “our little doxie ambassador.”

Max and Pookie.

A few months ago, I decided to build a little dog house to take the place of the light post in our front lawn. Inside that doghouse, I hoped to put a statue of a dachshund looking out, so that all the neighbors would know where Max lives. On the Internet, I found and bought a great statue of a dachshund (see below) and I found some plans for building a doghouse, which I modified to suit my needs. Then, I bought all of the wood, screws, nails, paint, tools, and other supplies that I would need.

Dachshund statue.

A couple of weeks later, the supplies were still sitting in my garage. I wanted to build the doghouse, but for some reason, I just kept putting it off.

About a month after I had bought all of the supplies, I was at a flea market and happened to see an old, wooden lighthouse, the same size that I had planned to build my doghouse. It was muddy, mildewy, and needed some restoration, but I could tell that it was really well built, and it was a much fancier building than the plain box doghouse that I had planned to build, so I bought it. I have since verified the seller’s claim that it was modeled after a real lighthouse in Lorain, Ohio.

Over the next several weeks, I completely restored and totally weatherproofed and bug-proofed that little lighthouse, both inside and out. I also carefully cut a “doggy door” in its front wall. Then I re-painted the dachshund statue’s tan face, neck and chest to look a lot more like Max.

For weeks, it seemed like I hardly made any progress; the more little details I fixed, the more little details I found that still needed to be fixed. On top of all that, after I had finished painting the whole lighthouse with nice bright white paint, my local Home Depot sold me a spar urethane finish to protect the entire paint job. They assured me that it would be perfectly clear, but when it dried, it turned out to be yellowy instead of clear, which made the white paint look horrible. To fix that problem, I had to sand all of the white areas down and then carefully repaint them all over again. That time, I used high-gloss outdoor white enamel that doesn’t require a clear overcoat. It was really discouraging to see that lighthouse sitting in my garage week after week, looking pretty much the same every day, but I just kept working on it, a little at a time, and eventually, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

Finally, 2 days ago, I permanently and securely mounted the dachshund statue inside the lighthouse, looking out the doorway. Then I built 2 long T-beams by nailing 2 pieces of treated 2×4 lumber to the sides of 2 pieces of treated 2×6 lumber. Then I dug holes and sank those T-beams 3 feet into the ground, to solidly hold the lighthouse 34 inches above the ground, about 3 feet from the sidewalk in front of our house. It took more than 2 hours of digging, positioning, removing, re-digging and re-positioning to get the outsides of the T-beams exactly 16 inches apart and exactly straight up and down in all directions. After painting some gray plastic conduit black, I mounted it on the back side of one of the wooden beams, to carry our former light post’s electricity to the lighthouse’s working light. Then I mounted the lighthouse on the T-beams with long wood screws and connected the electricity to the lighthouse’s light. Lastly, I installed a ring of lawn edging in the ground and filled it with 5 large bags of red lava stone.

You can see the final results below. I’m really happy and proud that it turned out exactly like I had imagined it when I first saw that lighthouse sitting on the muddy ground at the flea market. Eventually, I plan to mount closeup photos of Mini, Pookie, and Petey (our other dog and 2 cats) in the windows to make it look like they’re looking out. I’m also going to paint the T-beams after their treated lumber has had several months to dry out.

Tonight, my wife thought of a great idea, which I plan to do in the next few days. I’m going to mount a double electric outlet inside the lighthouse. One outlet will power the lighthouse’s light. The other outlet will power the lighthouse’s Christmas lights next December. In the meantime, I’m going to try to find some bunny ears to put on the doxie statue for Easter.

UPDATE, March 3, 2006: I installed the double electric outlet, along with a timer to automatically turn the light on and off.

UPDATE, May 8, 2006: In the past few months, Max’s Lighthouse has become a neighborhood landmark. While the light in its tower was bright enough to be seen at night, it wasn’t bright enough to shine out like a real lighthouse. The problem was that the lighthouse was built with a tiny plastic light socket that only took nightlight-sized bulbs. Its incandescent candelabra bulb was only about 15 watts, probably because there’s nowhere in the tower for the heat of a bigger bulb to escape. Today, I replaced the tiny light socket with a standard ceramic socket, and replaced the little candelabra bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb that gives off the same amount of light as a 40-watt incandescent bulb, but uses only 10-watts of power. Now Max’s Lighthouse shines very brightly with very white light, and its efficient CFL bulb creates very little heat.

UPDATE, May 10, 2006: Just to be safe, I took the tower off of Max’s lighthouse, and drilled 12 holes around its new light socket, inside the tower, to let in cool air from below. I attached a piece of metal bug screen underneath the holes, to keep bugs from crawling up into the lighted tower from below. Then, on the inside of the tower’s roof, I drilled a 1/4″ hole straight up into the middle of the round wooden dowel that holds the six “pie slices” of the tower’s roof together, and glued a piece of bug screen over that hole. Then, on the outside of the tower’s roof, I drilled s hole at the top of each “pie slice,” upward at the same angle as each slice, so that each hole intersect the hole that I had drilled in the center wooden dowel. The end result is that the hole that goes up the middle of the roof’s center dowel functions as a chimney with six outlets at its top, to let hot air out of the tower without letting rain water into the tower. The new ventilation system works so well that the tower’s clear plastic windows are barely warm to the touch when the lighthouse light is on. Once I finished all of that, I made 3 small spikes out of nails that I had sharpened at both ends, then mounted one at the top of the tower, one on the top of the black chimney, and one at the peak of the cross gable, to keep birds from landing (and leaving deposits) on Max’s Lighthouse.

Max's Lighthouse, full length.

Max's Lighthouse, closeup.

Max's Lighthouse at night.

UPDATE, June 1, 2006: To make it look more like the original lighthouse upon which it was modeled, I painted the lighthouse’s red metal corners white, using left-over white primer and paint from our house. When I have more time, I’ll repaint all of the other white parts of of the lighthouse with that same brighter-white color paint.

UPDATE, December 24, 2006: I recently finished decorating Max’s Lighthouse for Christmas. The lighthouse light is a green fluorescent bulb, while the lighthouse itself is decorated with tiny red lights. The base that holds the lighthouse is covered with green garlands and white lights. Max is wearing a little Santa suit, and there’s a radio inside the lighthouse, playing Christmas music.

Max's Lighthouse at Christmastime.

Max's Lighthouse, lit up at Christmastime.

Why I would want a lighthouse with a dachshund in it in my front yard? Well, the simple fact is that we haven’t had even one ship run aground in our yard since I put up Max’s lighthouse.

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