Cairn Building

Yesterday I took an oil bath. Hydraulic oil. The pressure had built up in the lines in the 4-in-1 black bucket (a.k.a. “Jaws!”) for the tractor. The bucket has been sitting in storage since last fall when I took it off during cool weather. In the winter I run the tractor with the wide green bucket for snow plowing but in the summer Jaws is wonderfully useful. The weather is now considerably warmer so the hydraulic fluid had expanded in the lines for the two pistons that move the jaws on the 4-in-1 bucket. When this happens I can’t connect the lines to the tractor until I relieve the excess pressure. There are two ways to do that:

1) Use two wrenches and take apart the quick connect fitting. This often destroys the o-ring and wastes a fair bit of oil.

2) Use a flat ended rod and a mallet to tap in the seal pin inside the fitting. This risks a spray of oil which is how I got my oil bath. On the plus side it wastes very little oil and saves the o-ring. Do wear glasses to protect your eyes!

The other trick is doing this early in the morning when the bucket is as cool as possible so the pressure buildup is minimized. Unfortunately I did it late in the afternoon – bad planning!

I needed Jaws because I’m making a cairn. The cairn isn’t to mark anything, I just need to put the rocks somewhere. Building the Cairn was like playing with giant kids building blocks made of granite – Not at all like the round rocks a certain person collects. Those would be far more challenging to stack.

The bottom rock, just visible across the bottom of the photo, is about 8′ x 18″ x 5′ which is close to the maximum of the tractor’s ability to move. The rock on top of the base rock is about 4′ x 4′ x 2′ and went up very smoothly. The next several are much smaller – roughly cubes about 2′ x 18″ x 2′. After adding each block I shim it. Even without the shims this pile is amazingly stable and unmovable by hand because the rocks are so square. Will & Ben helped me rock pick the new section of road – thus all the smaller pieces piled on the base rock below Hope in the photo. The total cairn ended up being about 7′ tall. Someday, when I have some free time, I’ll use the rock to build more stone walls. :)

76째F/68째F Sunny Summer Solstice

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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8 Responses to Cairn Building

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Walter…..Nice job on the Cairn…..I’ve not one square rock on my property but tons of rounded ones, which brings me to my question…..what does “Jaws” look like….is it like a cherry picker on a logging truck?……i’m rebuilding several thousand feet of old crumbling stone wall and need something other than the front bucket on my tractor to reposition the behemoths. Thanks

  2. Calling your construction, a cairn, rather than a pile of rocks, is one level of sophistication; but, if you wanted to appear really clever, you could have called it an “Inukshuk”.;=A29

    In Canada, these little rock “Men” appear everywhere. We have lots of rocks and apparently lot of obsessive rock pilers.

    Love your Inukshuk!

  3. Anony, (may I call you that?)

    Jaws is a tractor bucket with a portion that swings up and down to open and close the bucket so I can grab rocks, trees, etc. It us quite useful for building walls. I used Jaws to lift the rocks into place for the cairn and was able to place them quite precisely. Here is a photo of “Jaws”.

    A cherry picker on the backhoe boom could be even more versatile. I have seen thumbs for the backhoe and that would work well too.

    Alternatively you could consider doing like the Egyptions and getting 500 slaves but then you would need managers too. :) It is amazing how much work one or two people can get done with a tractor…



  4. Anonymous says:

    Hey Walter……thanks for the photo of Jaws……i would never have pictured that…….i have the use of a backhoe but it does not have a thumb…..thumbs are the ticket! Anyway the Jam looks good…..its Ok to call me Anony….just don’t call me late for dinner :>)

  5. Anony,

    Look for another photo of Jaws soon.


  6. Anonymous says:

    Hello Walter,
    Wow what good fun.
    I to love to play with stones.
    Mostly balancing them on each other.
    You have some nice resources.
    Check out the big stones website.
    Jeff Krug in CT

  7. Farmerbob1 says:

    Maybe I am not thinking about this right, but why not drain down the oil a little on a cold day in the winter?

    Make up a quick connect attached to a piece of hose that is open at the other end (an ond, busted hose would do). Clean it out with a rag on a dipstick. Put the other end in your container of hydraulic oil. Connect the open-ended quick connect to Jaws and drain it down a bit, into the oil container.

    Or am I missing something?

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