We are frequently asked if we have any tips for making a DIY version of our Hicat® units so we've put together the following notes for making a Polecat.
The following notes & images are from our Fabrication Guide, which was developed for our partner manufacturing production so we've done our best to adapt the fabrication instructions for this DIY project in terms of tools & techniques.
There's also a DIY Kit of standard parts, fixings & tools that can be purchase using the form at the bottom of the page to help complete this DIY project.
The price of the DIY Kit is £16 including delivery to the UK so please be aware that an additional delivery supplement will need to be added to this price if you are outside of the UK - for guidance the delivery supplement is £12 for the US & £8 for Europe.
The DIY Kit includes the following Starter & Install Packs plus we've also listed the materials, tools & other bits that you will need to complete your Polecat:
6 M8 Insert Plugs
4 17mm screws
1 19mm Flat Wood Drill Bit
8 15mm U-Nail Staples
2 Plasterboard Fixings
1 Adjustable Foot
1 Foam Pad (plus spare)
1 Foam Ring (plus spare)
2 Connectors Caps (plus 2 spare)
10mm Drill Bit
Cardboard Tube (ceiling height with inside Ø150-160mm)
Carpet (ceiling height +200mm by 3.5x outside tube Ø)
MDF Sheet (9mm thick 600mm x 300mm)
Carpet Glue (1.5-2L)
Glue Sticks for Hot Melt Gun
Hot Melt Glue Gun
Tenon or Carpentry Saw
Jigsaw or Coping Saw
Philips Screwdriver (PZ2 size)
We recommend having a good read through the following notes before ordering a DIY Kit as there are some materials & tools that may need to be purchased to complete your Polecat so it's prudent to cost & gauge the project beforehand.
We also think it's worth saying that although we have simplified things as much as possible this DIY project may still be too much for an inexperienced DIY'er but that said, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
The DIY Pack is based on the materials we use in our manufacturing process so if you have to deviate from these you may need to make adjustments in terms of fixings, template measurements & quantities.
Polecats units are constructed from 4mm thick 152mm inside diameter spiral wound cardboard tubes - the tube sizing doesn’t have to be identical to this spec but if you want a Polecat similar to our standard unit you will need to use a tube with an internal diameter of at least 150mm so that the layout for the insert plugs used for installing the connectors can be spaced at the standard 80mm apart in the top end.
The centred insert plug is used for installing the foot on the bottom end cap - the unit can be installed either way up if you install insert plugs in this configuration at both ends of the unit.
This tube is covered in 10mm latex backed coir carpet, which is fixed using a non-toxic adhesive - we use a ready mixed Evostick Flooring Adhesive, which comes in 500ml, 1L, 2.5L & 5L sizes.
We've tested lots of different carpet & come to the conclusion (with lots of the help from our cats) that boucle or loop pile weave is best for climbing but you can obviously try out your own materials.
Essex Tubes supply our cardboard cores in standard 3m lengths & most of our carpet comes from Crucial Trading but as you would expect individual purchases from these companies will be probably be uneconomical in terms of cost so searching your local carpet stores for unwanted tube cores & carpet off-cuts will definitely be worth investigating.
We've specifically noted an optional layout for the end cap connector layout that uses a smaller 100-110mm inside diameter tube given that this is the normal size for tubes that are used to roll carpet & this is probably what most people will end up using for their DIY Polecat.
Using our DIY Kit the tube structure needs to be 55mm shorter than your ceiling height so that when the unit is complete you will have a 35-40mm clearance for installation - this clearance will be spaced as even gaps at the base & top of the unit once the feet & connectors are installed.
We finish the unit with a wrap-around detail over an end cap assembly at each end of the unit as standard. The end cap assembly is made up of a round MDF inset disc, which is fixed inside the ends of the tube with a smaller MDF end cap back fixed to it. The carpet is folded around the end of the tube & fixed around the end cap to give a clean finished detail.
The end cap assembly is fitted with the M8 insert plugs where the foot & ceiling connectors are screwed into. You can also just finish the carpet at the ends of the tube with a cut detail but a wrap-around detail will last better in terms of wear & tear plus look a lot nicer than a cut end.
The covering needs to be glued to the post with the ribs running vertically to aid climbing. Flooring adhesive is used to bond the covering to the tube but the seam to join the edges of the covering needs to be fixed with a hot melt heated glue gun. There are some reasonably priced mini glue guns on Ebay at the moment but please make sure you purchase additional glue sticks with the gun - you will need at least 12 of the mini 100mm long sticks for the main seam, end cap fixing & finishing the seam. You can use a contact adhesive in place of the hot melt glue but it will be easier with a glue gun based on our experience.
So, if you've read the above & want to give this DIY project a go the following step-by-step notes should see you through to making your own Polecat but please remember that using a tube with an inside diameter of at least 150mm & a 4-6mm wall is important if you intend to use the DIY Kit.
If you do use a smaller tube diameter you will have to make adjustments to the insert positions & installation layout as detailed in the notes below as the standard 80mm spacing across the connectors won't work.
Similarly, if you use say 24mm thick MDF as opposed to 9mm for the end cap assembly the screw fixings will be too short & the 35-40mm tolerance for the ceiling clearance will need to be adjustment as the end caps will be thicker than the standard assembly.
1 Mark-up & cut the tube to length using a tenon or carpentry saw - the tube length needs to be 55mm shorter than your ceiling height & it helps if you have several marked-up points around the tube as a guide when cutting to ensure an straight cut.
2 Cut-out 9mm MDF thick end cap assemblies using a jigsaw or coping saw - use a compass to scribe the inset disc & end caps marking up centres for the 19mm holes to take the insert plugs.
3 The diameter of the inset caps that will fit inside the tube should be as tight as possible to get a good fit & the diameter of the end cap should be at least 110mm to allow for insert plug spacing.
NB as noted in the Overview if you are using a tube with a smaller internal diameter the standard bottom/top 80mm insert plug layout won't work so you will need to work to a more compact insert plug layout for a separate - we've shown an example end cap assembly below based on a 100mm diameter tube.
4 It's best to back fix & screw the inset disc to the end caps before drilling the 19mm holes for the insert plugs - use 2 of the 17mm screws for each assembly with a PZ2 screwdriver
5 Install the six M8 insert plugs into the end caps - it's best to use a rubber mallet but a hammer will also get the job done.
6 If you are using 9mm MDF sheeting for the end cap assemblies you will need to trim back the connectors by two ribs before installing using secateurs.
7 Scribe a horizontal line along the length of the cut tube - you can rest a pencil on top of MDF off-cut that's half the height of the tube then run it along the length of the tube.
8 Install the end cap assemblies into the ends of the tube making sure that the inset disc are flush with each end of the tube.
9 Make sure the end cap assembly is installed at 90° to the scribed line.
10 If the end cap assemblies are too tight you can trim back the diameter of the inset disc using a surform plane.
11 Fix the end cap assemblies using 4 u-nails at each end - the u-nails need to be hammered in approximately 4mm in from the edge of the tube.
12 The carpet needs to be approx 200mm longer than the tube length & 3.5 times wider than the outside tube diameter – use the secateurs to make a clean cut down the long edge of the carpet between the ribs making sure that you leave as much of the flat section between the ribs of the carpet if using a boucle or looped pile material.
13 Fix the cut edge of the carpet to the tube along the scribed line – use the hot melt glue gun & make sure you have equal overhanging carpet at each end of the tube.
14 After making sure that the carpet edge is fixed securely use the carpet adhesive to fix the carpet around the tube leaving a 30-40mm unglued section up to the seam.
15 Work the glue on to the tube in sections rotating the tube as you glue - we wear rubber gloves to apply the adhesive as it's easier to work on to the tube but you can use the applicator that comes with the adhesive.
16 Then work the fabric around the tube making sure that there is no give in the carpet & the wrap is as tight as possible.
17 We use clamps at this stage to hold the carpet seam together while working the carpet around the tube & then leave the unit overnight to for the glue to cure - it’s unlikely that you will have clamps so move to the next stage after wrapping the carpet as best as possible.
18 Trim the edge of the carpet to the glued seam using the secateurs then fix this edge using the hot melt glue gun – it’s best if you can get a clean join without the edges overlapping or being too far apart.
19 When fixing the seam it's best to apply glue in sections of 10-15cm at a time so that the glue does not harden.
20 Cut the carpet at each end of the unit using the secateurs to form the wrapped end detail that will fold over the end caps.
21 Fold the carpet over the ends & use the inside edge of the end cap to guide the secateurs when making a cut
22 The carpet will be easier to trim if you remove excess fabric before cutting the flaps but make sure you leave at least 4-5cm to form the flaps.
23 Cut the flaps between the ribs in to 4 quarters - cut between ribs & remove excess fabric to create a small v shape in the cut.
24 Fix the flaps with the hot melt glue gun one at a time.
25 Work the flap on to the end cap making sure you have a good fix before moving on to the next one.
26 Clean up the edge of the wrapped ends with the secateurs.
27 Pull some coir strands from the carpet offcuts & cut these in to 3-4mm long fibres in preparation for finishing the units seam.
28 Apply a thick bead of hot melt glue along the seam then dab these fibres on to the - again it's best to apply the glue in sections of 10-15cm at a time.
The unit is installed by located the top cap connectors in to two 10mm ceiling holes positioned 80mm apart - please refer to our Polecat Install instructions if you have used our DIY Kit to make your unit.
If you've had to use a smaller diameter tube for your Polecat as noted in the Overview & stage 3 you can follow the standard install instructions but will obviously need to set out the connector ceiling holes at 40mm centres.
We would recommend making an additional MDF end cap that can be used as a ceiling fixing disc - the disc needs to be drilled with two 10mm holes 40mm apart for the connectors & two smaller 3-4mm holes for fixing the disc to the ceiling.
The reason for this deviation away from the standard install is that because the distance between the connectors is less that 80mm the connectors can loosen the plasterboard whilst the unit is being played on so the MDF spacer acts as a anchor to stop this wear.
Install the ceiling disc using the plasterboard fixings enclosed with the Starter Pack - pilot drill through the 3-4mm fixing holes in the ceiling disc then use the 10mm drill bit for the plasterboard fixing holes making sure you drill in to the ceiling another 20mm through the connector holes once the disc is installed.
The two ceiling connectors in the top cap locate into these holes with their rubber caps fitted - this might be a bit of a squeeze so you may need to open up the 10mm holes in the ceiling disc slightly with the drill bit in order for the connectors to locate.
Have fun ∑:)
NB Please note that although we obviously carry stock of the standard tube, carpet & sheeting materials we are unable to sell these materials to customers - sorry.