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 DIY Polecat.
The following notes & images are from our now out of date Fabrication Guide, which was developed for our partner manufacturing production so we've adapted these as instructions for this DIY project in terms of tools & techniques with the addition of some new photos where applicable.
There's also a DIY Kit of standard parts, fixings & tools that can be purchased using the link at the bottom of the page to help complete this DIY project.
The price of the DIY Kit is £20 - shipping is calculated at checkout & please get in touch if your country isn’t listed & we can provide a Delivery Quote.
The DIY Kit includes the following parts for the fabrication & install plus we've also listed the materials, tools & other bits that you will need to complete your DIY Polecat:
2 Pan Head Screws
4 Flat Head Screws
1 Flat Wood Bit
8 U-Nail Staples
1 Ceiling Connector
1 Drill Bit
1 Glue Sachet
2 Foam Pads
Cardboard Tube - ceiling height minus 60mm
Carpet - ceiling height plus 200mm & 3.3x outside tube diameter
MDF - 12mm thick 600mm x 300mm
Carpet Glue - 0.5-1L
Hot Melt Glue Sticks - 10 to 20 mini sticks
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 DIY 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 are planning on using a Cat’s Cradle with your DIY Polecat the outside diameter of the tube will need to be 160mm.
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 & online for carpet remnants will definitely be worth investigating.
Another option is to use a drain pipe instead of cardboard tube - we actually used a PVC drain pipe for our first prototype back in 2004 & if you use a 160mm diameter soil pipe this will be the same external tube size as our Polecat so you also have the option of using a Cat’s Cradle on the unit as long as a similar thickness coir to our standard finish is used to wrap the unit i.e. 10mm.
Our standard tube end cap assembly works on an end cap diameter of 108mm & insert of 152mm - if you use a tube with an internal diameter of less than 152mm the 2x 38mm feet & 30mm bush wont work - there are some work arounds noted in the steps but it’s best to have a plan in place before starting if using a tube diameter less than our standard diameter.
We finish the unit with a wrap-around detail over the 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 end cap assembly is fitted with a bush at both ends so you can turn your unit upside down when it becomes worn - the feet can simply be un-screwed & refitted.
Using our DIY Kit the tube needs to be 60mm shorter than your ceiling height so that when the unit is complete you will have a 36mm clearance for installation when using 12mm MDF for end caps - if you are using different thickness MDF you will need to adjust this clearance accordingly noting that there’s a 20mm gap at the base & 16mm at top once the feet are installed.
The tube is covered in 10mm thick 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 & you wil need between 500ml-1L depending on your tube length & how sparingly you use the glue.
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.
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.
If you don’t have a glue gun there are some reasonably priced mini glue guns available to purchase online but please make sure you purchase additional glue sticks with the gun - you will need between 10-20 of the mini 100mm long sticks for the main seam, end cap fixing & finishing the seam depending on your ceiling height & 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 & without the strong odours that linger when using contact adhesive.
The carpet is folded around the end of the tube & fixed to the end cap to give a clean finished detail but you can also just cut the carpet at the ends but you will find it will fray & be prone to much more wear & tear.
So, if you've read the above & want to give this DIY project a go roll up your sleeves & the following step-by-step notes should see you through to making your own Polecat.
Mark-up & cut the tube to length using a tenon or carpentry saw - the tube length needs to be 60mm shorter than your ceiling height & it helps if you have several marked-up points around the tube as a guide when cutting to ensure a straight cut.
Cut-out MDF end cap assemblies using a jigsaw or coping saw - use a compass to scribe the inset disc & end caps marking up centres for the bushes on each disc.
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 feet & bush positioning.
NB as noted in the Overview if you are using a tube with a smaller internal diameter than our standard tube the 2 feet & bush layout on the bottom end cap assembly won’t work - to help with spacing it’s best not to install a bush on the bottom end cap assembly but you can still drill the hole to make it upside down future proof.
Drill the centre holes using the flat wood bit.
Back fix the inset disc - use 2 of the flat head screws for each assembly.
Install the bushes into the end caps with a dab of glue gel - it's best to use a rubber mallet but a hammer will also get the job done if you’re careful.
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.
Install the end cap assemblies into the ends of the tube making sure that the inset discs are flush with each end of the tube.
If the end cap assemblies are too tight you can trim back the diameter of the inset disc using a surform plane.
We use a staple gun to fix the end cap assemblies so have included u-nails in this kit - use 4 u-nails at each end & these need to be hammered in approximately 4mm in from the edge of the tube.
The carpet needs to be approx 200mm longer than the tube length & 3.2 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 as possible of the flat section between the ribs of the carpet if using a boucle or looped pile material.
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.
After making sure that the carpet edge is fixed by pressing down along the seam a few times use the carpet adhesive to fix the carpet around the tube - 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.
Work the glue on to the tube in sections rotating the tube as you glue leaving a 40-50mm unglued section up to the seam - try to apply a line of ridges along this point to help with fixing the carpet.
Then work the fabric around the tube making sure that there is no give in the carpet & the wrap is as tight as possible - it will be easier working the coir around the tube if you place it on a carpeted floor then massage the coir whilst rotating the tube bit-by-bit as the carpet will will help to hold the wrapped sections tight.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fold the carpet over the ends & use the inside edge of the end cap to guide the secateurs when making a cut
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.
Cut the flaps between the ribs into 4 quarters - cut between ribs & create a small v shape in the cut.
Fix the flaps with the hot melt glue gun one at a time.
Work the flap on to the end cap making sure the ribs are radiating pointing to the centre of the end end & you have a good fix before moving on to the next one.
Clean up the edge of the wrapped ends with the secateurs.
Screw the feet on to the end cap opposite each other - if using a smaller end cap layout you can fix the the feet so they overlap the coir edge slightly if you need to avoid the bush installed in the centre of the end cap.
Pull some coir strands from the carpet off cuts & cut these into 3-4mm long fibres in preparation for finishing the unit's seam.
Apply a thick bead of hot melt glue along the seam then dab these fibres onto the seam - again it's best to apply the glue in sections of 10-15cm at a time.
Stand back & admirer your handy work.
Please refer to our Polecat Install for installation instructions.
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.