Tools That Don’t Suck: Flag Dolly

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As water feature installers, my sons and I are used to hard, dirty and sometimes dangerous work. We enjoy what we do, whether it’s digging ponds, plumbing pumps, rolling boulders or tweaking waterfalls. We also value anything that makes the job faster, easier or more fun. We’re always looking for tools, apps or gadgets that save time & effort, eliminate stress, add to our comfort on the job or are just fun to use. Often a buddy will turn us on to one. I’d like to return the favor by passing our favorite Tools That Don’t Suck along to you. 

Sometimes the perfect tool doesn’t exist, so you have to make it. I’m reminded of Lloyd Lightsey’s answer to the perennial problem of leaving the brand new pond as clean as possible so the customer gets that perfect first impression. Not easy to do with rocks that always seem to be covered in magic clay – you know, the stuff you think was washed off that instantly dirties up the pond even after two rinses. Well, Lloyd took matters into his own hands and built a ‘trummel’ to wash his gravel spotless before installing. Ask him about it sometime, definitely a TTDS.

We had a situation that demanded a totally new tool at the job we’ve been working on whenever quarantine has allowed. I don’t say that lightly; we actually got chased out when the Governor closed down the entire state to New Yorkers March 28 – by the National Guard! When restrictions eased, we went back to finish, and ran into a problem. Our customer had asked for a bridge or peninsula over a tiny watercourse at the foot of a natural stone bluff. All machine access had been cut off. The stone we wanted to use wasn’t massive, but a triangle five feet on a side, almost four inches thick, weighs over five hundred pounds.

(You might be interested in how we calculated the weight of the stone. The way we figured it, it’s the area of a triangle – ½ Height x Base, or in this case the crazy formula for an equilateral triangle. You can look that one up. Either way, it works out to over 10 square feet, times the thickness at 3.6”/12”  = 3 cubic feet, times 170lbs per cubic foot for granite = 510 lbs)

The challenge was, we had to travel 150 feet through a long narrow trellised garden, then take a hard right through a narrow gate. There wasn’t enough room to put four men, or even three on it, and there were only two of us on site anyway. We had to come up with another way.

Enter the Flag Dolly. Like most useful tools, it’s very simple – four wheelbarrow tires bolted to a 4×4 chassis. I drilled the 4×4 to accommodate two 5×8”x18” threaded rods for the axles, then bolted on a pair of filled puncture proof tires, so the dolly could be tilted backwards for turns without deflating. I bolted two air filled tires to the ‘front’ of the 4×4, to absorb any shocks from holes and cobblestone borders we had to traverse.

Loading turned out to be easier than anticipated, after we managed to get the horizontal flag vertical, which wasn’t fun but eminently doable. Then we rotated the vertical stone forward onto the carefully placed and braced dolly. Once placed, moving the stone actually went quite smoothly. By the end of the run I was confident enough to have my man Kevin let go long enough to shoot a short video.

Necessity is one heck of a mother.

About the Author:


Demi has been in water garden construction since 1986. As Atlantic’s Director of Product Information, if he’s not building water features, he’s writing or talking about them. If you have a design or construction question, he’s the one to ask.

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