Experiences of a late-comer to the agility competition scene -- our training, trials, life-style changes/challenges, RV adventures, and observations on the sport, the people, and dogs involved in it. Begun July 17, 2010.
Several people have asked me to share how I built my agility equipment, so I will do so here, including things I would do differently now.
USDAA Broad Jumps, Tire Jump, Weave Poles, Bar Jumps
I started with a book called Agility Training, The Fun Sport For All Dogs, by Jane Simmons-Moake, which has plans for building every piece of equipment in the Appendix. The equipment she describes is USDAA, a little different from AKC approved equipment. Most notably, the AKC see-saw does NOT have slats, and the AKC broad jump is stepped higher with each board, whereas the USDAA broad jump boards form an arch (the first and last boards are lower than the middle ones).
You can purchase the Tire Jump off of E-bay for a reasonable sum, or build your own. You can easily build your own stick-in-the-ground weave poles with PVC, some 6" nails, PVC glue, and decorative tape. Same with Bar Jumps. The worst problem with the bar jumps is making the jump cups that hold up the bars at various heights. They are a bit tricky, and you need a lot of them.
I don't recommend building the A-Frame or Dog Walk if you can afford to buy the aluminum ones. The wooden ones we built at home required lots of electronic tools, lots of space and time, some fairly advanced skills, and a fair amount of materials including wood, screws, glue, clamps, caulk, paint, sand, an industrial piano hinge for the A-frame and 4 rubber wheels and 2 axles. Plus which, once built, they are very heavy to raise, lower, and move. But if you don't have the money to spare and plenty of time, you can accomplish it for about $350. I did. Wood is fairly expensive, and finding 12 foot long hardwood boards is a challenge. (Pine, we found, is too soft and bendable. If you use it you will forever need to prop up your boards in the middle.)
The chute and tunnel you pretty much have to purchase unless you get real creative. We aren't that creative. A competition quality tunnel is fairly expensive, but a portable chute you can get off of E-bay very reasonably.
Dog Walk On Wheels, set to low height
Wings are fairly easy to make out of PVC and slats or lattice. You can even use wood scraps.
You can build your own Pause Table using PVC and wood.
I'll explain how my husband and I did all this.
Most see-saws are slightly heavier at one end because the fulcrum isn't exactly centered. You want the see saw to return to the start position within 3 seconds of the dog leaving the board. I altered this plan by putting the fulcrum dead center, and putting a metal 2x4 bracket under each end that a 10" long piece of 2x4 board slides into. You can make either side be the down side by moving the weight to either end. You don't have to turn the whole see-saw around. You can easily build your own fulcrum from PVC and a chain.
First coat of yellow on the Dog Walk
Jane's recommendation for the A-Frame requires 2 4x8 sheets of 3/4" exterior plywood, on top of which is glued masonry board for a gripping texture. If I had to do it all over again, I would skip the masonry board which adds weight and is hard to seal from moisture. Instead, I would just add sand to my paint and paint 3 coats directly on the primed plywood. That gives excellent rough texture and protects the wood from the elements for years. Also saves a bunch of work. I would also caulk every gap on the sides of the plywood, and everywhere the support boards touch the top edges, before I paint.
On the slats that go across the Dog Walk and A-Frame, I caulked the up side of each slat before I painted. This keeps water from collecting there and rotting out your boards.