I have to admit, I was a little excited when Julia came home (several weeks ago) and told me that she had to build a volcano for school. I never did the Volcano assignment when I was a kid, but I sure do remember that episode of the Brady Bunch.  Julia said that the volcanoes had not been assigned yet but she was hoping to get Mt. Shasta since her Uncle Kevin and Aunt Harper live there (just a few hours north of us).  We have been there many times over the years and thought it would be awesome to learn more about a place we enjoy so much. 

     Julia came home the next week and was excited to report that she was assigned Mt. Shasta. We notified Julia's Uncle Kevin and Aunt Harper of the news and they were excited to hear about the project as well.  They are both Fire Captains with Cal Fire and are very familiar with the mountains. Uncle Kevin has climbed Mt. Shasta which stands over 14,000 ft. and Aunt Harper knows quite a bit about the geology and history of Mt. Shasta.

Julia's Uncle Kevin climbing Mt. Shasta in 2009



     Julia and I began surfing the web for information on how to build a volcano for school. We found a lot of information on working with paper mache, plaster and other materials. Then we began searching for web sites to learn more about Mt. Shasta. Not only does Julia have to build the mountain but she has to write a report. We have posted some cool links on Mt. Shasta.


     We started looking around the garage workshop to see what scrap materials we had.   We could use cardboard for the base but a simple frame and plywood might hold up better and look better. In fact, I had a lot more wood than I did cardboard so I discussed this with Julia and she liked the idea of having a nice wooden frame for her project. We picked out a couple of 1" x 2" x 8' boards of Poplar and a small sheet of plywood.  Poplar is an inexpensive hardwood that is very easy to work with .  Julia glued the two 1" x 2" pieces together and clamped them into an L shape. It took a while to get the pieces lined up but she did an excellent job.

According to the instructions the max dimensions for the volcano can not exceed 16". I showed Julia the frame and explained the frame was going to take up almost 2" and leave her a smaller area to build her volcano.  She told me that it was ok and did not want to exceed the teachers instructions.  This makes me proud!

     Although Julia has used an electric miter saw before, I showed her how to use it again.   Safety glasses on, she made the first 45 degree cut perfectly. She planned out the cut for the next piece, measured the outside of the frame at 16", double checked her measurement and the direction of the blade and then made the next cut.  Using the first piece as a template, we repeated the process four more times.  I did help with a few cuts.

     After we had our four pieces, we put them together, squared and then clamped the pieces.  This is not easy to do, so we did this together.

Several days later, Julia measured the inside area of her frame. It measured 14 1/4" x 14 1/4".

She then used a square to measure this out on the plywood and then sawed out the bottom panel.


Julia then drilled 8 pilot holes and screwed the plywood into place near each corner to strengthen her frame.

Julia sanded her frame and brushed on several coats of Varathane liquid plastic for that nice professional look.  This took several days allowing each coat to dry thoroughly.


Feb 2nd, 2010
Over the past several weeks of studying topographic maps, reading about Mt. Shasta's volcanic history and thinking about how to build her mountain.  Julia decided to build her volcano with a sliced off back to show what the inside of the volcano looks like.  She used a small piece of plywood that was left over from the frame and cut out the basic shape of a mountain.  Her plan is to draw a magma chamber and the other inner workings of her volcano on the back of her display.

Julia and I talked about the requirements of having a 3-4" pipe in her volcano and decided she should build up the inside and mount the pipe first.  Then she could just add scraps of wood on to build up her mountain.  I got out a box of sprinkler system parts and Julia built up her frame.  She measured out the middle section and decided where her lava tube needed to go.

Julia then layed out a topographic area map to see where her mountain needed to be built up.

Then drilled a hole large enough to hold her PVC pipe.

Julia glued and mounted her pvc pipe to the board with a cap on the bottom which keeps it close to 4" and securely attached.

We went to the train store yesterday and picked up some plaster and rock molds for Julia's mountain.  Jack picked out a train for himself as well.  Last night, we experimented with the first rock and it came out really well.  After Julia got home from school today, we were looking at her structure and she decided that it would be cool to drill a hole into her mountain  to look inside a magma chamber.  I found some more scraps and Julia grabbed some red and yello paint from her last science project and built the magma chamber.

  Julia then decided to drill the hole in the plywood cutout where her magma chamber drawing is so you can look into the magma chamber.  We started looking for her volcano template and realized we accidentally cut it up for the back of the magma chamber.  Oops!  I will have to get more wood at the store.



Feb 3rd

We started building up the mountain with left over scraps, styrofoam, cardboard, and crumpled up newspaper.  We used package tape to hold it together.  We found that the easiest recipee for paper mache is just 2 parts flour and 1 part water.  Stir well. It is easy to make but messy.  We tore up strips of newspaper and dipped them in the batch of paper mache mix. Wipe off the excess paste and apply the paper to the volcano.  We added about four layers with the final layer being recycled white paper.


This was really easy.  We purchased a can of paint (stone color) and spray painted most of the volcano.  We painted the volcano a little darker on the bottom of the mountain and lighter on top.  We used "white out" to make snow and added trees at the bottom.