Construction Journal Entry Week of 7/7/19

7/9-11/19 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

Robert called me before I left Seattle and told me that he had parked his dump truck and his loader at Camp Serendipity. He also said that he would be over on Wednesday. On the way, I stopped and visited with Earl. He was trying to figure out a cut-out switch that Mike Tutino had installed on his car. I tried to help him with my ohmmeter but I couldn't help him much.

I arrived at Camp Serendipity at 1:00. The temperature was 70. I brought most of my gear up to the cabin and was disappointed to find a mouse in a trap in the crawlspace. At least they didn't get into the first floor.

Next, I hoisted the flag, had my lunch and a nap, and then went into the woods to work on the ram pump. I had brought a ball valve with me that I installed on the output hose connection. A couple of YouTube videos I had watched seemed to imply that a valve in that position was necessary. The idea was that you start with the valve closed so that pressure builds up in the compression chamber, and after it does, you gradually crack the valve open until it is wide open and the pump is supposed to keep running. That didn't work for me. No matter what I did, the pump simply wouldn't keep running very long.

I had also brought a new spring mechanism with me that I had made and tried it on the pump. It didn't work any better than any of the others. I tried everything I could think of and finally gave up.

Since Andrew really needed water, I got a bucket full of water and set the bucket above the tree. Then I punched a small hole in the bottom of the bucket so that the water dribbled out. I was curious to learn about how long it would take to empty the bucket through that dribble.

When I returned to the cabin, I realized that the pendulum clock had stopped. When I went up to check on it, I realized that it had simply run down because I skipped my usual trip last week. But when I tried to wind the clock, it acted as if it were already completely wound up. And when I started the pendulum, it wouldn't run the escapement so the pendulum would just gradually stop. It seemed that the clock was broken and that I would have to take it home to get it repaired.

On Wednesday morning, everything was very wet because it had evidently rained a lot during the night. I went into the woods to check on Andrew's bucket and was surprised to find it completely full. I don't think it had rained enough to fill it and the dribble wasn't running, so it seemed that the hole I had punched simply got plugged up. I got my knife out and re-opened the hole so it dribbled again.

Back in the cabin, I found the paperwork we had gotten from the clock shop when we had the clock restored. One of the instructions warned against letting the clock run down completely. The instructions said that if you are going to be away for more than a week, you should wind the clock up and then stop the pendulum. If you don't, the clock will jam up. That appeared to be the problem I was having.

I tried all the telephone numbers for the House of Clocks that were on the paperwork and every one of them was no longer in service. Apparently they had gone out of business and I was on my own.

I brought the clock down to the dining room table and had a close look at it. I figured out how to remove the clock face so you could get at the mechanism. Once it was open, I could see that both springs were completely unwound, so I tried once again to wind them. Lo and behold I was able to wind both of them. Something I had done had cleared the jam, but I haven't any idea what did it.

After winding the clock back up, it ran fine. I returned it to the loft, set it to the correct time, and the old familiar tick-tock and bongs were back. I was happy about that. I really like that clock.

About the time I finished, Robert showed up. He said he was going to mow down some weeds and then load a bunch of pulp logs into his dump truck. Since there wasn't anything I could do to help him, I went back up to work on the back stair rail.

I installed the upper rail into its mortise holes in the two posts and then used a plumb bob to mark the locations of the top and bottom balusters on the underside of the rail. Then I removed the top rail again, turned it end-for-end, and laid it on the staircase so that it was parallel to the lower rail.

Then I measured the distance between the two marks I had made, and then calculated the cumulative running distances along the rail for the 23 balusters. Then, using the calculator again, I converted the decimal fractions of an inch to sixteenths. Then I took that list of numbers out, snapped a chalk line between the two marks on the rail, and then strung a tape along the rail and with a sharpie, marked the location of the center of each baluster hole using the cumulative measurements and the chalk line.

Next, I clamped the rail down so that the marks were exactly on top and so that the rail was in line with the pitch of the staircase. Then, using my DeWalt drill with the bubble level and a 7/16" spade bit, I drilled all the baluster holes in the top rail. By then it was noon and Robert had left. I went in for lunch and a nap.

When I got up, I went back into the woods to check on Andrew's bucket. It was down about 1/4 of the way. I filled it back up to the top.

Next I had to make a decision about whether to make new balusters for the stair rail or use balusters that I had already made and painted for use in the loft. They were 5" longer so they would have to be cut shorter, wasting rebar, but it would speed up the job to use them. That's what I decided to do. I used Dr. Dick's handy rebar cutter to shorten 23 balusters and I was ready to install them.

First, I turned the top rail end-for-end again so that it was properly oriented. Then I used the suspension system I had rigged up to support the bottom end of the rail. I cranked it up so that the end of the rail was 8 or 10 inches above the newel post. Then I tapped all 23 balusters into their holes in the lower rail. Next, I engaged the top two or three balusters in their holes in the upper rail and was able to get the end of the rail started into its mortise hole. Since it was angled up, it didn't go in very far, but at least it was started.

Then I lowered the come-along on the suspension system just one click and then went back up the stairs to see how many more balusters could be engaged. It was just one or two.

Then back down to lower the come-along another click, and back up to engage another baluster or two. As I engaged additional balusters, I would pound the rail down onto them with a rubber hammer, and with a big hammer, I drove the butt end of the rail up so that the top of the rail progressed into the mortise hole. As the come-along went down more and more, the balusters and the rail tenon kept seating deeper.

Pretty soon, I didn't need the suspension system anymore because the engaged balusters held the rail up, so I unhooked the come-along. I kept engaging balusters into their holes in the top rail until they were all in. By that time, I was able to get the lower tenon on the upper rail started into its mortise hole in the newel post. Then by driving the newel post back into position using a short 2x4 and a big hammer, I was able to get the bolts back through the CB66 to secure the post.

Unfortunately, in the process of getting the bolts driven through, the end of one of the bolts got bunged up so that the nut wouldn't turn on. I needed to somehow clean up the threads.

On Thursday morning, after breakfast, I went back to work on the newel post. I think the newel post had dried out somewhat overnight because the bolt that was giving me trouble came out easily so that I could work on it. I didn't have a 5/8" die but I used a skinny file to straighten out the bunged-up threads. Then I replaced the bolt, turned the nut on, and then tightened up both bolts. The rail system was finally in place and secure.

Next I installed the final log in the rail system. That is a rail between the stair treads and the foundation wall. That space will eventually be filled by the rock facing that will be laid up over the foundation, but in the meantime, the space is greater than four inches wide and would not pass code.

I had just put all the tools and equipment away when Robert showed up with two helpers. They took the two front tires off the skidder and loaded them into one of the helpers' truck. Robert is going to put new tires on the skidder when I am gone next week. I am going to skip another week and will not be going up there next week.

After Robert and his guys left, I checked on Andrew's bucket and found that it was again completely full and there was no dribble. That bucket must be self-healing. I re-opened the hole but made it a little bigger this time.

Back at the cabin, I mixed up a batch of Board Defense and sprayed it onto all the wood that was ready for stain. Then I took some pictures of the finished staircase rail system. I left for home at 12:40 happy with the progress, happy that the clock was working again, but still frustrated that the ram pump wouldn't work.

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