Construction Journal for 1997, Part 1 of 6

1/3/97 Made 16 brackets of 16 ga. steel strap to connect scaffold planks.

1/5/97 Made the LOGSEL spreadsheet to help assign candidate logs to positions in the walls. I used it to choose between #104 and #105 for the next log on the southwest wall. Since this wall has an odd number (3) of logs under the windows, I want to get the top of the third log as level as possible. As a general rule, the even courses will be close to level and the odd ones will not because of the taper. The spreadsheet shows that by choosing #105 for the second course and #104 for the third course, the top will be nearly level. This spreadsheet should turn out to be useful for other choices I will face as the walls go up.

1/6-9/97 I went up to the property for 4 days: Monday through Thursday.

I skipped two weeks because of Christmas and New Years, plus because of heavy snow, the pass was closed most of that time anyway. It was snowing in the pass on the way over, but in spite of getting stuck once, I made it without having to put on the chains. According to the Forest Service, there had been 7 feet of new snow since I had been up to the property. This had been rained on and frozen, so there was a 6 inch layer of icy crust on top that made it awful tough to dig. It took me from 11:30 to 1:30 to shovel out a place to park the pickup. Then it took another hour to dig out the trailer so I could move in. The snow level was even with the top of the trailer. Walking around was treacherous and tiring. I didn't use snowshoes because they couldn't break through the crust to make a trail. Instead, I just wore my Sorel boots. Most of the time, I could walk right on top of the crust, but every once in a while, (it seemed to be any time I would relax a little), I would break through the crust and fall through to my knee before I could stop myself. On several occasions, I broke through and fell all the way to my crotch.

The good news was that nothing was damaged as the result of the snow. More good news was that water was still running out of the hose. I was afraid that somewhere the hose would get pinched off and the hose would freeze and I would have to go to the spring to get water. So far that hasn't happened and I'm glad.

The privy roof hadn't been shoveled off all winter and now this new snow was piled on top of the previous snow. I decided to shovel it off because a collapsing building doesn't necessarily give any warning, and with that many tons of snow on top, I considered it dangerous to go inside. The snow was over 5 feet deep on the roof. It was wet, slushy and heavy and had two different layers of ice in it: one on top and one about a foot off the roof. By the time I finished clearing the roof, it was getting dark and I quit for the day.

On Tuesday morning, I was almost out of propane and I decided to deliver some of Ellen's holiday Wild Blackberry Jam to friends on the way to getting the propane. First, I unloaded the six scaffold frames that I had brought with me and then I had to put chains on the pickup and do some more shoveling in order to get out of the driveway.

The first stop was Tutino's and Shirley told me that they had gotten as much as 8 feet of snow in places. Our road hadn't been plowed recently past the school bus turnaround, so when I got there, I took off the chains. Next, I stopped at Larry and Roberta Copenhaver's and they invited me to stay for lunch. After lunch, I was on my way to Earl's and I ran across Ron Sideritz. While I was talking to him, Mike Dickinson drove by in his tractor and I stopped him and gave him his jam. Next I stopped at Earl's and left his jam on his doorstep because he was on the phone with a client. Finally, I got the propane and brought it back. It took me a while and several tries in order to park, but I didn't put the chains back on the pickup.

I spent the rest of the day getting a start on digging out the building site. I didn't even try to dig the snow off the lower ramps; instead, I just made packed trails over the top of them, in some cases three feet above the ramp. In some places, like the doorway, my electrical box, and the cement storage/tool box, I had to dig down to the ground level. There weren't many places where I could throw the snow, so it ended up that some of the snow piles inside the building were over 8 feet high.

On Wednesday morning, I finished digging out the building site and I went to work digging out the crane. The bottom of the boom was covered with 4 to 5 feet of snow and that had to be cleared away so that the boom could swing and also be raised and lowered. Then the boom control rope, that runs to the east through a block and then back through a vent window, had to be dug out. This was a fairly big job because it meant a trench in the snow about 30 feet long and about 4 feet deep.

Throughout the day, I carried a couple scaffold frames at a time up to the site, so by the end of the day, they were all up and stored.

The remainder of the day was spent digging in the upper roadway looking for logs #105 and #77. These were the next ones I planned to install. I dug literally tons of snow and found two other logs before I finally found the ones I was looking for. I freed #105 to the extent that I could pull it out of the snow bank using Oscar. About 10 feet of the butt end of #105 still needed to be skinned, so I set the log and the crane up in preparation to do the skinning. By that time it was getting dark, so I turned the lights on in the work area under the scaffolds and mounted the 'Gwizard (the Log Wizard) on the chainsaw to be ready for morning.

On Thursday morning, I finished skinning #105, put the cutting bar back on the chainsaw, and cut #105 to length. Then, while I was having lunch, I heated the water to dissolve some Penetreat. After lunch, I treated the bottom of #105 and the cut end that would be hidden in the wall. The temperature was below the recommended 40 degrees for applying the treatment, so I decided to treat the bottom of the log to get the checks that would be upside down in the wall, and treat the rest of the log after it is in the building. When this was done, I installed log #105 in the southwest wall and drove in every other pin. It was getting to be time to leave, so I left the rest of the pins for next time. I packed up and left at 3:45.

1/11/97 Made the last scaffold frame. This one has a 4x4 extending horizontally from it to accommodate a ladder or staircase.

1/14-17/97 I went up to the property for 4 days: Tuesday through Friday.

There had been no new snow since the last time, so I was able to park the pickup without doing any shoveling. It was 18 degrees out and all the snow had turned to solid, white ice. You could walk on top of it anywhere without leaving tracks. The problem was that it was very slick. I brought the last scaffold frame with me and brought it to the site, and then finished spiking log #105 into the southwest wall.

I spent the rest of the day digging log #77 out of the snow. The temperature at night was only 6 degrees and it only got up to 45 degrees in the trailer. This was in spite of insulating the trailer windows with sheets of styrofoam and polyurethane.

On Wednesday I got log #77 up onto the northwest wall and spiked it in place. I spent most of the rest of the day digging in the ice and snow trying to find log #104. I found it late in the afternoon, and then worked until it got dark to dig it out and lift it free.

On Thursday morning it was 5 degrees out and Oscar started acting up. After lifting a load, the winch would not hold after the power was turned off and the load would come back down to the ground, winding the winch backward as it went. Since it was unusable in this condition, I needed to do something about it and I wasn't sure what to do. I walked over and discussed the problem with Mike Tutino and together we concluded that the extreme cold was causing it to fail and that it would probably work correctly when it warmed up.

I went back and exercised Oscar by lifting and lowering a log repeatedly, and sure enough, after a while when it evidently warmed up enough, it started working correctly. I was glad I didn't have to take the thing down and work on it, or take it to someone to have it fixed.

After that, I got log #104 up onto the southwest wall and spiked it in. I felt really good about the project with these first three logs in the southwest wall. It's really starting to look like a log house now.

It snowed 4 inches during the night, and it kept snowing all morning on Friday. I went to work rebuilding the scaffolding and got two corner supports made and installed, and got the snow and ice dug away in order to hang the first of the scaffold frames. By that time it was noon, and the new snow was about 8 inches deep. I quit for the day in order to get over the pass while it was still daylight. It was snowing pretty hard all the way to the pass, but I made it without incident.

1/21-24/97 I went up to the property for 4 days: Tuesday through Friday.

The temperature was right at 32 degrees and there was 10 inches of new, wet snow on the ground when I got there. It took me about a half hour to dig out a parking place. The first thing I did was to string a pair of 12 gauge wire from the pickup to the trailer. I finally got sick of taking the battery out of the pickup and carrying it through the snow to the trailer so I made a 200 foot cable that I can plug in to the pickup at the parking place. It worked great; there isn't enough loss in the length of wire to make a difference in the operation of the radio or the light.

This week was devoted to rebuilding the scaffolding. The old scaffolding was built to wheel concrete to the top of the foundation and it was also useful in placing the first two courses of logs. From here on, though, I will need scaffolding that will travel up the walls as they grow. I had developed a fairly elaborate 16 step plan for reusing the same planks, and even though I didn't follow it exactly, it was a great help. I got the first two steps done on Tuesday, but the hardest job I did was to dig an 11 foot plank out from under three feet of ice.

On Wednesday I finished about half of the plan and in the evening, went to dinner at the Happy Clown with Earl Landin.

On Thursday it snowed most of the day, accumulating about 10 inches. I finished up installing the scaffolding except for the handrails and a few shims to keep the planks steady. While I was working, I banged my head pretty hard on the top of the crawl space door frame. The snow was so deep that I had to duck to get through the doorway, and once, I forgot to duck enough. This prompted me to dig the snow and ice away from under the doorway so I don't have to duck any more. I also shoveled the snow off the woodshed roof.

On Friday there was another 5 inches of new snow on the ground. I finished the shimming and most of the handrails. I ran out of 2x4s for the rails so I will have to finish that next week. One of the most gratifying things about the new scaffolding was my solution to the problem of connecting two planks end to end. I only support one of the planks with a frame and the other one is supported by the cantilevered end of the first plank. I considered many ways of connecting the planks and they were all too weak, too expensive, or too difficult. The 'Aha' of gratification came when I hit on the idea of using steel strap to make brackets. These are nailed to the top of the plank that is resting on a frame. The bracket makes a right angle bend over the end of the plank and then another right angle bend so the rest of the bracket is under, and nailed to, the second plank. The brackets were cheap and easy to make and they were very easy to install. They make a strong, flexible connection that makes the planks flush with one another. I am very pleased with how they worked out.

1/26/97 Made 4 rough opening window frames for the southwest wall.

1/28-31/97 I went up to the property for 4 days: Tuesday through Friday. There was snow on the ground all the way from Startup but it was raining from there to Stevens Pass. Chains were required over the pass and I left them on all the way to the property. There was no rain east of the pass so the 6 or so inches of new snow was light and powdery and easy to shovel.

I was thinking of rigging a cable up to the building site to make sort of a tram to get the window frames up there, but the cable was too short. Instead, I packed one of the smaller ones up on my back using the trusty Trapper Nelson pack. That didn't work too well because the things are pretty heavy and hard to balance on my back. I slid the remaining three frames over the snow by walking backward and sliding the frames 6 or 8 inches at a time. That worked better, but it was still a lot of work and took me the rest of the day.

In the evening, Earl Landin called and invited me to go snowmobiling the next day.

There was no new snow on Wednesday morning and it was a gorgeous day. The old snow was still powdery dry. I shoveled off the scaffolds, the front wall, and the tool boxes. Then I finished making the scaffolding handrails, shimmed up the last scaffold plank, and made the depth gauges for cutting the window frame notches. By then it was lunch time. After lunch, Earl stopped by and we went on an excellent snowmobiling adventure up the south side of Wenatchee Ridge.

That night it snowed a few inches and then turned to freezing rain. By morning, the snow on the ground was covered by a half inch layer of ice, and the trees were bent over double with a load of ice and snow, dripping with icicles. It was a strange and beautiful sight. There were icicles about 8 inches long and about an inch or two apart on every edge. There were two such rows of icicles, one on each side, on the scaffold handrails. Each course of logs in the building had a similar row. It was pretty, but it sure got in the way of working.

I spent most of the morning chipping the ice off the scaffolding, and the top log of the southwest wall so I could start cutting the window notches. Around noon, when the sun started peeking out, the chunks of ice started falling from the trees almost all at once. They made a terrific crash as they hit other ice covered branches and then splattered on the ice covered snow on the ground. I was glad there are no trees directly overhead where I was working. It could have been dangerous. By the end of the day, I had cut two of the four window notches.

I was running a little low on propane, so I decided to conserve what I had rather than take the time to go get some more. After all I had just read about Richard Byrd spending the first winter alone in the interior of the Antarctic, and compared to what he went through, my trailer without heat would seem balmy. It only got down to 30 degrees outside that night, and inside it only got down to about 45. I kept cozy warm in bed and I turned the furnace on again at 3 AM. By the time I got up at 5, it was nice and warm inside, and it turns out I had enough gas for the rest of the trip.

On Friday morning, there was no new snow or ice so I was able to get right to work cutting the remaining two notches. That was the hard part. Getting the frames nailed up into the notches was comparatively easy. I wanted to get them all nailed up before I went home because they and the notches were nice and dry and if I waited till next week, they would be buried in snow. I finished work about 5:00 and left for home.

2/4-7/97 I went up to the property for 4 days: Tuesday through Friday.

It was sunny and 25 degrees and the snow had an icy glaze on it that was tough enough to walk on almost anywhere. I spent the afternoon digging down through about 6 feet of icy snow looking for one of two specific logs that I knew were down there somewhere. By the end of the day I had found 4 logs, but they were the wrong ones.

Wednesday was another nice, sunny, cold day. By 11:30 I found log #16, which was one of the ones I was looking for. I dug a 20 foot trench to uncover the log, then I had to dig another trench on the cliff to free up the cable that was buried under the snow. Before I quit for the day, I had pulled log #16 half way up the hill.

Thursday was another nice day, and I got the log up on the roadway by 8:30 AM. I had just finished 'Gwizzing' (skinning with the Log Wizard) the log at 11:30 when Mike Tutino stopped by. I gave him a 'Gwizard demonstration and he looked over the progress.

After lunch, I fixed one of Oscar's ropes. It had a clasp attached to it that shouldn't have been there. Under certain conditions, the clasp could get stuck and Oscar would run away until I unplugged it. I took the clasp off and tied a knot the way it was supposed to be. I had put this job off for a while until the log walls were high enough for me to reach Oscar without a ladder. I feel safer now that it is done.

Larry Copenhaver stopped by and looked the project over just as I was cutting #16 to length. After he left, I got log #16 up in place in the wall.

On Friday morning, I spiked log #16 into the northwest wall and left for home about 11:30 in the morning. I wanted to get home early because Ellen took the day off.

2/10-13/97 I went up to the property for 4 days: Monday through Thursday.

My lungs and bronchial tubes were irritated from working hard in the cold air the previous week, but I went up anyway and decided to work a little less hard and to have a scarf over my face so the air wouldn't be so cold to breathe.

It was 30 degrees and there was no new snow so I didn't have to shovel out the parking place. I spent the afternoon digging through 6 feet of snow to free log #34. I had uncovered the end of it last week and I decided to use it next. The log is 36 feet long and it was nearly uncovered by the end of the day. During the night, I was pretty sick with a cold so I took some Nyquil so I could sleep better.

On Tuesday morning, it started snowing. I uncovered log #34 and started pulling it up the hill. I could only move it an inch at a time and by lunch time, I had moved it a foot. By that time, there was about 2 inches of new snow on the ground. Once the log was pulled out of the hole in the snow, it moved faster and by the end of the day, it was on top of the roadway. By then the snow was about 4 inches deep.

On Wednesday morning, it snowed until about 10:30 and there was about 8 inches accumulated. I shoveled off all the scaffold ramps and toolboxes and then spent the rest of the day 'Gwizzing log #34. I was feeling pretty sick so I worked slowly but I finished the job by about 5:30.

On Thursday, I woke up with a headache and felt crummy, but I went to work and cut #34 to length. Then I lifted the log up and temporarily laid it across from a snowbank on the southeast side, to the log wall at the south corner. This was a trick in itself because it was the first time I had tried to maneuver a log around that side of the building since the front window frames were erected.

Even though it is tight, I proved that it is possible to swing a log from the roadway around to the southeast side without having the crane or the log interfere with the window frames. It takes a lot more maneuvering but it can be done so I don't have to reconfigure the crane for a while yet. That is the good news. Since I wasn't feeling too well, I quit at noon and left for home.

2/25-28/97 I went up to the property for 4 days: Tuesday through Friday.

I skipped the previous week because I was sick. By Tuesday I still wasn't feeling 100 percent but I went up anyway. I got a late start because I had to fix a broken turn signal lever on the car before I left. On the way up, I stopped at Chainsaws Plus and picked up a saw that I bought from Vera Aldrich. The shop tuned it up, replaced a broken motor mount, and said that the saw was in excellent condition. Now I won't have to take the time to switch bars when I want to change from sawing to gwizzing, or vice versa. It should save me a lot of time.

It was 5:50 by the time I got to the property. Fortunately someone, probably Mike Dickinson again, had scooped out my parking place so I didn't have to do any shoveling in order to park. It was just getting dark by the time I moved into the trailer, installed the propane tanks, and got water. Since I was still feeling sick, I made dinner and went to bed at about 7:00.

On Wednesday morning, I still wasn't feeling up to par. I used the trusty old Trapper Nelson backpack to carry 5 loads of old lumber up to the site and 2 loads of yard waste to the compost pile. The boards and some of the yard waste came from Joe O'Leary. I was going to haul it to the dump for him, but I told him that some of the boards would be useful to me so I took them up with me.

After lunch, I drove some more spikes in the northeast wall. When I spiked that log in before, I was going to space them 36 inches apart. Since then, I have decided on 20 inch spacing instead. So I drove a new spike in between each of the old ones so they are now spaced 18 inches apart in that log and I can now place another log on top of it.

When that was done, I dug the snow away from the front of the eastern end of the log pile so that I can see the ends of the logs and their ID tags. I was feeling kind of sick, so I quit and went in at 4:00. I had a bad headache that night and went to bed at 7:00 again.

On Thursday morning I set about choosing the next log to put in the building. I needed an 8 footer with a fairly small diameter. None of the logs I had exposed in the pile the day before were suitable, so I started digging in the upper roadway looking for one that would work. I knew there was at least one up there that would work, and the third one I uncovered, #117, was just right. I used Oscar to pull it out of the snow and ice, and had it cut to length before lunch.

During lunch, I heated the water for a batch of Penetreat, and after lunch, I treated #117. Since the log was relatively small, I pulled it up the snowbank and onto the wall by hand instead of using the crane. The log went into the north corner where it is awkward for the crane to reach, so it was faster to move it by hand. When it was in place, I nailed it to the back door frame, and spiked it into the wall.

Next, I resumed moving log #34 toward its destination in the northeast wall. Since the crane can only reach halfway there, I had to rig a come-along to the vertical crane pole and use it to maneuver the log onto the wall. By 5:00 I had moved it about half way there and then started getting a headache again and I felt crummy so I quit for the day. I took some aspirin right away and the headache never did get very bad. I went to bed again at 7:00 because I was so tired.

On Friday morning, I felt a lot better. By 11:30 I had moved log #34 into position on the northeast wall. During lunch, I heated water for a batch of Penetreat again, and after lunch, treated log #34. When that was done, I spiked #34 into place and then packed up and left for home.

3/5-7/97 I went up to the property for 3 days: Wednesday through Friday.

Over the weekend, I developed a swollen, painful left knee and a curious pattern of fluctuating body temperature. As a result, I delayed going up until Wednesday. By then, my knee was a little better and I felt a little better. Also Dr. Brigham, with whom I talked, said that there was no reason why I shouldn't go up and work.

There had been a couple feet of new snow which had shrunk down to about 6 inches of heavy wet snow. It took about a half hour to shovel out my parking place. After moving in to the trailer, I shoveled off the scaffolds, tool boxes, and the ends of the logs in pile 5 and 6 so I could see the tags. I recorded the locations of these log ends so that if they got covered up again, I would know where to dig for specific logs. With this information and what I already knew, I figured out a plan for what logs to go after next. I selected logs #17 and #36, both of which were already up on the roadway. With a little digging, I found #17 and then rigged up Oscar and the Gwizzard so I was ready to gwiz the log. By that time it was the end of the day.

On Thursday it snowed all morning and about 4 inches of wet snow accumulated. I gwizzed log #17. The snow changed to intermittent sun and rain. I cut #17 to length and treated it with Penetreat. The swelling in my knee went down and it began feeling a lot better.

On Friday, I hoisted log #17 up onto the southeast wall and spiked it in place.

3/11-14/97 I went up to the property for 4 days: Tuesday through Friday.

I still wasn't feeling up to par. My knee was completely recovered, but I had swollen glands and was developing a sore throat. I decided to go up anyway, not work too hard, and get lots of sleep. There was about 5 inches of heavy wet snow on the ground so it took me about 20 minutes to shovel out the parking place.

After I moved into the trailer, shoveled the scaffolds, etc. I searched for and found log #36 which was buried in the upper roadway. I dug it out, cut it to length, and treated it with Penetreat before quitting for the day.

On Wednesday, there was about 1 inch of new snow in the morning, but it was nice and sunny all day. I raised log #36 up onto the southeast wall and spiked it in. Larry Copenhaver stopped by for a visit while I was raising the log.

On Thursday, I went after log #32 which was down in the log pile buried under 5 feet of snow and ice. This required a trench in the snow 37 feet long, 4 feet wide and 5 feet deep. When the trench was done, log #18 was also uncovered. After looking at what I needed, I decided that #18 would work better than #32. so I decided to pull it out instead. In the middle of the day, I took a break from the digging and went and bought propane. I was completely out.

Instead of using Oscar to pull the log out of the pile, I used a come-along chained to a tree and pulled the log out about 5 feet by hand. The last time I pulled a log out like this, I used Oscar and had to walk up and down the hill for each inch or two of progress for the first 5 feet. Using a come-along was more work doing the pulling, but it saved all that walking. On balance, I think it was a lot easier and faster.

On Friday morning, I used both Oscar and a come-along to get log #18 pulled completely out of the pile. From there, it wasn't much of a problem to get the log pulled up onto the roadway. After lunch I gwizzed about half of #18 before I quit to go home. While I was loading up the pickup, Earl Landin stopped by for a visit. After showing him the progress on the building, I finished loading and left for home.

3/19-21/97 I went up to the property for 3 days: Wednesday through Friday.

When I arrived, around noon, it was raining cats and dogs and the new snow that had fallen was reduced to about 4 inches of slush. I shoveled most, but not enough, of this out of the parking space. Then I tried to turn the pickup around and got stuck so bad I had to put the chains on in order to get out. Then as I was carrying my stuff up to the trailer, I slipped and did a face plant in the slush. By the time I got moved in, my clothes were soaked.

After lunch and after drying out, I installed the gwizard blades which I had taken home and sharpened. With all the rain, I noticed that there was a foot or so of water in the bottom of the privy. I didn't like the looks of that.

The rain stopped by Thursday morning. I dug the snow away from the foot of the mast so I could figure out how to raise it. The mast leans over the back wall somewhat, and is so close that there isn't room for another log on the wall. I have known since I erected the crane that I would have to move it up the cliff sooner or later. The time is now.

After digging the snow away, I could see that there is a ledge in the cliff that is the perfect new place for the mast to rest. After that, I finished gwizzing log #18. Just as I finished, the rain started again and I went in for lunch.

After lunch, there were just occasional showers. I used a come-along chained to a tree to pull the mast up to its new step. It was a fairly easy job to do. Next, I cut #18 to length and treated it with Penetreat. Before the end of the day, I got log #18 raised up so that it was resting across the south corner on its way to its final destination.

Friday was a beautiful sunny day. I got log #18 in its place on the northeast wall and spiked it in before lunch. After lunch, I cut the leftover butt of log #105 to length, treated it, and spiked it into the northwest wall. I was pleased to notice that the water level in the bottom of the privy went down quite a bit.

I worked until 6:00 PM so I spent the night in the trailer and went home Saturday morning.

1997: Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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