Construction Journal for 2002, Part 1 of 6

1/8-10/02 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

It rained most of the way over with just a little snow mixed in at the top of the pass. On the other side, there was a little sun, but by the time I got to the property at 1:00, it was raining and 37 degrees. It looked like there had been a foot or two of snow since the last time the driveway was scooped out, but that had shrunk down to about 10 inches of almost slush. There was a big berm made by the snow plow so I had to spend about a half hour shoveling through that in order to park. I rammed the pickup in and out of the driveway several times to pack down the slushy snow before I parked it.

After moving in, I drilled and spiked down the first joist log in the porch. I cut all the spikes to length with Dr. Dick's rebar cutter. It sure is handy to have that machine. I used half-inch rebar spikes in the two beams which went in with no problem. But I had trouble with the spike in the ledger. For that I used 3/8 inch rebar. The problem was that the spike needed to go in close to the inside corner formed by the wall and the projecting wall log ends. With the extension handle on the 1/2 inch drill motor, I couldn't get the drill lined up over where I had to drill.

Since I was using a 3/8 ship augur, I figured the thing to do was to use the 3/8" drill. I could align the drill fine. It drilled the augur in a foot or so, but it was too wimpy to turn the bit once it was buried that deep. It wouldn't run forward or backward. I took the drill off the bit and tried the 1/2 inch drill again. I thought that with the bit in that deep, I would have enough clearance. I was wrong.

Then, I thought of taking the handle off the 1/2 inch drill, but it was rusted on pretty tight and I couldn't turn it by hand. Next, I figured that if I turned the bit backward a few turns by hand, the 3/8 drill could do the rest. I tried a few different tools to no avail and finally got an open end wrench that fit the hex end of the bit. I could turn the bit backward, but it didn't come up. Even with the bit loosened up, the 3/8 drill was still too wimpy to turn it. I tried several things attempting to extract the bit but it wouldn't come up. I finally decided to give up and take the handle off the 1/2 inch drill.

I clamped the drill handle in the vise and then it was easy to unscrew. With the handle off, the drill fit in the corner and it was no problem then to finish drilling the hole and pull the bit out. Then I drove in the spike. By that time, it was time to quit for the day.

On Wednesday there was no rain and the sun was out from time to time. It was beautiful. I selected the log for the next joist and pulled it down into gwizzing position. This was another section of the log from the dead tree I harvested right behind the high rock.

Since I was going to do a considerable amount of gwizzing for the porch joists, I decided to re-rig the gwizzing sling. It was hanging from one of the high front windows, but this made me have to work against gravity all the time I was gwizzing. Instead, I hung the sling from an anchor on the end of the Grid D purlin. I had to make a tool from an 8-foot 1x2 in order to hang the hook with the sling up there, but now the sling hangs directly over the log I need to gwiz. This will make the work a lot easier.

I spudded all the loose bark off the log and started gwizzing. There was still quite a bit of very tight bark still on the log, and under the bark, there seemed to be a thin layer of dirt. I don't know how that got in there, but it sure dulled the gwiz blades in a hurry. It got so bad that I took the gwizard in and sharpened the blades. Then I used the axe to get as much bark off as I could so I wouldn't dull the blades again. Once that was done, with the sharp blades, I finished gwizzing the log in no time. Big difference in speed!

As soon as I finished lunch, Larry stopped by. He watched me choose the straightest side of the log, string the strings, scribe the log, rip the slab from it, and hoist it up onto the deck. After he left, I scribed the two beams for the notches to receive the joist. Then, I started cutting the notch in the Grid F beam. I had it halfway cut when I realized that I had scribed it wrong and I was cutting the notch too deep. The small end of the log was less than 5 inches in diameter and I had made my measurement as if the log were 5 inches in diameter.

By then it was getting dark and I decided to correct my mistake in the morning. I also realized that I had another problem finishing the deck during the winter. Before I put all the joists in, I need to excavate the dirt and rocks under the porch, otherwise the joists will be in the way. In fact, in the high spots, the excavation has to be done in order to even get the joists in place.

My plan was to stockpile the rocks outside the porch and use the dirt to fill in the roadway in front of the building. The problem is that those areas are now covered with deep snow. I went in for the night mulling over the two new problems.

On Thursday morning, I re-scribed the beams, cut both notches, and spiked in the joist. I didn't have any problems with clearance this time so that went fast. I used a cedar shim to fill the notch that I had made too deep. That mistake will cause no problem because the end of the joist bears on the other beam.

I looked around thinking about the excavation problem and decided that it would work okay after all. I can clear the snow off the roadway easy enough, and I can place the rocks on the snowbank so when the snow melts, the rocks will end up in a pile pretty much where I want them. The extra work of excavation though, together with the work of harvesting the needed logs from the woods, is going to make the porch project tough to finish before spring. Oh well, I haven't made any other time estimates either so there's no reason to start now. I packed up and left for home at 1:00.

1/15-17/02 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I arrived at 12:30. The driveway had been cleared so I just drove right in and parked. The weather was 28 degrees and beautiful. After moving in and having a little lunch, I went out and was greeted by a flock of gray jays. I haven't seen them for quite a while, but they were just as tame as ever. I fed them a bunch of peanuts, and then went to work.

The next joist log I brought down from the porch was a section of the crane mast. The log was pretty smooth and the discoloration was very shallow. I wondered if the planer wouldn't work better than the gwizard so I got it out and tried it. It didn't work very well. The log was just too lumpy with too many knots. I satisfied myself that you can't beat the gwizard if you can get the log into gwizzing position.

This log was like an old friend. I had never replaced the mast on the crane, so this log helped me lift every other log in the whole building plus everything else I ever lifted with my crane. The cleat for the boom halyard was also attached to the mast, so every time I adjusted the boom, I had to visit this log. As the walls went up, the position of the cleat moved up the mast, so there were several pairs of holes in the log where the cleat was fastened. As I gwizzed the log, I could see those holes and it brought back a lot of fond memories. I am glad the log will be put to permanent use where it can always be seen, rather than becoming firewood or coming to some other ignominious end.

The log was very easy to gwiz and it looked beautiful when I finished. Next, I nailed on the 1x2's and strung the strings for scribing. The sun was out, and by moving the log out of the shadow of a big snowbank, I was able to use the sunlight to do the scribing. This was a fortunate coincidence that only happened once or twice before. If I am ready to scribe a log for flattening at the same time that the sun is shining on the log, I can roll the log so that the shadows of the two strings line up on the log. That way, I can just draw a line with a magic marker right on the shadow. That is much faster than getting down on my hands and knees, squinting and sighting across the two strings and drawing the line by keeping the magic marker in line with the strings.

I was able to scribe both sides of the log using the sun. When that was done, I got Mother Sow out and flattened the log. Then I raised it up onto the porch and clamped it down in a level position ready to scribe the beams for the receiving notches.

On Wednesday morning, I scribed the beams, cut the notches, and spiked in the joist.

The snow and weather conditions were perfect for doing logging, and since I knew I had to harvest some more logs for joists, I decided that's what I would do. The snow was frozen and so stiff that you could walk anywhere in the woods and only sink in an inch. The snow had also bent all the brush and most of the vine maples down so that the woods were pretty open. I cruised over most of the property and located quite a few candidate trees. I decided to work on a fallen pine and a fir snag on the western corner of the property.

The pine was pretty much completely blued from the fungus, but the wood was still sound. I got two 12 foot logs out of it. I felled the fir snag exactly where I wanted it and got two 12 foot logs and a 9 foot butt log out of it. The wood was perfect. The tree must have died just last summer.

I used a loop of 1/4" rope to snake the five logs out of the woods and over to the gwizzing station under the eaves. They slid nicely over the top of the snow, but it was still quite a bit of work for me because half of it was up hill, and the logs still had rough knots where the branches didn't get cut flush with the log. I used a lot of muscles that I hadn't used for a while.

Before I went in for the night, I got three of the logs gwizzed, and pulled down another 12 foot section of my old friend, the mast log.

On Thursday morning, I gwizzed the remaining three logs - the last two I had harvested and the mast section. Then I took some pictures, had lunch, and left for home at about 1:00.

1/22-24/02 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

On the way, I stopped at Priscilla's and fixed her recliner chair. There was heavy snow in the pass so it was slow going. I arrived at the property at 1:30. The driveway was cleared, but it was very slippery getting in and parked. It snowed pretty heavily off and on during the afternoon.

After moving in and having some lunch, I scribed two logs for flattening. It was just barely dark enough so that I used a light bulb overhead to cast a shadow of the strings. It was hard to see the shadow very well, so I might have been able to do it just as fast by sighting across the strings. The flock of jays showed up at one point so I fed them a bunch of peanuts.

On Wednesday I scribed the remaining three logs and then used Mother Sow to flatten all five logs. Then I rigged up a come-along and ropes and used them to lift all five logs up onto the porch. Three jays showed up for peanuts.

The weather turned warmer and it rained all night. It was still raining on Thursday morning. There was a winter storm warning for the pass for the afternoon so I decided to leave a little early. I positioned one of the logs so it is ready for scribing the beams. Then I moved a bunch of rocks out from under the porch and stacked them on the snowbank below the eaves. I also spent some time trying to figure out how I am going to fasten the staircase to the porch. I left for home at 1:00.

I skipped the week of 1/27 because I had a cold and some other things to do at home.

2/5-7/02 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I got a late start and didn't arrive until 1:00. The driveway was plowed but there had been about three inches of new snow afterward. There were tire tracks in the new snow showing that someone had driven all the way into the driveway, but there were no footprints, so they didn't get out of their vehicle. They either just wanted a look or they used the driveway to turn around. There were no footprints on the trails either. It started snowing and snowed lightly the rest of the afternoon.

After moving in, I did some reading before I went out to work. I was pretty tired and didn't feel much like working. I did go up and do some work on aligning the next joist to get it ready for scribing. I came to realize that these small joist logs take at least as much time to install as the big wall logs did. The alignment actually takes longer because they have to be leveled more accurately, and each of them has to be flattened. I entertain these thoughts to make myself feel better about such slow progress.

On Wednesday, it snowed a little heavier and by the time I went out to work, there was about three more inches of accumulation. I scribed the beams for the new joist, cut the notches, placed the joist log, drilled the holes, made the rebar spikes, and spiked the 4th joist log in before lunch.

After lunch, I made a rack hanging up against the outside of the back wall, and moved all the log slabs onto the rack. These slabs were stored on the porch, but now they were going to be in the way of working on the deck and of excavating under the deck. Some of the slabs are 42 feet long so there aren't many places where I can store them out of the weather.

Next, I installed the 5th joist log. By the time I finished, there was about 8 inches of new accumulation. There was no wind at all so it was beautiful and quiet and the snow piled up in big clumps all over the trees. It was a winter wonderland.

On Thursday morning, I installed the 6th joist log. The sun started peeking through the clouds and as it did, all the trees in the forest started shedding their loads of snow. It was fun to watch. I spent about 10 minutes just staring out the window watching the snow let loose from trees at random and come cascading down, knocking snow off lower branches as it fell. It's amazing how all the trees started shedding the snow at about the same time. The snow also started sliding off the roof so I spent some time shoveling it away from in front of the crawl space door. I left for home at about 1:00.

2/12-14/02 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I arrived at 12:30 and the weather was beautiful and sunny. There had been some new snow and there was quite a big berm in front of the driveway. I had to shovel through it in order to park. After moving in, I reconfigured the planks making up the temporary deck on the porch. The next log joist was to go right in front of the front door so I had to prop the planks up in that area so that I could work on the joist underneath.

Earl stopped by for a visit and to see what I had done so far. We had a nice chat. When he left, I placed and leveled the 7th joist log, scribed the beams, and cut the notches.

On Wednesday morning I drilled and spiked in the 7th joist log. This is the last of the 12 foot joists. The rest will be 16 footers, the first of which will provide the abutment for the top of the staircase. I want a sturdy fir log for that so I selected the butt of the old crane mast. It was stored toward the back of the porch so I used the rope running through the block hanging from the Grid F purlin to move it and lower it down to the gwizzing area.

I sharpened the gwiz blades and gwizzed the log. It went fast because of the sharp blades and because the log was in good condition. Then I rigged up the strings for scribing the log. The sun was out and shining on the entire gwizzing area so I was able to use the shadows of the strings to do the scribing on both sides. This really works well and makes the scribing very fast. I wasn't sure the sun would stay out so I made sure I got the scribing done before I went in for lunch.

After lunch, I decided to clean the floor of the trailer. It had gotten pretty dirty and since it was so sunny and nice outside I decided this was the time. I wore my dust mask because I think that dust is causing some of my allergy or cold type symptoms. I beat all the carpets with a stick until I couldn't see any more dust coming off them. In the direct sunshine I could see the dust very well as I beat it out of the rugs.

Then I swept the floor out nice and clean before I replaced the carpets. I got a lot of dirt. The cleaning was long overdue.

When that was done, I went up and ripped the slab off the log to flatten it. Then I formed the bearing surface on the log which rests on the deck ledger. With the joist log now ready, I rigged a come-along to the end of the rope hanging from the purlin and used it to lift the log up onto the deck. Then I maneuvered it into its position and leveled it ready for scribing the beams.

That night, and on Thursday morning, my back was so stiff and sore I could hardly turn over in bed. That last log was a lot bigger than the 12 footers I had been working with and I evidently strained my back wrestling with it. After doing my back exercises, slower and longer than usual, it loosened up so I could go back to work.

Before I got started, I saw Mike Dickinson working across the road. I walked over and told him that he needed to send me a bill for clearing my driveway. I also invited him over to take a look at the building. When he finished with the neighbor's driveway, he came over and inspected the building. He hadn't been in it since the roof was installed. We had a nice chat and then he left.

I scribed the three beams and then cut the three notches to receive the joist log. Then I rolled the joist into the notches and was pleased to notice how nice it fit. Then I had lunch, packed up, and left for home at about 1:00.

2/19-21/02 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I arrived at 1:00. There had been no new snow since last week and it was raining lightly. After moving in, I made four rebar spikes, and then drilled and spiked in the 8th porch joist. Then I removed most of the temporary diagonal bracing on the porch columns and moved the planks, logs, and lumber that were lying across the porch beams. This was so I could begin excavating the rocks and dirt under that end of the porch. I got a start on the excavating before I quit for the day.

On Wednesday, after looking at the porch without all the temporary bracing, I could get a better idea of how the staircase would look if I built it as planned. It would look too narrow. It would look a lot better if it could be widened. What I think would look good would be to have the staircase slightly curved so that it bulges out away from the deck in the middle. Then, the treads could get longer and longer toward the bottom of the staircase, and at the bottom they would extend on both sides of the Grid F.5 column rather than just on one side. This would require two log stringers that are bent.

I went into the woods scouting for trees that could provide those two logs and I found two candidates. Both are still alive but they look sick and will probably die soon anyway. I feel good about having a plan for the staircase that I think will turn out very nice.

The weather was 40 degrees and sunny and the snow was melting fast. I dug a big hole in the snowbank under the eave of the porch to make room for a new rock pile. Then I began moving rocks onto the pile beginning with the biggest ones. Then I continued to remove rocks from under the porch and place them in the new rock pile. I also shoveled the dirt into the wheelbarrow and emptied two or three wheelbarrows full of dirt onto the roadway in front of the porch. I got quite a bit of excavation done by the end of the day.

On Thursday morning I woke up to a foot of new snow and it was still snowing pretty heavily. After breakfast, I post-holed down to the pickup and put on my snowshoes. I should have paid attention to the weather forecast. They forecast two to three inches of snow for Wenatchee so I should have guessed that I would get a foot. I could have brought the snowshoes up the night before. With the snowshoes on, I walked over all the trails to pack them down. Then I went back to the pickup and shoveled the snow off of it and filled the garbage can with snow so Andrew and I can have our weekly snowball fight when I get home.

Back up on the porch, I got to thinking about using my old scaffold planks as the permanent decking material. I wasn't sure if I have enough so I went around and counted them. There are 19 flat planks and 4 half-round ones. I also took a few pictures and then did some more excavating. By that time, the snow had turned to rain.

I heard someone knocking down at the trailer so I went down to see who it was. It was a guy who was staying at the Metzger's cabin about a mile up the road and he was looking for a telephone. He was snowed in and needed to be scooped out. He called Mike Dickinson but he got Mike's answering machine and had to leave a message. The guy was soaking wet from walking in the rain. He had a wife and two young children back at the cabin and they were trying to leave to go home to Bellingham. I offered to drive him back to the cabin and he gratefully accepted. After I returned, I packed up and left for home by about 12:30.

On the way home, I was stopped for about 20 minutes in a long line of cars just before the pass. There had been an avalanche and I had to wait until it was cleared. Two days later, an avalanche in the same place knocked a car off the road and rolled it 200 feet down the mountainside. There were four people in the car and they were extremely lucky that they all survived with only minor injuries.

After I got home, I checked my records of scaffold plank dimensions, built a spreadsheet that calculated the percentage of the porch deck I could cover with the planks I have. I was disappointed that I only have enough to do 53% of the job. I will have to do some more thinking about what to do.

2/26-28/02 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

On the way, I stopped at Priscilla's and fixed her toilet. I arrived at 2:00. The weather was 36 degrees and sunny -- a beautiful spring day. I saw Larry walking toward our place so I stopped to talk for a while. Then after I parked, he walked with me up to the cabin to see what I had done. We talked about my options for changing the design of the outside staircase. After discussing my plan to make it curved, it occurred to us that it would also be a lot better if the staircase widened considerably at the bottom. That way, you could walk up either between the Grid F and the Grid F.5 columns, or to the left of both, or to the right of both. That will really make a grand staircase out of it and I think that's what I will do.

After moving in, I went to work on the excavation and got quite a few rocks and a couple wheelbarrows of dirt moved before I quit for the day.

On Wednesday, the weather was 32 degrees and cloudy -- just perfect for digging. I removed all the bushes that were growing under the porch and I lowered the level of the ground at least a foot below the level of the deck. I decided not to excavate all the way to bedrock in the interest of time. I was also thinking of my back. I can't do as much digging as I could 5 or 10 years ago. I also don't think I will need any more rocks than I already have stockpiled, and the extra amount of dirt I would get isn't that important. Those seemed to me to be sufficient reasons for me to give up digging so I declared it enough. I felt good about what I had done. I have a pretty big new rock pile, and I dumped 8 or 10 wheelbarrow loads of dirt on the roadway. I'm eager to get back to working with logs instead of dirt.

Before I went in for the night, I moved the last two 16 foot logs I had stored on the deck down to gwizzing position. These two logs are parts of old crane booms.

On Thursday it was sunny again and 33 degrees. I gwizzed the two logs and it went very fast because the logs were in good shape and the gwiz blades were still nice and sharp. Then as the sun just moved out from behind the trees, I scribed both logs for flattening using the sun. That works so slick. I could almost trace the shadow with the magic marker at walking speed once the strings were all lined up. After lunch and packing things up, I left for home at 1:11.

3/5-7/02 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

It was 40 degrees and cloudy when I arrived at 12:50. Since the weather was so warm, the snow was pretty soft. This provided me an opportunity to dig out the logs in the rack by the privy. I had a few logs stockpiled there that I need for joists and they are buried under 2 or 3 feet of snow.

After moving in and having some lunch, I went to work digging out the logs. Usually this snow is frozen so hard that you can walk right on top of it. But today, the white snow was soft enough to jam a shovel into and break off shovelfuls. There were still two or three layers of clear ice imbedded in the snow, but by digging into the soft snow, I could break the layers of ice. It was still pretty hard digging, but I have dug worse.

I uncovered four 16-foot logs, and then rigged up chains and a come-along to pull the logs out. Before I quit for the day, I had skidded the two smaller logs to the gwizzing station, and the two bigger ones to within come-along reach of the building.

On Wednesday, the temperature was back down to 30 degrees and the snow was frozen solid again. I felt glad that I had dug the logs out when I did. I got Mother Sow out and flattened the two logs that I had gwizzed and scribed the previous week. Then I lifted these two logs up onto the deck ready to become joists.

Then, using the rebar hook embedded in the west corner of the foundation, a come-along and a chain, I pulled the two big logs up the 6 or 7 foot snowbank formed by snow sliding off the roof. Once they were perched on top of the snowbank, I was able to pull each of them by hand down the snowbank and into gwizzing position using a log chain and brute force. Then, I rigged up to gwiz, and I gwizzed the two bigger logs.

By that time, my back was pretty sore so I decided to take a break and go check on the spring. There wasn't a lot of debris in it, but I cleaned out what was there. There was a lot of meltwater flowing around the springbox, and there was a lot of water flowing out of the spring itself.

On 2/26, when Larry and I were discussing my outside staircase options, we noticed that the Grid G2 column was 2 or 3 inches out of plumb. Unfortunately, one joist was already spiked into the Grid G porch beam so it wouldn't be easy to plumb the column now. I don't remember how the column got mis-aligned, because I didn't notice it before. I think what happened is that since there was still one degree of freedom left in the bottom of the column, it wasn't important to plumb it until the first joist log was spiked down. As a result, I didn't worry about it, and then I forgot all about it.

When it came time to spike down that first joist, I was working from the top of the porch, and from that direction, I couldn't see that the column was not plumb. I was also, if I remember right, in a hurry to spike the log down before I left for home. Very careless and stupid.

Now, I spent some time considering my options. I could leave it the way it is with no loss of structural integrity, but it would look bad and I would always notice it. If I was going to fix it, I had to do it before spiking any more joist logs down. But how? There was no way to pull that half-inch rebar pin back out. But, there is a crack between the joist and the beam on one side of the notch that I think will take one end of a hacksaw blade. I decided to saw through the rebar spike through that crack. Then with the pin separated, I can use a come-along to pull the column into alignment, and put a new spike in. I decided to give that a try next week.

On Thursday morning, my body was very stiff and sore. There was a general snowstorm forecast that was even supposed to hit Seattle, so I figured this was a good excuse to leave a little early. After breakfast, I loosened up enough to gwiz one of the smaller logs. By then, the gwiz blades needed sharpening and I didn't feel like working any more, so I called it quits. I left for home at about 11:30.

2002: Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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