Construction Journal Entry Week of 10/11/09

10/13-15/09 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

There was new snow on all the high mountains, and with the fall colors the drive was gorgeous. I arrived at 12:50 and was promptly greeted by Bert and Ernie. There were no signs of mice in the cabin. I unloaded another pickup load of yard waste and piled it onto the compost pile.

After lunch, I dug a few more feet of the water pipe trench. I ran into a big rock and had to get the big steel bar out to pry it out of the trench.

On Wednesday morning there was about a half-inch of snow on the ground and it was raining pretty hard. Not good weather for working in the woods. Fortunately I have a project inside for bad weather, and the pipe laying project in the woods for good weather. The best of all possible worlds.

I built a fire in the wood stove and warmed the cabin up in short order. Then I set the scaffold up under the loft beam tread so that I could chisel out the underside of the notch. I set the scaffold up low so that I had to reach up about head high to chisel the notch. But I also set my riser up on the scaffold platform so that when I stood on the riser, the notch was about shoulder high. Having these two positions allowed me to stand at the most comfortable height for doing what I had to do.

The notch had a huge knot in one side of it that complicated the chiseling. I chiseled the rest of the notch down flat and then was able to use a hand saw to cut the knot off in one cut. I never did have to cut any part of the knot with a chisel. I like to chisel wood so I had great fun making this notch.

After having lunch and a nap, I re-kindled the fire in the stove and used Rasputin, another wood-shaping tool, and a couple of scrapers to fine tune the flat underside of the notch. I made it slightly concave so that when the stringer bolts to it there will be no rocking. I need the maximum torsional strength for this stringer because of the cantilevered treads. The concave surface will help achieve this.

Next, I went out on the porch and started working on the new stringer. I started building a jig for scribing the stringer for cutting the bottom end to make the surface that will mate with the floor. The plan was to make the jig of 1x2s screwed to the stringer in such a way that four tight strings could be stretched over them to establish the plane of the cut. By sighting across a pair of these strings, I could draw half of the scribe line on the log.

One of the problems I had was in manipulating that big stringer. I don't know exactly how much it weighs, but it is heavy enough that I can't lift either end at all. The stringer was lying flat side up. I needed to screw a couple of 1x2s to the flat surface, and then turn the whole thing over to build the rest of the jig on the other side. Turning that big log over was a fun problem, but I made a couple mistakes doing it.

First I screwed the 1x2s on. One of them marked the edge of the cut so it was critical to get it exactly square with the stringer. I used a tight string strung the length of the stringer and a carpenter's square to position the 1x2. In the process I discovered that the stringer is not exactly straight but bows about a half inch. I decided that I would allow for this with each tread as I cut the notches in them. I may also cut away a little wood on the side of the stringer. I'll deal with each tread as a special case when I get around to that part of the process.

With the 1x2s screwed to the flat side, I needed to turn the whole thing upside down. My plan for doing this was to lift the other end of the stringer with the porch crane using a loop of rope as a choker. That way the stringer could rotate inside the rope loop when I turned it.

I lifted the other end, the one with the 1x2s, using a come-along hung from the extension of the loft beam sticking out over the porch by the front door. I have been glad many times for deciding not to cut this log off when I placed it in the building. It has been pretty handy.

With the log lifted three or four feet off the ground, I next attached a fairly long 5/8" rope to the projecting loft beam. Then I wrapped the rope around the stringer three times and then threw the rope back up over the loft beam. I threw it over two more times so that the rope formed a snub around the beam.

The rope, then, formed a sling holding the log. Next, I unwound the come-along a click at a time lowering the log until the rope sling held it up. Then I disconnected the come-along hook.

The plan was to slowly let the log down by gently slacking the snubbed rope. This is a fun trick that I use quite often when I need to lower a heavy weight from up high. Three windings of a snubbed rope will hold a very heavy weight with just a slight tension on the free end of the rope. Then, by reducing the tension a little bit, the windings slip enough to let the weight fall. You can easily slow it or stop it simply by pulling more on the free end of the rope.

Everything worked as planned and as I let the log down, the turns of rope around the log caused the log to rotate as it came down. Just like it should. The problem, though, was that I hadn't raised the log high enough in the first place, so the 1x2 hit the deck and broke off the end of it. Bummer.

So I had to re-connect the come-along, lift the log quite a bit higher, replace the 1x2, which involved screwing a second one first to capture the alignment, and then screw the new one tight up against that one.

When the new 1x2 was in place, I proceeded to lower the log again and I made another mistake. I got confused or didn't pay enough attention, but when I lowered the log, it was flat side up again. I had turned it over twice so it ended up like it started. I felt a little foolish but I hooked the come-along back up, raised the log for the third time, wrapped my rope and snub back up, and finally lowered and flipped the log correctly. If I had to do that job again, I'm quite sure I could do it right the first time. But I probably won't have to ever do exactly that same thing again. That is the nature of this work. Good thing it is all fun.

On Thursday morning, thankfully, there was no rain. Everything was soaking wet but the rain had stopped. I had decided that this was the day for winterizing the trailer and since most of the work is outside under the drip line of the snow shelter, it is a very wet job in the rain.

I started out by building a fire in the stove so the cabin would be warmed up by the time I finished winterizing. Bert and Ernie came around for biscuits about this time.

In the process of splitting some firewood, I came across one of my old log tags. It was tag #100 and was still nailed to the end of the log end that was now serving as firewood. Looking at my records, I see that log #100 was a 36 and a half foot Grand Fir that I cut a 31 footer from and placed it two courses above the kitchen and dining room windows on 7/8/97. These logs are like old friends to me. I still know where they all are and what they are doing.

The winterizing went smoothly without a hitch. With my IV bottle process, I finally have all the kinks out of the process. It took me about an hour to get the job done.

After that, I went back to work on my scribing jig. I made a cardboard template with the exact angle that the dihedral cut needs to be made, and used the template to build the rest of the jig. I screwed a structure of 1x2s together that would hold four tight strings exactly in the plane of the cut. Then I strung the strings and I was ready to scribe.

I made a video of the first part of the actual scribing and I took some pictures of the log and the jig after I had done the scribing. The batteries in the camera were low so the video ended prematurely although it got the first half of the scribing process. The abrupt end is because the battery finally went dead.

I get a big kick out of solving geometry problems like those involved in building the scribing jig. I made a few mistakes but none that compromised the accuracy of the scribed line. At least I don't think I did. I guess I won't really know until I actually get that stringer in place and see how it fits against the floor. If it fits right, that's when I will really get a charge of gratification. We'll see in a couple of weeks.

With the log scribed, I dismantled the jig and the stringer is now ready for the chainsaw. I'll do that cutting next week. I left for home at 1:45.

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