Construction Journal Entry Week of 10/25/09

10/27-29/09 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

There was snow on the road above 1200 feet on the west side of the pass. There was snow on the ground all the way to the property, but it was pretty thin. It looked like it had snowed during the night and most of it had melted. I arrived at 12:55. Bert and Ernie soon came over for their biscuits. I went up to the cabin to start a fire in the stove and was pleased to find no sign of mouse activity.

After moving in and having lunch, I unloaded another load of yard waste and piled it on the compost pile. Then I went to work moving the stringer from the porch to inside the building.

I decided to use the 12-volt winch to do the lifting, so I got it out along with the big battery charger, which I use to power it, and the remote control with its wires. I don't have a good way to connect the big AWG 4 wires that I use for the DC circuits on the winch so I spent some time looking for ways to connect them. I ended up using cable clamps, which worked OK except that two of them were short one nut each, so I had to do some jury rigging to make up for that. But I finally got the winch set up on the porch chained to the Grid G porch beam. I ran the cable up through a snatch block chained to the projecting end of the loft beam sticking out over the front door.

When the rigging was all set up, I lifted the stringer and used the same technique as before to turn it over so that the flat side was up. Since I didn't have to worry about 1x2s sticking out from the stringer, it was easy to turn over and I did it right the first time.

Next, I hooked my home-made scale into the rigging and tried to weigh the stringer. Unfortunately it maxed out the scale. I should have weighed it one end at a time when it was still positioned between the porch crane and the 12-volt winch hook. But rather than move it back and do that, I decided to skip it. The scale maxes out at about 350 lb.

Having spent enough time messing around with the scale, I went to work moving the stringer inside the building. I wanted to get it all the way in so I could shut the front door for the night. The hook from the 12-volt winch worked fine to get the stringer inside the door with the center of gravity just outside the threshold. My plan was to move the winch to the inside, but I changed my mind. It was too much of a hassle to rig up the winch so I decided to use come-alongs instead.

I hung a come-along from the rope that was draped over the Grid D purlin and used that to pull the stringer all the way inside the building so I could shut the door. I thought I could slide it in to the left of the stove, but it was too long to make that bend. Instead, it went straight in down the hall toward the refrigerator. I went in for the night feeling pretty good about getting it that far but wondering how I was going to get it into position to lift it in place.

I had a mild headache and I didn't feel very well when I went in for the night. I was hoping I wasn't coming down with something. I went to bed early to try to sleep it off.

On Wednesday morning I felt fine. I think I was just tired the night before. I went up to start a fire in the stove first thing and in the process Bert showed up for some biscuits. After breakfast, I rigged up a second come-along to the same rope that was also draped over the ridgepole. I had a little trouble moving the stringer into position because it was a very tight fit. One end of it was against the refrigerator and I had to lift the other end up over the top of the stove. But the scaffold was set up and it prevented the stringer from swinging wide enough to miss the stove. I had to spin the stringer 90 degrees so that it was on edge in order to get it to work. Edgewise the stringer just missed the stove and was right up against the scaffold frame allowing me to move it ahead enough so that the back end could be moved along the pantry doorway. As the angle changed, it got easier until pretty soon, the stringer way lying directly under where it had to go.

I chokered the stringer with a rope in a position that would be a few inches below the loft beam tread when the stringer was lifted up. I used the come-along hanging from the rope over the ridgepole and, standing on the loft beam tread, I cranked the stringer up into position directly and snugly into the notch under the loft beam tread. I took a picture of it in that position. I was very happy about this milestone. It permanently changed the look of the inside of the cabin. It will look even better once the treads are all on. I went in for lunch and a nap feeling good about the progress.

After lunch I built a drilling jig that I will use for fastening all the treads. I made the jig for drilling three holes in each tread which will be drilled perpendicular to the tread surface. But I also decided to use the same jig to drill the holes in the loft beam tread. For maximum strength, these bolts need to be perpendicular to the axis of the stringer. So I made a second jig which held the drilling jig in the correct alignment on the loft beam tread.

I took the come-along, holding the stringer, up a couple extra clicks to hold it very snug. Then I measured carefully to align the stringer. I went down into the crawl space and drove three screws up through the subfloor into the end of the stringer to make sure it didn't move out of alignment. Then I went up and drilled the three holes through the loft beam tread and the stringer.

With the holes drilled, I ran two pieces of half-inch allthread through the two outer holes and fastened them with nuts and washers. This was partly a safety measure to hold the stringer up in case the come-along rigging failed for some reason, but it was also partly to keep the members positioned until I could get the final carriage bolts installed.

I started with the third hole because it required a shorter bolt. I had a few 10-inch carriage bolts but I wasn't sure they would be long enough. Since the bolts enter the surface of the tread at an angle, counterboring the tread for the bolt head is a special problem. My plan was to stick a half-inch dowel into the hole so that the spade bit could spin in the dowel and keep it from rattling around inside the half-inch hole. But the dowel was too tight in the hole.

So I used a smaller diameter dowel and hammered shims in to hold it in place. Then I started the spade bit in the dowel. Running the bit at high speed and advancing it very slowly, I cut the counterbore hole at an angle and it came out very nice. Then with a small chisel I cut the recess for the square part of the carriage bolt head.

I tried the 10-inch bolt and was delighted to find that the end of it came even with the surface of the stringer on the bottom. That was perfect. All I needed to do was to counterbore the stringer to make room for a nut and washer and then bolt it together. That's what I did. I went in for the night feeling very good about my progress, and happy that my body was feeling good too. Whatever I thought I was coming down with didn't develop into anything.

On Thursday morning it was snowing when I got up with about an inch on the ground. The snow soon turned to rain though. After breakfast, I lit a fire in the stove and then went to work on the sign board. I try to minimize the amount of time I work on the sign while I am at the property and do most of the work at home. But drilling two holes for the rebar that will make the support for the sign was a quick job so I did it right there. With the holes drilled, I used the wheelbarrow to carry the sign board to the truck and I loaded it up to take it home with me.

Then I put away the winch, the chains, and the rigging equipment that I had gotten out. Before I put the scale away, I weighed the short piece I had sawed off to make the stringer. I used that number to calculate the weight of the stringer and it came out to something between 350 and 400 lb.

Next I measured for the length of the remaining two carriage bolts I need for the loft beam tread. They need to be 11 inches. I had the impression that 10 inches was the longest half-inch carriage bolts you could get so I tried to think of what I would do about it. I also need 20-inch bolts to fasten the bottom tread, through the stringer and the floor, and through the 12-inch headers I will install between the joists. For these requirements, I plan to use a 10, or maybe even an 8 inch bolt connected to a length of allthread with a coupler. I can bore a hole in the top of the header to receive the coupler. That's not a real good solution for the bolts through the loft beam tread, though.

I was eager to get the first tread installed, so I went right to work on it. I convinced myself that the checks in the tread I had already notched were not going to be a problem. With the three bolt pattern, all three bolts went through meaty parts of the tread with the checks in between. It will be plenty strong.

I started out by using a scraper to clean up the underside of the tread. After doing a quarter of it, I decided that it was way too much work. So I took the tread out on the porch and used the power planer to do the job. That went really fast so it will be no problem to do all 14 treads.

I brought the tread back in and set it on the stringer. I held it in place with three short pressure treated 6x8s to keep it from sliding, and I used a square to line it up exactly. Then I measured the height of the tread off the floor and checked it against the riser height. To my surprise it was 0.8 inches too high. I was in too much of a hurry to stop and figure out why it was off by so much. I just thought that the rough notch was just off by that much. I figured I needed to either cut the notch deeper by 3/4", or notch the stringer. I decided on the stringer so as not to mess up the tread width.

I started with a handsaw, but soon decided to use the Skilsaw to make kerfs for chiseling. I set the blade to the correct angle, and adjusted the depth to 3/4". Then I cut a half a dozen kerfs across the stringer. And then I used a hammer and chisel to cut out the notch. When the notch was roughed out, I set the tread back in it and was very pleased with how it looked. I took a picture of it and quit for the week. I left for home at 1:10. About the time I passed the state park, it dawned on me why the tread was 3/4 inch too high. It was because I had allowed for a 3/4" finished floor and I was measuring up from the subfloor. I felt very stupid. I can't imagine why it didn't occur to me that 3/4" was the finish floor depth and that I had had to redo all my calculations at one point to figure the floor in. I hope it's not a sign of a deteriorating brain. Fortunately, the shim board I will have to use to correct my error won't show at all. Nobody will know (unless they read this or I tell them).

10/30/09 I did some shopping and was very happy to discover that I can buy 12 inch carriage bolts. I bought two of them, five couplers and two lengths of allthread. I still don't know what length of bolts I need for a typical tread so I'll wait until I know to buy them. I also worked on the sign board. I have designed a font and laid out the lettering for the sign. I made a hanger out of 3/8" rebar, chiseled a channel to receive it on the bottom of the sign board and installed the hanger. I was happy that it fit perfectly. I took the hanger back out because it would get in the way when I chisel the lettering. I'll do that at home later on.

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