Construction Journal Entry Week of 11/22/09

11/22/09 Finished chiseling out the letters on one side of my "Camp Serendipity" sign.

11/23/09 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Monday through Wednesday so I would be home for Thanksgiving.

I arrived at 12:45. Bert and Ernie came running up as soon as I was parked. There was only a trace of new snow over the top of last week's snow, but Mike had plowed the driveway out halfway to the trailer. He left a big berm in front so I couldn't drive all the way to the trailer without shoveling, which I decided not to do.

I built a fire in the stove, had lunch, and went to work. I started out by sawing off two thin sections of a grand fir log to give to Almitra for an art project. That took me about an hour or so. Then I chiseled out the rough notch in the number four tread and planed the bottom of the tread.

Next I went inside and rebuilt the tread-holding jig to hold the fourth tread at the correct height. And finally, I sanded the first three treads so they would be ready for the next coat of varnish.

On Tuesday I fabricated the fourth tread out on the porch. This tread runs right up against the Grid B.5,2.5 column so I couldn't install the tread first and cut it to length (width?) later like I did the other treads. I had to cut it first. After thinking about it, I decided that there was no reason to make that sawdust mess inside and that it would work better to completely fabricate the treads out on the porch.

I clamped the tread to the tall sawhorses so the tread was nearly as rigid as if it were bolted to the stringer. The sawing height was a lot more comfortable, and the sawdust mess was all outside. As soon as the ends were cut off, I turned the tread over and chamfered the edges. This was a lot easier than doing it after the tread was installed too. I could stand up and chisel downwards at a comfortable height rather than lying on the floor and hammering up hill with the earlier tread getting in the way. I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier. From now on I'll make all the treads outside.

After lunch and a nap, Bert and Ernie showed up again for biscuits and hugs. Then I went to work and finished installing the fourth tread. I was very happy with how it came out.

On Wednesday morning Bert and Ernie showed up again when I went up to start the fire. After breakfast, I swept and vacuumed around the steps and got them ready to varnish. Then I went up to the woodshed and got the next tread blank. I used the porch crane to lift it up onto the tall sawhorses on the porch.

After planing the top of the tread for a while, I decided that it was too rough. I set it aside to use in one of the outside staircases and went back to the woodshed and got another blank.

This one was almost as rough as the other one. I got to thinking that the blanks on the top of the stack were the latest ones I cut and the ones on the bottom of the stack were the first ones cut. That meant that my experience level was worse the deeper I went down the stack. The quality of the tread blanks would likely get worse rather than better.

That meant that I would either have to do a lot of deep planing to get the flaws out of the tread surfaces, or I would have to tolerate some imperfections in them. After planing the second blank pretty deep and getting all but one deep gash out, I got a scraper and worked on that gash. I cleaned it up pretty well and I may decide to settle for flaws like that in the treads.

By that time, it was time to varnish the stairs so I put the tools away and went inside to varnish. I'll have to do some more thinking, and experimenting, to decide what to do about the flaws. After I varnished the first four treads, I took a picture of them, closed up, and went in for lunch. I left for home at 1:30 feeling pretty good about how the staircase looks.

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