Construction Journal Entry Week of 2/15/15

2/17-19/15 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

On the way I stopped and played a game of checkers with Uncle Charles. I arrived at Camp Serendipity at 12:35. The temperature was 60 and the snow was almost gone. The driveway was bare where it had been plowed and there was about 6 inches of old frozen snow most other places. This will be a super early spring if we don't get some more snow.

After turning the water on, I carried my gear up the concrete stairs and saw that a big snag had fallen across the staircase. The handrail rope was tied around the snag which had served as a stanchion. But now the butt of the log was suspended by the rope. I was surprised that the 4x4 stanchion above it held the load without breaking. The 4x4 is fastened to the concrete staircase with hurricane ties and anchor pins only at the bottom.

After raising the flag, having my lunch and a nap, I started a fire in the wood stove. Then I got the chainsaw out so I could cut up the fallen log. After a long struggle, I gave up on starting the saw. It just wouldn't start. I figured it was because it was too cold so I brought it inside the cabin to warm it up.

On Wednesday morning after breakfast, I got the saw started and proceeded to buck up the butt end of the fallen snag so that it was out of the way of the stairs. That freed up the handrail rope. Since I had used a Martin's Differential Hitch around the snag, there was now a couple feet of slack in the rope. I fixed that by releasing the rope tightener at the bottom, re-tying the rope to the stanchion at the top, and finally re-attaching the tightening rope. It ended up tighter than before, even without the intermediate stanchion so it feels a lot better. I just hope that the rope doesn't shrink when it gets wet and pull the stanchion loose. We'll see.

The next project was to scrub the top gable logs on the Grid 3 wall. They weren't really all that dirty but some dust and dirt had fallen down on the logs during the packrat eviction over the gable. Since the scaffold tower was in a position where I could reach the top of the gable, this was the last chance to easily clean those logs. So I scrubbed them.

It was now time to start dismantling the scaffold tower. It was a little tricky because one of the cross braces on the top tier was interlaced with the ceiling fan blades. The deck was suspended about halfway up the top tier, so the deck needed to be lowered to the top of the second tier. But first I needed to disassemble the bridge from the tower to the scaffold in the loft.

The bridge was easy to dismantle because I could reach it from the Grid B.5,2.5 corner of the loft. Once the bridge was removed, I got a start on lowering the deck by reaching and removing each of two long 2x4s from the old deck and placing them in their lower position. Since the 2x4s were so long, I could reach over far enough and hold them close enough to their centers of gravity so that I could guide the far ends onto the lower scaffold frame.

That was as far as I got before stopping for lunch and a nap. Back on the tower again, I stood on the two 2x4s forming the beginning of the new deck and from there lowered the rest of the planks one by one until the old deck was gone and the new deck in place.

Next I built a new bridge from the top of the loft guard rail over to the new deck. I used a 2x4 lying diagonally across the corner of the rails and then two 2x6s perpendicular to that running over to the scaffold deck. Then I clamped a piece of OSB to the 2x6s and I had a nice sturdy, wide bridge. I used a step stool and a tall stool with a concrete block on top of it to get up onto the bridge. Since there was nothing to hang on to, I used an 8-foot 1x2 as a steadying pole to make sure I didn't fall off the bridge.

Next I gingerly removed the cross brace from between the fan blades and did some thinking about how I was going to take down the heavy end frames. I originally thought that I would lower them all the way to the floor using a rope, but standing on the deck and looking over the situation, it occurred to me that since I had that nice sturdy bridge, I could lay each frame flat on the deck and slide it over the bridge to the loft. It was a great idea. I removed the second cross brace and then carefully lifted the frame closest to the Grid A end of the cabin out of its sockets, walked it back a ways on the deck for safety, grabbed it by its center of gravity, and swung it into a horizontal position. Then I laid it down on the bridge and slid it over to the loft. It worked slick and the whole operation felt pretty safe.

The other frame was more of a problem because it was so close to the fan that I didn't have much room to maneuver on the deck. But I solved that by going down to the first floor and sliding the entire tower toward the Grid E end of the cabin. I could only slide it about 12 inches before it hit the staircase, but that was enough. Back up on the scaffold deck, I carefully lifted the frame out of its sockets, walked it around the deck toward the bridge, and then lowered it onto the bridge like I had done the first one. The top tier had now been completely removed.

Next I happily removed the tape from the ceiling fan switch and turned the fan on. It could now turn again without that scaffolding in the way and having it on makes it much more comfortable up in the loft.

The next question was whether or not I could move the scaffold tower into the dining room without dismantling it. I made some measurements of the scaffold and of the table and found that there was no way to get the table out and the tower in without dismantling and reassembling the tower.

On Thursday morning I lit a small fire in the wood stove and then took advantage of the opportunity to wash the two high windows. The scaffold tower was positioned exactly in the center of the Grid 3 wall so I could reach both windows equally well. The deck was a little too high, being about 2 feet above the window sill, so I used a rope tied to the center of gravity of the last 2x8 plank to lower the plank down to the first rung on each scaffold frame. Then by sitting on one end of the plank, with my leg going through the frame above the rung, I could reach the entire window to clean it. This worked on the other end of the plank just as well except I had to use my left hand. Good thing I am ambidextrous.

I needed a long handle on the scrubber and the squeegee, and after looking at a couple other options, I found that I could modify the extension pole on my light bulb changer so that it would hold the scrubber and squeegee and still work to change light bulbs. I simply drilled a hole in the end of it and installed a set screw which held the implements.

When that was ready, I got a bucket of soapy water, some rags and towels, and went up and cleaned the windows. Since the scaffold is coming down, this was about the last time I could easily reach those windows. After having my lunch, I dismantled the bridge and lowered the deck to the top of the first tier. I left for home at 2:00 happy with the progress.

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