Construction Journal Entry Week of 10/4/15

10/6-8/15 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

After stopping to pick up a prescription, I proceeded on to Priscilla's to deliver the instructions for installing the TV she just bought. Then I proceeded on to Monroe where I played a game of checkers with Uncle Charles. He was not his usual self and at times couldn't remember the rules for playing checkers. I didn't know whether he was slipping mentally or whether he was simply distracted by a problem taking his medications. I hope it was the latter.

I arrived at Camp Serendipity at 1:20 and to my surprise Ernie showed up as soon as I parked. He was obviously having trouble with his hind legs but his spirit was strong enough for him to make the trip down to see me. I gave him extra hugs and biscuits and took some pictures of him. I think he is about 18 years old and I really doubt that I will see him alive again. It's sad but that's all we can expect.

When I carried my gear up to the cabin I found a shrew in the mousetrap in the bedroom. That explains why some of the bait has disappeared recently. I take it to mean that the building is mouseproof but that the shrews can still come in through tunnels in cracks in the bedrock. I guess that is good news.

After lunch I checked all the sequoia trees and watered Brian. All the trees look good and are ready for winter. I checked the spring and saw that water is still running out of the overflow pipe but it is a very thin stream. Since this is the driest part of the driest year since I have owned the place, I am hoping that it won't go any lower. I'll keep my eye on it.

While I was up at the spring, I repaired a couple holes in the screen covering the overflow pipe. The holes looked like they were made by an awl since the wires were squeezed apart and not broken. I suspect a bird made the holes with its beak.

On the way back to the cabin, I saw a hole in the ground next to the trail. When I looked into the hole to see why it might have been dug, I saw the remnants of an underground bee or hornet nest. There were a few of them buzzing around the damaged nest. I suspect it was a bear or a coyote that dug them out. There were also a few rotten logs that were torn apart. I'm sure that was done by a bear.

On Wednesday it was raining and 47 in the morning. I built a fire in the stove to take the chill off.

The next project I will tackle is to finish installing the log treads in the front porch staircase. There are already four log treads installed at the bottom which leaves ten to go to finish the job. I decided to start with that because as the snow builds up during the winter, it will be hard to access the lower of these treads. Hopefully I can install them fast enough to keep ahead of the snowbank. The front stoop, which is another project that needs to be done, can be done in the dead of winter no matter how deep the snow is, so I will put that off until later.

After breakfast, I installed two horizontal 2x4 rails, one on each side of the front staircase and just above the level of the porch deck. These will be used as references for positioning the treads in the staircase. I measured and marked each of the rails at the point directly above the nose of the top existing log tread below. That allowed me to measure and record the total rise and run for each side of the staircase.

The total rise should have been the same for each side but it measured out that there was an eighth of an inch difference. That is because that log tread isn't exactly level. I recorded the total rise as the average of the two numbers making it a sixteenth too long on one side and a sixteenth too short on the other side. That will end up making all the remaining treads level to within the tolerance I can make them.

The total runs are different deliberately because the staircase gently curves to the left as you go down the stairs. I will achieve a uniform and gradual curve by simply dividing the total run on each side by 10 (the number of treads) to arrive at the tread widths.

I planned to calculate the cumulative tread length for each side and mark those positions on each rail. Then in order to correctly position a tread, I will get the nose to be the correct distance down from the rails and positioned against plumb bob strings hanging from the marks on the rails above.

The problem was that I didn't have a calculator up at the cabin. I tried to use the one on my cell phone but after a few calculations I decided that it was too awkward so I will wait and do the calculations in a spreadsheet when I get home.

After lunch and a nap, I used the inventory sheet of Available Tread Slabs to select the slab to use for the next (5th) tread in the staircase. I had misplaced that sheet and had trouble finding it. Fortunately I found it just last week.

The slab I needed was under the porch and was not too difficult to retrieve. I used a stout rope to pull it out. I propped it up between a short sawhorse and one of the stone steps on the front staircase. It was all under the eaves so it didn't matter that it rained all day.

I used the Bosch planer to plane both sides of the slab. I took a picture of it partway done. Then I pulled it up and rested it on the staircase one tread above where it needs to go and I swept up all the planar chips.

On Thursday morning I got the chainsaw out and cut off both ends of the tread slab. There was some rot in the ends and the slab was quite a bit too long for what I needed for the tread.

That was the first time I had started the chainsaw since I got it back from the shop and I was really happy that it started and ran perfectly.

Next I mixed up a batch of Board Defense and sprayed the tread in order to protect it against bacterial and fungal infection. It also discourages boring insects.

Finally, I opened up the hole in the front porch deck where the stoop will go. The hole has been temporarily covered by sheets of plywood for all these years. I wanted to measure the hole and the position of the joists underneath and while I had the temporary plywood sheets removed, I took the opportunity to clean out the sawdust, packrat poop, spiderwebs, and dirt that had accumulated under the plywood. After I made the measurements, I replaced the plywood and went home. I left at 12:25, sore, tired, and happy that progress on the stairs has finally been started.

Go to Next Journal Entry
Previous Journal Entry

Index to all Journal Entries
Go To Home Page

©2015 Paul R. Martin, All rights reserved.