Construction Journal Entry Week of 3/24/19

3/26-28/19 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I called Earl but he evidently wasn't home, so I skipped visiting him. I arrived at Camp Serendipity at 12:30. It was another beautiful sunny day. The snow had melted way back and was very soft. I had to stomp out new footings in the trails. I stepped off the trail at one point and sunk in up to my knee. It could be dangerous if you weren't careful.

The concrete stairs were clear and dry all the way. I left my gear on the top landing while I went ahead and stomped out the trails to the flagpole and the cabin. Part of it is pretty steep and the snow was deep, so it was a lot safer without carrying my gear.

When I reached the cabin, I got the flag and raised it on the flagpole. Then I went back down to the landing and brought my gear up to the cabin. I built a small fire in the stove and had my lunch.

Then I went out on the porch and varnished the last coat on all the 2x4s, and after that, I had my nap. I delayed my nap in the hopes that the 2x4s would have time to dry in the afternoon sun.

On Wednesday morning, the temperature outside was 23. The 2x4s were still a little too tacky to handle. I brought them all inside the cabin thinking that they would dry quicker when they warmed up. That may have been a mistake. It made the place smell like varnish, but I decided that it wasn't bad enough to be unhealthy. Later in the day, when it warmed up outside, I opened the living room window and turned on the big fan blowing out. The 2x4s were standing right next to the window so that cut down on the smell quite a bit.

Since I couldn't work on the wood, I decided to prepare the tools I would need when I did. I tested a few drill bits to determine which one would work best to make the baluster holes. I settled on a 7/16" spade bit and my corded drill that has a bubble level in it. Next, I cut a short piece of copper tubing to make a gauge to put over the bit to stop it when it reached the required depth.

Next, I made a baluster counter. That was simply a 6-foot 1x2 that I held against a porch rail and wrote the numbers from 1 to 17 on it to indicate the positions of the balusters. Then I took this gauge and held it against each of the 2x4 rails and I could read off how many balusters it was going to take for each rail. Then I added up all the numbers and learned that I needed 139 balusters.

Then I took a tape and went up into the loft and measured for the length of the balusters. I plan to drill the holes all the way through the bottom rail so the balusters will be touching the subfloor, and I plan to drill the holes only an inch and a quarter up into the 2x4 in the top rail. I figured on the balusters penetrating those holes just one inch. That meant that the balusters needed to be 37 1/4" long. And that meant that I could get three balusters out of each 10-foot length of rebar.

Then I went to work cutting balusters. I stood a concrete block on end with a flat face exactly 37 1/4" from the cutting head of Dr. Dick's rebar cutter/bender, which was still screwed down to the porch deck. I was ready to cut balusters.

The cutting operation is very smooth and efficient, and in no time, I had cut up all the rebar I had into balusters. When I finished, I counted them and found that I had 39 of them. That meant that I needed exactly 100 more, which meant that I needed to buy 34 more 10-foot lengths of rebar.

After lunch and a nap, I put my boots on and went into the woods to see if the sequoia trees are still buried. They were, so I turned around and went back to the cabin. On the way, I took up a big tarp that had covered a bunch of firewood rounds. I had split and burned all of that wood during the winter and the tarp had been buried in the snow all winter. Now the snow had melted back enough, and it was soft enough that I could pull the tarp up.

I used a couple ropes hooked to the cabin foundation to hang the tarp up and drape it over the roadway and down over the cliff. The sun was bright and hot, so it took no time at all for the tarp to dry out. When it was dry, I folded it up and stored it under the front porch with a bunch of other tarps.

Next, I went out on the front porch and used the wire wheel on the bench grinder to remove the rust from about half of the 39 balusters.

On Thursday morning Dave called and we had a delightful conversation mostly about politics. Then I went out on the front porch and finished removing the rust from the rest of the balusters.

Then I topped off my paint thinner dipping tank and proceeded to wash all the balusters by dipping them in the paint thinner and then drying them with a rag. When they were all cleaned, I brought them inside the cabin thinking they would be less likely to develop new rust in there before I got around to painting them.

I left for home at 1:10 happy to be making some little progress on my railing project and happy to finally be feeling healthy and strong.

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