Construction Journal for 1997, Part 3 of 6

6/10-13/97 I went up to the property for 4 days: Tuesday through Friday.

The week got off to a bad start due to a problem at home. I thought that by getting back up into the mountains that I would feel better, but I ended up feeling down for the whole 4 days. I plugged away at the work in spite of how I felt anyway and got quite a bit of work done. As hard as this job is of building a log house single handedly, it is mere child's play compared to the job of raising teenagers.

The temperature was about 80 degrees. I spudded the 8 foot remnant of log #31, gwizzed it, and cut it to length. In the process, the new chainsaw quit. I thought it might be out of gas, so I opened the gas cap. When I did, boiling gas gushed out and when I looked into the tank, I could see the gas still boiling. I went right down to the trailer to call Chainsaws Plus to see if they could explain this and give me some advice. Unfortunately, I was too late and they were closed for the day. I quit work for the day and called Vladimir Gross. He suggested that the gas cap breather might be plugged and I should check it. That seemed like a good idea because a plugged breather could cause the symptoms I was experiencing.

On Wednesday morning, I checked the gas cap and the breather seemed to work fine. The saw sort of worked; at least it worked well enough so that I was able to cut a second piece from log #31.

Next, I went down to the log pile to get some more logs, and I decided to spud the bark off a big douglas fir log. The log was wet under the bark and there were a lot of ants and other organisms living under the bark. I feel a real sense of urgency to get all these logs up off the pile, gwizzed, and treated so they don't deteriorate any further.

After that, I pulled logs #115 and #35 up on deck. In the meantime, Larry Copenhaver stopped by and reviewed the progress. When he left, I gwizzed logs #115 and #35, cut them to length for 5 pieces: 2 for the northeast wall from #35, and 3 for the southwest wall from #115.

On Thursday, I treated the 7 logs I had prepared and then raised the crane boom and mounted it on the new CBA. Even though I was still feeling down, it was gratifying to see that the CBA worked perfectly according to plan, and the mounting of the boom went without a hitch.

With the newly mounted boom, I raised the 7 logs into their places on the walls completing the 9th course of logs.

On Friday morning, I spiked in the 7 newly raised logs. Then I went down to the log pile, inventoried some logs, and dug a lot of dirt and rotting debris away from the ends of some of the logs so they don't rot any more than necessary. Then I pulled log #44 up on deck. This was a fairly big 35 foot log, but with the newly mounted boom, there was no problem pulling it up the cliff.

I just finished gwizzing log #44 when I saw that Earl Landin was standing there. He had been watching me for a while, but didn't want to interrupt me until I was done. We had a nice chat and went into the trailer for a drink. He told me that he had found a couple of people who are interested in taking my chips. This is great news. Now I will start thinking of a way to collect and store the chips so they can get them out easier.

After Earl left, I cut log #44 to length, treated it, and raised it up into place on the northwest wall. Progress should speed up for a while now, because three of the walls will take full length logs now that I am above the window and door levels. I left for home about 6:30 PM.

6/16-17/97 I went up to the property for 2 days: Monday and Tuesday.

My usual 4 day trip was cut short as a result of a call from Gus late Tuesday afternoon with the news that my mother had suffered another stroke. I got up to the property about 12:30 on Monday and spent the afternoon spiking log #44 into the northwest wall. I also installed a brace to stiffen the boom of the crane. On the weekend, I made a clamp by bending a piece of threaded rod into a 'U' shape and drilled three holes in a piece of angle iron. The 'U' goes through two of the holes to form a clamp to go around the boom, and the third hole, in the center of the other flange of the angle iron, receives a straight piece of threaded rod that acts as a turnbuckle. I drilled a hole in the end of this rod to receive a loop of wire that will provide the tension for the brace.

On Monday afternoon, I threaded a 30 foot length of wire through the hole in the straight rod and twisted the wire into a cable. I attached the 'U' bolt clamp to the boom and the end of the wire cable to the chain which connects Oscar to the block and tackle above it. Then I made a bridge out of a short 2x4 and a length of 20 gauge strap steel, and attached it under the boom halfway along the wire cable. With the cable strung under the bridge, I tightened up the nut on the straight rod and the brace stiffened up the boom just as planned.

Lifting log #44 up into place last week was the acid test of the new CBA. At that time, I noticed more 'spring' or flex in the boom than I liked. That was why I decided to make and install the boom stiffener. Now that that was done, I inspected the CBA, and found out that not only did I have a 'springing' problem, but I had potential 'splitting', 'spreading', and 'spinning' problems as well. I had successfully lifted #44 without anything failing, but I could see that I needed to correct these weaknesses in the new CBA before I could safely do any more heavy lifting with the crane.

Tuesday was spent correcting the problems. At first I thought I would have to replace the horizontal log of the CBA because the log looked like it had already started to rot. The vertical pipe bearing in this log showed signs of breaking out by splitting the log. I could see cracks developing at the top. I dismantled the CBA but after inspecting it, I decided that the wood was sound and the bearing only needed reinforcement. I reinforced the bearing by creasing a section in the middle of a length of 20 gauge steel strap. Then using a vise grip and then a hammer, I pinched the crease so that there was a flat section in the middle of the strap at right angles to the rest of the strap, but two thicknesses and half the width of the original strap. This section was bent 180 degrees around the pipe bearing where it sticks out at the top of the log. The rest of the strap lay flat along the top of the log and I fastened it to the log with a couple dozen or so joist hanger nails. I am sure this will avoid the 'splitting' problem.

The 'spreading' problem was that there was nothing to prevent the legs of the CBA tripod from spreading along the wall log they were resting on under a heavy load. I could see evidence that this had happened. It also looked to me like the bottoms of these members could also 'split' since they were attached to the log wall by a threaded rod through each of them. I fixed both of these potential problems by wrapping and clamping a band of 16 gauge steel around the bottom of each member and stringing a heavy straight wire between them which was connected to each of the straps.

Next, I reassembled the CBA and fixed the 'spinning' problem. When the load on the crane was far to one side, as it had been in lifting #44, the forces on the horizontal CBA log tried to make it twist. Indeed, it had twisted quite a bit. The original plan to prevent twisting was that the end of the log was formed in the shape of a wedge and this went into the space between two wall logs. The idea was that when the log was bolted tightly against the wall, the wedge against the logs would prevent twisting. The problem was that the wedge didn't fit snugly all the way around. I fixed this by fashioning wedges that I drove in the spaces between the CBA log and the log walls. Hopefully, this will fix the problem.

It rained lightly off and on all day, but when I finished the work at 4:00, it started to pour. I went into the trailer to either take a break, wait out the rain, or have an early dinner so I could work later on if the rain stopped. I was just deliberating on what to do, when Gus' phone call came in. After hearing about Mom's stroke, I called Norma Jeanne, Gayle, and John to tell them, fixed myself some dinner, and left for the hospital.

6/20-21/97 I went up to the property for 2 days: Friday and Saturday.

I took Mom home from the hospital Thursday afternoon, and around 9:00 in the evening, I decided to go back up to the property for a couple days. I got up there about 11:30 PM.

On Friday, I pulled log #26 up on deck. It was a big fir log and I had some trouble getting it up there. I thought Oscar couldn't lift it, so I rigged a block to it and ran the fixed end of the cable over the top of the southwest wall. When I pulled the log, it flexed the wall quite a bit, so I ran a come-along from the top of the wall down to the central column base and tightened it up. This kept the wall from flexing too much, and I got the log up on deck. Afterward, I began to suspect that the log wasn't too heavy after all but that it was getting hung up on the cliff edge by some lumpy knots. Oh, well, I guess I will never know.

I spent the rest of the day gwizzing the log and only got 3/4 of it done. It had a lot of rot on the outside of it so I had to cut a lot away. All of the sapwood was riddled with worm holes and much of this wood was rotten. The heartwood, on the other hand was perfectly sound with no checks, holes, or blemishes.

On Saturday morning, I finished gwizzing the log in the rain. Then I cut it to length and treated it. In the afternoon, I raised the log up onto the northeast wall and then left for home at about 4:30.

6/24-27/97 I went up to the property for 4 days: Tuesday through Friday.

I arrived at about 12:30 and spent the afternoon spiking log #44 into the southeast wall. In the process, I spent a lot of time trying to pull the front door frame into plumb. It was leaning slightly into the building, so I hooked a come-along to the top of the frame and ran the cable to a chain attached to a tree. Before I began spiking down #44, I pulled the door frame slightly out of plumb the other way. Then after spiking the log at one end and on both sides of the frame, I moved the come-along to the end of the log not yet spiked and pulled on it, again until the frame was just out of plumb the other way. Then I drove the rest of the spikes. In the process of judging for all of this flexing, I mis-judged and as a result, log #44 is not centered in the wall as well as it could be. The log is crooked to begin with, so it would not be possible to center it exactly anyway. The ends of the log are in nice alignment, and since it would be a major job to cut all the rebar spikes in order to re-align the log, I decided to leave it where it is.

On Wednesday, I pulled up log #20, gwizzed it, cut it to length, treated it, raised it, and spiked it into the southeast wall.

On Thursday, I pulled up log #107 and gwizzed it. I intended to cut it up for the southwest wall, but the log was too nice and straight to cut it into small pieces. Instead, I set it aside for use later in the southeast wall. It is about 8 inches too short for that wall, but on the next course, I have decided to let the main loft beam project out of the southeast wall. This means that the log at that, the 11th, course will be in two pieces with a 10 inch gap between them. Log #107 will do this job perfectly.

I pulled up log #118 on deck. It was rotten for the first 5 feet and the rest had a thick ring of bad wood around it. I set it aside for who knows what later.

Larry Copenhaver stopped by and we visited in the trailer while I had lunch. Afterward, I made the 5 logs for the southwest wall from log remnants already on deck: 1 from #115, 1 from #26, and 3 from #111. The chainsaw acted up again in the process of cutting these logs but I managed to get the job done. It is exasperating to have the saw quit while you are cutting, or to refuse to start. I finally adjusted the carburetor a little richer and that seemed to help. I hope it fixes the problem permanently.

While I was treating the 5 pieces, Earl Landin stopped by and we chatted while I kept working. Earl watched me lift the logs up onto the wall and spike them in. That completed the 10th course. Earl took some pictures of me with my camera while I was working. He told me that he had spoken to some people who might be interested in taking my chips. I told him that if it would help, I would be willing to deliver the chips to them. He said he would mention that offer to them.

On Friday, I began raising the scaffolds another notch. Two of the corner supports ended up inside window frames, so I had to make special supports to mount in the frames to hold the scaffold. This took a lot of time, so by the end of the day, I had only raised 3/4 of the scaffolds.

Earl stopped by again and told me that the people would take my chips if I delivered them. This means I will have to build a box for the pickup this weekend so I can haul chips next week. I left for home at about 6:00 PM.

6/29/97 Built a chip hauling box for the pickup out of 3/8 inch plywood.

6/30-7/3/97 I went up to the property for 4 days: Monday through Thursday.

This was a disappointing week in that it is the first week since February that I didn't get any logs up on the walls. Ellen pointed out that it could have been worse and that I did get some work done even though I didn't get any logs up.

I arrived at about 11:30 on Monday and decided to begin by loading the pickup and the new box with chips. I first tried to back the pickup up to the site to make it easier to load chips, but even after putting the chains on, I was unable to back up the hill. So I turned around and drove up frontward. Then I assembled the box on the pickup and built a scaffold so I could wheel the chips up and dump them into the top of the box. I spent the rest of the day loading chips. Larry Copenhaver stopped by and visited while I did some loading.

On Tuesday I finished loading the chips. It was hot, sweaty work amidst swarms of mosquitos. It wasn't really very pleasant work. I got the pickup backed down the hill without getting stuck, and after I covered the load with a tarp, I called Earl Landin and left a message for him that I was ready to deliver the chips to someone. I spent the rest of the day raising the scaffolds. I got them all raised, but they weren't straightened, tightened, or shimmed yet.

On Wednesday morning, Earl called and told me that Dal & Pat Hope would take my chips and he told me how to get to their place. I called the Hopes and arranged to deliver them at 11:30 that morning. In the meantime, I worked on trimming the scaffolds.

Dal was at his barn when I arrived with the chips and he showed me where to back in to unload them. His hired man, Dick, helped me scoop them out. It was great meeting Dal; he not only agreed to take the rest of my chips, but he offered me some Penta that I can use to treat some of my log columns. You can't buy Penta anymore, but he has a big tankful and said I could take 5 gallons. That will be plenty for what I need.

When I got back, I finished tightening and shimming the scaffolds and re-attached the handrails. Then I pulled up log #41 and disassembled the chip box. I felt good about the scaffolding. They are 16 feet off the ground now, and until they were tightened, it was a little scary walking on them. Now that they are tight, they feel nice and secure.

On Thursday, I had hopes of getting log #41 up on the wall before I left, but the log was pretty bad with a lot of rot and it took a long time to gwiz it. The temperature was even hotter than the day before, about 80 degrees, so the work seemed extra miserable. After cutting #41 to length, and fighting with the new chainsaw to get it to run, I treated it. By that time it was 4:30 and I gave up on trying to get the log up on the building so I left for home.

7/7-10/97 I went up to the property for 4 days: Monday through Thursday.

The weather was hot and sunny when I arrived at about 11:30. After thinking about it over the weekend, and after looking again at log #41, I decided that it wasn't good enough to go up into the wall where it could be seen. Instead, I will use it in the next course which will be hidden by the floor system.

I selected log #100 instead, pulled it up on deck, and gwizzed it before quitting for the day.

On Tuesday morning, I cut #100 to length and treated it with Tim-Bor in a light rain. Then as the rain got heavier, I raised the log up and spiked it into the northwest wall. By noon, when I finished, it was raining cats and dogs.

After lunch, the rain stopped and I pulled log #73 up on deck and gwizzed it. This log was destined for the southwest wall just above the big front windows and I wanted a real nice log for that spot. I felt real good about #73 as I was quizzing it. It is a beautiful straight sound douglas fir. My feelings changed, however, when I was 10 or 15 feet from the end; I ran into a rotten spot that went nearly around the entire circumference of the log. I quit for the day feeling bad. Again I ambivalent about using this log with its bad spot, or considering this to be strike two and trying for a third log to fill that spot.

On Wednesday morning, I decided to reject log #73 and go for log #30. I pulled #30 up the hill, gwizzed it, and treated it. It wasn't a great log, but it was better than the two I had rejected and I decided to use it. While I was treating it, Larry Copenhaver stopped by to review the progress. When he left, I raised log #30 up and spiked it into the southwest wall. In the process, I plumbed each of the front window frames which worked out well.

On Thursday morning, I cut log #107 into two pieces to go into the southeast wall. I had gwizzed and set this log aside on 6/26/97 because it would work perfectly in this spot. I treated the two pieces, raised them, and spiked them into the southeast wall. Just before I finished spiking, Earl Landin came by and looked at a couple of ponderosa pine trees that I thought were sick and dying. I thought that I might have to harvest them soon, but Earl said they were still alive. One is very healthy, and the other is just a little thin in the crown. Earl helped me load some stuff into the pickup, and after I finished spiking in #107, I left for home.

7/14-17/97 I went up to the property for 4 days: Monday through Thursday. The weather was hot and sunny and I arrived at about 11:30. I decided to use log #14 for the northeast wall. I had pulled this log up the hill, gwizzed it, and then treated it on 8/28/96, but I had rejected it for a sill log because it was badly checked and discolored. The log is sound but just looks bad. I decided to put it in the northeast wall because it won't show too bad and will be pretty much out of the weather. Since the log was pretty much already prepared, I was able to get it up on the wall before the end of the day.

On Tuesday morning, I spiked #14 into the northeast wall completing the 11th course of logs. In the process, I noticed that one of the pipes making up the CBA universal joint was buckled. I could see that there were tremendous compression forces on this pipe and I was afraid it might shear off the half-inch threaded rod that holds the u-joint together. Instead, the flattened part of the pipe buckled which effectively shortened the pipe by about an inch. This makes the u-joint a little out of line, but doesn't impair its function very much. Moreover, the pipe looks even stronger in compression now than it did before so I don't think I need to do anything with it except rasp the wood down a little to provide a little more clearance.

I pulled log #113 up on deck and gwizzed about half of it. It had a 1 1/2 inch black ring around a real nice sound core. It took a long time to gwiz this ring off, so I stopped after I had enough log to make one post for the inside of the house. I strung a tight string where the main floor beam will go so I could measure the length I needed for the 3 posts. Then I made one post from #113.

On Wednesday, I treated the post and installed it at grid D2. Then I pulled log #110 up on deck and stopped for lunch. Just as I finished washing up, Bob and Pat Burton pulled up. They inspected my work and I gave them a demonstration of the Log Wizard in action. I also let them get the feel of using the crane to lift logs. Then they took me to lunch at the 59er Diner. After they left, I gwizzed log #110.

On Thursday I made two more posts from log #110, treated them and installed them at grid locations B2 and C2. Lifting the posts in the center of the building requires that the crane boom be at a very high angle. This puts the maximum amount of compression stress on the u-joint member that buckled. I was paying very close attention to how the CBA and the crane in general were handling the job. I decided, just as a precaution, to loosely fasten the butt of the crane boom to the log wall with a stout rope. That way, if the CBA failed, the rope would not let the boom fall very far and would provide a cushion to stop it without too much of a jerk. I think this will help minimize the potential damage and danger resulting from a CBA failure. When I place the main loft beam, I will be lifting about 5 times as much weight as one of those posts in about the same position. That will be the real test of the CBA.

7/21-24/97 I went up to the property for 4 days: Monday through Thursday.

On the way I stopped by Dal Hope's and picked up a bucketful of Penta. I arrived at the property at about noon and spent the rest of the day working on the main floor beam. This is a triple 2x10 beam and the planks that make it up were the ones that formed the roof of my snow shelter inside the building over the winter. Probably as a result of that snow load, the planks were pretty severely warped. It took a lot of time to force them straight in order to make the beam. For one that was severely airplane-propellered I used a pipe clamp and a come-along to twist it back into shape. The beam was finished by mid-afternoon on Tuesday.

Now that the roof of my snow shelter was gone, I rearranged the scaffold frames and attached tarps to the wall of the building to form a rain shelter over my work space. I arranged the scaffold frames with planks on top so that I can reach and work on the posts that will stand on the beam and hold up the loft beams.

Just as I finished the work, Larry, Roberta, and their friends Ted Turner and his wife stopped by for a visit. They brought me a couple of fresh raised donuts that I had for dinner. They were very good. Ted and Larry stayed for a while to get a demonstration of gwizzing and of log lifting.

On Wednesday morning, I gwizzed log #49 which will be the main loft beam. It had been lying on the roadway for a long time earmarked for this purpose. After lunch I did some measurements on the building and discovered that for the first time, the building walls differed significantly from the drawings. The walls that will support the main loft beam are 5 1/2 inches higher than the drawing calls for. This presented a problem that I spent about 2 hours working on in the trailer. I worked out a compromise which will alter the design slightly, and which requires notching one of the walls deeper than I had planned, but I think it will work out OK in the long run. I hope anyway.

With the new strategy in mind, I started working on #49 to make a beam out of it. I made a lot of measurements on the log and made the decisions on how to orient it and go about installing the posts that will support it. By the end of the day, I used the gwizzard to make the rough flat spots that will form the bearing surfaces for the posts below the beam.

Before I quit for the day, I inspected the blackberry bushes and picked two ripe berries. There are a lot of red and green berries so I should get quite a few berries this year. Now that the ferns are under control, the blackberries should thrive and yield more and more berries each year.

On Thursday, I finished the lower bearing surfaces on the beam with a level, a chisel, and a hand plane. Then I measured the amount the beam sagged when supported only on the ends, and then measured the exact depth of the bearing notches so I can calculate the lengths for the posts. I decided to spend the rest of the day trying to get another log up on the walls. I looked at log #41 which I had prepared and rejected earler with the intention of placing it at the floor level where it can't be seen. After looking at the log again, I rejected it again and instead, spudded log #86 and pulled it up on deck. I finished at about 5:30. I picked three more ripe blackberries, put them in the freezer with the other two, packed up and left for home.

7/29-8/1/97 I went up to the property for 4 days: Tuesday through Friday.

On the way up, I stopped to buy bar oil and also to buy a sack of Tim-Bor. I got up to the property about 12:30. It rained on and off that afternoon. I picked some blackberries which were starting to ripen, and I whacked the new ferns that were trying to shade the blackberries. Then I cut log #86 to length and treated it. Before I quit for the day, I measured a couple more logs for the inventory.

On Wednesday, I raised and spiked log #86 into the southwest wall. Then I spudded and pulled up on deck logs #119, #58 and #88, and finally, gwizzed log #119, all before lunch. During lunch, I decided on the allocation of logs to the inside posts and beams. Since they are all very visible, I want to use the nicest douglas fir logs I have, which include the three logs I pulled up in the morning, for posts and beams. After lunch, I spudded, pulled up on deck, and gwizzed log #85 which is another nice douglas fir I will use for posts. Before I quit for the day, I picked a dozen or so ripe blackberries. I am surprised at how many blackberries there are this year. There are still a lot of red ones and green ones so I should get a lot of ripe ones next week.

On Thursday, I gwizzed and treated log #93. It is a good sound log but it has a one inch ring of dark wood. I set it aside for use in the northeast wall at the floor level because that will be the least visible log in the whole house. After treating it, I raised and spiked #93 into the northeast wall. In the process, Larry Copenhaver stopped by for a short visit. Before I quit for the day, I picked another dozen or so blackberries.

On Friday I awoke with a headache and got off to a slow start. I started by inventorying a few more logs. Then I set to work scribing a line on the main loft beam, log #49, so that I can flatten the top to make the joists all level. I had thought about how I would do this for a long time, and I hadn't figured out a way that I was sure would work. I thought about using a flashlight, or a light bulb, to cast a shadow of a tight string on the log and then following this shadow with a pencil. I tried both of these methods, but in the daylight the shadow wasn't visible enough.

I gave up on that method and tried something else. I leveled the beam, strung a tight string a couple inches over the top of the log and then measured the distance from the log to the string every foot or so along the log. I wrote the distance in millimeters on the log as I went.

After doing this for a third of the log or so, I realized that if I used a plane or the gwizzard to start flattening the top of the log, I would cut off these numbers and I would lose them. I abandoned this method also.

Next, I made a scribing tool by taping a pencil to a combination square so that it projected 40 millimeters below the part with the bubble level. This was the largest distance I had measured between the string and the log. To scribe the line, I held the combination square so that the leveling bubble was centered, then keeping it level, I lowered it until the square just touched the string. If the pencil point touched the log before the square touched the string, then I moved the square away from the log and tried again. If the square touched the string before the pencil touched the log, then I moved toward the center of the log and tried again. When both touched at the same time, then I made a mark with the pencil. I did this every inch or so and connected the marks to form the scribed line.

This method worked pretty well once I got used to it, but while doing it, I thought of an improvement which I will use when I scribe the 7 purlins to flatten them for the rafters. I used my eyes to keep the bubble centered and also to see when the square touched the string. I didn't need to watch the pencil because I could feel when it touched the log. It occurred to me that I could employ a third sense, viz. hearing, to detect when the square touched the string. When I scribe the purlins, I plan to string a wire in place of the string, and then connect another wire to the combination square, which is metal, and connect the two wires to a battery powered buzzer. That way, when the square touches the tight wire, I will hear a buzz and my eyes need only pay attention to the bubble level. Using three different senses to monitor three different alignments should make the process a lot easier and quicker.

Just about the time I finished scribing the log, a young man named Lloyd something and a friend stopped by and looked over the site. Lloyd is building a 24x30 log house a couple miles up the road and we compared log house building approaches. He is using milled logs that he got from a company in Montana. After they left, I picked a cup of blackberries, or so, and then packed up and left for home about 2:30.

1997: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Entire Journal by Year: 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008

Go To Home Page

©2003 Paul R. Martin, All rights reserved.