Construction Journal for 1999 Part 3 of 6

4/27-29/99 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

My back was pretty well healed, although it was still plenty stiff after driving any length of time. After a cinnamon roll, I arrived at about 12:30. I was pleased to discover that most of the snow was gone. After moving into the trailer, I shoveled down the deeper spots on the driveway. In some places it was a foot or so deep and very compact. I figured if I took these high spots down, I would be able to drive up to the trailer next week and I would be able to take delivery of the rafters any time after that.

I started pulling nails and removing the ceiling boards from the ridgepole. I also scraped all the caulk off the boards and the ridgepole as I went. I got the job about 3/4 done before the end of the day.

On Wednesday, I finished removing the ceiling boards and then scribed the log to cut a deeper slab to make the ridge more symmetrical. The slab went from about an inch and an eighth at the butt end to nothing at the top. I sharpened up Mother Sow and used it to cut the slab. The saw worked great and I am beginning to hope that the problems with it have been fixed.

Just as I finished, Earl Landin stopped by for a visit. After he left, I sharpened the 18 inch block plane and planed about half of the new surface before the end of the day. In the process of planing, I discovered that a tool called a Stanley Surform is a great tool for grinding down knots while you are planing. I bought this tool a long time ago and never thought it was good for much. It's sort of like a big file. It has a steel frame with a handle on it, and the blade, which looks like a screen stamped out of razor blade material, fastens to the bottom of the frame. The blade looked so flimsy that I didn't think it would do much or last very long. But I was wrong.

When you are planing wood with knots, the knots are hard to cut through if your plane is moving with the blade running squarely into the knot. This interrupts the nice long cuts that you want to make. It's easier to cut through the knots by attacking them at an angle with the blade, but then the plane is sort of crosswise to the grain and depending on how you have worked the wood around it, the blade may not even reach the knot.

What I found works real well is whenever the plane starts to hit a tough knot, I use the Surform to grind it down a little, and then the plane cuts right over the top of it until you get down to it. Then I repeat the process until I get the depth I want. I am still using the blade that was in the thing when I bought it so it lasts pretty well. I am going to buy some new blades, though, because it is a pretty effective tool.

On Thursday morning, I put the log gate back together. Earl told me that there was going to be an Apple Blossom Festival in Wenatchee over the weekend, and that it usually attracts a lot of traffic in the area. Since my driveway will be drivable by then I want to have the gate closed to discourage vandals.

With the gate up, I finished planing the rafter bearing surface on the log and started to pack up to leave. I was a little dismayed that I didn't see a single gray jay or chipmunk at all this week. I hope nothing happened to them. I did, however, see a young snake. I left for home about 2:00.

5/4-6/99 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

Before I left home, I got the model of the cabin out and with a couple of loose dowels, I figured out the strategy for raising the ridgepole. I decided that I would leave the boom on the east side of the ridgepole. It will be a little trickier lifting the ridgepole, but the crane will be a lot more useful for lifting rafters and plywood if it is to the east of the ridgepole.

I stopped in for what will be my last cinnamon roll at the 59er diner. The Cougar Inn closed over the weekend, and that was where they made the cinnamon rolls. I will have to switch to something else.

I arrived at the property at about 1:00 and was able to drive up to the trailer for the first time this year. It had snowed a little before I got there and there was still a light rain with a little snow in it, but that stopped soon after I got moved into the trailer.

The ceiling boards that I had taken off the ridgepole were all wet from the rain so I stood them up in a row in the sun against the privy. I didn't want to nail them to the ridgepole unless they were dry so I decided to do a couple other jobs while they and the ridgepole dried.

First I measured the thickness of the ridgepole at the C3 bearing notch and found that it was now 3/4" thinner than before. I found a nice piece of 3/4" CVG fir that I salvaged from Joe O'Leary's porch and made a shim for the C3 RPSL to make up this difference. Then I nailed the shim in place atop the RPSL.

Next I moved the temporary pole that I had chained to the C1 RPSL so that it wasn't tight against the RPSL.

When I finished that, the boards and ridgepole were nice and dry. I caulked and nailed all the boards back onto the ridgepole and felt really good to see that it was so nice and symmetrical.

On Wednesday I decided to install two 5/8 x 18 inch lag screws to fasten the RPSLs to the top gable logs. You could push the top logs away from the RPSLs because the top four or five courses of logs had no lateral support. I figured that if I installed these screws after the ridgepole was in place, it might pull the ridgepole out of alignment, so I better do it now.

That took about an hour and a half and then I started moving the ridgepole. It was slow work but by the end of the day, I had the ridgepole up onto the building with the top end about 10 feet from where it needed to be and the butt end about 25 feet away. I left it chained in that position over night. In the process, I was visited by my two gray jays. I was happy to see that they were both still alive. One of them, though, looked awful scruffy. I think it is the female. Some of her feathers were matted down and some of them were sticking out from her head. She looked sort of a mess, but she came and ate out of my hand anyway.

In the evening I felt really crummy. At one point I got a basin ready because I thought I was going to throw up. I think I just worked a little too hard on that ridgepole because by morning I was fine.

On Thursday morning I finished raising the ridgepole and setting it atop the RPSLs. This is a major milestone but there was no one around but me to have a topping out ceremony. Anyway I feel real good about getting it in place. It is straight as an arrow and lines up perfectly with the gables and the rest of the purlins. Both gray jays were around to celebrate the occasion and this time both of them looked well groomed, except that the female had some kind of yellow stain on her stomach feathers. It looked sort of like egg yolk. I can only guess what was going on with her for the past couple weeks.

I took a bunch of pictures of the building and left for home at 2:00

5/11-13/99 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

The 59er Diner surprised me with a cinnamon roll ready for me when I sat down. They had frozen a bunch of them and will be able to serve me a few more. They took them off the menu so I won't have too much competition for the rest of them.

I arrived at 11:45 and went to work aligning the ridgepole. Without shimming or cutting, I only had three degrees of freedom: along the axis, and horizontal perpendicular to the axis at each RPSL. I hung a plumb bob off the southwest end of the ridgepole and used binoculars on the ground to check the alignment. After half a dozen or more trips up and down the scaffolds I maneuvered the log into position with a crowbar. It ended up very nicely aligned.

With the ridgepole in place, I spiked it to the RPSLs. It started raining just as I finished and I hurried to get the drill motor and other tools out of the rain. I put on my rain gear and removed all the lifting rigging, including the temporary 8 foot log I had chained to the C3 RPSL. The rain encouraged me to quit a little early for the day.

Even though snow was forecast, there was no rain or snow on Wednesday. It was perfect weather for working. Both gray jays visited me off and on all day and both of them looked pretty well groomed. The female, though, who I have started calling Lady Bird, had a few different length tail feathers. I think she lost some and was growing new ones. Having chosen her name, I had to call her spouse Lyndon.

I needed to build a platform in order to reach the top of the B2 PSL so I could spike the PSL in when I put it up. All the good lumber I have was tied up in the temporary snow shelter which I hope I won't need any more. So, I decided to dismantle the snow shelter. I finished the job before lunch.

After lunch, I built a platform on top of the two loft beams. It is 10 feet from there to the Grid B purlin and I only have a 10 foot ladder, so I nailed two one foot log sections to the platform and set the ladder on these. Then I lashed the top of the ladder to the purlin. Now I can safely reach the top of the PSL when it goes up.

Before I quit for the day, I found logs #57 and #73. These have been earmarked for the C2 and B2 PSLs for a long time and they were up on the roadway sort of at the back of the pile. I got them out where I could work on them and was pleased to find that #73 was already gwizzed.

Thursday was another beautiful day and I got an early start. I measured for the length of the B2 PSL and then cut #73 to length. Mother Sow worked nearly perfectly and I was glad. The log was light enough that I was able to skid it into the building by hand. That was a lot easier than rigging up the crane to move it.

Once inside, I drilled a 9/16" hole in the butt of it to receive the rebar sticking up out of the main loft beam, and then rigged up the crane and lifted the log up into position. I took a bunch of pictures of it as I went.

The log was a little long and didn't quite fit. After rotating the log to achieve the best fit, I decided that it was close enough. I decided to force it in by deflecting the purlin up about a sixteenth of an inch and hammering the log into place. As I climbed down from the scaffold to get some tools to persuade the log, I saw Larry and Roberta Copenhaver down at the road.

I went down and chatted with them and then Larry came back up with me and watched while I forced log #73 into position and then I spiked it in as the B2 PSL. After spending a month or more on that ridgepole, I was happy to be able to put a log in place in half a day. I finished by 11:30, had lunch, packed up, and left for home.

5/30-31/99 Ellen and I went up to the property Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend and spent the night. We hiked up to the viewpoint overlooking the property, and climbed up on the high scaffolds. Ellen did some relaxing while I whacked ferns, de-winterized the trailer, and put the screens back on the windows. I also noticed the apple tree is loaded with blossoms.

6/1-3/99 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I skipped the previous two weeks because of medical problems with Mom. I arrived at about 1:00 and set to work gwizzing log #58. This will be the C2 RPSL. Log #58 is a nice sound douglas fir log and I gwizzed it in less than an hour. After that, I started building a platform on top of the 4-tier scaffold tower so that I will have a place to stand to spike the ridgepole to the RPSL. There was already a 2x10 and a 2x12 on top of the tower that I had used when I spiked the Grid D purlin to the D2 PSL. I braced these two planks on edge on the rungs of the top scaffold frame so as to make two joists for the platform.

On Wednesday, I used a rope to pull up 5 planks which I nailed to the joists to form the platform. Then I moved the ladder from the B2 PSL over to the new platform and lashed it to the ridgepole next to the RPSL location. Next, I fastened the end of a tape to the bearing surface under the ridgepole and measured the distance down to the bearing surface on top of the loft beam. This would be the length of the RPSL.

While I was making the measurement, Cliff Spring stopped by to see what I was doing. He is Nancy Bartholomew's dad and he told me about Dave and Nancy's project. They were setting up the main beams at that time. I took a break and walked with Cliff over to their project and met Cliff's wife Betty. I talked a little while with Nancy and Karen Arnold who was also there. Then Dave showed me his photovoltaic system. It was working well and powering all the power tools they were using on the project. Pretty impressive.

They had a crew of 8 or 10 guys and were setting the building up really fast. The company doing the work salvages old timber structures and then makes new beams out of the wood. They get 100 year old first growth wood that is better than anything you can get new today. Then they fashion beams that are all held together with wood splines and pegs. No nails, bolts, or metal parts at all. It's sort of a Tudor type of structure with plywood faced Styrofoam panels in the spaces between the beams. I am sure that when I get back up there next week, the shell of their house will be done and closed in.

I went back to my one-man project and had lunch. After lunch, I re-measured for the length of the RPSL because I forgot what the measurement was from the first time. Good thing I did, because the number that I thought I remembered was wrong. For once I measured twice and cut once. I cut log #58 to length and then dragged it into the building by hand.

I rigged up the crane and lifted the log up into position as the C2 RPSL. It fit perfectly. I started driving the rebar spike in and unfortunately, the spike didn't follow the pilot hole and started going cockeyed. I didn't realize it until I had only about 3 inches to go and it started breaking through the side of the RPSL. I stopped at that point so I didn't damage the RPSL any more.

I drilled a new hole and drove a second spike in, which fortunately went in straight. I will just leave that 3 inch spike sticking up because it is between rafters and won't hurt anything being there. Later, I will try to fix up the cosmetic damage done to the log.

When that was done, I took some pictures of the blossoms on the apple tree.

In the past several months, I have given a lot of thought to the vents at the tops of the gable walls. I thought I had figured out a way to provide vent openings that could be opened and closed. I had even bought materials for making the hinge mechanisms. The more I thought about it and discussed it with other people, the less I liked the idea. The construction of the vents would have been very complex and time consuming, and there was a great potential for operational problems. Herb Klammer suggested that it would be simpler to use roof vents. I thought that was a great idea so I went shopping for roof vents. I didn't find anything that I thought could handle a sliding 8-foot deep snow pack. I ended up discouraged with both approaches. I finally decided to do neither and to see if I really needed vents up there at all. If I do, I can install roof vents later and devise some kind of cover to protect them from the snow.

In the meantime, I decided to plug up the spaces in the gables by putting in the last course of logs in each wall. I measured the log I had temporarily chained to the C1 RPSL and found that was exactly the right size to make both gable logs. I used Mother Sow to cut it in two. I lifted one piece up onto the northeast wall, notched it to fit, and spiked it in as the last log in that wall. Then I lifted the other piece up onto the southwest wall and lashed it there for overnight.

On Thursday, I notched the log and spiked it in as the last log in the southwest wall. This was the LAST log in the building before I put the roof on! I felt great that I had reached that milestone. When I looked at my log placement progress chart, I felt like Tantalus with the objective being so close but moving just out of reach as I got closer. There are still some logs to be placed-in the porch and in the two staircases, but these can wait until the roof and floors are built. For now, I will be switching modes from logs to lumber and I am quite excited about it. I left for home about 1:30.

6/4/99 I talked to Tom Hammond about some roof material details, and then I called Russ at Marson and Marson and finalized my order for roofing materials. They gave me their best contractor price and will deliver the material on Wednesday morning, June 9. I am excited. On a more sour note, I found out that the pickup transmission needs to be rebuilt and it has a broken flywheel. The flywheel has been responsible for the persistently annoying vibration that nobody could find. It will be good, but expensive, to get both problems fixed. The only question is whether or not they can fix it before Wednesday. I need to be up there to take delivery of the roof material.

6/8-10/99 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

The pickup was not fixed in time, so I rode the bus in to Seattle with Ellen in the morning, met Dave, and borrowed his pickup. Then I drove back home and packed it up with my gear. While I was home, Bob Burton called and said they planned to drive over and visit the project. I told them I was planning on having lunch at the 59er Diner and they said they would try to join me.

I had lunch there, but the Burton's showed up about 5 minutes after I left. I arrived at the property at about 1:45. There was a note stuck in the door that said "June 3rd 99 GREAT PLACE! Would like to speak to you about it. We are also doing Butt & Pass in Cashmere area. 782-8306 Rick Neubauer". I called him and left a message on his recorder. I had partly moved in and was taping up a leaky drain pipe when the Burtons drove up. They toured and inspected the project and we had a nice visit in the trailer. They left about 5:00.

After that, I moved the logs in the log pile so I had a place to park the pickup, and then I whacked the new ferns.

On Wednesday morning, I woke up at 4:30 thinking about how I was going to build the roof and deal with the problems of getting the materials up there. I couldn't get the thoughts out of my mind and get back to sleep, so I got up. I built some racks to hold the TJI rafters, moved the pickup into the new parking place, and opened the gate. I wanted the truck to back in and dump the materials as close to the hairpin turn as possible.

The truck showed up at 9:00, and after a little rigging and coaxing, the material was dumped right up in the hairpin turn. The 40 foot TJIs were lying on the road just in front of the trailer, and the shorter TJIs and other boards were sitting on top of two big bundles of OSB sheets.

I spent the rest of the day carrying or dragging the ceiling boards, fascia boards, nails, and shorter TJIs up to racks near the building site. It wore me out.

Rick Neubauer called me back and we had a nice chat about log house building, but mostly about Skip Ellsworth's class. Rick is just starting his building. He has his logs and is just preparing to pour his footings. I learned from him that Skip is still teaching his classes and holding his monthly meetings. Skip spent a couple years in the Philippines and I thought his classes and meetings were over because every meeting I called about was canceled and he quit advertising for his classes. Evidently he started them up again. He also has a web site which I was glad to hear about. It is

On Thursday, I dragged about 15 of the 40 foot TJIs up to the rack. I had to drag them deep into the vine maple thicket at the end of the hairpin turn, and then grab the other end and snake it back out of the woods and up the hill to the rack. I quit at noon because I had to get home to get the pickup and to pick up Andrew. I covered all the new material with tarps and left for home about 2:00.

6/15-17/99 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I had breakfast at the 59er Diner and arrived at the property at 11:30. It was a hot 85 degrees out. After moving in, I started aligning the porch purlins (Grids F & G). They are fairly adjustable and since they were erected prior to the purlins and ridgepole on the building itself, I waited until the ridgepole was in place before finally aligning the ones over the porch. That way, I could line them up exactly with the ones on the building to get a nice straight and flat roof.

There were six degrees of freedom (three for each of two purlins): horizontally along each purlin axis to line the ends up with the line of the gable eaves, and, horizontally perpendicular to the purlin axes, at each PSL at Grids 1 and 3. Each of the latter adjustments has the effect of raising or lowering the respective end of the purlin. The height of the purlin is critical to making a flat roof but the exact position of the purlin is not critical otherwise; a misalignment simply makes the PSL not exactly plumb which they are not anyway.

The general method for making these adjustments was to connect two come-alongs to form opposing diagonal braces in the direction of the adjustment. I think I made all of these connections between the top of a PSL and a porch floor beam in one direction, and the building or a tree in the other direction. When these come-alongs were snugged up, they braced the structure so that I could remove all the temporary braces for that direction. Then I made the adjustments by tightening and slacking each of the come-alongs a click at a time, and checking the adjustments by sighting with binoculars after each click. When the purlin was lined up, I nailed sturdy braces in place, and then removed the come-alongs. The bracing needs to be sturdier than before because I am going to be dragging rafters and OSB sheets up over the purlins and I don't want them to move.

By about 6:30 I had aligned 4 of the 6 degrees of freedom and was rigged up to align the 5th. By that time, a loud thunder and lightening storm had started so I put the tools away and quit for the day. It rained a little and blew a lot, but the storm was over in a few hours. In the meantime, I cleaned out the shower drain which had begun to drain too slowly. With the drain clear, I took a much appreciated shower.

On Wednesday morning, I was expecting Dave to show up and help me. Before he got there, at about 9:00, I had finished aligning the 5th and started rigging to align the 6th degree of freedom. With Dave's help, the last alignment went fast. The big help was that I could just stand there looking through the binoculars while Dave clicked the come-alongs. Without his help, each click meant a climb up and down the ladder and a hike down the road to the sighting site.

When that was done, we mitered about a dozen rafters and cut a bunch of blocking. I got a lot of good tips and ideas from Dave. He had just finished building a new roof on his house and had a lot of first hand information on using TJIs and OSB to make a roof. We lifted and leaned six 24 foot rafters up against the building so we could reach them from up on top, and we measured and marked six ceiling boards for rafter positions. Then, since Dave had never seen my crane in operation, we bundled the six ceiling boards together and used the crane to lift the bundle up on top of the building and lay it across a couple of purlins.

All during this work, and especially during the breaks and at the end of the day, Dave and I got in some very good visiting. We had a great time.

Dave needed to leave by 7 AM and I was sure that I would wake up without an alarm clock in time to get him some breakfast. Wrong! I woke up at 7:08 and discovered that Dave had made his bed back into a table and was already gone. He called me from the road about an hour later and said that he had left at 7:00 and didn't have the heart to wake me. That was a nice gesture; I really did enjoy that last hour or so of sleep.

While I was having my coffee after breakfast, I heard a noise in the brush outside. I looked out and saw a beautiful doe walking down from the upper roadway and right past my pickup. I was glad to see her because it has been a long time since I have seen any deer on the property.

I was expecting Bob Burton and Tom Hammond to come up for a visit in the morning. In the meantime, I climbed up and tied the six ceiling boards up in such a way that they were secure and yet so that I could remove one board at a time without having the rest of them slide off the roof. When that was done, I replaced all the tarps over the rafters and boards and started putting the tools away. I was just about finished when Bob and Tom arrived around 11:00.

We had a great time visiting and we took the grand tour of the property. We went up on the highest scaffolds, up on the high rock behind the building, up to the spring, on all the trails, and up to the drain field to see the nice big logs that I will rip into porch joists. And we took pictures of each other taking pictures of things.

About 1:30 we packed up and left. We met again at the 59er Diner for lunch and some more visiting. We left there about 2:40 in plenty of time for me to get back home to get Andrew.

6/22-24/99 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

After a cinnamon roll, I arrived at the property at 10:30. The weather was hot. After moving in, I nailed on 5 of the 6 ceiling boards that had to go on before I could start on the rafters. This was complicated because there were scaffold planks and handrails in the way that had to be moved or removed. I also planed and caulked the wall purlins to keep insects from finding a way into the building between the purlins and the ceiling boards. I caulked under the other ceiling boards only where they crossed over the gable walls.

On Wednesday it was pleasantly cooler. I nailed the 6th ceiling board on and then lifted three 40 foot rafters up onto the building with the crane. This was the first such effort and I am having second thoughts about using the crane to lift rafters. Since the winch can only pull 25 feet at a time, I had to re-rig the load a couple of times and I had to use a long ladder to reach up far enough to do the re-rigging. I might be able to fix this problem by eliminating the block on the winch and thereby getting another 15 feet or so of travel. I can also improve on some other problems by rigging differently. I will give these changes a try and compare that to just pulling the rafters up by hand, one at a time, using brute force and awkwardness.

The 24 footers are much lighter, and I had no trouble pulling them up onto the roof by hand. It rained lightly a couple times during the day, and by the end of the day, I had two pairs of rafters nailed in place. Larry Copenhaver stopped by and watched and visited for a short while.

On Thursday morning, it was raining cats and dogs, so I took the time to cook pancakes for breakfast. By the time I finished the dishes at about 7:00, the rain had stopped. I went to work and nailed the third pair of rafters in place. This represents only about 9% of the 32 pairs of rafters in total, but maybe I will be able to work faster as I develop more skill and better techniques.

I learned at least two things about making a roof this week. First, those 11 7/8" TJI rafters don't sag at all in a 16 foot span, and second, purlins that look perfectly aligned, are not necessarily exactly in line. As a result, the rafters didn't always touch each of the purlins. I thought about the causes and consequences of this and agonized over what to do about it. I ended up deciding to shim between the rafter and purlin where they didn't touch. The worst case was about half an inch. This will mean that the edge of the ceiling board will not be snug up against the rafter at this point, but I don't think it will matter much. The tongue and groove of the ceiling boards will hold this edge fast, and the other edge will be nailed tight to the rafter. This will slant the board somewhat, but that will only happen right up against the purlin and I doubt if it will be noticeable.

The thing I still worry about, though, is that the shimming may cause a cumulative error. I try to convince myself that this won't happen, because the roof line will be as straight as the purlins that are actually in contact with the rafters. The rafters should follow these purlins for quite a ways, or at worst, switch to a different set of purlins, and follow them for a long ways. Anyway, I hope that is what will happen. In the meantime, I will just keep a close eye on the alignment as I go.

I was pleasantly surprised by a small flock of gray jays. I am sure that Lyndon and Lady Bird were among them, but there were at least two others, plus two fledglings. At least I think they were fledglings. They were darker and more uniform in color and had shorter, almost stubby, wings. They also had the soft yellow ridge at the base of their bills that you see on young chicks. They were too timid to take peanuts out of my hand but they would go to the adults who just got peanuts and beg with their mouths open. The adults ignored and evaded them when they did this. I'm glad the young ones have survived this far and I am glad to see the birds back visiting.

I had to pick up Andrew later, so I packed up and left for home about 2:00.

1999: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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