Construction Journal Entry Week of 4/9/06

4/9-15/06 I skipped going to the property this week to stay home with Andrew. He was on Spring break.

While I was home, I decided to work on a project I had been thinking about for quite a while. I made a phony hollow log out of 2x4s that I will install in the loft to hide an 8 inch duct that will take warm air from the peak of the ceiling. In the summertime, the air will be vented outside to help cool the place. In the wintertime, the air will be re-circulated through the heating system to keep the temperature more even and it will probably also save some energy.

On Tuesday I did the geometry and discovered that 11 beveled 2x4s will fit together in a tube with an inside diameter of just over 8 inches. The required angle is 360 divided by 11, or 32.73 degrees. I set my skillsaw to half of this angle (both sides of the 2x4 get beveled) and beveled two feet of the end of one 2x4. I bought 8 foot 2x4s and the log only needs to be 6 feet long. That gives me a couple extra feet of each 2x4 to play with.

I cut the beveled piece into 11 chunks an inch and a half long. I fit these together in a ring held together with a big rubber band. I discovered that my angle was just a shade too big. I reset the angle on the saw a little smaller and made another 11 similar chunks from another 2x4. The angle for these turned out to be just a little too small. I reset the angle again, trying to get it exactly between the two previous settings, which weren't all that far apart.

After carefully adjusting the saw angle, I accidentally dropped the saw onto the concrete which completely messed up the setting. Fortunately I sort of remembered where the setting was on the saw's dial so I set it back to what I thought was the right setting. But, to make sure, I cut out another 11 chunks from a third 2x4 with this setting.

When I assembled those chunks into a ring, they fit perfectly and snugly. From that point on, I was very careful not to drop the saw again. I cut all the 2x4s to 6 feet and then beveled all 22 edges. All the while, while I was working with my hands, I was playing soccer with my feet with Qdog.

On Wednesday, I glued the 11 beveled 2x4s together to make a tube. I didn't know exactly how to do it, so I had a lot of trial and error false starts, trying desperately to get the thing together before the glue dried out too much.

I had made cardboard inserts to fit inside the tube to keep the 2x4s from falling inside the tube. These sort of worked, but not as well as I hoped. I also tried rubber bands and duct tape on the outside of the tube to hold it together. The rubber bands sort of worked, until they broke. The duct tape didn't work at all at first, but just got into a tangled mess. Later, I used shorter pieces and it sort of worked. The thing that helped the most was that on one end, I nailed through a 1/4 inch piece of plywood into the end of each 2x4 as it went into place. That held one end of the tube in place, and the cardboard insert, rubber bands, and duct tape sort of held the other end until all the 2x4s were in place.

I didn't nail the last three 2x4s because they were held in place by the keystone effect. Once all the 2x4s were glued in place, I wrapped a few tight turns of stretched nylon mason's string around the tube. This held it pretty well in place, so I removed the plywood and nails so that the 2x4s could seat themselves. Then I wound a lot of tight turns of mason's string over the full length of the tube. I probably put 20 lbs. of force on the string as I wound it so the cumulative pressure on the 2x4s was pretty high. The glue oozed out of the joints as it got tighter.

I made it sound easier than it actually was. My string kept getting fouled; the nails I had driven into one of the 2x4s as tie points for the strings were cheap nails made out of wire that kept bending on me; the strain on my arms from tugging on that string for so long started bringing back the old "golfer's elbow" pain that I used to have; I had one heck of a time getting the nails and plywood off the end of the tube; and of course, I had to do all the work while playing soccer with Qdog with my feet. I did get the job done, though, and I think it will work out well. I'll take it to the property with me and work it down with the planer to make it look just like any other log and I'll stain it to match the others.

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