Construction Journal Entry Week of 8/9/09

8/11-13/09 I went up to the property for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I arrived at 12:50. There were no mosquitoes, but no Bert or Ernie either. Before I had lunch, I carried a bucket of water into the woods and watered Bill's and Ellen's sequoia trees. They are having the hardest time so I have decided to water them twice a week for the rest of the summer to try to perk them up.

After lunch, I sanded and vacuumed the newly varnished parts of the tread I had cut out of the main loft beam. Then I got the wheelbarrow and fetched a tread blank from the woodshed and brought it up onto the front porch. I propped it up on two sawhorses and planed the tread surface nice and flat with the power planer. The tread had a crack in it which caused a corner of it to break off. The piece was a couple inches wide and an inch thick at the big end and it tapered down to nothing. I cleaned up the surfaces and glued the piece back on. I wrapped it tightly with yellow mason's string to hold it until the glue set.

Next, I did some careful measurements of the tread cut out of the beam and then I re-did the calculations of the tread and riser dimensions. Now that I am beginning to cut wood for the staircase, these measurements must be exactly accurate. This was not a double check, but more like a fifth time check. With the final measurements, I calculated the stair pitch and drew the angle on a sheet of paper.

Several times when I went outside, a chipmunk came up to me to get peanut treats. I could also hear the sheep across the valley. They move in about this time every year and graze their way up the valley.

On Wednesday I unwound the string and saw that the piece was glued on nice and tight. I finished planing and scraping the tread surface and I fashioned the nose of the tread by planing a straight surface perpendicular to the tread surface and then chamfering and rounding that edge.

Bert and Ernie showed up during the work so I took a break to give them their hugs and dog biscuits. They seemed to be extra happy and lovable.

Next I sat down with my measurements and the drawing of the pitch angle and designed a jig that I could use to cut the notches on the underside of the treads so that they will sit on the stringer in the proper position.

About that time, Larry showed up and we had a nice visit. We discussed problems and alternatives for mounting the horizontal beam which will help support the top of the stair stringer. This beam will span between the Grid B2 PSL and the Grid C2 RPSL. I plan to use mortise and tenon joints, but it will be tricky to get the beam into position. Larry suggested that round tenons might work better than square ones. He might have something there so I will have to think about it.

Larry left about lunch time. After lunch, I made the sawing jig that I had designed in the morning. When I decided what fasteners I needed in order to make the jig, I used my inventory list to find what I needed, I jotted down four bin numbers that contained the fasteners, and then simply went down to the crawlspace and got those four bins. My system works slick. When I am done with them, it will be easy to put the bins back where they belong.

At some point during the work, Ernie came by for more hugs. He usually doesn't get many hugs because Bert is top dog and doesn't like Ernie getting attention. But when Ernie is alone with me, then he really seems to enjoy the hugs and pets that I give him. He had a good time.

Once I had the jig made, I then proceeded to make a special sawhorse to hold the jig and a tread so that I could easily make the saw cuts. When it was finished, I mounted the tread in the jig and began making the saw cuts. I had brought three crosscut saws with me from home and I tried all three. I also tried the Skilsaw and found that it worked great. I just had to finish the cuts off with a hand saw.

When the cuts were made, I used a hammer and chisel to remove the wood between the cuts to rough out the notch. It was very rewarding work because it proved concepts that I had only imagined up to now and I wasn't really sure how well they were going to work. I could see now that it will be fairly straightforward and easy to notch the treads. The chipmunk came around for peanuts again during this work.

On Thursday I started out by watering the sequoia trees. I carried six buckets of water into the woods in three trips, giving each tree a half bucket of water. Next, I took some pictures of the jig, the sawhorse, and the tread I had been working on as well as the tread cut out of the loft beam. Then I did some more chiseling on the notch in the tread to work it down closer to its final shape. The chipmunk came up onto the porch to interrupt my work and get a few more peanuts.

Then I put away the tools, varnished another coat on the loft beam tread, and cleaned out my brush. While I was outside cleaning the brush, Rocky, the pine squirrel, came right up to the log I was working on and sat there looking at me. I had my hat and a respirator on so I probably looked different. I was also making an unusual noise swishing my brush around in the container of paint thinner. Whatever the case, the squirrel was a lot bolder and inquisitive than I have ever seen him before. It was fun to have him sit there so close.

After locking up and having lunch, I left for home at 1:45.

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