Construction Journal Entry Week of 5/27/12

5/29-31/12 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I got a late start and visited briefly with Uncle Charles on the way up. I arrived at 2:25 and was promptly greeted by Bert and Ernie. I was just installing the electronic rodent repeller under the hood of the truck when Byron and Barb Williams drove into the driveway.

Byron graciously insisted on carrying both my bag and my cooler up to the cabin as the five of us (including the two dogs) proceeded up the roadway to the cabin. On the way I closed the water valve to provide water pressure to the cabin.

After I opened the cabin, I gave the dogs their usual hugs and biscuits and then Byron and Barb came in for a short visit and look around the cabin. They were on their way home and didn't have much time. I took some pictures of them before they left.

After lunch and a short nap, Earl called and invited me to go with him to see the log cabin he had built for himself deep in the woods. I eagerly got ready to go with him and he showed up in a few minutes.

Earl drove me to the trailhead of the woods and we walked quite a long way through dense woods on a barely discernible trail until we reached his cabin. He showed me what he had done and told me stories about his adventure in building the cabin.

He calls his place "Cedar Camp" (or something close to that) because all the wood he used to build the cabin and its furniture is cedar. Most of the trees growing in the vicinity are cedars. I took several pictures of the adventure. It was a great and eye-opening visit. I was impressed with what he had done. He doesn't let Parkinson's slow him down in the least.

After hiking out on a different route, he drove me back to Camp Serendipity. It was too late to get any work done so I had my shower and called it a day.

In the middle of the night, around 1:30 AM, I was awakened by a single thud. I perked up and listened, and pretty soon there was another thudding sound. I put my glasses and slippers on and sat on the edge of the bed waiting for more sounds so that I could figure out which direction they were coming from.

Pretty soon I heard gnawing sounds coming from the direction of the phony log in the loft. I walked over there and there was no doubt that a rodent was chewing on the birdblock directly behind the phony log.

I quietly went downstairs, picked up the coal shovel from the ash bucket next to the wood stove, turned the porch light on and stepped outside onto the porch. I immediately looked up at the birdblock at Grid E2 and there was a packrat staring back at me.

I was ready with the coal shovel to bat it if it tried to jump down on me. He advanced toward me on a rafter looking like he might do just that. Then he scampered back up to the birdblock and I was afraid that he might already have made a hole in it.

There were a few small scraps of wood lying on the floor, from trimming the ceiling boards, so I picked up some of these and threw them, one at a time, trying to hit the packrat. I never did hit him, but once or twice I got close. In any case he was aware of what I was trying to do so he scampered down a rafter and hid behind the Grid F purlin.

I did some hollering and threatening, and banging on things with my coal shovel, trying to send him a message and then I went back to bed. I heard no more noise for the rest of the night. There is no doubt that I have my project priorities right—I need to get those ceiling boards all installed.

On Wednesday I went right to work installing ceiling boards. I figured out a much faster way to measure the length for the boards. Rather than using a tape, which is hard to anchor at one end, and have it hold until I can make my way down the rickety scaffolding to the other end to get a reading, I simply got an 8 foot 1x2 and used it as a measuring rod.

Standing in one place, I can butt the 1x2 against the last installed ceiling board and see how the length works for the next board. Since the rafters are spaced fairly uniformly, usually the length of the next board is exactly the length of the 1x2. If not, I simply notice how much longer or shorter the board needs to be. In some cases I made a mark on the 1x2, but in most cases I didn't have to.

Then it's a lot easier placing the 1x2 on the board to be cut, with the ends aligned, than is is to hook the tape to the end of the board and string it across the board. It just works a lot better.

I have decided to cut most of the boards to 8-foot lengths because all of the delivered boards are 16-footers. This leaves only an inch or less of scrap for each board. I also cut some of them to 4 foot lengths to keep my joints separated. The roof is also 16 inches longer than a multiple of 8 feet so I need to cut some odd lengths because of that. But for the most part, I get two 8-foot boards from each board and I can install an 8-footer without using any clamps or jigs or anything else like I would have to do with longer boards.

So the board nailing went pretty fast. The only slowdown was the constant rearranging of my makeshift scaffolding as I moved around.

Another slowdown was the breaks I took to feed a chipmunk who came up on the porch many times during the work to take peanuts out of my hands. I enjoy sitting in Dave's Adirondack chair while I am feeding the chipmunks.

I had temporarily turned off the electronic rodent repellers on the workbench on the porch thinking that the chipmunk would be more likely to visit me. It is a nice reward for me to be visited by the chipmunks and for that reason I am glad to be working on an outside project again. Maybe now the gray jays will even come back.

By lunch time I had nearly completed the ceiling between the Grid F and G purlins. I was missing from one to three courses of boards across the ceiling, but of course the last two courses are the tricky ones that take a lot of extra time.

After lunch Ellen called me to discuss a fairly involved and tense family situation. We talked for quite a while and afterward I tried to nap but couldn't fall asleep.

I got up and geared up to go into the woods and water the giant sequoia trees. The process is fairly streamlined now. I start by watering Chuck simply by hooking up the hose running to it and waiting five minutes. I use this five minutes to get my stuff ready to go into the woods for the rest of the trees.

After five minutes, I disconnect Chuck's hose and connect the hose going to the rest of the trees. I think I will streamline the process even further by installing a wye valve serving both hoses and avoid any hose connection and disconnection at all.

Using three buckets in the woods, I can water all eleven trees at the speed the water runs out of the end of the hose. The only waiting I have to do is for the half-bucket I bring up to Andrew to fill. By the time I come back from delivering that half-bucket to Andrew, another bucket has just filled to the top. I switch the hose to an empty bucket and pour half of the full one into the third bucket and take those two half-buckets up to Brian and Cam.

From then on, I can keep up with the buckets filling until I take the last two half-buckets out to Dan and Paul and I am done except for disconnecting the hose again. The whole process takes 45 minutes.

I nailed up a few more ceiling boards and then began experimenting with ways to fill the last gap between the purlins.

It turned out that in this case, the gap to be filled was just a half to three-quarters of an inch narrower than a full-sized board. I decided the thing to do was to rip a strip out of the center of the last board as I described in the last journal entry. This would mean ripping the board twice which would amount to 84 feet of ripping for each purlin.

As much as I like using hand tools, I decided against doing all that ripping by hand with my trusty rip saw which I have named "Jack". Instead, I bit the bullet and decided to do the ripping with a Skilsaw. I got my hearing protection, my respirator, my Skilsaw, and prepared to clean up a big sawdust mess.

I decided to rip the cuts at a 45º angle. That way the piece with the acute angle on the finished surface would go in last and the angle would make it easier to get the board in place. The question was which way should this 45º joint be oriented? It could be more-or-less vertical or horizontal. I decided on vertical.

I also decided to make one ripping cut right in the last groove in the milled pattern that is on the groove side of the board. That way the entire milled pattern would be one of the two resulting pieces. The other cut would be made parallel to that one removing however much wood would be needed to narrow the board to the right width.

When those pieces were mated, the cut on the un-milled board would form half of the groove at the edge of the milled pattern.

I tested this method by measuring and ripping a length of board at the Grid F1 end of the ceiling. The measurements weren't all that good so the boards were a little too wide to fit properly. I did some damage to the boards by trying to force them into place, but eventually I gave up and took them both out again.

I used a block plane to work the edges down more and then re-installed them. They fit satisfactorily so I nailed them in place.

The experience, however, showed me that the method could be improved. One problem was that the 45º cut undermined the milled pattern so that the acute edge was very weak. There wasn't all that much wood connecting the bead to the rest of the board and it was easy to break the bead off. The fix to this was to reverse the 45º cut which would make it more-or-less horizontal after installation. It would also mean that the milled piece would have to be installed first and the other, groove side, would be installed last. Since the groove side is wider, this would make the installation easier anyway. On the downside, the acute edge would have to be planed to form the inside edge of the groove between the two boards. This wouldn't be much of a problem, though, and I actually find it fun. The challenge is to make the longest planer chips I can, and some of them get quite long if there are no knots on the edge of the board.

I ended the day by relaxing in a hot bath mulling over the various problems of the day.

On Thursday morning I went back to work on the ceiling happy that there had been no evidence of packrat activity during the night. The chipmunk was back visiting me on the porch as I worked and Bert also showed up for hugs and treats. I don't know where Ernie was; he missed out.

I did some detailed figuring on exactly how to make the cuts the new way for the next board. I made the measurements and ripped the next length of board the new way. After planing the edge and making some nice long chips, the two pieces went together very nicely. That completed about half of the ceiling between Grid F and G leaving about three courses left on the other half. I took a picture of the completed half and a close-up of the more-or-less horizontal joint in the ripped board in its final position. I left for home at about 1:00 feeling good about the week's progress and experiences.

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