Construction Journal Entry Week of 3/17/13

3/19-21/13 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I visited with Uncle Charles on the way up and arrived at 12:40. I could see that there had been some new snow, but the net depth on the ground had shrunk.

After lunch and a nap, I built a fire in the stove and then went out to work on the scaffolds. I lifted planks to form a deck on top of the two-tier tower, extended the 20-foot extension ladder to 18 feet and leaned it against the tower. Then I lashed a pair of rungs together to keep the ladder from sliding while lifting it from the top.

Next I hung a long flexible rope over a projecting wall log at Grid A3 and tied the end to the anchor hook in the foundation at Grid A3. I coiled the rest of the rope and threw it up onto the two-tier tower platform.

Then I climbed up the ladder to the top of the tower and pulled the ladder up behind me once I was on top. I maneuvered the ladder over to a corner of the platform and leaned it against the log wall under Grid C.

I used the rope I had tossed up to guy the ladder. First I pulled the slack out of the rope and tied the left side of the ladder to the rope coming from Grid A3. Then I tossed the other end of the rope over a projecting wall log at Grid E3. Then I climbed down off the tower and went up on the front porch where I looped the rope over the wall log and brought the end back up on top of the scaffold tower. I used this end of the rope to make a guy for the right side of the ladder.

Both guys were tied with adjustable knots—tautline hitches-, so I tightened them up in turn so that the ladder was held snuggly against the wall in the right position. I also used a C-clamp and a 2x4 to bind the plank the ladder was resting on to the rest of the planks in the deck. Without the clamp, the plank sagged a little when weight was put on the ladder, but with the clamp, the deck was much more rigid and the ladder didn't have nearly as much play in it. I wanted the ladder to be as steady as it could be.

A pair of Canadian Jays came around for peanuts several times during the work. It was good to see them again, but it is too bad that my outside project is coming to an end. I probably won't see them as much in the future.

My plan had been to set up the ladder and not climb up on it until the next day, but since it was all set up, and since it was nice and rigid, I decided to climb up the ladder just to see how difficult it was going to be to remove the S-hook and 4x4 that were hanging from the Grid C3 anchor hook.

I climbed up to the top of the ladder and reached the end of the 4x4 that was lag screwed into the log wall. I pushed up on the 4x4 and found that it would easily slip up and off the lag screw. Then I realized that before I did that, the skyhook needed to be snugged up and tied off in order to suspend the 4x4 once it was freed.

The 4x4 was still tied to the skyhook rope from when I had installed it and the other end was still looped around the steel scaffold frame below the deck. Back down on the platform deck, I hauled on the skyhook rope, took the slack out of it, and tied a tautline hitch about 6 feet above the platform.

Once the rigging was secure, I gave a tug on it to test it. To my surprise, it lifted the 4x4 right off the lag screw and held it suspended in the air 12 or 15 feet overhead. That was perfect.

Next, I gently slid my tautline hitch down and watched as the 4x4 gently came down with it. With the rope completely relaxed, the 4x4 was hanging vertically from the rebar hook. Now all I had to do was lift it off the hook.

Unfortunately this particular hook was a C-hook instead of an S-hook, for some reason I can't remember. That meant that the hook was going the wrong way and I couldn't disengage the 4x4 simply by lifting it off the hook. Instead, the 4x4 needed to be hanging upside down.

Undaunted, I simply pulled on the rope and raised my tautline hitch again to lift the 4x4 back up into its original horizontal position, and then I raised it even higher so that it was at a pretty steep angle. In that position, the bracket could be disengaged from the hook, but I had to climb back up the ladder to do it.

With the 4x4 unhooked, I lowered it to the scaffold deck. Then I went back up on the ladder to see how hard it was going to be to unhook the C-hook. By getting up pretty high, hanging on to the ladder with my right hand and turning and looking over my left shoulder, I reached the end of the C-hook with my left hand, brought it toward me and pushed up on it. That disengaged it from the anchor hook and the long C-hook began to fall. I had anticipated that so I merely pushed it out away from me and the scaffold and let it fall to the ground. It was a long drop. I didn't see it land but I heard it.

It fell somewhere in the 3 inches of snow that was on the ground. After I came down from the scaffold, I unsuccessfully tried to find it. It probably had gone over the cliff and I probably won't find it until after all the snow has melted. The important thing, though, is that I had safely dismantled the highest and most dangerous hanger of them all. The rest could wait until the next day. I went in for the night very pleased.

On Wednesday I slept in and when I got up it was snowing heavily. About 6 inches of new snow accumulated on the ground before noon.

After breakfast, I went up on the scaffold and moved the ladder from the Grid C position to the Grid D position. Instead of being on the extreme left end of the platform, it was now on the extreme right end. I reconfigured my guy ropes and tightened them up.

There were two hangers and 4x4s at Grid D so after hooking my skyhook into the Grid D3 anchor hook, I used it to lower the 4x4s. These were easier because the hooks were really S-hooks so the 4x4s could be unhooked while hanging vertically simply by standing on the scaffold deck. The hangers were also easier to reach so dismantling them was quick and easy.

Bert and Ernie showed up in the snow and celebrated my progress by getting their usual hugs and biscuits.

Next, I dismantled the two-tier scaffold tower and put away all the frames, braces, planks, ropes, clamps, and other equipment I had used. Then I went in for a very welcome lunch and nap.

When I went back out, I brought the extension ladder up onto the front porch and set it up against the Grid E3 corner. From up on the ladder I was able to dismantle the Grid E3 S-hook and its 4x4. With those pieces and the ladder put away, the job of installing outside ceilings was completely finished. It had been over a year in the doing, and I was very happy that it was finally done. I could now concentrate on the many other projects on the docket.

My plan had been to work outside with the chainsaw and clear more of the driveway. The walk from the truck to the staircase was still pretty treacherous. I would typically break through the snow and have my foot sink knee-deep, or more, on every second or third trip back or forth. The limbs and logs had been exposed when I moved in on Tuesday so it would have been easy to cut them away. But now they were completely covered with snow again and it was still snowing. That project would have to wait.

Instead I decided to bite the bullet and tighten up the loose bolt in my loft staircase. That would require dismantling and removing the solid blocking under the bottom of the staircase, and counter-boring the holes deeper that accommodate the couplers inside, so I started on that.

I needed to remove a few dozen joist hanger nails from the steel strap over two of the three spans between the floor joists. The joists are about 8 feet above the crawl space floor so I had to rig up a plank across a couple of concrete blocks in order to be able to reach up there and work.

Using just a 16-oz claw hammer, I was able to take the nails out one at a time starting at the end of the strap that went up the side of one joist. With the nails out, I removed the two nuts and washers from the bolts that came out the bottom edge of the block.

The next, and hardest, problem was to work the block down off those two long bolts. I remember how hard it had been to drive the blocking up over those bolts so I knew it was not going to be easy. I had used a sledge hammer to drive the blocking up over the bolts when I installed it.

I started by driving a screwdriver in the crack between the subfloor and the block. To my delight that opened up a crack and moved the block down somewhat. With that crack opened up, I was able to get the end of a crowbar in and with that I was able to move the block down little by little. I had to alternate ends and make a little progress on each end each time.

After a while, I needed to use a small piece of wood as a fulcrum to be able to progress with the crowbar. And later yet, the space had opened up enough so that I could use a 2x4 as a lever instead of the crowbar. With that much leverage, progress was faster and soon I had the block in my hands and I was ready to enlarge the holes.

In addition to counter-boring the holes deeper, I realized that I should also enlarge the half-inch holes that the bolts ran through. It was the friction from those holes that made it so hard to slide the block over the bolts.

I used a length of allthread as a rasp to enlarge the bolt holes. It was a pretty dull "rasp" so it didn't work all that well, but it worked well enough. After a while, I could slide the allthread in and out of the holes without too much resistance. I used a spade bit to deepen the counter-bores, but when I tried to replace the block, I couldn't get both bolts to go from the counter-bore to the bolt holes. One or the other would always get hung up on the shoulder of the bottom of the counter-bore.

I solved that problem by finding a spade bit with a conical shape to its cutting edge rather than a square shape. I used that to cut a cone at the bottom of each hole, and that guided each bolt into the bolt hole so that I could drive the block up into place without the bolts holding it back.

It still took a 5-lb hammer to drive it up, but I got a quarter to a half inch of movement with each blow so it wasn't all that hard. It was still about all the hammering uphill and overhead with a 5-lb hammer that I wanted to do. My shoulder was pretty sore afterward.

With the block finally back in place, I replaced the nuts and washers and tightened them up. I was pleased that the remedy worked and I was able to draw the heads of the carriage bolts snugly down onto the surface of the stair tread.

I quit for the day leaving the replacement of the steel strap for the next day.

On Thursday morning it was snowing again. After breakfast I went back down into the crawlspace and nailed the steel strap back in place. Then, with some time on my hands, I decided to fix Priscilla's sandals. I wasn't sure what kind of glue to use on them so I had done an experiment to see whether or not Vulkem would work. I had glued a small patch with it several weeks ago, and now after pulling that apart, I decided that it would work.

After gluing and clamping the sandal, I had my lunch, packed up, and left for home at 12:30 feeling very good about moving on to some other projects other than outside ceilings. I took a picture of the ceilings before I left.

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