Construction Journal Entry Week of 3/6/16

3/8-10/16 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

On the way, I stopped in and found Uncle Charles in the middle of breakfast so we skipped the checker game. The snow level was down to about 3000 feet but the road was bare. The drive over the pass was beautiful. I arrived at Camp Serendipity right at noon and had no trouble parking in spite of the mud and about 3 inches of new snow on top.

After moving my gear in, I built a fire in the stove, had my lunch and a nap. When I got up, I went to work on the stoop. I placed the second deck plank on some wood blocks that held it up off the support logs in a position for scribing. After leveling the plank both ways, I calibrated and aligned my scriber. Then I scribed both joints for notching.

On Wednesday, there was about two inches of new snow on the ground in the morning but it melted fast enough so that by the end of the day it was pretty much gone.

During the scribing, I had marked the four points, one for each notch, indicating the depth of the notches I wanted to cut. Now, I turned the plank over and laid it on top of the first plank that was already in its final position. Since the first plank was level, that made the top surface of the second plank, which was now upside down, also level.

There were now four notches to mark: two in the plank and one in each of the two support logs. Each of these had a marked point for the notch depth. What I needed to do now was to establish three more points on each of the four notch lines. To do that, I drove a nail partway into the center of the notch mark on each of the four logs where the notches would be cut. The top of the nail simply provided a grade reference point.

Then, I clamped a shim to a level so that the shim was perpendicular to the level and when the level was resting on one of the reference nail heads, and the bubble was centered, the bottom corner of the shim was right on the depth reference mark. With the shim clamped in that position, I moved the level so that the other three points could be located and I marked them. I just spun the level around, pivoting on the nail and keeping the bubble centered until the shim hit the log on the scribe mark. In that way, all four marks for a particular cut were all in the same horizontal plane. I followed the same procedure for all four cuts.

Next, to finalize all the lines necessary for cutting, I drew lines parallel to the grain between the two reference points on the same side of the log. There were eight such lines.

Everything was now ready to make the cuts. I started by sawing cross-grain on each log or slab so that the kerf ended up going exactly between two of the four reference marks, the pair being on opposite sides of the log or slab.

Then I used the Bulldog with the wood chisel bit to cut from the curved line down to the kerf to form the cylindrical surface that would mate with the uncut surface of the other member. And I used the Bulldog to cut away the wood between those curved cuts to form the flat bottomed horizontal rectangle which would mate with the corresponding rectangle on the other member. The Bulldog cut the wood fast except for one knot, so the job was done pretty quickly.

By the time I finished, it was time for lunch. Before I went in, I flipped the plank over so it went down into the new notches just to see how it fit on the first try. I was delighted that except for being about a quarter of an inch high on one side, it was just about perfect. It was nice and sturdy so I stepped up on it and went in for lunch very happy about it.

After lunch and a nap, I did a little rasping and Bulldogging and got the plank to fit exactly right. Then I went to work replenishing my firewood supply. I was running very low. After gassing up the chainsaw and filing the chain, I bucked up the discarded support log that I lowered down off the porch, and I split those rounds and the two other remaining rounds I had in my stockpile. I now had enough firewood for the rest of the week and for maybe one more week. I will have to do some serious firewood harvesting pretty soon.

I was thinking of going into the woods and get a start on that harvesting, but the weather was mixed rain and snow all day so I didnít.

At 7:30 in the evening, the power went out while I was in the loft working on a jigsaw puzzle. There was no moon so it was absolutely pitch black and I couldnít see anything, not even out the windows. There are some emergency candles in the loft but no matches or flashlight (that has since been rectified) so I slowly and carefully felt my way in the dark to the head of the staircase and slowly made my way down to the first floor. There I got a flashlight and lit a few candles wondering how long the outage would last.

Before I could make any firm plans for the rest of the evening, the power came back on and stayed on. It had been out for only about 15 minutes. What I didnít realize was that my phone had also gone out but it didnít come back. When Ellenís usual call didnít come through by a little after nine, I discovered that the phone was not working. I tried my cell phone but there is no service in the cabin. I thought about walking or driving to the schoolbus turnaround, which is the nearest cell phone service, and call Ellen, but it was pitch black outside and with the rain/snow mix, I decided against it.

On Thursday morning at about 6:30, I drove to the schoolbus turnaround, called Ellen, and I called the phone company to report the outage.

When I returned, I built a fire, had my breakfast, and went back outside to work on the stoop.

I placed the third slab in position for the step by setting it directly on top of the support logs. Following pretty much the same procedure as I had for the deck planks, I leveled, steadied, scribed, and marked the slab and logs for cutting the notches.

This slab needed to be lower than the deck slabs by 7 inches which would also put it 7 inches above the level of the porch deck. That meant that a considerable amount of the support logs needed to be cut away to make the notches. After looking at the marks, I decided the most efficient way to begin the cutting was to use the chainsaw which I hadnít used for the previous, much shallower, notches.

I cut the kerfs down to the corner marks with the chainsaw and I then cut some pretty big chunks of wood out of the notches as a rough start. Then I cleaned up all the sawdust and chip mess from the porch and flipped the step plank down into the partly-cut notches in the support logs. Of course it did not go down to its final position, but it did go down a few inches below the stoop deck planks and it was steady enough that I could step on it and walk up onto the stoop just as I will when it is all done.

It felt really good to do that and the stoop is looking really nice. The fact that the slabs were cut from the same logs as the porch deck planks means that the grain pattern and the wood matches exactly. Even though this stoop project is taking a lot longer than I thought it would, I am still very pleased with the progress and the outcome. I left for home at 1:00.

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