Construction Journal Entry Week of 3/26/17

3/28-30/17 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

On the way, I stopped at the Post Office, then at Priscilla's to drop off some slippers, then at our tax accountant to pick up our tax returns, and then at Marilyn and George's to see how they are doing. I was happy to see they are doing well.

It rained pretty much all the way over the pass and it was still raining when I arrived at Camp Serendipity at 12:30. I skipped raising the flag because of the rain. After moving my gear in, I built a fire, had my lunch, and took my usual nap.

When I got up, I went out on the front porch and finished measuring for and cutting the last of the 18 remaining balusters. That included the two extra-long ones that needed right angle bends in them.

On Wednesday, Dave called first thing in the morning and we had a delightful conversation. Then just after breakfast, Robert called. He told me that he wouldn't be over to visit this week as he had planned.

Next, I went out to the front porch and prepared all the balusters for painting and installing. The process was very efficient. I started by laying all of the rebar blanks across the big sawhorses. Then I took them in sequence starting with number 1 and working through to number 18.

First I took the ID tape off and stuck it on the window frame above me just in case I might need the tags again. It turns out I didn't. Then I dressed the ends of each blank by hammering smooth any burs or sharp edges from the ends so they would go into the holes better. Then I dunked the rebar into the tank of paint thinner to dissolve the oil to make the paint stick better.

The dipping tank could only soak half of the baluster, so I wiped the first half clean with a rag and then soaked the other end in the tank and then wiped that end clean. With the rebar all cleaned and dressed, it was ready for paint so I stuck it in the next hole in the paint rack. By keeping them in sequence, I didn't need the ID tags anymore. The balusters just stayed in the rack until they were painted and dry and I took them directly from the rack in sequence to put them in the rail system. I took a picture of me during the process but for some reason it turned out blurry.

When all the balusters were in the rack, I carried the rack with all the rebar in it down to the upper roadway under the eaves and sprayed the balusters with primer. Then I carried the whole rack up the back staircase and put it in the utility room so the paint would dry. I shut the kitchen door and turned on the utility room fan like I did before. Then I went in for lunch.

After lunch, the primer coat was dry enough to paint over so I carried the rack back down, sprayed on the enamel coat, and carried the rack back up to the utility room to dry. Then I had my nap.

When I got up, I worked on a new problem with the loft staircase. When you look down the staircase from the top, it is clear that the treads have moved out of alignment. As the stringer shrinks, I have to tighten the nuts on the bolts holding the treads in place. This is routine and I have done it several times over the years. But I have noticed that there is a gap opening up between the stringer and the Grid 2 loft beam that is holding the whole staircase up. That means that while the tread cut out of the beam has not moved, all the rest of the treads have moved with the stringer. The three bolts fastening the stringer to the beam need tightening but I had a couple problems doing so.

As it happened, the counterbore holes I made for the nuts and washers on all the bolts were a little too small to handle a standard socket wrench. Fortunately, a chainsaw wrench, which has thinner walls, fits into the holes perfectly and it is deep enough so that the protruding bolt doesn't interfere with the wrench. So, I use that chainsaw wrench for tightening all the nuts.

The problem was that when I tried to tighten those three special nuts that hold up the whole staircase, it was just too hard to turn by hand. I thought that maybe the gap I mentioned was not clear and that there was something in there preventing me from drawing the two members together. So, I got a hacksaw blade and worked it into the gap to feel for any obstruction.

What I got was a lot of sawdust and drilling chips. I used the hacksaw blade to work that loose and get it out of there. I got a lot out and convinced myself that there was no reason why I shouldn't be able to close the gap by tightening the nuts.

What I wanted was a big ratchet handle with a half-inch drive and a deep 3/4" socket. I could always enlarge the counterbore hole to accommodate the socket so that wouldn't be a problem. I went down to the truck and found that I didn't have a deep 3/4" socket with half-inch drive.

So, I decided to use the chainsaw wrench after all but use a hammer to turn it. I wasn't sure if the wrench handle would break off if I hammered on it, so I tried it gently at first, and then more violently using a bigger hammer. I successfully turned the nuts a couple of turns without breaking or bending the wrench, but I didn't close the gap between the stringer and the beam any amount that I could detect. I left it alone at that point not sure how to proceed.

By that time the balusters were dry enough so I carried the rack from the utility room to the front porch and began installing the balusters in the rail system. First, I got a fairly long light rope and tied one end of it to the rail right below the newel post. Then I wound three turns of rope around the rail and the Grid F2 column. That made a sort of block and tackle without sheaves. By pulling on the free end I snugged up the rope against the rail. I tied a tautline hitch in the free end. Then I backed out the screws holding the top of the rail to the newel post.

Without my rope, the end of the rail would have sprung away from the post, but the rope held it fast. By sliding my tautline hitch back, I could slowly let the rail spring out until it was relaxed. I left the rope in place so I could pull it back later.

Next I removed the screw holding the central bracket to the Grid F.5 porch beam in the knuckle notch. That left the lag screw at the bottom as the only fastener holding the rail except for the first 18 balusters already in at the bottom.

The plan was to install the balusters starting at the bottom. Actually, starting in the middle because the bottom was already done, and working my way up. I took the first baluster (or the 19th one depending on how you count them) and lifted the rail up enough to insert it into its hole. When I did that, some of the lower balusters popped out of their holes. So, I decided to tie the bottom of the rail down.

I replaced all the first 19 balusters and then cinched a rope around the rail and a tread below in a couple places so that the rail couldn't lift up. Then I continued inserting new balusters from the 20th one on.

That worked as well as the first 18 had so in no time, I had all the balusters in place. When I neared the very top, I began tightening my rope harness to draw the rail back toward the newel post so that I could seat the last of the balusters. When they were all in place, I drew the rail all the way back into its recess in the newel post and re-fastened it with the screws. Then I replaced the screw in the center bracket, removed all my ropes, and the job was done. All the balusters were in place in that rail system. I was very happy and took some pictures.

On Thursday morning, I did some more work on, and thinking about, the loft stair problem but I didn't solve the problem. I spent the rest of the morning tidying up the place and re-baiting a couple of the mouse traps. I left for home at 1:00 very happy about the week's visible progress.

Go to Next Journal Entry
Previous Journal Entry

Index to all Journal Entries
Go To Home Page

©2017 Paul R. Martin, All rights reserved.