Construction Journal Entry Week of 7/16/17

7/18-20/17 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

There were long construction delays on the road again, but I wasn't held back for too long. I arrived at 12:30. The temperature was 85 when I arrived. I was delighted to find no mice in any of the traps. There is an outside chance that the last mouse I caught had gotten into the cabin before I closed up that hole I found and had escaped the mousetraps until after I got back the next time. I'll hold out that hope until the next time I catch a mouse.

I hoisted the flag, opened the valve to irrigate Brian and Paul, and then had my lunch and a nap. When I got up, I went down to the hairpin turn, picked a cottage cheese container full of blackberries, and pulled a few weeds. Then I brought some yard waste from the truck over to the compost pile.

Then I went back up to the cabin and started working on the rail. First, I made a Styrofoam plug blank for the open end of the steam box.

Next, I cleaned the cones, needles, and other combustible materials away from the hearth so the fire wouldn't spread, and then lined the bottom of the hearth with heavy gauge aluminum foil.

I made a charcoal burner/starter by drilling a series of small holes about three inches from the end of a length of stovepipe that the scouts had used as their charcoal starter a couple of times. Then I cut about six lengths of rebar tie wire, made a loop in one end of each wire, and then stuck these in a parallel pattern into the holes I had just drilled. That formed a grid of wires that would prevent briquettes from falling through the stovepipe. Then I loaded the stovepipe up with briquettes above the wires. The idea was to start a fire under the stovepipe and have it go up the stovepipe and ignite the charcoal.

On Wednesday, I started the day by having another delightful conversation with Dave. Then after my breakfast, I went to work on the rail. Today was steam-bending day. I put the small end of the rail all the way into the steam box, which was already suspended pretty much in its final position for steaming . Then I cut a notch in the Styrofoam plug so that it fit around the rail where it left the box. Then I sealed up the plug with duct tape.

Next, I sawed off a big lump of melted plastic that had accidentally formed on the meat thermometer that Ellen had given me. I think the thermometer had been used inside a hot oven when it shouldn't have been. Anyway, after removing the lump, the thermometer fit inside a hole I drilled into the side of the steam box. I stuck it in and was almost ready to start steaming.

I stood the loaded stovepipe on top of the rebar grate and lit a small fire directly under it. As it burned, I hammered down the lid of the 5-gallon bucket to seal it onto my boiler. Then I boiled two teakettles of water on the kitchen stove and poured them into the bucket.

By that time, the charcoal was burning, so using a pliers, I pulled out the rebar tie wires one by one which then allowed the burning briquettes to fall down through the grate and onto the aluminum foil on the hearth. Then after spreading the briquettes out, I set the boiler bucket on the grate and then lowered the steam box by backing off one of the come-alongs so that the steam pipe from the box went down into the bucket through the hole in the lid. I plugged the other hole by setting a short piece of 2x4 on top of it.

It didn't look to me like the fire was going to be hot enough, so I got the old hairdryer out, taped a vacuum cleaner nozzle to the end of the hairdryer hose, and propped it up so that it would blow a blast of cool air into the fire. When I turned it on, the fire resembled a forge and really raged.

The temperature on the meat thermometer showed about 90 but it soon rose to 170. At that point, I started recording time and temperature periodically.

I kept busy for over an hour by adding briquettes as needed, poking the fire with a piece of rebar to keep it as hot and under the bucket as much as I could, and checking the level of water in the bucket from time to time by blowing into a length of copper tube that I stuck down into the filler hole in the boiler lid. By listening for the bubbles I was making, and slowly withdrawing the tube from the water, I could tell how deep it was. I learned that trick from a YouTube video. When the water level would get down to about two inches, I would add another teakettle full of boiling water through the filler hole.

According to my record, the temperature inside the steam box went from 170 to 194 in eleven minutes. Then it gradually went down to 189 in the next eleven minutes. At that point, I added another teakettle of boiling water which brought the temperature down to 186. That was probably partly due to heat loss from removing the 2x4 lid from the filler hole and from the evaporation of the water that spilled onto the bucket lid. It was also partly due to an error I had made in my fireplace design. I had not left enough clearance between the rebar grate and the hearth to be able to move briquettes around underneath until they had burned enough to be a little smaller. The fire was also probably not quite as hot when I added new briquettes.

In any case, the temperature in the steam box stayed above 180 for an hour and eleven minutes at which time I proceeded to bend the rail as quickly as I could. I cut through the duct tape seal holding the Styrofoam plug, pulled the plug out, and then pulled the rail all the way out.

My clamping system was all prepared so I shoved the small end of the rail under the projecting wall log, rotated the rail so that the big bow was aiming down, and then I forced the butt end of the rail down onto the porch deck. I noticed that it was easier to bend it down than it had been before. That had better have been the case. With the rail down flat on the deck, I tightened up the rope that was ready to hold it down.

Then I quickly moved up to the small end of the rail and clamped it tightly between two 4x4s using two long bar clamps and a big pipe clamp. I was pleased that I was able to draw the 4x4s all the way together so that the rail was straight. I had not been able to do that before the rail was steamed.

With the rail securely clamped, I relaxed and went inside for my lunch and a nap. When I got up, I used duct tape to seal up a leak in the irrigation hose and then turned on the valve to irrigate Brian and Paul. Then I went into the woods and checked on the trees. They were all doing OK.

When I got back, I left the rail in its clamps and dismantled and put away everything else that I had used for the steaming.

On Thursday morning, the temperature was a nice cool 50 which meant that my rail was also at 50. I unclamped it and was delighted that there was very little springback. The big vertical curve sprang back only about 3 inches, as opposed to the 3 feet it had been bent. Horizontally, the springback between the 4x4s was only about a half inch. That was good enough for me. I considered the straightening project to have been a success. I was very happy.

While the weather was still nice and cool and the hairpin turn was still in the shade, I went down and picked another cottage cheese container full of blackberries. There were still a huge number of red berries left on the vines.

Shortly after I returned to the cabin, Robert drove up and came in for a visit. We had a nice chat about the log market, which is still up, and about Robert's health and plans to resume the logging activity at Camp Serendipity in the fall. When he left, I had my lunch and then left for home at 12:50. It had been an exceptionally satisfying week.

Go to Next Journal Entry
Previous Journal Entry

Index to all Journal Entries
Go To Home Page

©2017 Paul R. Martin, All rights reserved.