Construction Journal Entry Week of 9/10/17

9/12-14/17 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I arrived at 12:20, happy to find no signs of mice in the cabin. I hoisted the flag, opened the valve to irrigate Brian and Paul, carried my gear up in two trips, had my lunch and took a nap. When I got up, I went into the woods and checked on the trees. I gave Andrew a gallon or two of water. Then I went down to the truck and carried up thirty 10-foot lengths of #3 rebar and stacked them on the porch. I made five trips carrying six pieces in each trip. Good exercise.

Then I sawed off the dowels I had glued into the holes in the rail last week. Then I sanded them smooth and stained the part of the rail that I had sanded.

Before I quit for the day, I got a call from Bill. He was wondering if I had heard from Dave since the hurricane and I had not. We had a nice chat.

On Wednesday, I worked on making a strut for supporting the rail mid-span. The building inspector had told me I needed one. I had given the problem a lot of thought and had come up with a solution, but I wasn't sure it would work. Fortunately, it worked out better than I had hoped for.

I had bought a 6-foot length of 5/8" allthread which I figured would work adequately as both a tension and compression member. The idea was to fasten the bottom of it to the extension of a tread, which just happened to be in place. The top of it would be fastened to the underside of the rail by modifying a 5/16" hook that I had also bought for this purpose. I modified the hook by bending it so it closed around the allthread and then bending the shank where it met the hook to about 80. I also filed smooth about half of the threads in the end of the hook leaving about an inch of threads. That left about two inches of smooth shank between the threads and the bent loop. The loop would be secured to the top of the allthread by a nut above and below the loop. The screw would go up vertically into the underside of the rail. That way it would not interfere with fingers gripping the rail any more than the balusters would. I think that will satisfy the building department.

I started by drilling the hole in the end of the tread projection for the allthread. To get the angle right, I tied a small rope to the rail and then pulled the rope over to the hole site. That gave me the angle the hole needed to be. I sighted along the taut rope as I drilled a pilot hole, followed by a big spade bit for the counterbore, and finally with an 11/16" bit for the allthread hole. I didn't have a big enough spade bit for the counterbore so I enlarged the hole with a hammer and chisel so it could take a 5/8" washer.

Next, with the allthread in place, I was able to see how to do the final bending of the hook so that it would work. To make the eye circular, I had to cut off about a quarter-inch of the very end of it with a hacksaw. Then I filed the cut end to shape it and smooth it off. When it was ready, I drilled the pilot hole for the hook in the underside of the rail and then turned the hook up into the hole. It was pretty awkward turning the hook in because it was tight and hard to turn and the balusters on each side limited the movement of the vise-grip, which was the only tool I had that would turn the thing.

Eventually, the hook was screwed all the way in and positioned to receive the allthread. Unfortunately, the vise-grip had marred the shank and the eye so I got a file and smoothed it all off again. Then I spun one nut onto the end of the allthread and coaxed it into the eye of the hook. It went in pretty well, but I had to twist the allthread and screw it into the eye to get it all the way in. When it was far enough, I spun the nut on the top and then tightened both nuts against the eye. That held it fast.

Next, I turned the nuts on the bottom up against the washers to tighten them up to hold them tight to the tread. That made the strut nice and rigid and I was happy with it. Then I cut the excess allthread off with a hacksaw.

Finally, I painted the strut black after wiping it down with a paint-thinner-soaked rag and masking the rail and treads. I was a happy man when I went in for lunch and a nap while the paint dried.

When I got up, I tackled the Grid G rail problem. The problem was that the porch deck wasn't quite wide enough. If the rail were to be mounted in the middle of the Grid G1 and G2 columns, the balusters would miss the deck planks by a couple inches. I couldn't move the rail in enough to hit the planks and still use mortise-tenon joints in the columns. I could move it in further and fasten it to the sides of the columns, but that would be tacky. The real solution would be to extend the deck. I wondered whether I had enough old left-over planks to do the job, or whether I could rip another big plank for the purpose.

When I went looking for plank remnants, I was overjoyed to find two big remnants, a 6-footer and a 7-footer, one was 14" wide and the other about 12" wide. When I tried them for fit, I found that they were perfect. They could be used just the way they were with no cutting at all. More serendipity.

About that time, I got another call from Bill. He had talked to Dave and learned that he is OK and that the hurricane did almost no damage to their house, boats, or cars. Power was out though, so he was having trouble getting gas and charging his phone. It was good to hear he was OK though.

When we hung up, I went to work and screwed and doweled the two planks down to the joists. I went in for the night a very happy man.

On Thursday morning, I marked and trimmed the outside ends of the stair treads except for the one the strut was attached to. It was very awkward trimming them. I couldn't use the chainsaw because of the extreme fire danger conditions. I tried using the Skilsaw and it only worked for a few inches on each tread because there wasn't enough clearance for the saw. On a couple of the lower treads, the big crosscut saw worked pretty well. And the sawzall worked to finish cutting where the others couldn't reach.

When the treads were trimmed, I used a hammer and chisel and Rasputin to chamfer the curved edges. I got about half of that job done before I quit for the week. I took some pictures of the week's work and left for home at 12:50 very happy with the progress.

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