Construction Journal Entry Week of 3/25/18

3/27-29/18 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

I had a dentist appointment in the morning, so I got off to a late start. Except for snow flurries above Scenic, it rained pretty much non-stop all the rest of the way over until I arrived at Camp Serendipity at 12:50. By then the rain had stopped and it was sunny. There was no sign of the loggers and I hadn't heard from them at all.

When I tried to hoist the flag, it got stuck about halfway up and I could tell that there was no way I could get it loose without getting access to the pulley at the top. I had no choice but to leave the flag at half-staff. This had happened once before, and I had rigged up a ladder suspended by ropes attached to the cabin in order to reach the pulley. But that was in the dead of winter with a huge berm under the eaves which put the ladder six or eight feet higher than it would be now.

After bringing up all my gear and having lunch, I rigged the ladder up much as I had done before. But this time I decided to use come-alongs and chains to hold the ladder because I didn't want the stretch that there would be using ropes. That was a bad decision. Since the cables and chains were heavy, they sagged a lot, which gave the same effect as a stretchy rope, or even worse.

I did get the rigging all set up, though, and started climbing up the ladder. I only got up a half-dozen rungs when I thought better of the idea and came back down. It simply seemed too dangerous. In addition, since this had happened before, I knew that there was too much of a gap between the sheave and the body of the pulley, so it was likely that this would not be the last time it would jam up. I decided that I needed to replace the pulley with a better one, which I happened to have.

So, I dismantled my rigging, put the ladder away, and began working on a plan to pull the flagpole out of the ground so I could lay it down and get at the pulley. I got two steel scaffold frames from the crawl space and used two small chains to lash the tops together, so the frames formed the shape of a pup tent next to the flag pole. The problem is that the ground is irregular and there is a huge stump and root wad right at the base of the flagpole that was in the way of setting the frames up where I wanted them. But I set them up the best I could.

Then I hung a come-along from the tops of the scaffold frames and wrapped the hook end of the cable around the base of the flagpole. The plan was to use the come-along to pull the pole up out of the ground.

But when the come-along tightened up, the scaffold frame began to tip toward the pole. I stopped at that point and got two 8-foot 2x4s and used them as braces from the ground to the top of the scaffold frame. They fit nicely and did a solid job of bracing. Then when I cranked on the come-along, the pole began coming right up out of the ground. It was only in 18 inches because that's how deep the bedrock is right there.

Before the pole got too high, I got up on the stump and reached up and tied a rope to the flagpole as high as I could reach. Then I ran the rope around the post at the top of the back-porch stair and then back and snubbed it around the flagpole. The plan was for the rope to keep the pole upright until it was out of the ground, and then by relaxing the snubbing, I could control the lowering of the pole until it was either on the ground or at least within reach.

It worked like a charm. When the bottom of the pole came up out of the ground, I kept raising it until it was 6 or 8 inches above ground level. It just hung there suspended by the come-along and the pole was held upright by a combination of the rope, the scaffold frame, and me holding it with my left hand.

Then with my right hand, I began relaxing the snubbing, which I found I really didn't need. There was little enough tension on the end of the rope that I was holding because of the friction at the porch pole, so it was easy to slowly let the rope out and control the pole's descent.

As it descended, the bottom of the pole stayed above the ground level and swiveled nicely hanging from the come-along without even knocking any dirt back into the hole. When the pole was at about 45, I was able to reach it up high enough so that I was able to hold up the entire weight without a problem. Then I let go of the rope and with the pole resting on one shoulder, I removed the flag without letting it touch the ground. Then I lowered the pole all the way to the ground. About then, it started raining a little, but I didn't pay much attention to it except when I happened to step right under the drip line of the roof. I felt proud and happy that I had that pole on the ground.

I went inside and got the replacement pulley and some tools. The replacement pulley is brass, so it won't rust like the old one, but the main thing is that the sheave, which looks like it is made of nylon, fits very tightly against the pulley frame so it should be impossible for the rope to jam.

The eye of the new pulley is about an eighth of an inch thicker than that of the old pulley, so I could see that I was going to have to bend the steel strap that holds it in order for the new pulley to fit. For that I used a big crescent wrench and a vise-grip. I was surprised that after a few strategic bends in the steel, the new pulley fit right in, and better yet, the bolt ran right through the holes with no trouble. I replaced and tightened the nuts and then used the vise-grip to straighten the assembly and line it up. Finally, as the rain slowly increased, I reeved the halyard through the pulley and went in for the night very happy to have gotten that pulley replaced.

On Wednesday morning, I went right out and reversed the procedure to raise the flagpole and set it back into its hole. Before I did, though, I used my PhD (Post hole Digger) to clean the dirt out of the hole and expose the bedrock. Then I used two scraps of sheet metal to cover the downhill lip of the hole to try to keep dirt from falling into the hole when the pole went in.

The process worked very well. The only problem was that it would have been nice to have three hands once I started lowering the pole. I needed one hand to hang onto the rope and hold the pole upright. That left me with only one hand to operate the come-along. You can ratchet the come-along out with one hand, but you can only do one click at a time. I like to use two hands so that I can disengage the pawl with one hand and lower the handle about a third of a revolution in one move. I made it work by using my shoulder to hold the pole while I used both hands to lower the come-along. I was very happy to see that when the pole hit bottom, the dirt line on the pole was even with the ground level so I know it was seated just as deep as it was before.

The last step was to tamp dirt back into the hole around the base of the pole. I used a fairly long 1x2 for that. I used up all the dirt that was loose around the hole, but I needed more. I didn't want to use the topsoil nearby because there was just too much duff and organic material in it. I looked around for some available mineral soil, and I found it. Right in front of the cabin, the ground squirrels have been busy underground, and they had pushed up a half-dozen small piles of nice mineral soil. Each one made a nice shovelful of soil with just about the right moisture content to make nice strong compacted soil after I tamped it in.

With the pole back in place, I hoisted the flag using the new rigging and then put all the tools and scaffold frames back. But instead of putting the scaffold frames back where I found them, I put them away where they really belonged. I had taken almost all of the frames out of their usual place when I was searching for where mice were getting into the upstairs. Now that the baseboards are in place, and the mice can't get in that way, I can put the scaffold frames back where they belong, and that's just what I did. It opened up the crawl space again like it should be.

Next, I decided to make two scab joists to bolt on to the two rim joists on the privy that had rotted from being under dirt for so long. That corner could no longer support the building, so I either would have to support the rim joists somewhere near the middle, or re-build the corner with new rim joists. That is what the scab joists would do, and that was my plan.

I measured and cut an old 2x6 that had originally been part of my tree house in Seattle, and which had later served as a support for a corner of my traveling scaffold during the cabin construction. The 2x6 still had a nice coat of brown Olympic stain on it and it seemed like an old friend. It would now find a new use holding up a corner of the privy.

Before I installed the joists, though, I mixed up a batch of Board Defense and sprayed and soaked the rotten remnants of the old joists to try to stop the dry rot from spreading. In one of my trips down to the truck to get the sprayer, I carried Leonard's mortar mixing pan down and loaded it into the truck. I need to mix some concrete for a project in Seattle and I will need that pan.

Also, on one of those trips, I was reminded that the big mistletoe stump that the loggers had given me after Phase I had been tipped over by the skidder on one of its trips up or down the roadway. The loggers had said that they would help me set it back up straight, but I decided to do it myself.

It was much too heavy to budge by hand, so I rigged up the porch crane to do the job. I paid out all the cable and wrapped the end around the mistletoe stump. Then by running the winch, the stump tipped right up straight. It didn't set down quite right, so I raised it up a little higher and positioned rocks under it to make a good foundation. Then I lowered the stump onto the rocks and it sat nice and flat and solid.

The problem was that the mistletoe was sticking out into the roadway and the stump itself was not back against the rocks as far as it should be. So, I simply paid the cable back out and wrapped it around the back side of the stump. Then when I ran the winch forward and pushed on the stump, it rotated right into the perfect position, right up against the rocks and with the mistletoe pointed in the right direction.

Finally, I paid the cable all the way out again, went up on the porch, and wound the cable back onto the drum in tight, even turns. With the winch put back, I went in for lunch and a nap.

Next, I collected the "bolts" that I will use to fasten the scab joists to the remains of the two partly-rotten rim joists on the privy. Looking at my inventory list, I saw that I had a bunch of 6-inch pieces of 3/8 allthread. I also have a big supply of 3/8" nuts and washers. I decided to make the bolts from the allthread pieces.

I spent some time making sure the nuts would turn on the allthread pieces, and some of them took some cleaning up. One of them was bad enough that I got my tap and die set from the truck and used a die to clean up the threads. Then I turned a nut and washer on one end of each allthread and I had my bolts.

I took them and some tools up to the privy and used them to bolt the scabs to the rim joists using a butt and pass joint just like I had on the other three corners. I used two 4-inch lag screws to fasten the joint.

The weather was unusually windy all day and it settled my ambivalence as to whether I should have spent the day burning brush rather than working on incidental projects. I figured that it was too windy to burn and that I had made the right choice.

Thursday morning started with another delightful conversation with Dave and then I spent the rest of the morning giving the first floor of the cabin a good cleaning, which it needed. I left for home at 12:50 happy to have gotten some incidental jobs done in spite of making no progress on either logging or railings.

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