Construction Journal Entry Week of 1/13/19

1/15-17/19 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

The trip over the pass was cold and the roadway was bare and dry. It was a beautiful drive. On the way, I stopped and visited with Earl for a while.

I arrived at Camp Serendipity at 1:50. The temperature was 20 and there had been no new snow since I had been there last week, so I drove right in and parked in 2wd with no problem. I lugged my gear up in one trip, hoisted the flag, built a fire in the wood stove, and then had my lunch and my usual nap.

When I got up, I went back down to the truck and unloaded a huge amount (half a pickup load) of yard waste that I had brought from home that was the result of at least two windstorms. It took a bit of doing to get it all up onto the compost pile. I brought a tool bag up with me when I returned to the cabin.

On Wednesday the temperature outside was 16 but I worked in the crawlspace where it was a lot warmer. I spent the morning installing backer blocks behind the TJI joist hangers. Most of the blocks were already in place but I had missed 4 or 5 of them. I made the extra blocks I needed and then screwed all of them in place. It was a hard job because in most cases, it was awkward to get the impact driver in position to drive the screws because of obstructions on the ground and obstructions hanging from the ceiling like sewer pipes.

I made the mistake of doing the work without gloves so I could handle the screws better and I paid for it later by having very sore, scraped-up hands. When I went to bed, I loaded my hands up with Working Hands hand cream which really fixed them up overnight.

In spite of my hands, it was a wonderful feeling getting that project checked off the list and shifting my focus to the two remaining projects for final inspection. Those are finishing all the rails and insulating the floor. There are several rail sub-projects, so I decided to tackle the inside stair rail on the back porch next. That rail will be fastened to the cabin wall, so it won't need balusters. Being on the inside of the staircase, the snow won't reach over there so I can work on it all winter if I need to. I can't work on the outer rail because that will be covered in snow any time now.

After lunch and a nap, I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and work outside on firewood. I split up two or three big rounds and stacked the firewood and then went into the woods with a rope and a shovel to see if I could drag out a couple more rounds from there.

The temperature outside was 25 so the snow was frozen stiff. That made it easy to drag the rounds out of the woods and skid them down the trail to the cabin. I got three rounds skidded down which I think is all that are in that particular location. The snow is so deep I can't really tell, but I don't see any more big bumps suggesting firewood underneath.

Next, I turned my attention to the back-stair rail. I had bought four rail brackets not being sure whether I needed three or four. The rail is 11.5 feet long and needs a bracket at each end. Then there is a choice between one or two brackets supporting the middle.

Using two intermediate brackets, the span between them would be only about 4.6 feet, and with just one bracket, the span between them would be about 5.5 feet. I think the requirement is something like 8 feet, so one bracket will make the rail plenty strong. I'll just have one bracket left over.

By using just 3 brackets, two of them would be fastened directly to wall logs, which would be easy, and only one would have to be fastened to the concrete block foundation wall. That was clearly the way to go. I made some measurements and laid out the locations where the brackets needed to be fastened to the wall.

While I was thinking about railings, it occurred to me that a good design for the loft railings would be to use a flat-wise 2x6 centered on top of a flatwise 2x4. The 2x6s would form a miter joint at each corner which would be flat on top of the posts. The 2x4s would then meet against the posts right at the top.

The 2x4s would be installed first, after being drilled and fitted with balusters, and then the 2x6s would be installed last. I think that will be a simple design that will look good.

I also thought through an idea for the loft stair rails. The problem is the newel posts. I don't want the posts to go down to the floor and I don't quite know how to fasten them to the tread(s). The new idea is to not have newel posts at all. Instead use a cluster of balusters all fastened to the bottom tread on the upper edge, just like all the balusters in the rest of the staircase, but then fanning out in a circle at the top to meet a spiral volute. The question is whether that can be made rigid enough.

I think I can answer that by doing some experimentation. The strength will come from the additive effect of all the balusters in one side of the staircase working together. I can measure the deflection characteristics of one baluster anchored in a tread and calculate the cumulative effect of the entire rail system. If the #3 rebar balusters don't prove to be strong enough, I will try #4 rebar and see if they will. I think the visual effect of that design will be very nice if it will work.

On Thursday morning, there was about 3 inches of new snow that had accumulated overnight.

After breakfast, I used a hole saw, a hammer, and a chisel to cut the seats for the two rail brackets that attach to wall logs. Then I temporarily fastened the two brackets to the wall. Then I got the rail pole and loosely fastened it to the two brackets. The bottom end of the rail was just hanging out.

The hard part of installing the railing is to make the ends of the rail turn into the log wall so they can't catch the strap of a woman's purse. With the top of the rail more-or-less in place, I could see the best way to make the curved end from the vine maple samples I had collected.

I checked the diameter of the vine maples and was happy that they are almost perfect. The plan is to cut the pieces so that they meet the rail pole in a square cut. Then I will bore a 5/8" hole directly into each end of the joint and use a length of 5/8" dowel to fasten them together. Hopefully I can get the square butt joints to meet nicely. Then with the dowel glued in place, I can work the wood down to make a nice smooth transition from the rail to the vine maple. The other end of the maple will be fastened directly to the log wall somehow.

I did a test by boring a 5/8" hole into the end of a vine maple and sticking a 5/8" dowel into the hole to see how if fits. It is nice and snug and will work perfectly.

I left for home at 12:45 happy to be working on rails again.

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