Construction Journal Entry Week of 2/3/19

2/5-7/19 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

There was snow on the ground all the way from Seattle to Camp Serendipity. I arrived at noon. The temperature was very cold and there was about 3 inches of fluffy snow on the ground. I took my gear and tools up to the cabin in one trip. Then I hoisted the flag, built a fire in the stove, had my lunch, and took my usual nap.

When I got up, I set up an experiment. I needed to glue one more joint on the stair rail and now that the rail was installed on the wall, it meant that I would either have to dismantle the rail again and bring it inside the cabin to glue the part, or I would have to glue it outside. Since the temperature would probably be in the teens overnight, I wanted to know whether the glue would set up properly in those conditions.

To set up the experiment, I glued the overlapping ends of two pairs of boards and clamped each of them. One glued pair was a control that I would leave inside the cabin overnight. The other was the test that I set outside on the porch.

Next, I split and stacked a bunch of firewood before I went in to listen to the State of the Union speech.

On Wednesday Dave called right after breakfast and we had a great conversation, mostly about the SOTU.

After we hung up, I checked on the results of my experiment. I found that the control was glued so strongly that when I broke it open, the wood splintered, and the glue joint stayed intact. When I broke open the one that had spent the night outside, the glue joint failed and it was obvious that the glue had frozen and not set up at all. That meant that the gluing of the joint on the rail would have to wait for warm weather.

Next, I went to work shaping the vine maple part that will make the transition for the lower end of the rail. It fastens to the rail the same way as the top part using a short dowel and it fastens directly to the concrete block wall using a masonry anchor.

I used a removable masonry anchor so that I could disassemble the joint later in order to glue the dowel in place.

My craftsmanship in fabricating the joint was a little embarrassing. I was working with bare hands in 15 weather, so I decided to bore the holes in the rail and in the extension by eyeball. I figured that it would be close enough and that I could make them fit by cutting the end of the extension later so that it ended up flush with the end of the rail. That was fine, but what I didn't expect was that in both cases, the hole I bored was off far enough so that the bit started coming through the surface.

After the first failure, I took a break for lunch and a nap. When I went back out to work, I proceeded on to make the second hole with the same result.

In both cases, the hole in the surface was right on top where it would be very noticeable. I stopped drilling in both cases and shortened the dowel to fit into the shorter holes. As a result, the dowel penetrates each member only 2 1/2 inches rather than the full 3 inches I had planned on. I decided that 2 1/2 inches would be plenty strong, so I decided just to patch the holes when the weather warms up and when I glue the dowel in place.

I was very pleased with the masonry anchor, though. It held the doweled joint tightly in place even without any glue and it held the end of the transition piece fast to the concrete wall. It made the entire transition feel extremely strong. The poor craftsmanship will just have to be one more example fitting in along with other such mistakes in the cabin. I'll call it charm.

I spent the rest of the afternoon chiseling and rasping both the rail and the transition piece so that they meet in a relatively smooth surface all around.

On Thursday morning, the temperature was 10. After breakfast, I used a palm sander to sand the lower doweled joint making the rail ready for stain.

Next, I fitted the Bosch Bulldog with the wood-chisel bit and used it to rough in the two knuckle notches in the log wall. They still need some work, but my hands were cold, and I was out of time. I left for home at 12:45 happy that that rail is almost done, and I can move on to the loft railings next week.

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