Construction Journal Entry Week of 3/31/19

4/2-4/19 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

On the way, I stopped in and visited with Earl and Dana. This was the first time I had met Dana in person, and I was happy she was home. We had a nice visit. She wanted to come up and see my cabin, but we weren't sure she would be able to handle the trails. Her Parkinson's is a little worse than Earl's so she needs pretty secure footing. I wasn't sure what to expect so I told them that I would call them after I got there and let them know what I thought.

I arrived at Camp Serendipity at 1:00 and parked as far up into the hairpin turn as I could. I had a load of rebar with me and I wanted to know the best way to carry it up to the cabin. I hadn't used the trail to the cabin from the hairpin turn for some months, so I wasn't sure it was negotiable. I decided to carry my gear up that way to see how it would work. The snow there was from 2 to 3 feet deep and the old trail that had been stomped out was still in there. I found that it was plenty firm enough to walk on if you stayed on it. I stepped off of it a couple times and sank into the soft snow, but it was pretty clear where I had to walk to be safe.

After bringing my gear into the cabin, I called Earl and told him that it wouldn't be safe enough for Dana yet. The snow needs to disappear, and the ground needs to dry out first. He agreed.

I built a fire in the wood stove, had my lunch, hoisted the flag, and then had a nice nap. When I got up, I went down to the truck and turned it around. I backed it back up into the hairpin turn against a big snowbank. Then I stomped a trail between the truck and the established trail. That way, I started out at the level of the top of the truck bed so I had a little less elevation to gain as I carried the rebar up.

I made six trips up to the cabin carrying six 10-foot lengths of rebar with each trip. I stacked it all on the front porch in the usual place alongside Dr. Dick's rebar cutter/bender.

On Wednesday morning, Robert called and caught me up on his activities. The temperature outside was 40 and raining so it was too cold to paint. I decided to work on drilling 2x4s instead.

I selected the first pair of 2x4s and marked them for the baluster holes. I clamped them together with their varnished sides together and with the bottom of the bottom rail on top. Then I leveled them and used the corded drill with the bubble level to drill the holes. I used the gauge I had made so the holes went all the way through the first 2x4 (the bottom rail) and one and a quarter inches into the 2x4 underneath (the top rail upside down).

When I finished, I took the two 2x4s and two balusters up to the loft and tested them. They fit perfectly under the temporary railing up there so I was happy about that.

After lunch and a nap, I marked and drilled a second pair of 2x4s. Then the sun came out and the temperature on the porch was up to 50 so I loaded about 20 balusters into the paint rack, took it outside and down to the woodpile, and sprayed on a coat of primer.

Next, I got a coil of rebar tie wire and made a retainer to hold the tops of the rebar in the paint rack and keep them in line. As it was, some of the holes in the base of the rack had gotten enlarged so the rebar didn't stick up straight. Some of them would slant over and get in the way of painting others. I had to move them around in order to paint them without missing spots.

The retainer was bent into a string of open circles connected together so that each partial circle held the end of a rebar. The retainer was fastened to the tops of two small boards that were screwed to the rack.

When it was finished, I used it to spray on the top coat of paint and it worked great. It made the painting a lot faster and I think I used less paint.

Next, I went up into the loft and started working on the railing section that connects to the Grid A log wall. I started with the lower rail and began chiseling the notch in the log wall that would receive the end of the 2x4. After using the oscillating saw to cut the ends and back of the recess, I used a hammer and chisel to cut the wood away from the inside.

After just a few chips, I hit the chisel wrong and it flipped out of my hand and went down into the crack between the subfloor and the log wall. I knew that was a trap and that anything that fell down there was likely to stay there. There didn't seem to be any way to fish it out. That evening when Ellen called, I told her that I would probably have to buy a new chisel.

On Thursday morning, I thought of a way to try to retrieve the chisel. I made a fishing pole from a short stick with a length of duct tape stuck to the end of it. I pushed the duct tape down into the crack and used the stick to twist and drag it around. Almost right away, I could hear and feel the tape dragging the chisel over the drywall.

I slowly and carefully started pulling it out of the crack without letting the chisel get hung up on the way out. I could feel it starting to get hung up a couple times, but each time, I backed off and moved it to a different place and tried again.

Pretty soon, I saw the chisel handle appear in the crack and I was able to pull it all the way out. I was very happy about that. I even took a picture of me holding my fishing pole and my catch.

Next, I took the newly painted balusters up to the loft and assembled the first section of railing. I placed all the balusters in the holes in the bottom 2x4 so they were all sticking up. Then I struggled with the top 2x4 trying to get all the balusters inserted in the holes in that 2x4.

I tried a few different approaches and finally got a method figured out that I think will work for all the rest of the railings.

The method is to suspend one end (the right-hand end) of the 2x4 about six or eight inches higher than it will finally be. Then with the right-hand end up in the air, engage the first baluster on the left end into its hole. When it is engaged, the second baluster on the left is fed into its hole. The 2x4 might have to be raised a little to get it in, but since the 2x4 is slanted, you won't have to raise it so much that the first one pops out.

The same goes for the third and maybe fourth baluster. But at some point, maybe the fifth or sixth baluster, the 2x4 is slanted enough so that they can't engage.

At that point, take a length of cord or small rope, tie a clove hitch near the bottom of the first baluster on the left, pass the rest of the rope up over the 2x4 and back down the other side. There tie a tautline hitch in it and tighten it up so that it snugs up the rope holding the 2x4 fast to the baluster.

Then little by little, begin lowering the right-hand end of the 2x4 until you can get another baluster or two into their holes. Those will probably be the next balusters in line, but maybe not. Some baluster down the line might be a little higher and will have to be inserted first. That's OK. Just insert whatever balusters are ready to go into its hole and then proceed to lower the right hand end a little more.

At various points, you may have to snug up your tautline hitch again, and you may have to beat down on the 2x4 with a rubber mallet to get it to go down further. But if you take it little by little, eventually all the balusters will be in their holes and you can snug up the whole assembly with the rubber mallet.

When I had the railing assembly together, I used the rubber mallet to drive it into its final position between the 4x4 posts and under the temporary 2x4 rail on top of them. Eventually that 2x4 rail will be replaced by a finished 2x6. That will wait until all the baluster sections are in place.

With the railing section in place I took a picture of it and then loaded the painting rack with 20 unpainted balusters. Then I took the rack of balusters outside and sprayed on a coat of primer.

I left for home at 12:30 happy to be making progress on the loft railings.

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