Construction Journal Entry Week of 11/3/19

11/8-10/19 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Friday through Sunday.

On the way I stopped and visited with Earl and Patty. I tried to help them fix a broken hinge and a broken lamp, but I didn't do much good with either one. I then proceeded on to Camp Serendipity.

I arrived at 1:18. The weather was sunny and pleasant. I brought my gear up to the cabin, hoisted the flag, built a fire, and had my lunch and a nap as usual. When I got up, I built two jigs to temporarily hold the tread at the proper height off the floor. With the tread held up by these jigs, I can slide it around to get it seated properly on the stair stringer. If it is too high, I will take wood off the under side of the notch. If it is too low, I will shim it to the proper height.

On Saturday I dismantled the blocking structure between the floor joists so that I could remove the bolts holding the lowest tread and the stringer down against the floor. This is an elaborate structure that is required to provide the torsional strength for the one-stringer staircase.

Before I started, I stuck a strip of wide masking tape on the floor under the nose of the tread and used a plumb bob hanging off the nose to find and mark a line on the tape. That line would be the gauge for aligning the new tread.

Then I started dismantling the blocking structure by removing a few dozen joist-hanger nails that were holding a steel strap that binds four joists and the blocking between them. I only undid the strap 2/3 of the way in order to get at the center block which contains two of the bolts.

I had done this before, so I knew the tricks and what tools to use. Getting the nails out was not much of a problem, but getting the block removed took a lot of doing with a crowbar and a big hammer.

Once the block was removed, the two bolt extensions were unscrewed leaving the three big carriage bolts going up through the subfloor, the stringer, and the tread. They were hard to get out.

I thought I should be able to drive them up and out with a big hammer, but the only bolt I could budge was the one odd one that didn't go through the block. I was able to drive that up an inch or so.

The bolts are 1/2 inch and the holes were drilled with a 1/2-inch bit so you would think that they would slip right out. But the wood had evidently swelled into the bolt threads so they wouldn't slide at all. The only way to get them out was to unscrew them, and even at that, they were very tight and hard to turn.

The one bolt that I had driven up allowed me to get a wrench on the square shoulder that is right under the head of a carriage bolt. There wasn't a lot of clearance to allow me to turn the wrench, so it was a long tedious job to back that long bolt all the way out.

The next two were harder yet because I had been unable to drive them up at all. The carriage bolt heads were still right down on the surface of the tread. After mulling over a few options, I decided that I had no choice but to destroy the tread, not that it was going to be good for anything anyway. I used a big hammer and chisel to dig a pit around each bolt head so that I could get a grip on the bolt heads with a vise-grip. Then I used the vise-grip to back the bolts all the way out. It took a while, but I got the tread off and took it outside to the front porch.

With the old tread removed, I positioned the new tread on the stringer and clamped on the two jigs that held it up off the floor. It was now ready to be fitted to the stringer and it was time for lunch and a nap.

The first try of pushing the tread up against the stringer showed that it was out too far by about a half inch. Rather than taking wood off the underside of the notch, I decided to remove a big shim that had been under the old tread. I had made a serious mistake in measuring when I installed that tread and had fixed the error with a half-inch plywood shim. I removed that shim and found a replacement shim that was just about the right thickness.

With the new shim installed, the tread almost fit. I had to work one side down a little. I found that a scraper was the most effective tool to do that job. The tread was very near to fitting when I quit for the day.

On Sunday morning Robert called to touch bases. While I had him on the phone, I asked his advice on what chainsaw he thought I should buy. He recommended a Stihl 291. I thanked him for the advice.

Then I went to work fitting the tread. After a little more scraping and shimming, I got the tread to fit nearly perfectly. To hold the tread in place, I clamped two 1x2s together so that they formed a brace between the nose of the tread and the wall in front of the staircase. Gravity does the rest. The proof was that when I unclamped the tread from the two jigs, it stayed right where it was supposed to be.

I took a picture of the tread in that condition. Before I drill the bolt holes, I will place two concrete blocks on the tread in addition to the brace so that the tread doesn't move when I start drilling. I will drill up from underneath so that the augur starts in the holes that are already in the stringer and the subfloor. That way I can be sure the bolts will go into the holes.

I had to be home early, so I left at 11:30. I was happy to have made some progress on the staircase.

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