Construction Journal Entry Week of 11/17/19

11/22-24/19 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Friday through Sunday.

Before I left, I called Earl to see if he was up for a visit. He said he was going to have company later, so I postponed my visit until next week. I arrived at Camp Serendipity at 12:15. The temperature was 25°. There was a heavy frost on the ground, but it was clear and still. Beautiful weather.

After carrying my gear up to the cabin and hoisting the flag, I built a fire in the stove, had my lunch, and took my usual nap. When I got up, I split two big rounds of Doug fir firewood. Then I went to work on the tenon and made some progress in getting it to fit better.

The process I use is to rub a pencil around the upper rim of the mortise hole, then stick the tenon in the hole and stand the post up. With the tenon seated as deep as it will go, I draw a line all around the tenon at the surface of the tread to mark its progress. Then I take the post back out and set it on a pair of sawhorses. The pencil on the rim of the hole leaves smudges where the tenon is tight and those smudges tell me where to grind down the wood. I mostly use Rasputin for that but sometimes I will use a drawknife. I repeat this process until the tenon goes all the way into the hole.

On Saturday the temperature outside when I got up was 20° and the weather was clear. After breakfast I resumed working on the tenon and soon got it to fit all the way down. Then, to anchor it in place, I drilled the pilot holes for a 3/8"x5" lag screw into the bottom of the post and screwed the lag screw all the way in.

Then I took the screw back out and made a big 4" washer out of 3/4" plywood. I ran the lag screw first through a 3/8" steel washer, then through the plywood washer, and then placed the lag screw on the floor under the mortise hole pointing up into the hole. Then I placed the newel post down into the mortise hole getting the lag screw to enter the hole in the bottom of the tenon. Finally, I used a wrench to tighten the lag screw all the way. As I tightened it, the tenon was drawn into the mortise hole and was then held fast.

After lunch and a nap, I went out and split another two rounds of Doug fir firewood. Back inside, I began forming the second tenon the same way I had formed the first one. This one also needed to be cockeyed because the mortise hole was 1/4" out of plumb in 4". I took a picture of the partly formed tenon. Before I quit for the night, the tenon was seated about halfway into the hole.

On Sunday morning it was raining cats and dogs but by the time I started breakfast the rain had stopped. After breakfast, I worked on the second tenon and after several iterations of working the wood down, I got it to seat all the way. I drilled the hole for the lag screw in the bottom, but I didn't have another piece of plywood to make another wooden washer. I'll bring some plywood for that from home next week.

The second newel post ended up almost perfectly plumb (as plumb as a log can be) but I was disappointed that the first one is not quite plumb. Next week I will do what I can to straighten up that first post. I think I can do that without too much trouble. I left for home at 12:40 happy with the progress on the newel posts.

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