Construction Journal Entry Week of 12/8/19

12/13-15/19 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Friday through Sunday.

There was some fresh snow in the pass and a little on the road as I drove over. There was about six inches of snow on the ground all over the Lake Wenatchee area, but the roads were mostly clear. I stopped and visited with Earl and Pam for a while and then proceeded on to Camp Serendipity.

I arrived at 12:15, had no trouble parking in 4wd, and started wearing my Sorel boots for the first time this season. I brought my gear up to the cabin, hoisted the flag, built a fire in the stove and had my usual lunch and nap.

When I got up, I went back down to the truck and unloaded two bags of yard waste onto the compost pile and brought back my DeWalt tool bag. Then I varnished the ends of the rails I had installed last week. That was about all the work I got done that day.

While I was in the shower, the doorbell rang. It was a guy looking for the Williams'. I gave him directions and he was on his way. When I finished my shower, I called Byron to make sure the guy made it. He did.

On Saturday, the weather was 25°, clear, still, and cold. I sanded the rail ends in preparation for another coat of varnish, and then I went outside to check on the tracks from last night's visitor. I was wondering how he got around in the dark. I saw that there had been two vehicles and that only the one guy had walked up to the cabin on the roadway. The motion-sensing light had probably come on to help him see his way.

While I was down at the truck, I got the scoop shovel and shoveled off the concrete staircase and I stamped out a trail from the staircase to the cabin. Next, I applied another coat of varnish to the rail ends and then started working on the short balustrade between Grid D2 and E2.

The main part of the job was chiseling out the recesses in the Grid D2 column which anchor the upper and lower rails. I made a mistake by measuring for and fabricating the parts of the railing before I verified that the 4x4 post on the inside corner was plumb. After the parts were made, I discovered that the post was not plumb. It was leaning out a half inch away from the Grid D2 column.

To fix it, I cut a half inch off the top 2x4 rail and then used a come-along to force the post to stand up straight. Then I screwed the top 2x4 rail, with all the balusters in place, to the post and to the Grid D2 column. That held the post plumb and I removed the come-along.

After lunch and a nap, I cut the top 2x6 rail to length and screwed it in place. I was very happy to have finished it and I was admiring it when I noticed that the balusters were not plumb. They were about a half inch out of plumb and I couldn't imagine how I had made such a big error.

I went to bed that night agonizing about what to do about the slanty balusters and trying to figure out how I had made such a big mistake.

On Sunday morning, just as I was waking up, it dawned on me what had happened. By cutting off that half inch of the rail, it made the balusters get out of plumb. As soon as I got out of bed, I looked up at the balustrade to confirm my theory, and to my surprise, the balusters were out of alignment in the wrong direction than I had expected. I was really confused but I had made up my mind that I had to fix the problem. I couldn't leave them mis-aligned like they were.

Of the several options for fixing the problem, I decided to dismantle the balustrade, drill new holes in the top rail, and plug the old holes with dowels. Fortunately, I had a dowel that fit tight in the holes.

When I measured to see where to drill the new holes, I found that they needed to be about an inch away from the old holes, not the half inch I expected. More mystery. Anyway, I hooked the come-along back up, removed the top rails, drilled the new holes, plugged the old holes and smoothed off the plugs, and then put the thing back together again. This time, all the balusters looked to be perfectly plumb. Much better.

Happy with that result, I varnished the ends of the rails again and I varnished the new rail ends and the plugs in the rail and took a picture of the balustrade. I left for home at 12:20 still baffled about exactly what happened. I thought I would probably never find out.

As I was proof-reading what I just wrote I realized that I had drilled the holes in the top rail relative to the 4x4 post, so they would have been parallel to the post, which is out of plumb by a half inch. When I cut the half inch off the post, it didn't affect the location of the holes and balusters so the balusters should have been leaning out like the post was. And that's the way they were leaning. I just hadn't thought it through correctly when I got out of bed. So, I did find out after all.

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