Construction Journal Entry Week of 2/9/20

2/14-17/20 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 4 days: Friday through Monday.

On the way I stopped and had a nice long visit with Earl and Patty. I arrived at Camp Serendipity at 2:10. I brought my gear up, hoisted the flag, built a fire, and had my lunch and a nice nap as usual.

I inspected the balusters that I had painted last week and was disappointed to see that some of them needed another coat.

On Saturday, the weather was clear and the temperature was 30°. I had brought a huge bunch of yard waste with me, including some big sections of tree branches. Since the snow was frozen hard overnight, I went down to deal with the yard waste while I could walk on top of the snow without sinking in. I carried the big branch sections up to the cabin in three trips over the snow on the upper roadway without falling through. Then I dragged three big bags of lawn sweepings, mostly fir cones, over the frozen snow to the compost pile and dumped them there. Then I made several more trips to the compost pile with armloads of fir boughs.

Then I moved the truck back down to the foot of the concrete staircase and brought the DeWalt tool bag up to the cabin.

Next, I began inspecting the balusters to see which ones needed more paint and discovered that they all did. I put them all back into the painting rack and then remade the wire retainer for holding the tops. I improved the design of the retainer so they held better and allowed me to adjust the rebar positions individually. I took the rack outside and sprayed another coat of paint on them being a little more careful this time to cover them well. Then I brought the rack of balusters up to the utility room to dry with the door shut and the exhaust fan on.

Then I lightly sanded the varnished rails with 120 grit paper, so they were super smooth and ready for the next coat of varnish. Then I had my lunch and a nap.

When I got up, I unwrapped the five rail fittings. There were four flat quarter turns and one over-easing. I lightly sanded them with 120 grit sandpaper and then dry ragged them. Then I screwed a 3-inch screw partway into one end of each of the fittings so that I had something to hang on to when I varnished the fittings. By gripping the head of the screw with a vise-grips, I had a nice handle to hang on to.

Then I got a scrap board about 4 feet long and sawed five notches spaced along one edge of the board. By stretching the board over a couple five-gallon buckets, I had a rack that could hold the five fittings by sticking the screws into the slots. The heads of the screws didn't go through the slots, so the fittings hung down below in a nice position to dry.

By that time, the painted balusters were dry except for the ends that were stuck down into the painting rack. I brought them inside and laid the balusters over the arms of a chair so the ends could dry. Unfortunately, I didn't have anything under the ends, so they dripped paint onto the floor in a couple places. I cleaned that up with a rag and paint thinner and then put cardboard under them in case they dripped again.

Finally, before I quit for the day, I fixed a broken drill index case so that it wouldn't come apart and spill all the screwdriver bits, countersink, and other small tool parts like it had done so many times.

On Sunday, I decided that the holes I had drilled into the end grain of the treads to anchor the balusters were not tight enough. The test holes had been made with a 13/32" bit so I decided to try a 25/64" bit to see how that would work. It was noticeably tighter and worked a lot better so that became my new standard.

I began installing the balusters starting with the shortest and working up. My spreadsheet told me the ID of the one I was working on and with the ID numbers taped on the treads, I could easily find where to install it. After drilling the hole, I used a rubber hammer to drive the rebar in which took several hard blows to drive them in. That made them very nice and solid and there was no need for glue in the joint.

After installing a few, I decided to video the action so I set up the tripod and shot scenes that I will use to make a video of the process. I ended up installing all 24 or so of them. I took a couple pictures of them in place.

After lunch and a nap, I laid out and marked the 31 baluster sites for the handrail on the other side of the staircase.

On Monday morning there was 2 inches of new snow on the ground, but the weather had cleared. The temperature was 25°. After breakfast, I took the DeWalt tool bag down and loaded it into the truck. Then I brushed the snow off the front of the truck and the windshield.

Back in the cabin, I packed up as much of my gear as I could so I would be ready to go home as soon as I finished the varnishing. But first, I ID'd the 31 handrail baluster sites that I had previously marked with pieces of tape. Then I measured all the offsets from the tread nose for all of them and recorded them. I will enter those numbers into another spreadsheet like I had the guardrail balusters and calculate all the baluster lengths.

Finally, I had my lunch, varnished the two rails and the five fittings, cleaned out my brush, and left for home at 12:20. I was very happy with the progress I made over the four days.

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