Construction Journal Entry Week of 3/1/20

3/6-8/20 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Friday through Sunday.

On the way, I stopped at Kemly Electric and returned a screwdriver that Brian had dropped when he was at our house. Then I stopped at the Post Office before heading over the mountains. On the way, I stopped and visited with Earl and a new caregiver, Brenda, who I hadn't met before. After a nice visit, I proceeded on to Camp Serendipity.

I arrived at 1:30. There was no new snow and the old snow had shrunk a lot. I parked at the hairpin turn and brought my gear up on the snow trail which was plenty firm. I hoisted the flag and built a fire. I tried an experiment to see whether a tough un-split round of maple would burn OK. I learned that it burns great. After starting the fire, I had my usual lunch and a nap.

When I got up, I removed the varnishing jig and put the pieces away. The fittings look beautiful with their last coat of varnish.

Before I drill any holes in the rail, I want to make sure they are going to be in the right places. As a test, I decided to drill the same hole pattern in a scrap 2x4 and fit that on top of the balusters to prove that the holes are in the right places. So, I got a 2x4, placed it alongside the guard rail that I had previously marked, and transferred the marks over to the 2x4.

Before I quit for the night, I felt a bug on my hand. On closer look it turned out to be a deer tick. It was crawling up my hand heading for my sleeve. I took it to the sink and cut it into a few pieces with my knife. I hadn't been outside much and not under trees, so my guess is that the tick had climbed the flagpole and dropped down on me when I brought the flag in. In any case, it alerted me to keep an eye out for ticks.

On Saturday, I made careful measurements, calculations, and a drawing for making the knuckle notch in the Grid B.5,2.5 column. The drawing included the rail section and a baluster in its hole. Then, after looking at the drawing, I decided to replace the one short baluster rather than use it as it is and drill the holes deeper.

It was easy to replace. I simply stole the shortest baluster of the batch of 16 that I had made for the handrail side and cut it to the proper length for the guard rail baluster I wanted to replace. Then I hammered it into place in the stair tread.

Next, I cut a new rebar blank to make a new handrail baluster for the one I had stolen, and wire brushed the rust off of it. I added this blank to the batch of 15 which were also wire brushed and waiting for a paint thinner cleaning.

Next, I mustered my courage and began cutting the knuckle notch. I used a bow saw to make the bottom kerf and the start of the top kerf. The bottom kerf needed to go nearly halfway through the column, so I had to have the confidence that I was doing it right before I started sawing. I got the kerfs cut and had begun chiseling out the wood between them before it was time for lunch and a nap.

When I got up, I continued working on the knuckle notch with a big hammer and chisel. Then I decided to switch to the Bosch Bulldog with the wood chisel bit. I should have done that sooner because it was quite a bit easier. I got the notch roughed out pretty much to its final shape.

Then I went outside and used the sled to haul seven rounds of maple from the woodshed to the cabin in two trips. Then I split and stacked all the wood. I learned that the maple doesn't split nearly as easily when it is not frozen solid. Too bad I waited.

While I was up getting the wood, I checked on Paul and was disappointed to see that it doesn't look too well. The top leaves are nice and green, but the lower ones are yellowing. I hope it perks up.

Back in the cabin, I clamped the 2x4 I had marked for holes to the staircase so that it was at the pitch of the staircase but upside down. That meant that the holes needed to be drilled exactly vertically. And, for that, I used my DeWalt drill with the bubble level in it.

After the holes were all drilled, I installed it on top of the balusters to see how it was going to work. It fit in the knuckle notch nicely, and the top of it was deliberately too long so it had to lie alongside the kitchen ceiling fascia board. That was according to plan because that way, I could figure out directly exactly where the bevel cut needs to be made to fit under the ceiling.

I had previously figured that the joint between the rail and the lower fitting needed to be halfway between the first and second baluster, so that is how I had made the 2x4. Now, with the 2x4 in place, I could check to see how the quarter-turn fitting was going to mate with the newel post, and on the first look, it didn't look good. I needed to make some more careful measurements.

On Sunday morning I thought I had overslept. When I woke up, I looked at the clock and it said 7:00 and I thought it should be more like 6:00. Thinking that I had wasted an hour of the day, I got up and went through my normal morning routine. After I had the fire going and was about to start breakfast, Ellen called to remind me to set all the clocks ahead because of Daylight Saving Time. I thought, oh no, that means I had lost two hours.

But when I went to set the clock in the bedroom, I realized that the clock was smarter than I am, and it was already set to daylight time. I hadn't overslept after all. But still, I lost an hour.

After breakfast I cleaned up the considerable chip mess that resulted from cutting the knuckle notch and drilling the 2x4. Then I constructed an elaborate jig on the lower end of the 2x4 that allowed me to project where the quarter-turn was going to intersect with the newel post. It became immediately clear that it was not going to be acceptable.

The fix was to move the joint between the rail and the fitting from between the first and second baluster to between the first baluster and the newel post. And, checking that out was going to be easy. All I had to do was to drill two extra holes in the rail so that the rail could be moved down one hole.

I removed the 2x4, clamped it upside down again on the staircase, and drilled the two extra holes. Then I replaced it on top of the balusters, so it now ended between the first baluster and the newel post. A quick check showed that this was going to work perfectly. I was very happy that I had learned this by using that 2x4 before I cut or drilled the rail.

While I was packing up to leave for home, Ellen called and asked me to bring home some toilet paper. She tried to buy some at Costco and learned that all paper products in all stores were sold out. Good thing I have a big supply at Camp Serendipity. I left for home at 1:10 after a very good weekend.

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