Construction Journal Entry Week of 3/15/20

3/20-22/20 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Friday through Sunday.

I called Earl ahead of time and we agreed that because of the virus, it would be best if I did not stop to visit with him. There wasn't much traffic at all going over the pass, so the trip was pleasant. I arrived at Camp Serendipity at 11:30. I parked at the hairpin turn and carried my gear up over the snow trail which was shrunken down but was still plenty firm.

I hoisted the flag, built a fire in the wood stove, had my lunch, and my usual nap. When I got up, I inspected the knuckle notch and could see that it needed to be enlarged and smoothed. I put the finished rail back in place and marked it for the bracket to be installed inside the knuckle notch.

Then I took the rail back down, laid it on sawhorses and worked on re-shaping the top. The top of the rail sticks out about an inch beyond the fascia board and having the sharp acute corner sticking out like that would be unacceptable. I used Rasputin, a finer wood rasp, a sheet of 120 grit paper, and a sheet of 220 grit paper to shape the end into a nice smooth curved surface ready to be varnished.

Then I started cutting the recess for the bracket on the under side of the rail. I made a little progress before I quit for the night.

On Saturday, I finished cutting the recess for the bracket using only a 3/4" chisel and a hammer. Then I installed the bracket in the rail using the two screws that came with the bracket. Next, I installed the rail back up onto the balusters so I could see what adjustments needed to be made to the knuckle notch and then took it back off again.

I went to work enlarging the knuckle notch using the Bosch Bulldog and a chisel. When it was deep enough, I smoothed it with scrapers and with Gus' razor-sharp hunting knife which worked very well for the hard-to-reach parts.

The knuckle notch was a little too deep right where the bracket goes, so I made a shim to fit behind the bracket.

Next, I went outside to get some firewood from the woodshed and I checked on Paul, the sequoia tree while I was up there. The tree is alive but pretty scrawny.

Mt. Mastiff was particularly beautiful with the lighting and the new snow cover like it was, so I took a picture of it. Enough snow had melted away so that I used the wheelbarrow to haul five rounds of maple firewood down to the cabin, where I then split and stacked the firewood.

After having my lunch and a nap, I did some final smoothing of the knuckle notch and then re-installed the rail, maybe for the last time.

The next step was to fasten the top of the rail to the kitchen ceiling. After a lot of thought, I figured out a great way to fasten it. I had a long screw, about 6 inches long and 5/16" in diameter that I decided to use. I drilled a 5/8" hole partway up into the rail between the top two balusters followed by a 1/4" bit six inches beyond. I angled the holes so that the smaller one would just miss the 3/4" fascia board that is centered on the rail. That way the screw stayed completely inside the rail and came out the top into the drywall right alongside the fascia board. But, being angled, it continued on up into the center of the flange of the TJI joist that the fascia board is nailed to. That is the most solid fastening that is up there. I was very happy with the fit after I snugged the screw up with an impact driver. Now all that remains is to get a 5/8" dowel and plug the hole on the underside of the rail.

Next, I installed the shim behind the bracket and screwed the bracket to the back of the knuckle notch which completed the fastening. The rail was now very sturdy and strong being supported at the top and now in the middle. The lower end is now fixed in its final place so I can scribe the flat quarter-turn to fit against the newel post.

I made many attempts at clamping the quarter-turn in order to scribe it and all but the last of them gave me problems. With the thing finally clamped correctly, I tried to scribe the fitting for cutting. That was not easy.

I tried using a straight thin stick, a compass, and the scriber I had made for making the outside staircases. Some of the approaches sort-of worked for some of the sections, but none of the marks was very accurate or convincing. I wasn't happy with the results. I gave up for the time being and cleaned up the chip mess before calling it a day.

On Sunday morning, I started out by searching for a 5/8" dowel for plugging the hole in the top of the rail. Fortunately, I found one, so I didn't have to put it on my grocery list.

Then I turned my attention back to the quarter-turn. I couldn't see any way of doing the scribing any better, so I decided on using the marks that I had, cutting the piece slightly oversize where I didn't trust the marks, and then working the wood down after I get a closer fit. I decided to bite the bullet and saw into that expensive piece of wood. I removed it from the scribing jig.

There were two cuts to make: one was a square cut parallel to the square end that would shorten the piece, and the other was the cylindrical cut that needed to mate with the surface of the newel post. I started with the square cut because it was easier.

After setting up a sawing jig with clamps and a sawhorse, I sawed one end off the quarter-turn. I'll learn later whether the cut will work, but I think it will. Then I tried setting up a sawing jig for the cylindrical cut. That was tricky. I figured that to give me something to go on, I should clamp the piece so that the axis of the cylinder would be horizontal. That way I could sort of keep my eye on the saw blade to make sure it stayed level and pointed in the correct direction. I could also eyeball my scribe marks to see whether they looked right before I started sawing.

I tried several methods of clamping the piece and of figuring out the angles involved. I ended up with one that I think is right, but I am really not sure. Since I want to be sure before I cut, I left it for next week. I took a picture of it and then turned my attention to patching some torn spots in the big chair, and then I varnished the first coat on the top end of the rail and the knuckle notch. I decided to leave the rail installed the way it was, so it is now in its permanent place.

I left for home at about 12:15 happy with the amount of progress this week.

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