Construction Journal Entry Week of 3/29/20

3/31-4/2/20 I went up to Camp Serendipity for 3 days: Tuesday through Thursday.

There was almost no traffic on Highway 2 until I got to Scenic. There, the road was closed for avalanche control. Fortunately, I only had to wait 14 minutes to get going again. But this time I was in a clot of cars and trucks and we all followed two snowplows all the way up and over the pass down to the railroad tunnel portal. I arrived at Camp Serendipity at 10:40.

I turned the truck around and parked at the foot of the concrete staircase. There was no snow on the trails above and below the stairs, so I didn't put on my Sorel boots for the first time this year. I carried my gear up the stairs in one trip, hoisted the flag, built a fire in the wood stove, and called Earl.

He told me that he was under quarantine because one of his caregivers had gotten sick. She wasn't tested for COVID-19, but he was quarantined all the same. I told him that our daughter was coming in from The Netherlands on Saturday and needs to be quarantined in our house for 14 days. I plan to quarantine myself for those 14 days at Camp Serendipity, so I will be spending Friday loading up supplies to last me two weeks.

When we hung up, I went to work scraping the inside surface of the rail fitting. Then after lunch and a nap, I went back to work scraping and got it nearly to fit against the newel post before I quit for the day.

On Wednesday, I called Robert first thing to let him know about my quarantine plans. He brought me up to date on his plans and on his experiences with the virus problem.

After breakfast, I did a little more scraping and got the part to fit well enough. Then I drilled the holes for the two lag-stud fasteners that will hold the fitting to the rail and the newel post.

The fitting is barely big enough for the fasteners, in fact it is not big enough to use them as intended. I had to hacksaw at least 1/4" off each of the stud ends of the fasteners. That meant the holes were closer to the interface than they were supposed to be, but I figured that there would still be enough wood to make them plenty strong.

It was very tricky getting the fasteners installed. One lag had to go into the newel post and the other had to go into the end of the rail. That meant both holes and the nuts were in the fitting.

Just getting the fitting over the two lag screws was tricky. I had to loosen the bracket at the knuckle notch so that I could pull the rail over far enough to get the fitting over the screws. Then getting the nuts started on the bolts was a trick in itself. The rail company had furnished me with a very slick tool intended for the purpose and it sort of worked. But it was indispensable. I had to make a few modifications and use some other tricks to get both nuts started.

Since I didn't want to do that again, I decided to loosen the nuts but leave them started and apply the glue in the cracks that opened up between the fitting and the newel post and between the fitting and the rail.

Before gluing, I had my lunch and a nap. When I got up, I went outside and harvested some firewood from Little Yosemite that the loggers had left there. Since the snow had melted and the firewood had been in direct sun for a while, it looked like it just might be dry enough to burn.

Back in the cabin, I masked the newel post and the stairs to keep glue from dripping on them and then I applied the glue to the inside of the cracks. Then I torqued the nuts down tight to draw the joints together for the final time. I was happy with the result.

After dinner, I glued the two wood plugs in the holes under the fitting. One of them took quite a bit of cutting because the nut was a lot closer to the surface than it should have been, and it interfered with the plug.

On Thursday morning, I removed the clamp and the masking and was happy with the result. Then I used a couple different small rasps to shape the rail and the fitting where they didn't quite line up. Bill had told me that it is not easy, or even possible, to get the fitting to match and line up perfectly so I was prepared to do some rasping to get them to match.

Once I had the parts shaped so they matched, I used 120 grit paper to sand them smooth. I also sanded the knuckle notch and the end of the rail with 220 grit paper to prepare them for their third and final coat of varnish. After cleaning up all the dust and scrapings, I varnished all the parts I had prepared. I really like the way it looks.

I had my lunch, packed up, and left for home at 1:15, looking forward to coming right back in two days.

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