Construction Journal Entry Week of 4/5/20

4/4-17/20 I went up to Camp Serendipity for two straight weeks, from Saturday to Friday.

On Saturday morning, I loaded the truck with a two-week supply of food and supplies and headed to the mountains to self-quarantine. Almitra had come home from Europe to stay with us and since I was most at risk in the household, I matched her mandatory 14-day quarantine.

On the way in, I tested cell phone and Internet reception to find out where the closest access was to the cabin. The closest Internet access was at the Ranger Station. The closest cell service was at the school bus turnaround, which I already knew.

I arrived at Camp Serendipity at 1:00, hoisted the flag, built a fire in the stove, hauled my gear up the concrete staircase in 3 trips, had my lunch, and then my usual nap. About all I got done when I got up was to put away my gear and get settled in for a nice long stay.

On Sunday, I applied the final coat of varnish on the guardrail. Then I wire brushed, cleaned in paint thinner, and bent 16 rebar blanks into balusters for the handrail which is the next project. Then I set up scaffolding alongside the staircase so I could work on the entire staircase from the outside. I loaded the 16 balusters into the painting rack and then had my lunch and a nap.

When I got up, it was sunny and warm outside, so I primed and then painted the 16 balusters. Then I got the wheelbarrow out and harvested four or five loads of firewood from around the top of the concrete staircase. I used my handy-dandy firewood picker-upper to toss the firewood from the ground to the wheelbarrow.

Next, I brought the rack of balusters inside to dry and then drilled 28 pilot holes in the ends of the treads at each of the baluster sites. In the process, I realized that baluster #6 should be anchored one tread below where I had figured it to go. That meant that baluster #6 was too short and that I needed to make a longer replacement. No problem.

On Monday, Dave called first thing in the morning and we had another delightful conversation. After we hung up, I made a new #6 and placed it in the painting rack along with four others that needed a paint touch-up. Then I painted the five balusters.

Using the same technique I had used on the guardrail, I installed 22 of the handrail balusters before I stopped for lunch and a nap. When I got up, I finished installing the rest of the handrail balusters except for the three in the top tread that are beyond the Grid C2 column, which will also serve as a newel post.

Before I quit for the night, I decided it was time to open and clean out the mason bee block. The bees were hatching, and I wanted to get the block cleaned and ready for its new generation of occupants. It was fun watching the little guys make their first flights.

On Tuesday I started out by drilling and installing the temporary scrap 2x4 as a stand-in handrail. I don't want to drill the real rail until I am absolutely sure I know how to do it right. After getting the 2x4 installed, I had my lunch and a nap.

Next, I turned on the outside hose and set about getting the irrigation system going for the season. As soon as I did, there were two big geysers spouting up where some animal had bitten through the hose. I turned the water off again, disconnected the hose, drained it, dried it out and taped up the holes with some fancy black tape that was advertised on TV. Then with the water back on, I found no more leaks in the hoses and got the irrigation going to Paul, Brian, and the little volunteer cedar tree on the skid trail.

Then I got the hydraulic ram pump out of storage and brought it up to the creek and hooked it back up. It started pumping right away and I was happy about that.

I checked the intake end of the pipe and was surprised to discover that the hardware cloth strainer that was over the end had completely vanished with no trace. I can't imagine that anyone ran off with it so the only thing I could figure is that it had completely dissolved. That really surprised me. I checked for obstructions that might plug up the pipe without the strainer, but there weren't any at the time I checked. I'll have to think about making a more robust strainer.

When I was walking back to the cabin, I saw that Brian was getting no water. Further on, I saw that the fittings around the spigot in the hose between Dave and Dan was leaking pretty badly. I thought that was the problem, so I replaced a really bad fitting that was wound with old duct tape and got the joint to be tight. I went back up to Brian and saw that there was still no water coming out.

I couldn't figure out why until I got back to the cabin again and saw that the fancy black tape had completely failed, and the geysers were squirting again. I shut the water off, disconnected the leaky hose so it could drain and then went in for the night.

On Wednesday I began cutting the knuckle notch in the Grid C2 column. I got it about half done before lunch and a nap. When I got up, I patched the leaky hose with duct tape and got the irrigation system going again. Then I went up to the ram pump and got it going again. It had stopped but all I had to do to start it was to push the flapper down once and it started right up. I really don't understand that thing.

On Thursday morning, Dave called, and we had another great conversation. After we hung up, I went out and was happy to find that the ram pump was still running but the flow at Andrew was very slow. It was fast enough to drip irrigate so I left it alone.

Back in the cabin, I finished cutting the knuckle notch before lunch and a nap. Then I got the chainsaw going and took it up to the bluff to buck up the tree that had fallen across the trail. I needed to make a wheelbarrow trail through there and that tree was in the way. I also bucked up a bunch of other big firewood pieces while I was up there.

When I finished on the bluff, I came down and inspected the rhubarb. It looks like it is off to a healthy start. I cleared away a lot of competitors to it. Then I checked on the ram pump and was happy that it was still pumping.

On Friday, I chamfered, rasped and sanded the knuckle notch so that it was ready for its first coat of varnish. Then I cleaned up the chip mess that I had made and then vacuumed the floor. After lunch and a nap, I checked on Andrew and was happy that the pump was still working. Then I took the wheelbarrow up to the bluff and hauled four of the rounds I had cut from the tree trunk and brought them down to the cabin. I think the tree was what the loggers call a piss fir which means that it is either a grand fir or a white fir or something else. At any rate, it is not a Doug fir, so it is considered inferior both as timber and as firewood. But I wanted to know how well it split and burned anyway.

I split and stacked the four rounds and took some of the wood up to the back porch.

On Saturday morning, I built a fire in the stove using the piss fir. I found that it was nice and dry and burned very well. It will make plenty good firewood.

I varnished the first coat on the knuckle notch and then went out to check on the sequoias. They were all doing fine, and the ram pump was still running.

Next, I went looking for some pipes that I could use to adjust the bends in some of the handrail balusters which were not quite plumb. I thought I could bend the rebar by using the baluster itself as a lever with the bent end anchored in the tread. But I found that the wood isn't strong enough and will crack before the rebar bends.

I could anchor the end of the baluster in the vise but that would mean going down to the crawlspace to make each bending adjustment. Instead, I thought I could anchor the rebar in the end of a fairly long half-inch galvanized pipe if I had one.

After thinking about it, I realized that I did have such a pipe down at the old trailer site. I went down, got the pipe, and cleaned it up. Then, after some more searching, I found a big pipe clamp that looked like it would work perfectly to anchor the bent end of the rebar.

I set up a bending jig with the pipe and the pipe clamp forming a V lying on a plywood tabletop with the apex of the V resting on a sawhorse. Then, to adjust the angle of a baluster, I would insert the straight end of the baluster all the way into the pipe and then clamp the bent end of the baluster in the pipe clamp jaws. Then the legs of the V made nice long lever arms that I could use to change the angle of the bend in just the right amount.

After proving that the method works, I had my lunch and a nap. Then I gave Earl a call and visited with him and his caregiver Judy on the phone for a while. I learned that Patty had had her hip replacement surgery and was home recovering.

When we hung up, I refined my rebar bend adjustment scheme. First, I got Leonard's long mason's level and made a mark on it with a sharpie. Then, to adjust a baluster, I stood the level vertical so that the bottom was right against the base of the baluster. Then holding the level plumb, I measured the horizontal distance between the baluster and the sharpie mark on the level. I memorized that distance and used the rubber hammer to knock the baluster out of the tread.

Then I took the baluster out to the bending jig on the front porch, inserted it into the pipe, clamped the bent end in the pipe clamp and then gently pushed on the pipe until the pipe clamp just started to move. Then I measured the distance between two marks I had made on the pipe and on the pipe clamp that corresponded to the mark on Leonard's level.

Then I added, or subtracted, the two numbers, depending on the direction the bend needed to go, to arrive at a target number. I wrote that number down so I wouldn't forget it, and then either squeezed the two pipes together or drew them apart until I thought the bend was right.

Then I gently pushed on the pipe like I had done before until the other pipe just started to move. Then I measured the distance between the marks on the two pipes to see how close it was to the target. By repeating this process a few times, I got so that I could usually hit the target after just one or two iterations.

It was gratifying to see that as I replaced the adjusted balusters one by one, they all ended up sticking up perfectly plumb.

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