Construction Journal Entry Week of 4/12/20

On Sunday, 4/12/20, I made a drawing of the rail-1/4-turn interface. I needed to know exactly where the bottom of the rail would end, and the 1/4-turn connect to it. The problem was that the two parts would be connected by a 3 1/2" rail bolt that would be running inside along the axis of the rail, and that somewhere near there, there would be a baluster going up into the rail. They had to miss each other. To decide how to do it, I needed an accurate drawing, which I made.

After deciding on a strategy and the hole placement, I removed the temporary 2x4 rail, and then had my lunch and a nap.

When I got up, I went outside and set up a shade for Paul, the sequoia tree. Earl had agreed with me that sunburn was a possible cause for the tree looking so sickly and that some sort of shade might help. To make the shade, I hung some boughs from a string I strung across in front of Paul.

While I was up on the bluff, I checked on the cedar trees and was happy to see them all thriving. I also was happy to find that the ram pump was still pumping.

Back at the cabin, I removed the Styrofoam blocks from the crawl space vent openings. Then I went inside and made the measurements for the hole spacing in the handrail.

On Monday, I sanded and varnished the second coat on the knuckle notch. Then I checked the hole placement measurements and transferred them to the rail. Then I had my lunch and a nap.

When I got up, I walked to the school bus turnaround and called Bill. We talked for an hour and he filled me in on the details of the theft of his truck and the aftermath. What a mess. Poor guy. He didn't need that.

When I got back, I went to the sequoia grove and replaced the wye valve between Dan and Dave that I had refurbished. I checked and found that the ram pump was working but the flow was slow.

Back in the cabin, I did another check of the hole pattern on the rail and found that it was very bad. Instead of measuring, I laid the rail on its side on the staircase right up against the balusters and clamped it there. Then, one by one, I plumbed each baluster and used a combination square and a sharpie to mark where the hole should go. I trusted this method more than the measurement method and decided to drill the holes. As an old friend, Homer Venishnick, used to say, a good guess is better than a bad measurement. Once the marks were made, I turned the rail end for end and clamped it in the drilling position, ready to be drilled in the morning.

On Tuesday I started out by experimenting with different size bits. I had used a half-inch bit for the guard rail and Bill thought that was too big. It would allow the balusters to rattle. So, after making a few test holes, I decided on using a 7/16" bit. With that decision made, I proceeded to drill all 28 holes in the rail.

Then, anxious to see the result, I set up the rigging to allow me to get all the balusters inserted into their holes in the rail. The rigging included a 4-foot, or so, 1x2 with a hole in the top, that was clamped to the newel post sticking straight up. Then I found a light cord and wrapped it around the end of the rail several times each time going through a wire hook I had made. Then when I tightened and tied off the cord, the hook was securely fastened to the rail.

Then I ran a little heavier cord through the hole in the 1x2. One end of the cord had a loop that engaged the hook on the rail. The other end ran straight down along the 1x2, passed around the lower clamp, and then up again with a tautline hitch near the clamp.

With the rigging in place, I lifted up on the end of the rail and kept sliding the tautline hitch up as I went so that the rail could be suspended as high as I wanted. I stopped when the rail was a foot or so higher than the top of the lowest baluster. Meanwhile, the top of the rail was resting on the top tread of the staircase.

With the bottom of the rail suspended, I walked up the stairs, picked up the top end of the rail and set it down on top of the top baluster with the baluster going into the top hole. As it went in, I guided the second and even the third balusters into their holes as well. Then, by tapping on the rail with the rubber hammer, it went down far enough so that a few more balusters reached their holes and started in.

When no more balusters would go in their holes, I walked down the stairs and slid the tautline hitch down just slightly so that the end of the rail dropped just an inch or so. Then up the stairs again and a few more balusters could now enter their holes.

I kept repeating this process until all the balusters were in their holes and I had used the rubber hammer to drive the rail down as far as it would go.

I was very happy with the result. All the balusters looked nice and plumb and it was time for my lunch and nap. When I got up, I went outside and checked on the sequoias and the ram pump . It was still going, but the flow was even slower than before.

Back in the cabin, I put away the scaffolding, jigs, and some extra lumber and then vacuumed the place.

On Wednesday, I made a careful detailed drawing of the over-easing. I needed that in order to figure out how to cut it to match my stair pitch. I also needed it to design how the top of the rail was going to interface with the over-easing and then with the two 1/4-turns and finally the rail run back to the Grid C2 column. After I had decided on that design, I proceeded to cut the over-easing using a hand saw. I then laid out the three baluster sites on the top tread.

After lunch and a nap, I went into the woods and found that Andrew was getting water but at the rate of only one drop per eight of my heartbeats. I figured that I needed to go to the ram pump and open the output valve more to see if I couldn't get more flow.

I did a lot of tinkering with the output valve, opening it only a quarter of a turn at a time. The pressure stayed pulsing between 40 psi and 35 psi which should have been plenty of pressure to get the water up over the ridge and down the other side.

I made three trips over the ridge between Andrew and the pump checking the results of my adjustments. In the end, I had the valve all the way open and the tree was still getting a very slow drip. I gave up and went back to the cabin very confused.

In order to proceed with the design of the top of the rail, I needed to make an accurate plan drawing. The scale needed to be 1"=2" in order to fit on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper and I didn't have an architect's scale. But it is easy to halve all the numbers to make the drawing at 1"=2" without the scale.

I had just gotten started setting things up to do the drawing when John called. We had a delightful and long conversation. I was happy to hear that he was having just as much fun as I was during the stay-at-home circumstances. He has plenty of fun projects to keep him engaged. The day was over by the time we hung up.

On Thursday I set up a real nice drafting table in the loft. I found my old T-square up there and it worked perfectly against the edge of the table without a drawing board. I didn't have any triangles up there, but I had a cardboard triangle I had made earlier as a pitch gauge for the staircase. That worked fine against the T-square.

I taped my sheet of paper down to the table, just as Professor Valdemar Valdez had taught me in Engineering Drawing class some sixty years ago. Long ago I had analyzed my college experience and concluded that the only skills I had learned in college that were at all useful in my daily life were those I learned in that class. I felt really good as I proceeded to construct my plan drawing. I also plan to bring up my drawing instruments on my next trip.

In the process of making accurate measurements in order to make my drawing, I discovered that the 1/4-turns were not uniform. Some had longer legs than others. That was good to know because one of them needed to be just a bit longer than nominal. That long one got earmarked for that position.

I finished the drawing and the plan for the rail termination and was very happy with the results. The scrap from cutting the rail to length is just about exactly the length needed to complete the structure by interfacing with the column. My scraps are all going to be very small.

I was also very happy with my drafting table. Andrew had given us a nice upholstered office swivel chair which worked perfectly with the table for drawing. It will also work perfectly as a piano bench when I bring my birthday-gift-electronic piano up and set it on the other side of the same table. I am eagerly looking forward to that.

After having my lunch and a nap, I went into the woods and found that Andrew's hose was completely dry. I went over to the pump and found that it had stopped. I re-started it and checked for water flow at each of the uphill side hose junctions. There was some flow in the lower ones, but the higher I went, the less flow until at the top of the ridge there just wasn't enough pressure to get the water up there. I had checked the hoses for leaks and found none. I was baffled.

I beat my way through the bushes scouting for alternative hose routes that might not have to make as much elevation gain, but I couldn't find any such route. I gave up.

I went back to the cabin and got two buckets. One was the dribble bucket I had set up last year and I set it up again and filled it up with water. Unless I can figure out what is wrong with the ram pump , I will just have to water Andrew by carrying water up the hill.

There were two 5-gallon buckets of chainsaw dust on the front porch that I decided to take into the woods and spread on the trails. After doing that, I went back to the cabin and switched the ventilation fan ducting valve to summer mode.

On Friday morning Dave called and we had a nice, fairly long conversation that was abruptly interrupted by a brief power outage. The power came back on right away, but the phone was out for about an hour before it came back. By then, both Dave and I had gone back to work.

I went out and filled Andrew's dribble bucket. Then I removed the handrail and chiseled out the recess on the bottom of it to accommodate the rail support bracket that will fasten it to the knuckle notch. Then I screwed the bracket to the rail and re-installed the rail. Then I had my lunch and a nap.

When I got up, I made a circular shim that was necessary to position the support bracket properly. I had dug the knuckle notch about a quarter of an inch too deep. With the shim in place, I drove in the screw securely fastening the top of the rail to the log column. The top of the rail now felt sturdy and strong.

Next, I packed up my gear, loaded it into the truck and headed for home. On the way, the truck developed an awful intermittent growling sound. When I stopped for gas in Woodinville, I called Maddy and he suspected a wheel bearing going bad. I will have to take the truck in and get it fixed next week before I can come back up. It's always something.

Go to Next Journal Entry
Previous Journal Entry

Index to all Journal Entries
Go To Home Page

©2020 Paul R. Martin, All rights reserved.