Construction Journal Entry Week of 2/6/22

2/7-11/22 I went up to Camp Serendipity for five days: Monday through Friday.

The temperature was 43 degrees when I arrived at 11:45. Once again there had been no plowing activity in the driveway. I was able to easily walk up the trails, which were frozen hard, and the staircase, which was bare and dry, and brought my gear up in three trips. It was a beautiful sunny day and the solar gain had raised the temperature inside the cabin to 74 degrees. I brought a brand-new heater with me but since the old one was still working, I'll wait awhile to install it.

After lunch and a nap, I discovered that one of the log rails on the back porch had warped and caused 8 balusters to come out of their sockets. I don't know if the warpage was due to freezing or getting wet or what. But I worked out a plan for getting the balusters seated again. Then I practiced the piano.

On Tuesday it was 28 degrees outside when I got up. After practicing the piano, I finished installing the kitchen light fixture which amounted to inserting a new bulb I had brought with me and then adjusting the central pipe in the fixture so that it could take the finished nut on the bottom. I was a little doubtful at first that it would work but it worked fine. Then I got a start on the loft lights by inspecting the fixtures.

Robert showed up and we had a nice visit in the cabin. After he left, I had my lunch and a nap. When I got up, I went to work on the first loft light, which is the one nearest the dining room, and discovered it was going to be difficult. One problem was that the electrical box was off center so that the cover for the fixture didn't fit in the recess in the log. And of course, just working straight overhead makes it that much harder. After struggling a while, chiseling the opening in the log and re-installing the electrical box, I spent the rest of the afternoon writing.

On Wednesday the temperature was up to 36 degrees outside when I got up and it stayed sunny all day. After practicing the piano, I went back to the loft light and struggled with it some more.

I was not impressed with the engineering of the fixture. The first problem was that the strap that spans the electrical box holds the green screw, which is a requirement, but the screw was on the top of the strap so after it was installed the screw would be up inside the electrical box. There would be no way to get a screwdriver in there to fasten the ground wire. I took the screw out and inserted it on the other side of the strap figuring that would solve the problem. But when I tried to fasten the ground wire, I couldn't tighten the screw. I discovered that the problem was that the screw wasn't threaded all the way to the head and the gap that was unthreaded was thicker than the sheet metal, so the screw just spun without tightening.

I went down to my supply in the crawlspace and got an American made green screw thinking that would fix the problem. The screw was threaded all the way down, but when I tried it, I found out that the Chinese screw was smaller in diameter. The standard green screw did not fit in the hole. With my frustration mounting, I went down to the truck, retrieved my tap and die set, went back to the loft, enlarged and tapped the hole in the strap so it could take the American green screw, and finally screwed it in.

That was just one of the design and engineering problems I faced. The worst one was that the electrical wire from the fixture that goes into the electrical box must go through the central threaded pipe. But the way the fixture fastens to the pipe is by spinning the entire fixture so that it screws up onto the pipe. That means the wires will get a twist for every turn. And that means that connecting them with the wire nuts must wait until it's screwed in. But by then, the cover is closed up and you can't get in to connect the wires.

After lunch and a nap, I went back to the light fixture and finished installing it. I had to leave the wires peeking out between the log and the cover so that I could connect them with the wire nuts, tuck them back in, and then take up another turn to secure the fixture. It was tricky and aggravating but I got it done. I took a picture of the result and spent the rest in the afternoon writing.

On Thursday it was 34 degrees outside when I got up but when I went out to hoist the flag, I discovered that the snow was frozen hard and was very slick. I resolved that from now on, I would have my ice grippers for my boots handy at all times so that I could use them at times like this.

After practicing the piano, Robert called and updated me on his progress in getting their business ready to open. Next, I installed 3 American green screws in the straps for the remaining three loft fixtures to avoid the problem I had with the first one.

Then I went out on the back porch to execute my well-thought-out plan to re-install the eight loose balusters. After setting up all the tools and equipment I needed, which included a makeshift vice of a vice-grip sandwiched between two concrete blocks, I discovered that the log that had warped had gone back to its original shape. Now the balusters fit in the original holes as originally designed. But now they were outside the top rail and wouldn't go back in easily.

So instead of my original elaborate plan, I came up with a new, simpler plan. I found two boards that were just the right length to make a lever to spread the top and bottom rails apart. One board rested on the lower rail with the top of the board just an inch or so under the bottom of the top rail. Then with a short 2x4 stuck in between 2 balusters under the top rail and over the top of the first board, I had a stout lever that easily spread the two rails apart. I replaced all 8 balusters and then relaxed my lever. It was simple and quick, and all the balusters were back where they belong. That left me enough time to vacuum the entire first floor before my lunch and a nap. As a reward, I spent the entire afternoon writing.

On Friday morning the temperature outside was 26 degrees. I practiced the piano, listened to the radio, had my lunch, packed up my gear, and left for home at 12:30. Little by little I am making some progress on a number of fronts. It was another good week.

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