Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘carpentry

Beyond Sunset

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Once again, we put in a very full day hoping to reach the end of the deck renovation project. Having saved the worst for last, we were up against the most-used steps that had drooped out of level due to rotting and erosion below. That meant spending an uncomfortable amount of time under the deck.

I did have some regret that we didn’t choose to address this problem before finishing the floor above. I didn’t realize how extensive the problem was until we had pulled up the boards of the steps and observed the impact water runoff was having there.

With no real experience in this level of carpentry, I did my best to add some boards for support underneath and reuse as much as possible of the existing frame to create a sound platform for the new step boards above. That also required some added fill to build up the ground that had washed away over the years.

We needed to create new footings for the bottom of the steps so they weren’t exclusively hanging by the screws holding the frame against the main deck at the top.

After lunch, we took the ATV down to an old drainage spot that previous owners had filled with broken concrete. Ironically, evidence points to that debris having been dumped there after removing it from the very spot we were returning it to. It looks like there was once a concrete patio that got removed for the landscape pond and deck expansion at some point in the history of this property.

When those steps were completed, we were officially done with the portion we originally planned to redo. All that remained was the mission creep portion of replacing the top boards of the railing. We’d gone this far already, why stop now?

Since Mike had allowed us to hang on to his saws, we decided to cut the angles on boards for the railing, to have them ready for installation whenever we decide to get around to pulling off the old boards. That task of removal involves digging out the Phillips head screw slots so we can pull off the boards without damaging the wood below. One of the time-consuming aspects of this project that seems never-ending.

Marking and cutting railing boards pushed us past sunset last night. Cyndie took a photo in the waning light to mark the completion of the main steps.

I’m thinking about the money we saved.

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Written by johnwhays

October 27, 2019 at 9:46 am

Next Steps

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Blessed with another glorious day of blue sky and sunshine on a Friday, Cyndie and I returned to the deck refurbishing project yesterday. The temperature was a little harsh at the start but soon warmed to perfection. Even after I had removed all the screws from the set of steps we started on, I couldn’t get the boards loose until I figured out they were frozen in place. A little persuasion from a hammer was all it took to break the ice.

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I was grateful to have Mike’s power tools to create cut-outs on boards and lucky to have an old length of 4 x 4 in the shop to replace a rotted post on the railing of the second set of steps.

My perfectionistic desires are being seriously taxed by the difficulties of coping with inconsistencies in both the new wood and the old. I repeatedly measured twice before cutting and usually double-checked positioning before drilling in screws, but the results far too often failed to match my intentions.

Fortunately, my standards are loosening as the duration of this project drags on. I’m starting to view the imperfections as features. The misalignments are becoming quaint reminders of how much money we saved by doing this ourselves.

One example: I cut a new face board to go along with the replaced railing post and centered it on the middle frame board. After starting at the top and screwing in boards on each step, I discovered at the bottom that the middle frame board wasn’t actually centered between the ends.

I centered on something that wasn’t centered. Wonderful.

When one of my last boards with cut-outs was found to be off by a quarter-inch, I decided to simply cut an equal amount off the other end and have a symmetrical difference. Somehow, it still ended up lopsided once it was screwed down.

I swear, things move even after there are screws in place.

In the end, none of the small details I fret over will be noticeable to the casual observer. I’m practicing the art of being okay with the imperfections.

Maybe, just maybe, the end is within reach today. We are going to aim for that goal, especially since the weather is once again, perfectly accommodating.

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Coop’s Up

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My carpentry lesson is coming to its conclusion. Yesterday we finished the corner trim and some inside details, bringing us very close to the end of construction. There are several final things on the punch list yet to install, including hardware to critter-proof all the doors and a ramp for the tenants, but we are just about out of excuses for actually getting some birds.

Maybe we’ll get around to taking this to it’s logical conclusion.

Built using substantially salvaged materials, all the way down to some reclaimed nails, it came from this:

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IMG_iP1411e…to become this:

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Written by johnwhays

November 13, 2016 at 10:17 am

Adding Siding

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Record warmth yesterday, and we spent almost all of it chipping away at the somewhat tedious task of siding the chicken coop with salvaged lumber. It feels a little like I’ve made this project more complicated than it deserves, but I justify it in my mind as a good exercise in teaching myself carpentry skills.

I’ve never tried to make cabinets and had no clue about mounting a hinged door. We started small and did the narrow opening for accessing the poop board. It turned out a little too tight, but filing edges has been enough to make it work.dscn5427e

Next, we hung the three-hinge people door. I’m still unsure of the essential details that need to be considered, but somehow I seem to have faked my way through it and ended up with a door the appears to work perfectly.

Working in the hot sun was almost too uncomfortable, but since it is November, it seemed a little inconsiderate to frame that hardship as a complaint.

The warming of our planet does come with some short-term perks in the interim before whatever large-scale calamity will eventually doom civilization as we know it.

dscn5429eUsing the boards we salvaged from pallets, we are now slowly but surely working our way up the walls with a piecemeal patchwork of siding. It is creative fun for a while, and then gets a little too tricky around openings and edges that require excessive amounts of measuring and cutting to fit.

Whose idea was it to make this thing so complicated, anyway?

Good things come to those who wait, and with that, I expect to be happy with this mansion of a chicken coop when it is finally completed.

More importantly, it is my hope that some chickens will be very, very happy with it, too.

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Written by johnwhays

November 6, 2016 at 8:24 am

Frustrating Lessons

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I’m sorry, but I need to vent some frustration. I’ve taken on the project of building a woodshed, guided by a rudimentary plan I found on the internet, using mostly found materials, my meager collection of construction tools, and my distinct lack of experience with carpentry. One of the draws for me to undertake this effort on my own was the encouragement I read online at the site where I found the building plan, pointing out that a shed like this makes a great first attempt at constructing a building, because there are no codes to meet. Anything goes.

And what’s the worst that could happen if the shed fails? The stack of split firewood might topple over or get wet temporarily. It’s a pretty low-risk construction project.

What I am finding is, it has a high risk of causing me great frustration. Have I mentioned that I tend toward perfectionism on just this kind of task? I gotta admit, that very tendency toward perfectionism is a significant contributor to my lack of experience in doing something like building a shed out of found materials. I know in advance it is doomed from the start. Why would I choose to put myself through the exasperation?

Of course, Cyndie points out that this kind of thinking is my first problem.

I can’t argue that. I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to thinking like “the little engine that could.” It is hard to meditate on the “I think I can” mantra, when you already embody the notion that you “can’t.”

I didn’t just dive into this project willy-nilly. I hemmed and hawed over it. I trolled for friends with skills to do it for me. I let the idea of doing it myself stew for weeks, hoping time would either reveal another solution, or I’d magically become skilled by just thinking about it a lot. I thought about the materials the project would require, over and over, trying to determine the likelihood I could come up with everything I would need.

Here comes one of my first frustrations: It is only a simple woodshed. Why does my mind make it seem so complicated?

Eventually, I committed and began gathering materials. That phase took additional weeks for me to accomplish, between familiarizing myself with shopping lumber yards and making a decision on what to use.

IMG_2477eNow, as I’ve already written about here, I have the frame up, and as you can see, the rafters in place. (Thanks are due to my friend, architect Mike Wilkus, for teaching me how to mount the rafters to a log beam… cut a “bird’s-mouth” notch in the rafter!) After the exercise of this phase, my perfectionistic traits are irritated like a raw-rubbed blister.

I know that it is in my best interest to consider things like keeping it level and square. I would love to be able to do that. As a novice, I am struggling because the only straight line I have is a piece of tightened string, and my level. The log posts and beams are imperfect. The flat rocks I picked are imperfect. The lumber I have is all warped and twisted. I rarely have been able to reference anything trustworthy.

It hardly matters to the overall structure, but it matters to me, because I notice where it is off. Drives me nuts.

I don’t like hammering nails. They go most of the way in, then stop and bend. They go all the way in, and the head breaks off. They split the wood. They somehow repel my hammer and make me leave dents in the wood, all around the nail. Just when I think I’m getting the hang of it, my hand and arm get fatigued and the nails start bending again, and the wood gets more dents in it.

I prefer screws. My screws also can split the wood. The heads strip. The screwdriver bit strips. The screw goes 90% of the way in and then seizes. Finally, the head breaks off.

Both nails and screws jump out of my hands. They fly out of the wood as I’m starting. I drop the drill-driver from the ladder. I can’t reach from where the ladder is. I don’t have scaffolding, so I am up and down that ladder an uncountable number of times. I move it back and forth, bumping the beams overhead, knocking the rafters out of place.

Can I complain about the bugs? They aren’t unique to a carpentry project, but they have been adding to my frustration in this case.

The woodshed may be a good first structure to build, but I’m thinking I should be building a boat. I found myself cursing like a sailor at the frustrations over the weekend.

Cyndie is sweet to point out, regardless my frustrations, we’ve got the majority of the project accomplished, and I have to admit, I am pleased to be getting the shed I have all along envisioned for this spot. I think it will be perfect, even if it isn’t “perfect.”

Written by johnwhays

July 15, 2013 at 7:00 am