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Big milestone

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

We have spent the better part of a week working on this, and the vertical vigas and glulam are now in place. (A glulam, for the uninitiated, is a long structural timber made of several layers of wood that are laminated together – the crossbeam in this photo. Vigas are wood beams made of a single piece of wood-the round vertical beams in this photo.)

The hardest part of all of this was that the vigas and the glulam are all extremely heavy. After we moved the vigas, Brad drilled holes in the bottom of each one and epoxied in a long bolt.

A metal plate that was part of the mounting kit went on the bottom.

We then drilled holes in the slab into which the other end of the bolt would be epoxied.

It was difficult to get the viga lined up with the hole, and we wanted to do a “trial run” first (sans epoxy) to make sure the placement was right. Once you epoxy them in, that’s where they’ll be forever.

The next step was moving the glulam up to the roof. It was heavier than the vigas, so we used the truck to move it and got a lot of exercise hoisting it up.

Then we cut out notches where the glulam would sit in the viga. We used a chainsaw for this, another new experience. I thought I’d really like chainsawing, but as it turned out, we both hated it.

The final work was done with a chisel and grinder. The grinder was really useful for this.

On one end, we built a little stack of 2x6s for the end of the glulam to sit on while we seated the other end. (Note the rope. It was very windy the whole time we were doing this, making it all the more difficult. You wouldn’t think a gust of wind could blow over a piece of wood that weighs several hundred pounds, but it can and did.)

After trying to seat the glulam in place, it didn’t quite fit. Not only does the notch have to be the right size, but how square it is (how parallel all the parts are down the line) makes a big difference. So we went through this a few times…trying it, grinding, and trying it again.

Eventually, the clerestory windows will sit above the glulam, and the room in front of it will have a high ceiling with vigas in the ceiling. Building the pony wall for those windows is the next task.

Another day, another power tool

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

We got all the lath on, but ran out of staples to do the final nail-down. (We want it to be really tight to help with the stucco.) So, we had a day or two this week to work on other projects.

Brad worked on the columns for the solar, while I worked on the door for the battery house. I’m in charge of all the finishing.

Brad had suggested several times that I try his orbital sander, but I was reluctant. I did a lot of sanding when I was a kid (thanks, Dad, for the good training), and we always sanded by hand. I didn’t think any kind of power sander could do as well. But after many hours of hand sanding the door and some stubborn spots that I couldn’t quite work out, I decided to try the orbital sander.

Surprise — I liked it! (This is a pattern with Brad and I. He often suggests something for me to try — usually computer related — that I resist for many months and then think it’s great. Examples include a USB drive, IMAP, and Thunderbird.)

One thing I really like about the orbital sander is that you have a lot of control with it. It’s small and light (not unlike the palm nailer) and doesn’t feel like it might get away from you. The door (and table) is looking really good now.

We have an inspection on the lath scheduled for Monday. Keep your fingers crossed. This is the first inspection that I really feel like they’re looking at my work.

Christmas came early

Friday, December 4th, 2009

My life has changed! I have discovered the palm nailer.

It you don’t have one of these, you really must get one. (I’d recommend Porter-Cable. I love their tools.) Here’s how it works:

Barry brought us one when he came to visit last week. When he showed it to me, he had a look on his face like it was something really special. Kind of like he was showing a giant chocolate cake to someone who’d never seen or tasted one before. I was thankful for any new tool (he also brought us a nail gun) but didn’t fully appreciate how great this was.

I’d seen some kind of corner nailer on TV and wanted one.  It’s supposed to make nailing into corners easier. It’s a handheld thing that you put a nail in the and then it hammers it in for you. With all the problems I’m having with my hands, I thought it might be worthwhile.

The palm nailer is all that and more. First of all, it’s pneumatic (runs off compressed air), which is essential, because it means it has real power.

It works not only in corners but everywhere. I will use it for almost everything from now on.

The nail gun is great too, but the palm nailer has several advantages to me. First, it’s not remotely dangerous. I can imagine nailing myself with a nail gun (and have heard the story about Doug about a hundred times) but not with the palm nailer. It’s very gentle and innocuous. It’s also a lot lighter than the nail gun, which is especially good when you’re nailing overhead. And of course, it’s super small so you can use it almost anywhere.

For a just a minute or two, I wondered if it was lazy or somehow inauthentic to use a power nailer. Then I thought about accounting. I’m glad I know how to do debits and credits by hand on ledgers. Having actually done that, I better understand the process and how the various accounts work. But would I ever think of running a business without an accounting software package? No.

I think that the nail gun and the palm nailer together will probably save us hundreds of hours on the rest of the building. (Just today, I did some work that I never would have finished in a single day without them.) And the pain and wear and tear on my hands that this will eliminate is incalculable.

Me and my new nail gun