A chronicle of Mike and Julia's adventures creating a home on the Missouri range...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Raising Day part II

      It's a rainy day, it's a rainy day.... finally, a day to get caught up on blogging! I apologize for the long hiatus, we have been very, very busy working toward our roof goal on our house. And we have gotten a lot done! So much that this is going to be one long blog post. So let me back up. Here is about where we left off, with our jowl posts raised and frame pegged, with weeks of prep to do for our wall plate raising. Note the weather... we experienced many rainy, yucky days where our options were not getting much done or getting wet doing it. But we had many sunny days too, and so we proceeded slowly, bit by bit. My mantra lately has been a Creole saying, "piti, piti, le wazou fe nicheli" (translation: little by little the bird builds it's nest).  How true. If I allow myself to consider the whole of the work ahead of us, the project seems totally overwhelming and hopeless. So I break it down mentally into small goals, and then smaller steps to reach those goals. And the goal of this next phase was "wall plates".

     The first step toward the "wall plate" goal was notching the tops of our jowl posts into tenons. We used a string to lay out straight lines and square up our frame. (What a simple but invaluable tool a length of string is! I have lately been appreciating its virtues in building.) Then we chiseled out our tops to a consistent height. (We used a transit level to determine level from a nearby hill.) So here I am, adjusting to the height of our new working level. As you can see, a length of rope gave me more confidence working out on the ends of our scaffolding.

     We also had to cut mortoises for diagonal bracing coming off each jowl post. Again, more drilling, and cleaning out the holes with chisels and mallets. On rainy days we would work on cutting the corresponding tenons on our braces under the cover of our outdoor kitchen roof. Eleven braces and eight jowl posts later, we were... well, closer to ready. We began to start mentally preparing and scheduling our next raising day, when we would lift 36 ft. long logs horizontally in the air and set them down on the post and brace tops. This seemed even more daunting than our first raising day, and thus our thoughts ran toward hiring the help of some heavy lifting machinery. How much this would cost us, we didn't know, but a chance encounter with a friend of our neighbor Don Miller at a Halloween party brought the answer. Tom lives not so far away and was in the possession of a large tractor with a lifting arm and when he heard our situation, he generously agreed to help. We set a day, far enough off that we thought we'd have enough time to finish all that needed to be finished and then we continued work with new-found urgency. Braces had to go in and get temporarily braced in position, and our wall plates needed ten mortoises each. It was a stressful week of working every day lit hour, until we couldn't see anymore in the evenings, and sharing company with the early morning frost at the start of each day. But more than the stress of trying to meet our set raising day, was the stress of not really knowing if it would work to hoist the wall plates in the air and gently set them down onto ten little pieces of wood sticking up. A lot could go wrong....

      Around this time, I began resenting framing in round-wood. How much easier it would be to have a square-milled timber to prepare for such a raising! No irregular measurements and notching requirements. Our 36 ft. oak wall plate timbers were anything but straight, with a long taper and slight to not-so-slight bends along the whole length. We had to figure out the best side to position down to give us the straightest line across the top, and then we had to notch out a shoulder around each mortoise to make each brace and jowl hit at the same height. Again, ode to string! We strung a line on both sides and leveled each shoulder cut to those lines. And then drilled and chiseled. We were running out of time, and friends were generously helping to feed us so we could focus all of our time on getting things ready for our Saturday raising day. Saturday morning rolled around, a beautiful warm day, and our friends Brian and Dan, and then Mike and I were all chiseling out the last of the mortoises when Tom showed up. Like a storybook cliche, with not a minute to spare we were just barely finished in time to raise! But, would it work? Or would our hopes and dreams be dashed? (In case you can't tell, I am trying to recapture the suspense we felt that morning!)

      But, never fear! Yes! It worked! Tom centered the boom arm of the tractor on the log so that the weight was equal on either side and then chained it on. Then we started on the south side, the tall side, and Tom was just barely able to reach up high enough to get the log over top. Three of us were up on scaffolding, ready to do... something. We were deviating somewhat from what our guide book advised, and we weren't sure how it would go, or what we would actually do to get the wall plate to fit down on. Here was this heavy log dangling mid-air above ten little tenons. We figured out quickly that the heavy side wanted to drop on first and slowly, Tom was able to lower the log down so that it dropped inch by inch across, working from one side to the other. We prodded and poked tenons into position until we had the last one on. What a feat of measuring! We had gotten every mortiose cut just right to line up with each tenon! Even though this was our intention, even I was impressed that it had actually worked. And to say Tom was a wizard with this huge awkward machine would be an understatement. We were clearly sent the right help for the task: he was able to nimbly adjust height and depth positioning to the quarter-inch and dance around little trees we had planted below. It was like a tractor ballet. Encore! Literally. We had to do it a second time. 

      We entered our second log with much new-found confidence, and good thing, because we were off on some measurements this time. Two of our mortoises were cut an inch off, the result of haste and stress, and day-before debate about where to start measuring. I had drawn out several sets of measurements the night before and we had forgotten and drilled the wrong ones the next morning. Ugh.  What to do when your  800 lb. mistake is dangling in the air in front of you? Tom had the idea to move the post and brace over an inch. Strange that our seemingly solid frame is still so adjustable, but it was. We unbraced it and moved it with a single ratchet strap! And then repeat side one, drop down and sledge hammer into position. At this point, it occurred to me to grab a camera and start snapping the last five minutes so that we had a record of our hair-raising day. So here it is!

     It took a little adjusting later to get the wall plate to sit down just right on each tenon, but we got it in place and were able to take a little break for the rest of the weekend. So much to go, but so much behind us also! Our roundwood timberframe portion of the building triathalon (or is it a decathalon?) was finished (well, almost, only a little more pegging to go). Surely the roof framing would be but a moment's work in comparison.... Surely. Ha ha. Okay, I think the roof saga merits it's own post. Soon. It has stopped raining and I have some more framing to attend to! 

From the south
From the south-east

From the west, road-view