Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Chapter 6 - Getting Started

Chapter 6 - Getting Started
Now that I had a tiny bit of experience, a plan blessed by my guru and a timber-framing design engineer, a sawyer anxiously awaiting my timber order and my brand new mallet and chisel, all I needed was some tools. I started with the obvious shop related stuff, a heavy-duty circular saw, an 18-inch long, one inch auger bit and appropriate drill, a hand planer and a belt sander. My framing cohorts recommended, in addition to my 1 1/2-inch chisel and mallet, I get a 2-inch chisel and a 1-inch corner chisel. They also suggested that I make some sheaths to protect these chisels and their absolutely necessary razor sharp cutting edges. Raising experience told me I would need lots of strong straps, a couple of heavy-duty come-alongs, and some heavy-duty ratchet straps. To replace Ed’s truck mounted crane, I bought an engine hoist capable of lifting 2000 pounds eight feet into the air.
As soon as I gave my shopping list of timbers ("Timber List") to Keith, another vexing problem appeared. How am I going to transport all of these timbers from Keith’s cutting site to Colorado? The biggest and heaviest thing that I had ever moved was a piano! The idea of moving scores of giant timbers, weighting many tons, half way across the country was a bit out of my experience. Fortunately, Keith was very helpful and somewhat experienced in these matters. Keith had an old backhoe with forks to lift timbers and I found a local trucker that had a 48-foot flatbed truck who was willing to tote them to Colorado. Other than the coordination necessary to arrange for the timbers, the truck and the backhoe to all be present at the same place at the same time, all I needed was lots of one-inch ratchet straps to bundle together a manageable and well-organized collection of timbers.
As part of my Timber List, I kept track of the weight of the timbers so that I could transport a building package to Colorado that was under the load limit of the truck. The timber list indicated the timbers would weigh about 65,406 pounds or about 33 tons. My reference sources and weighing experiments indicated that four and a half pounds per board foot was a pretty good oak density guess. Assuming a trucking load limit of 20 tons, I figured that, including the boards it would take three truckloads to move all of the oak to Colorado. This fit nicely with three building stages, the deck, the first floor framing and the roof.
Since my timber list indicated that the deck framing would weigh 24,738 pounds, I figured that I had lots of spare capacity on the first load for boards, the engine crane and my sawhorses. Much too my surprise, the first truckload was several tons overweight and two bundles of joists wound up being offloaded in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
 The second trip, a year later, I was more conservative and managed to keep from overloading the truck. On the third and final trip another year later, we had to load the rest of the timbers and boards that I had collected. This time we took the truck to a local weigh station and discovered that again, I wanted more wood on the truck than the truck and shipping regulations would allow. Returning the overloaded truck to Linda’s yard, we unloaded a ton or two of boards and solved this problem. Of course, now we had a new problem – the couple of tons of boards stuck in Pennsylvania. Since the long-term plan called for Linda to move into our house when I got it finished, we figured that these boards would eventually come along with our other precious stuff.
It seemed logical to model my build-a-timber-framed-house plan after the methodology that I had learned in Ed’s shop. The necessary timbers were stacked at one end of the shop, the joinery was created in the middle of the shop, and the finished and labeled timbers were stacked at the other end of the shop. When all of the necessary timbers had been crafted, the forklift deposited them on a truck, hauled them to the building site, and the crane and crew assembled the finished structure in short order. 
Unfortunately, my facilities were a bit more primitive than Ed’s. Linda’s two-car garage workshop space just did not compare with Ed’s huge shop and overhead traveling winch setup. My timbers got slid, rolled and lifted by hand from the raw material pile to the sawhorses and then to the finished pile. My tools were the less expensive homeowner variety, rather than the huge industrial models. Ed’s 12-inch hand planer was far more efficient than my 3-inch planer. My 7 1 / 2-inch circular saw just could not do what Ed’s band saw and 10-inch and 14-inch circular saws could do. The unfinished timbers had to live in a pile outside under a tarp. The three-foot snowstorm in the middle of the deck frame construction project made things a bit more complicated too.
What really made me abandon this scheme though were the problems that I encountered once I had crafted the deck timbers and transported them to Colorado for assembly. The deck timbers were cut and test fitted in the winter of 1995 and then assembled in the summer of 1996. In this interim, several of my finely crafted joints had altered their shape. Furthermore, the humidity difference at sea level in Pennsylvania and 7,500 feet in Colorado conspired to quickly alter their shape even more drastically. After much joint tuning, I managed to get the deck frame assembled. I noticed that making and installing the freshly cut parts for the daylight basement opening and stairwell went much easier.
It dawned on me that cutting timbers in Pennsylvania and assembling them many months later in Colorado was not a good plan. Although moving the project to Colorado did not sit well with Linda and me from a romantic point of view, we decided that we would do whatever we had to do to get this project completed. I rented a U-haul trailer and moved my tools, the project and me to Colorado. My 8 by 12-foot on-site shed that was meant for storage suddenly became home.

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