The Deck

The deck is done. It was “mostly done” when Dan left on Sunday, but I still had to put the handrails on the stairs and take one more load of old wood to the transfer station (i.e. dump). Sounds easy, right? Not the way I do things, me bucko.

First, I had to make all the cuts on the balusters (1×2s) that hold up the handrails. I borrowed Chris Leone’s radial arm saw for that job. The east stairs were designed as a 3×4x5 triangle, so the angle of the rail is 37 degrees - from the horizontal. But when you make the cut for the siderail, it must be 53 degrees from the edge of the board. But the saw is limited to 45 degrees. So you set it for 37 and position the wood…oh, you figure it out.

Then there’s the 45 degree cut that’s already made on the balusters, which is confusingly close to the angle of the other cuts. So when you shorten the baluster near the bottom of the stairs, it’s easy to end up with two useless pieces. In addition, there’s keeping track of which side of the stairs you’re working on and which side of the rail the balusters should be affixed. And what about when it rains? I had to work in the garage, making it that much harder to take a peek at the stairs to check the geometry. So I was lucky that only once did I have to unscrew all nine balusters and reinstall them on the other side of the diagonal handrail.

The other stairs were built at a 34 degree angle, which doesn’t sound much different from 37 degrees, but these things have a way of mattering. And no matter how well you do the geometry, reality comes out a little different. And drilling the screw holes with a rhododendron branch digging into the small of your back adds a lot of discomfort to the equation.

Finally, there’s the cleanup. I waited until all the cuts were made before making the last trip to the dump with the waste wood. Today, that was done.

Actually, that was yesterday. The place was even smellier than it was when Dan and I were there the previous Saturday. Also, I must have hit something because I got a flat tire on the way home. I made it to Beverwyck road before I noticed it, and then had to find a place to pull over. I found a place just south of the 280 exit ramp and proceeded to change the tire. Fortunately, I had brought a water bottle and the paper with me because I though I might have to wait a long time at the dump. As it was, the dump went quickly, but the rest of the day didn’t.

When I finished changing the tire (in brutal heat and humidity) and putting the equipment away, the car wouldn’t start. I called mom to get the number of the Exxon travel club so I could call for a tow. They said it might be up to an hour, so I went across the street and propped myself against a shade tree to do the crosswords. Almost an hour later, the truck showed up and took me to the Firestone on Rt. 46. Naturally, it being Friday afternoon, they were booked solid and said I would have to leave the car. I called mom (who had wisely postponed going to lunch) to pick me up and grab a sandwich.

Firestone did finish the car just before closing that night. It needed a new tire and battery. Add that to the cost of the refurbished deck.

DadNews07/15/06 1 comments


Dan • 08/15/06 8:33 PM:

I knew the railings were going to be tough. On Friday Dad and I sat down and discussed railing designs, which were complex because the first step starts at the same level as the deck, unlike the last deck where the first step started 8 or so inches below the deck height. So, should the railings start horizontally and then angle down? Hm. But on Saturday morning Dad went out and, with the help of a few of those balusters (who knew those things had a name besides “thin railing thingies”) and c-clamps, made a make-shift mock-up of a side-railing that simply angled downward from the horizontal deck rails. Dad hadn’t drawn it up but the solution I’m sure looks good.

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