Friday, April 25, 2014

Flagstone: About Four Tons

The flunky at the flagstone place today was clearly not too pleased that he had to walk out into the yard and assist me in selecting some stone. I am indecisive by nature, and cautiously so when it comes to parting with money. I need some time to shop and to fret over my decisions. He was not in the mood to wait.

Now that the pergola is pretty much finished, it's time to lay its stone floor and some pathways. And then it will be time for some plants, except that the clock is ticking towards summer, so I need to be pretty quick.

I'd done my homework. I knew that I will need about four tons of the stone to cover the area. But at the store today there were rows and rows and piles and piles of stones. Who knows how much is four tons? Not me.

"How much is four tons?" I asked the guy as I gestured in a most general way and so that he would understand my intent. In other words, how much of this stuff do I need?

"Eight thousand pounds," he answered.

Then I realized that the weight of each pile was clearly printed on a tag.

He took my hesitation as a sign of confusion. "You see," he said slowly, "one ton equals two thousand pounds, so if you multiply..."

Friday, April 18, 2014

Bridge over the River Koi

Tomorrow we move the new bridge into place (fingers crossed). Yesterday I took some delight in dismantling the old one using my BFF tool, the mini sledge hammer that I've had for over 20 years. Not that I'm especially sentimental about my tools, but this one is like family.

The old bridge didn't put up a fight, though. It just crumbled from the rot, and I was able to take most of it apart by hand. I smacked it a few times with my hammer just to share the fun.

Cheryl had convinced me to go ahead and get rid of the old bridge ahead of time, and I'm glad she did because I discovered some necessary prep work. Now the new bridge will be sitting on stones instead of the ground, and I've chiseled away some stone border to make room for the new guy. Sometimes Cheryl is right.

The bridge is 8 feet long, so I was able to use a 2 x 4 to place the stone footings.

How much does the new bridge weigh? I have no idea. I'll have help tomorrow, and that's a good thing.

The railings aren't sturdy enough to use when moving the thing, so I have another plan. Actually I have 3 plans. Plan A uses rope. Plan B probably won't work. And plan C involves gasoline and a match.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pergola: Goose Neck Knee Braces

It occurred to me that the pergola would be more sturdy if the joists were resting on a ledge rather than just hanging off the side of the post. A one-inch notch should be enough. Yes, I could have used my circular saw. But I love my little chisel. So by cutting one-inch score lines down the side of the posts, I had a depth finder for the entire cut. Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. Fun, until I ran into a nasty knot on one of the posts...

Then came the knee braces, my opportunity to add some character to this otherwise ordinary and plain structure, especially in comparison to the very cool, two-story Gazebo that our friends just built, with it's spiral staircase and view of the water. Wow. But mindful that it's a sin to covet our neighbor's cool stuff, I am resolved to add some quirky whimsy to our little pergola. We will love it because it is ours (however homely it may be).

So I've settled on these goose-neck knee braces. I just bought a band-saw to cut the 10 braces that I need. And now I thinking about designing something unusual so that the pergola is partially enclosed. Something unique...

Next: putting on the top two layers.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Pergola: Posts and Curves

Designing the pergola was definitely not an artistic process for me. I don't tend to come up with designs out of thin air. Instead, I look and look until I see something that's close to what I want, then I push it this way and that, like the eye doctor does during an exam. How about this? And this? And this?

And then if the design doesn't feel right, I start over. I need that warm fuzzy feeling.

The important thing is that this feeling allows me to move forward. If I don't feel good about the design, I will be tormented by the sight of it for the years to come.

So, after looking at hundreds if not thousands of pergolas and gazebos and pagodas online, I finally saw a photo of a nice rafter design, and it gave me the warm fuzzy. Finally I had the design and could begin cutting the boards. I have two sizes of rafters, so two templates.

I had convinced myself that I could cut the curves using a router and a big cutter bit, buzzing through pressure-treated, wet lumber. No way. So back to my trusty reciprocal saw.

Time to put up the posts. Cheryl helped me with the first four, holding them level while I nailed. But she was gone this afternoon so I put up the remaining two on my own. Bad idea. They weigh a ton so I have them propped up with braces for now.

If someone happened to take a video of me wrestling with these posts, it will surely go viral by tomorrow.