Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Week 9 - a roof!

I finished my last day of work on the 21st and left Hanover for a trip home, leaving the rest of the crew one person short and dangerously deficient of X chromosomes. Fortunately they have found a replacement for me as they have a big week ahead of them, faced with the task of putting up the roof!

But first, a bit more detail on what we've been up to the last couple of weeks. The cabin walls quickly got higher and higher, until we realized that our square cabin was essentially a giant crib and it was becoming more and more difficult to get in or out. We cut a rough hole where the door will be and set up some scaffolding to make moving around easier. For a couple courses we could get away with using what were essentially giant metal hooks with a platform at the bottom. You could sling two over the top of a wall and put a 2x12 in between them to walk on.

We had to raise the sky line to accommodate our taller cabin, so Kodiak got to climb some trees while the rest of us watched in awe and terror.

We've since put up some more permanent scaffolding on the inside and out to make scribing, chainsawing, and generally moving around easier. Things were moving along nicely until one day early last week disaster struck! Jordan's footwear became dangerously dilapidated and required the attention of a professional of the highest caliber.

Actually, we broke our comealong, a tool we were hoping to use to haul up the last load of logs. After bringing one log up the ramp and onto the island we decided we were confident of the chain falls "two ton" (or so they claimed) hauling capabilities and decided to go for the biggest log we have left: one of the purlins which will probably be used for the ridge pole supporting the roof which is easily two feet in diameter. It's a seriously huge log, and it promptly broke the chain fall into two pieces. This left us without any logs to carve and with a several hundred pound log sitting abandoned on our ramp.

We promptly ordered a new toy - a chainsaw powered motorized winch - and then spent several days chasing UPS trucks around Hanover looking for our package. We assigned one person to sit at the picnic table with a smart phone refreshing the UPS delivery confirmation every thirty seconds (not "out for delivery" yet... or yet... or yet...) and got started on some necessary tasks which we were planning to work on after finishing the cabin. Most notably, we
decided to pretend we were trail crew for a day and built some stairs.

On Saturday we finally got our chainsaw winch, which hauls logs up the ramp in about a tenth of the time our human-powered tools could. We were able to place the last course of long logs, and put up some posts to support them over the porch.

Right now, the rest of the crew is undoubtedly still mourning my absence and far too depressed to work. But once they collect themselves they will be putting one more course of short logs up. Next are three purlins, and then the roof!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Time lapse of the day

So there's this little, wonderful science museum across the river in Vermont called the Montshire that specializes in really cool exhibits that show kids how science happens. Those museum-ists know something about "cool" things, so when an employee (director?) of the museum told us this morning that she thought our last time lapse was cool, I told her she ain't seen nothing yet.

This is untrue, I actually said thank you very much (hi mom!).

In any case, here's a new video! Feel free to watch it. You can scroll down first and read my explanation of what all is going on.

This video shows the process of carving a log with chainsaws and chisels to fit on top of another log. Before we put the log on the sawhorses on the ground, we use a tool called a scribe to trace the contours of the lower log onto the upper one with pencils. Next, we bring the log down, score the long sections with knives, chisel out the lines in the notches, and trace over it all in permanent marker to make it more visible. The scoring and chiseling helps our sawyers (fun fact, pronunciation is "soy-yer") cut more precisely.

In this video you start off seeing me, Max (hi mom!) finishing off the chiseling of one notch, then Kodiak starts carving the first notch on the first log and Jordan begins carving out the groove on the other log (which is slightly out of frame). The time lapse is shot from 30 feet up or so on the steel cable we've been using to lift our logs onto the building. Halfway into the video you'll notice us all swarm the log as we realize that Jordan is having trouble prying out a section of groove. Hooray teamwork!

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Picture Says a Thousand Words

Unfortunately, because our resident photographers are off doing manly things with cars and chainsaws, it falls to me to update everyone without photographic assistance, since it's been a little too long.

Our walls have been growing to dangerous heights over the past week, but we have pushed on higher and higher (safety is only our #5 priority, so it's been a pretty nerve-wracking process at times). We have definitely become more efficient at the standard log-laying process than I ever thought we would be, laying a full course on an average day. The quality of our logwork has also improved a great deal, with our logs fitting almost seamlessly together at this point.

What I'm hoping is that when we put in the final hardwood floor, it brings our last couple courses of good logs to eye level in the cabin so that when people look at the walls, they'll think we've been this good all along.

As of a couple days ago we reached the height where things begin to get a little more complicated because we are nearing roof level. We moved another load of logs down from the farm (which included our hugest logs that are going to span the entire length of the cabin supporting a roof) and had quite a few adventures/disasters getting them up onto the island.

I will post again later with some pictures to completely explain the events of the last couple days, which have been much more eventful than the wall-building week before. It's been a ton of fun. Not to give out an spoilers, but still to come with the pictures are: tales of breaking hoisting equipment rated to 2 tons, Max going insane when left on the island alone for several hours, staircases, my failed attempts to get Greg to sign off on building spiral staircases, a yellow jacket massacre, 3rd degree poison ivy, UPS's blood-lust inspiring behavior, the crew's blossoming modeling careers, a visit from the Schulz family, Sokol family, my newest celebrity crush and the explanation of how our crew came to possess 13 chainsaws (besides necessity, obviously).

And because I currently don't have means to take pictures of our escapades, here is a picture of the 3rd most awesome creature in the animal creature, and the inspiration for the way I draw shave every log. The Otter. Fastest way to my heart.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

New publicity!

Word on the street (and by street, I mean "The Dartmouth Homepage") is that we are currently the web spotlight of the world. Well, given the new exposure, we felt obliged to provide you, our loyal and new readers, with a glimpse of a day in the life of the Titcomb Cabin work site.

The video below is a time lapse of an entire day on Gilman Island. We start the day carving two logs, then prep and carve an entire second two logs. We finish off the day by beginning the prep work on a third pair of logs. We are only a few more levels from starting on the roof!

Also, keep an eye out for Lucas's family and our volunteers Dan and Parker. They've both come out to help a lot and deserve a round of applause for their help. Dan does a lot of work shaving logs on the left side of the frame while his dog Zealand roams the site.

Monday, August 9, 2010

To: Moms

A few photos from the week: to be commented further by DaK and myself later or tomorrow when we are not quite as exhausted.

But who is actually sawing here? 'Tis for you to find out.


'Tis becoming more and more of a cabin every day.

Our newest pet Larry the hairy caterpillar, quite the escape artist.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

This Post is for Patty Olsen.

We had a special visitor to the site on Tuesday morning! We might just be the only cabin-building crew to have had a U.S. National Team lacrosse player working for us this summer. Here she is hoisting a log up from the water.

Meet the Mallets

As it turns out, the only reason any young man or woman gets into construction is the hammer. Hitting things with hammers remains the most primal form of human satisfaction; it's up there with setting things on fire. Fortunately, we Titcomb rebuilders understand the value of a good mallet and hammer. They can be used to nudge, tickle, chisel, place, suggest, command, and, of course, destroy. In fact, these mallets are so important to our crew that each and every one of them has a name. I present you with the family behind the reconstruction of Titcomb cabin: the Mallets.

From left to right, starting with our larger enforcers: George, Bricktop, Mikey, and Thudbuster.

Gorgeous George, ├╝ber-mallet, 60 pounds, special attack: providing the mild suggestion that several hundred pound logs move left, right, up, down, or over several inches at a time.
Bricktop, large sledge, 16 pounds, special attack: fireplace elimination.
Mikey, maul, 8 pounds, special attack: sneaking into pictures with hammers.
Thudbuster, sledge, 8 pounds, special ability: enhanced veinyness of the user.

The bad news, however, is that we can't get along with just enormous hammers. We need more delicate tools for placing log dogs (steel pieces that keep logs from rolling), chiseling (for delicate work), and chicken tenderizing.

Brian and Kate are our two quality-construction hardwood mallets for chiseling. They do fine chisel work and were a gift from our advisor, Brian Kunz.

Next is our 3-pounder, Nubduster. He does the delicate destructive work like squashing yellow jackets and bees. The two hammers to his right belong to Kodiak and Lucas, respectively. We call them the wrist-burner and the wafflemaker, respectively.

We also have a small ball hammer and a leather hammer. No one has ever used them, because a leather hammer is apparently mainly only useful for brasswork. Oh.

You'd imagine that, with such a wide variety of wonderful tools, we'd be fully satisfied for any mallet-swinging needs we may have. But you, sir or ma'am, would be wrong. Instead we decided to just build more hammers. Those big round wood mallets you see? Bullseye, Crookshanks, and Ergo. Fortunately, these mallets are perfect for all the rest of our needs, so we have one more rubber mallet just for kicks. He's kind of like a bouncy ball... we just play with him for fun.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this short, wordy exploration of the world of mallets on the island. Please direct any and all further questions to

P.S. After re-reading this post, I was reminded that I forgot to mention our lead shot-filled hammer, Nostradamus. Much like Nos's predictions, we spend most of our time ignoring him, hence the forgetfulness.