Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Friday Work Days

Every Friday I spend about two hours down at the job sight. Lucky for me I grew up around construction and home renovation, I'd seen most of the tools and equipment but had not used very many. I've discovered a love for the skill saw, an enjoyment for the cut off saw, a excitement and respect for the nail gun, and a love hate relationship with hammers. I've raked gravel, driven a standard tractor, poured concrete and smoothed it out, straightened frames, put on stringers without damaging Mick's car, raised boarding boards, placed 2 by 4s for framing, and a few other odd jobs. I've risked comfort and sanity by doing jobs myself and handing over the ones I've mastered.
When we first started this project I was a little nearvous and concerned about where I would fit in. I've learned that in conctruction it helps to have safety glasses and a hard hat, not only for safety but because they help to make you feel the part. And once you feelt he part it makes it easier to do it. There's nothing like swaggering across the job sight with a 2 by 4 in your hands as you approach the work bench with the cut of saw to competantly make the cut for the support that makes sure the barn doesn't fall over. Ok so that 2 by 4 wasn't that important but I did discover that the cutt off saw has a laser to help you see where the cut is going to be. That was really cool!
Despite all these moments there have been some really awesome times. I've been keeping a log of things that happen at the sight while I'm there and I would like to share it.
Monday August 31, 2009
Work day number one. I had to run back to my room several times this morning; to put on proper shoes, to get my hardhat, then finally to get my things for my next class. However, I think it was all worth it. Now I know that safety glasses and a hardhat are useless if you don’t have the correct shoes. It was really neat and fun to work today I actually felt like I got something done. First I worked on trying to level out the space for the foundation. The area has to be as smooth and level as possible, all with-in four inches of where the top of the concrete is going to be because we need to use as little concrete as possible. The fewer holes and low spots we have, the less concrete we will need. We were raking by hand, and then I got to drive the tractor! That was pretty awesome. I’d never driven anything that was a standard but it was easy enough. The only bad thing is that half the time I was driving it I felt as if I was making things more uneven than actually helping to smooth out the area. But my time on the tractor was soon over, and then I got to make batter boards. Batter boards are two boards each supported by two small posts set at right angles to each other at each corner of the structure. These boards are used to make the straight and level lines with string of where the top of the concrete will be, as well as marking the sides along the concrete. We had to hammer in the posts, level off the wood and screw it into the spots. Each board had to be level along its length and level to the other boards. It was a lot of fun, it seemed like less than two hours and it would have been longer if I had not had chemistry to go to.

Friday September 4, 2009
I tired about halfway through the two hours of work, but it felt good to put my back into something. However, maybe next time I’ll put it into something more like foam. We worked really well as a team, about 21 of us working in a 20ft by 30ft area using shovels, rakes, and our backs to move dirt and stones so that the entire area was level at about six inches from the string that we laid with the batter boards. I was surprised at how smoothly things went with most everyone actually working most of the time. I will never take a smooth flat expanse of ground for granted again; there is too much work to go into it. I remember when we had a slab for a storage building poured at our house, I think the concrete people did most of the work, now I know what it required, I’m just glad we did not have to cut into a four foot hill this time. After the first hour most people left to classes and there were only about six of us left. We broke out the tractor and did some real leveling. I think we got it at least half done before I had to leave. Got a great picture before everyone else left, we’re all circled up and standing there with our tools. I think this will be an interesting experience.

Friday September 11, 2009

Friday September 18, 2009
Boots! Big tall rain boots that Mick calls Wellies. I would rather have Wellies than Evil Empire special but it’s not the boots that are important but the why of the boots: concrete and lots of it. About 18 yards; that is a lot of concrete. It was awesome though, brings back memories. The big truck with the concrete spinner the sound of the gravel hitting the other side as it spins. The slush sound of concrete coming down the gutter and the splat that resembles elephant dung as it hits the ground. Yup it’s a glorious life. There is nothing like standing up to your ankles in something that will harden to close to stone, makes me feel a little as if I have ties to the mafia, I like my concrete shoes. Nonetheless we got the slab poured, we had a slight miscalculation and ended up needing more than we thought, but it all worked out well. I did not get to see the last truck but spread around the concrete from the first two. Most of my time was spent with a rake, trying to get the concrete relatively flat and into the all the places it needed to be. Then at one point I used an 8 foot two by four to shimmy across the top of the concrete using the frame to get a level. This would be like shaking a bowl of Jell-O to get it to level out, except we could not shake the foundation. This is a lot of hard work and involves squatting, holding the two by four and moving it in a side to side motion across the concrete slab. After all this was done we wanted to get the finish as smooth as possible so we used a bull float. Looks nothing like a cow or a moose. It is a long paddle about 8 inches tall and 4 foot long that is connected to a long pole (20feet) in the center. Almost like a mop broom. This is moved up and down across the concrete top which is sprayed with a misting of water in order to get it as smooth as possible. Turns out we had a master bull floater in our class, he was not originally but soon became one. All in all it was a fun two hours in tall boots, hard hats, and concrete. What more could a girl want?

Friday September 25, 2009
Not a terribly exciting or interesting day. There were a few things that needed to be straightened out. Like the frame that had the office door in it. It was a little crooked and we had to pull it right. There was a little screw gun work involved, we undid the cripple but there was mainly the use of brute force to pull it right and back into place where it should be. Then Bri and I worked on finishing the top of the frames where the extra heading was added so there would be a solid unbroken line, over all, around the top of the frame. We got to cut 45 degree angles which was simple but exciting. This involved a lot of hammering with a framing hammer attempting to drill 16 penny nails through two 2 by 4s while standing on a ladder. It was also a little chilly today, a simple hooded sweatshirt didn’t seem to cut it, but rather, it was cut by the wind. There were a lot of people on the job sight and some worked on putting up the boarding boards on the outside which will provide nice wind protection and a base for the shingles to be put on later. And some went to go get the wood for the post and beams we are supposed to be putting up next week, these will hold up the floor of the hay loft and the roof. Wood Hall got new doors on the front, so we got one of the old ones for the barn. Like I said, it was a little windy. The wind caught out door and blew it over; the double paned glass broke on the frame that was on the ground. 15 years in Wood Hall and it survives, 2 hours on the job sight and it dies. We cleaned up the glass pretty quickly though I think we got all of it. But the shattering was very exciting.

Friday October 2, 2009
I got to use a nail gun. Guess that’s pretty exciting. We were placing the 2 by 4s that go in between the framing 2 by 4s for support and as a place to hold the manure boards, called stringers. At first it was me and Wendy we were using the saw to cut the boards then placing them. It was a two person job since one person would hold the board while the other hammered four 16 penny nails into it. Not a very fun task. But oddly enough, at the same time, it really was a lot of fun. There is nothing like a hammer flying in front of your face to take you to your toes. After the first work hour most people left. I continued working on the job myself. Maybe I had some pent up aggression and wanted to continue hammering the nails in but wielding a framing hammer on 16 penny nails wears one out fairly quickly. I saw Mick’s wisdom in moving up to using the nail gun. And that is what I did. At one point I had concern about what type of insurance Mick had on his car, but overall it was a safe and fun. You have to put a lot of pressure on the safety trigger to get it to fire though, which is a good thing unless you are a weakling and at an odd angle. I got more done by myself and with the nail gun than we did with two people putting in the boards and two people cutting them. And ours were fairly straight and level too. Allows one to put a little pride in their work, and in themselves. I got to help raise one of the posts during this. Massive things they are, 6 by 6 pieces of wood that are 20 feet or more long. We have three of them up. They stand through the 8 foot height of the barn and will stand another 12 feet from there to go up and support the top of the roof; right now though it looks like we have sadly undecorated totem poles marking the location of our barn.

Friday October 9, 2009
Today I was at the job sight for three hours. Going was pretty slow for the first hour, trying to get the cut of saws screwed down, extension cords figured out and sent to the right place, the air compressor hooked up and ready to go. It was a little frustrating but everything worked out well, and I do know how to hook up the compressor now, which is pretty cool. I kind of headed up the group that was assigned to do stringers and boarding boards. We got all the stringers finished and a few boarding boards up. I had sent Megan around to make the four foot marks on the frames to show where the stringers were going to go, Wendy and Bri were cutting the stringers, and I was nailing them in place with the nail gun. After about a dozen I decided it would be a good idea to let someone else have a go at using the nail gun, after all it is a lot of fun. After handing this over I felt a little lost and did not know what to do so I went over and helped to put up a few boarding boards. This is a lot trickier than it may seem; especially when there are short people like myself attempting the work. After helping to put up two boards we realized that the tops of the boards were not level with the top of the heading like they should have been so we pulled them off and gave it another go. We managed to get the two boards on correctly but then it was time to call it quits and go to Chemistry. At least the stringers were done all the way around so there was something to put the boards on to. After Chemistry I came back, to get a 6 in long piece of 6 by 6 and to put in another hour before I had to go to work. I was ready to jump on board with the boarding board project (that’s a cornucopia of boards) but was directed instead to framing. Inside our 30 ft by 40 ft barn there are going to be stalls and an office. The office needs to have its own walls and therefore some of its own framing. Luckily there was already the outside of the frame raised and supported, the only thing we had to do was to add the 8 foot support 2 by 4s every 16 inches. This would have been easier if each one was exactly 8 ft long. But they were not. There was quite a bit of comic lifting and raising of two by fours and plenty of shaving with the cut off saw. With only two more to cut though the day was called and it was time to go to work. We got everything picked up and cleaned up. Mick used the chain saw to cut me a 6 by 6 by 6 and I was on my way.

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