Thursday, December 11, 2014

Update on the Back Yard!

When I last did an update on the back yard observatory, I had hired a building contractor, John Vermette, who came in and had a concrete pad poured 8 days after first meeting him. Since then, it seems like progress has been made at the speed of light, certainly orders of magnitude (factors of 10) faster than if I had tried to do it myself! I don't want to bore you with all the details, but at the same time, I think it might be valuable to others to see how this one has been done.

After pouring the concrete pad on 19 November (a Wednesday), I was to keep it watered down to prevent premature drying for a few days, and at the same time, keep off of it while it cured. By the weekend, it was at nearly full-strength, and I wanted to hoist the mount in place, as I didn't think I wanted to try it through a doorway. With John Davis' assistance and a borrowed engine hoist from work, it was done in a flash. At left, I had wrestled it in place, and at right, the job done, Mr. Davis gives it a once-over...

The next day, a Monday, John Vermette was there ready to work!  I got to help out as assistant so he didn't have to hire another helper.  While he had the expertise, and knew what had to be done, I learned and made the tasks a little easier for him...  For a small building this size (10X10 feet), you could likely do it yourself, but it goes easier and more quickly with two, and unskilled help like me was perfect for this application!

After ripping out the forms for the now-hardened concrete, he set to work to put up the walls.  I didn't have a chance to take lots of pictures, but in two hours, it went from a stack of lumber to recognized upright 6-foot tall walls.  Of course, the walls are firmly fastened to the slab with the j-bolts sunk into the concrete.  While we don't get tornados here, we get dust devils and huge gusts from monsoon storms, so this building isn't going anywhere without taking the slab with it!

Another two hours and the siding was on!  Shown here is a view through the only entrance now, the doorway - a two-frame mosaic.  It was amazing how much more sturdy the building became by adding the skin of the wood siding.  And with this all going up in 4 hours, it was amazing to get the feel of its appearance...

Two days later, John was back to work on the roof.  In his normal roll-off observatory construction, the roof is one piece.  I wanted to avoid the footprint of the additional area of the rolled-back roof support, and have a fold-down roof.  So his roof construction was a 2-piece and will split down the center.  At left he cuts the 13 gauge steel tubing with a grinder and cutting blade, and at right is welding it in place atop the wall with his MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welder.  With his use of magnetic clamps and his frequent welding, I had more chance to take photos during this stage.  His layout of both the walls and roof are quite accurate - he kept a square in his pocket for checking EVERYTHING, and his level was similarly often used in the wall layout.

The layout and welding similarly went
quickly on the roof sections too.  Again, less than 4 hours from start to finish.  At left is another welding shot, and at right is the finished product showing the two roof sections, split in the middle.  The metal frame helps keep the roof sections light weight - definitely needed for this fold-down design, but also used in his roll-off for its strength and rigidity.  I think he also enjoys the variety of metal/welding incorporated into his carpentry.  A little variety in the tasks always makes the job more interesting.

I didn't want to make this post too long, so will have another entry upcoming on further progress - that one will bring us up to date on construction.

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