Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Shop Construction

      In 1998 I finally got around to starting a much needed workshop out back. As is the case with anything else built around here, there are no blue prints, just a pencil sketch of what I want it to look like in the end, and ideas buzzing in my head like flies in a jar. There was still some red cedar logs left over from the log building a few years before, and it made sense to sawmill it myself.
This portable band sawmill was located up in Williams Lake. It had 6m (20') of rail and the whole works fit in the back of my short box pickup.


Once I figured I had cut one complete shop plus some spare parts I hauled it over and started construction.
Once the main post and beam frame was up I mad-up the 5 roof rafters on a jig. Once completed I would pull a main piece out which enabled the truss to fold into its self making it easier for one man to handle. Hoisted up by hand and positioned on the top of the structure the rafters were locked with the last piece, and it worked pretty slick.

The truss sit on an off center ridge beam. The whole works is pinned together with wooden dowels.
The area to the right would later be boarded over for a storage loft.

You can see some bracing nailed on during assembly, but the building is designed not to use any internal bracing when finished. All the rigidness is in the 24 tightly notched joints of the posts and beams.
This was taken well into October, and I in a panic to get the roofing on before the fall monsoons hit.

Once the tin was on I had an area to store materials and tools and drink tea under while it rained and snowed. I had a light out there and  would putter away at night quite a bit, I didn't have much else to do at night back in those days.

                               Spring '99

Four years later out of necessity I decided to expand on the shop. There was an outfit building a school down at Skatin'. It so happened that the head of the job had several motorcycles that I rebuilt during the winter in return for pouring me a cement pad later on when there was some cement work being done.
I got the pad all framed-out and level as best I could and loaded it up with re-bar.


   I had salvaged enough fir and cedar to complete the construction I figured, as well as a little horse trading for a laminate beam and some rafters, other than that, all the wood would be saw milled on the spot. A year or two earlier there had been a bridge washout not far from here. The loggers built a new one from huge cedar logs they hauled in from down valley near the head of Harrison Lake. Somehow there was one left over that sat there too long and was starting to get campers hacking away at it for firewood.
I admired that huge log every time I drove by, I could do a lot with a cedar like that.
Only problem was that it wasn't mine to take, and anyways, it was too big for me to handle. 
These two stumbling blocks were easily overcome when time came to start milling.
    I cajoled Pierre Poirier into helping me. He had an aged GMC 1 ton pickup and I asked him to come help me move a log one day. My tractor is a skookum one yet it strained to lift the small end of the huge log while Pierre backed his truck underneath. I let the log down onto his box and his suspension bottomed and his tires flattened out. I unhooked he chain and backed up and got a secure wrap around the huge butt end and attached it to the bucket and it was all my machine would do to hold it off the ground.
   And away I went pushing this great huge long tree with a pickup truck squashed under the front end. I was sweating bullets the whole time sure we were going to bump into a Forestry truck on the road which would open a huge can of worms I could do without.
We made the sharp turn into my driveway, at the expense of some of Pierre's body work, and wheeled down and parked at the mill. No one ever came looking for it but I'm pretty sure the loggers knew what happened to it, no doubt having a good chuckle.
That one log sided the entire shop, and I saved the butt end to make a huge table base.

The pickup suffered a little damage in the process.

This is a different mill than last time, but comparable in size. That is a big piece of fir going to be sliced into 2x4. Having the tractor this time allowed me to handle bigger wood, but you still had to move them onto and around on the mill by hand.

Working alone, with the plans in my head I got the walls up, two huge upright cedar posts set up and an 8 meter ridge beam on top of them to set the rafters on.

Welded metal bracket holding ridge beam and corner brace.

It was important to get the metal roofing on before the fall rains and winter set in so I could work away under cover. There was a beautiful clear stretch of weather the middle of October and things were looking good. I had been working all morning, and afternoon found me almost completed one entire side of the shop roof. I had a long aluminum ladder set up to the ridge beam, which is 6 meters (18') off the shop floor. I had been running up there with 7 meter (20') rolls of roofing felt and following behind with the long sheets of metal roofing which I screwed down.
   I had been working my way across the floor and tying the ladder off with a long piece of rope which was a lot of monkeying around and holding up production I thought and casually began kicking ideas around for alternate methods of keeping the ladder secure on the cement floor.
I don't know what the hell I was thinking, I picked up a piece of roofing felt, stuck it under the legs of the ladder, got on and bounced a few times. Seemed secure.
With those bounces, the sharp edge of the ladder legs bit through the felt, making contact with the cement. Without a second thought I put a roll of roofing felt under my arm, and started up the ladder.
I paused at the top before I put the roll of felt out ahead of me.
I remember thinking, what a beautiful, sunny Fall day it was.
   Suddenly, there was a sharp jolt, and the terrifying realization the ladder had slipped out on the floor far below and what was most certainly coming next. When it let go, I was not hanging on or anything, so I'm pretty much along for the ride. I felt the wind rushing by my head, and instinct took over.
I knew it could only end badly, and the only thought I had time for was when the ladder was level, that was when I would hit the floor. I waited...
And I waited..., until it seemed to me the ladder was almost level, then threw my head back as hard as I could. At that moment,  there was the loudest, hardest,  flat out landing I have ever experienced, and I'm no stranger to a hard landing, let me tell you.  I had come down from the roof level and landed flat on the ladder on a cement floor, with a good head butt thrown in, and the whole building shook with the impact.
Should I ever have more children, they will be born cross-eyed I'm sure.
   I recall jumping up immediately, feeling bashed in everywhere, and trying to shake off the shock of what just transpired in the last 5 seconds.
First thing that gets my attention is an intermittent squirt of red juice shooting from my forehead.
I remember the stream going down and hitting the cement, splattering in several directions.
"Oh hell", I said to myself, "There goes the afternoon!".
I knew I had to act quick and decisive. I headed to the workshop for a shop rag to hold my brains in with.
Funny, I was thinking, should I get a pre-enjoyed rag, or should I get a fresh one. Common sense prevailed. I took a new, unused cotton wiper, hoping the grey matter will wash out easily, balled it up, then held it to my caved in forehead in an attempt to quell the flow of brainal fluids.
So I'm calmly limping over to the main cabin, thinking you stupid idiot, now you probably going to have to go to town. I hadn't quite got the rag in the right place, and my brains were running down my arm and dripping off my elbow. I began to limp a little faster.
      I gimped up on the porch and straight to the bathroom as quickly as possible, to prevent spilling anymore bodily fluids on the floor than was necessary for the executors of my estate to clean up.
I charged into the bathroom,  confronted the mirror, and mentally prepared myself for the ordeal of pushing the remnants of my brains back into the jagged, and gaping hole in my forehead.
Well I get a good look, and darn if it turns out its no more than an eyebrow sort of flayed off.
Maybe I won't have to go to town after all!
I remembered I'm supposed to be thinking decisively, and pondered my next life saving move.
I fired up my little dirt bike, revved it up, and tore off down the airstrip as fast as it went down to the hot spring campsite.
    I had recalled some regulars from Vancouver Island were camped out down there, Kellie and her gang.
Two of her party (Rob and Chris) were BC Ambulance attendants. What luck.
Despite my best efforts at holding the shop rag/head wound plug in the right spot,  I may have been an alarming sight when I arrived at the hot spring campsite.
I didn't want to scare anyone, and hoped I'd run into one of the ambulance attendants first.
Well, you know what happened. Poor woman.  She was innocently going to the water tap, and had the misfortune of meeting a bloodied Mr. Trethewey on his mini-bike.
"Hi, could you get Chris to come over please?" I asked the wide eyed woman, as if nothing was wrong.
"No, no", I called, embarrassed, "I got bucked off my goddamn ladder."
    Over at their campsite they had me sitting on a round of wood while Chris poked at my flayed eyebrow. "Yep" she said, "Gonna need a few stitches there".
"Good timing" Rob adds , "I was just going in for a beer run".
They took the opportunity to use up the vast supply of bandages they had both brought on the camping trip. 
Rob was following his training and following my every possibly brain damaged move.
"I have to keep an eye on you" he said. "You might just conk out or something".
 An hour and some later we arrive in Pemberton village, pulling up to the health clinic emergency entrance.
"I got to get to the liquor store before it closes" he says.
I step out of the vehicle and it disappears in the direction of 'downtown'.
I wait for the explosion out the health clinic doors of the emergency doctors and staff pushing gurneys.
Finally it occurs to me, I might have to go find them.
   I have a pretty buggered up right foot, my head is bandaged up nearly obscuring my features, with a red splotch on the forehead, and I walk with a distinct, mummy from the crypt sideways gait.
I stand at the emergency counter inside, "Hellooo" I called several times.
There is some activity down at the other end of the hallway at the non-emergency area so I head off in my slow, sideways, broken down mummy shuffle.
    Children hush and parents stare as the mummy shuffles into the area.
They pull their children aside, and I shuffle up to the admissions counter, and smirked at the receptionist.
"Oh Hi Robin, how are things at the hot spring?" she asks, recognising me through the wrapping.
So there are a stack of forms to fill out.
"Watch me" I told her as I started printing, "I might just conk out or something".
I am given copies of these forms to take down to emergency. So I shuffle back down the hallway.
By now some of the bandages have come loose and trail behind.
   I arrived at the emergency admissions, and pounded on the dinger a few more times.
I shuffled into the er ward looking for a mirror and stapler, determined to tack the askew eyebrow back on unassisted.
A nurse appears from a doorway at close range, and stops, shocked at seeing a mummy I reckon.
"Hi" I said, like nothing was wrong, "Could you send Chris over here please?".
"Oh my!" she says, "You've been in a car accident".
"Oh no, I got bucked off a ladder".
"Well" she laughs, "...for a head wound you certainly have a clean shirt".
I told her I had to stop at home and change before going visiting.

She could have sewn me up right there I'm sure,  but they need to call my doctor whom has to cancel appointments and mosey down to the health clinic for an "emergency". It took an hour for him to arrive, and 5 minutes to sew the askew eyebrow more or less back into place, and another half hour billing BC Medical Services.

My forehead healed up soon enough, and my brains regenerated back to their former half-witted state.
Turns out the roll of roofing felt I had under my arm cushioned my face, but had jammed the frame of my 'safety glasses'  into my eyebrow, which caused the wound.
I had the painful imprint of an aluminium ladder down me for months, but the worst was my foot that was sticking through the ladder when it hit the floor. I was gimping around out there completing the roofing project a few days later, but  I vowed that would never happen again.
After that incident, I have taken every long ladder I have, and cut it in half.



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