Wednesday, August 19, 2009


So the 2 X 2 boards just weren't enough for the top of the pergola. So I went and got 12' 2 X 4's. My problem was I didn't want to take the 2 X 2's off. So, I just cut off the ends that extended beyond the main beams. I butted the 2 X 4's to the other boards and had them up pretty quickly. It looks much better:

I also ordered solar powered lights to string over the top. It was my gift to Lisa for our anniversary. They looked good here:

But last night I noticed that they weren't working...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In the Catbird Seat

After getting the main beams up it was time to put on the cross beams, I used all my salvaged lumber on the main beams so I bought treated 2 X 8 boards. The easiest way to put them up was to place them on top of the main beams and mark them where they would cross the main beams:

Then we used the jig saw to cut notches while we were on top of the pergola, rather than take each board up and down:

After we got the cross beams up we put on 2 X 2 boards over the top. As soon as we were finished both Pete and I said the 2 X 2's looked really stupid, because they weren't correctly scaled with the other boards:

As you can see above, they are barely noticeable. Next post will be how we corrected that situation.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Why We Needed a Scarf in August

scarf 2 (skärf)
n. pl. scarfs (skärfs)
1. A joint made by cutting or notching the ends of two pieces correspondingly and strapping or bolting them together. Also called scarf joint.
2. Either of the correspondingly cut or notched ends that fit together to form such a joint.
tr.v. scarfed, scarf·ing, scarfs
1. To join by means of a scarf.
2. To cut a scarf in.
[Middle English skarf, as in scarfnail, probably from Old Norse skarfr, end piece of a board cut off on the bias.]

--Free Online Dictionary

So one of the great joys of working with salvaged materials is making them fit. All our floor joists were roughly 142 inches long, which was what we used on the east-west pieces of the pergola cross bars. That gave us just short of a two foot overhang. To get boards with a corresponding overhang on the north-south pieces we needed to scarf pieces together.

To start we clamped the boards side by side to each other, without overlapping, for the scarf joint distance. Then cut a series of 1" deep passes over both the boards with the circle saw. Since the boards are 2" thick taking out half of each board will give us the correct depth for the scarf joint.

Then we took a hammer and knocked out what was left between the grooves.

Our next step was to then take a wood chisel and get rid of any obviously high parts. After that we hit them with the plane

We then put the boards together in a dry fit to see if we liked it. Here we did

To keep the joint together we used Gorilla Glue. You don't want to get that on your fingers or anything else you value. We used a little chunk of wood to spread it on the end of each joint.

Then we put glue on the scarf area of both boards

We put the two sides together and clamped them. Then we sent five stainless steel screws into the first side.

Then we flipped it over and did the same on the other side.

After letting it dry we put it up on the pergola and clamped it into place so we could drill it for the carriage bolts that hold it in place.

Of the four north-south boards three have a single scarf joint and one has two scarf joints. My guess is that in a few years with enough vegetation growing on top of it, none of them will be noticeable!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Hubris or "The Other 90% of the Time"

As a famous person once said "The first 90% of a project takes 90% of the time, the last 10% takes the OTHER 90% of the time..."

When we left off on the pergola build, Pete and I had set two of our four columns and were confident that the other two would go quickly. On Sunday afternoon we set the third column in about 20 minutes and were feeling pretty proud of ourselves. We reset the hoist for the last column and went to move it. As we lifted it into place a small chunk broke off the bottom (in hindsight we should have recognized this as ominous foreshadowing) We thought, "No matter. we have a total of six columns, we'll use one of the extras." We went and got another one and wrestled it into place.

We started pumping the hydaulic and were over the second base, with only 6 inches of re-bar to clear, when we realized the hoist wasn't going any higher. We lowered the column, repositioned it, and tried again. Same result. We lowered it again and tried to take some links out of the chain thinking we hadn't hooked it up correctly. Still not enough lift. Then the serious head scratching began.

Being a Sunday the rental place was not open. We decided to take the hydraulic arm apart. Neither had ever done anything like that before. We really couldn't really figure how to get it apart. We went and got fluid to add to the resevoir but it was already nearly full and we could force the arm back down when it was pumped.

Pete then called a friend whose daughter plays volleyball with Pete's younger daughter. He is a farm implement dealer in a town about 30 miles away. Pete thought this would be right up his alley. Luckily he happened to be in Iowa City, and came over in half an hour. He took it apart and looked it over carefully. After nearly an hour of not getting it to work either he casually mentioned that he HAS A HYDRAULIC ENGINE HOIST AT HOME IN HIS WORKSHOP!

Pete and I went on Monday morning to get it from his place. It had never ever been used. We brought it back and set it up:

We found, like the other hoist, it was too short. We blocked it with cement and posts and started to lift. I had to sit on the back end to keep it grounded:

In short order we had it over the re-bar:

While we were waiting for the mortar to dry a little (we mixed it too wet) I pulled out a cross beam and laid it into place on the columns we had already set. The cross bars are also salvaged. They were floor joists from the house the columns came from. The joists were full dimension 2 x 10 and were DOVETAILED into a 14 inch square beam that ran through the center of the house. The left side in the picture below was the profile the boards had when in the beam. The right side is straight because we had to sawzall them out to get them lifted.

I liked the profile so much we decided to use it for the cross bars. Here are the first boards in place.

Next post I'll tell about how we re-worked the beams to make the cross bars.