Notes from Windward: #62

Construction Phase One - Raising the Poles

     We're in a race against winter, and it's only a matter of time before construction on the castle will have to shut down until spring. Already, drizzly ice and fog are making it hard to work on at ground level, and very tricky to work above ground. We've snowed in as late as New Year's day, and as early as the 4th of December, so every day we can work is precious at this point.

     What's making us keep an eye on the weather for the past week has been the need to get the ten key poles raised and true before snowfall. Once they're in and true, we can fill in the holes, level the ground and laugh as we drink our tea by the fire when the storm finally comes.

     Phase One involves building the 16' wide gate section and the 12'x16' raised deck. All that is defined and supported by a series of ten poles, four of the treated 6x6's and six of them treated 4x6's, arrayed in the shape of the greek letter π.

Roy moves one of the main poles into place

     The hardest part was raising the four twenty-foot long 6x6 poles that form the corners of the deck support. A beam that size is called a heavy timber for a very good reason. The beam is stood on end next to the hole and pad, lifted like a Scotman's caber, moved sideways over the hole and then lowered straight down. You have to be careful to not scrape dirt off the side of the hole as the pole goes in, because if you do, you'll get dirt between the pole and the pad, and you want the beam standing driectly on the concrete pad.

It takes lots of bracing to safely stabilize the poles

      Then you nail on four diagonal braces so that the beam doesn't fall over and kill someone, and move on to the second beam.

     Once that second beam is up, a 2x6 is temporarily nailed on to establish the required separation between the two poles. After the 20' long 6x6 main beams, the more modest 16' long 4x6 beams feel like hardly nothing at all.

     Once the two main beams and the two minor beams were in place, made level and connected altogether, we had defined the wall that will become the main gate of the castle.

The gate wall poles are in place

     The remaining two 6x6 poles define the back dimensions of the elevated deck as well as the "Tunnel of Death." You may have noticed that the gate on an actual castle opens into a tunnel that you have to pass through before you arrive at the castle's courtyard. That tunnel is part of the castle's defense because it bottles up attackers where they can be trapped and disposed of before they get loose in the castle proper.

     From a practical standpoint in our castle, this tunnel-like structure will help stablize the deck above. I get nervous thinking about a dozen heavy fighters going at each other up there, and would rather err on the side of overkill than have the deck not stand up to the stress.

     Once the corners beams were raised and stabilized, the dimensions had to be checked and rechecked. In this priliminary state, it's very difficult to move one pole into a vertical plane without shifting some other pole out of vertical. It's a matter of check and recheck, and then check again, but eventually each of the main beams where within an inch of true, and that's good enough for this project.

     Once the main poles were ringed with high and low bands of 2x4s, the last task was to install the four 12' long 4x6 beams that will form the interim supports for the deck. It took us three hours to install the first four poles, and thirty minutes to do that last four, but that's how it goes. If you don't pay attention to detail when you're laying out the main supports, you'll pay for your haste dearly when it come time to install the deck.

     With the last of the key poles in place, we can continue to work on the deck, the main gate wall and the gate itself even with a foot of snow on the ground.

All ten poles finally in place,
and true enough for now

Construction Phase One - The Tunnel of Death --- Notes from Windward, Vol. 62