Geometry Lesson


Today was a good lesson in geometry. We had the interesting challenge of supporting a circle with an octagon sitting on top of a square. As you can imagine, it took several attempts, lots of thinking and analysis, but in the end Jay and Josh prevailed. The main problem was that the manual from the manufacturer was wrong, so the framing lumber didn't work out to fit.

Once it was done, the view from the top without the roof was nothing short of stunning. It was like having a deck up on the fourth floor. Here are few shots from above:

Looking Directly South
Looking Directly South
Southwest
Southwest
Looking Straight Down - Part of Dome on the Ground
Looking Straight Down - Part of Dome on the Ground
Looking North over the Roof
Looking North over the Roof
West
West
 
East
East
Straight down and Southest
Straight down and Southest

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Observatory Takes Shape


Tuesday may have been an important day, but today was the inauguration of the observatory floor.

 

Manufactured Beam to Support the Floor
Manufactured Beam to Support the Floor

 

After careful planning and preparation, a quick call to Mike, the draftsman working on the plans, came up with a better idea and we started over.

The first job was to hang the 7.25" beam that would serve as the nailer for the rest of the floor joists and to which the half-spiral stairs would be attached. Josh (left) is holding the beam while Jay (right) attaches it to the wall. Doug (center) keeps an eye on progress to make sure everything is done properly.

As you can see, this involved some rather unnatural acts of carpentry by Josh and Jay.

Josh with a Back Hand Shot
Josh with a Back Hand Shot
Jay with the Upper Cut Shot
Jay with the Upper Cut Shot

 

Of course, none of these heroic feats of carpentry acrobatics would be possible if it weren't for the accurate and careful cutting of Douglas (a.k.a. Douglas, the Italian Christmas Donkey). I was first introduced to Doug when he entered our house with a cordless DeWALT reciprocating saw, asking how he could get to the basement to cut off the outdoor faucet. That was our first taste of demolition on the project. But Doug was successful without a hitch.
 
Doug making another perfect cut
Doug making another perfect cut

The rest of the floor went together pretty quickly, except for a few bowed 2x8s. Maybe Barack can do something about our nation's lumber supply? At any rate, the team was successful in getting the floor together. We made a 16" x 16" opening for the pier to follow, as shown in the shot below:

 
Pier Location
Pier Location
 

We made the opening a bit bigger so I had room to align the pier to the North and also have plenty of room for wires and such. I think this will work just fine.

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Observatory Revealed


As we were planning the support rails for the rectangular skirt the goes on top of the dome, it become obvious that we should look at the piece in order to take some measurements. Armed with a pair of wire cutters and a hammer, I attacked the end panels on the shipping box. Here's a looks from either end of the box.

Base Ring and Dome Quadrants
Base Ring and Dome Quadrants
Shutter and Rectangluar Skirt
Shutter and Rectangluar Skirt

The color looks great. It's a lot better than the standard white color since we're mounting it on our house, and they were able to really match the siding and flashing colors well. The color is actually mixed with the resign that makes the fiberglass parts, so it's embedded int he pieces and not just painted on. I think they did an outstanding job with what I'm seeing so far.

From there I unpacked the pieces for the skirt and got them up in the storage side of the third floor. Here they are laid out on the floor so we can see how the start coming together.

One side of the Rectangular Skirt
One side of the Rectangular Skirt
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Arrival of the Dome


Monday morning of January 12th, was an interesting moment, to say the least. The morning before my wife and I awoke to the smell of something burning. Minutes later there was smoke billowing out of the vents in the house. It turned out that the heat limit switch on our oil furnace had malfunctioned, and the oil burner just kept heating and getting hotter and hotter. Some of the Armaflex insulation had some how gotten inside the air conditioner coil on top of the furnace. Given that it's rated to stay flexible to 220 degrees, it's no wonder that it melted down and caused all the smoke. So after having our HVAC person there all day Sunday, he was due to arrive at 8:00 Monday morning with a new temp limit switch.

So, on Monday morning we of course missed the bus, so after dropping off everyone I was late getting back to the house. As I'm getting close to home my phone rings, and it's the HVAC guy asking where I am. Then at the same time I get a call from Yellow Freight about the dome. The gentleman on the phone was asking if someone would be there tomorrow for the delivery and wanted to make sure we had something to get the large box off his truck. I explained that he was delivery the shipment to a residence and that my neighbor had borrowed my fork lift. He suggested I call the shipper to discuss a resolution.After getting the HVAC guy started on his job I called Jerry Smith at Technical Innovations and explained the situation. He jumped right in to help, calling me back minutes later with two flat bed towing services that could do the job. About an hour later I had received a call from the towing company asking for directions and telling me they would bring it here later that afternoon. At least there was a glimmer of sunshine on this very dreary day. The driver didn't know if he should go up the construction road, so he stopped and walked up the hill to talk to the guys putting on the siding. After explaining my intention of putting it in the yard, he jumped back in the truck and drove up the driveway.

Dome Delivery
Dome Delivery

 

From there he maneuvered around by the garage and I had planned on him putting on a spot in the yard the would hopefully be out of the way yet still allow us to get to it easily. Given that it was a flat bed truck, it was a pretty easy delivery. He backed up the truck as far as he could go, unhooked the straps, and then carefully and slowly lowered it onto the ground.

The drop off went pretty easily, although his truck slid towards him slightly. We had gotten a few inches of snow that day, which made it even more interesting.

 

Bombs Away
Bombs Away

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Rough Framing Complete


It certainly didn't take them long at that point, although they were hanging over the edge a lot to do some of the framing work.

Rough Framing Complete
Rough Framing Complete

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Starting to Take Shape


What an exciting day it was to see at least the hole for the observatory start to take shape.

Bottom of the observatory area
Bottom of the observatory area

And quickly, within what seemed like minutes, walls started going into place for the outside of the observatory.

Walls forming
Walls forming

Yes, those are tall walls. They're 12.5' to be exact. But, soon a floor will be built to raise the height up to the dome, and a half-spiral staircase from The Iron Shop will take you from the level of the third floor "hobby room" to the floor right under the dome.

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Breaking and Entering


This day gave a whole new meaning to the phrase, "breaking and entering." Imagine seeing men ripping your roof apart, throwing bits and pieces and sheets of plywood everywhere. That was the scene on this day.

Ripping the roof off - yikes!
Ripping the roof off - yikes!

But then things started taking shape again, and we could see that a new roof was in our future.

New roof line forms
New roof line forms

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Building to the Sky


It didn't take long for the crew from R. W. Buff, Inc. to start showing progress. They quickly built the first and second floors.

First Floor Ready for a Roof
First Floor Ready for a Roof

As you can see, at this stage the former exterior wall is still intact, so no outside air is getting inside.

Second Floor Finished
Second Floor Finished

The weather is starting to get colder, and unfortunately the next step is to rip off the old roof.

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Foundation


Now that the trees are cleared, it's time for the experts at R. W. Buff, Inc. to start the project. The first task was to prepare the foundation. We were hoping that the ground would be free of the big granite boulders so common in this area. The excavator was luckily able to make quick work of the foundation.

Footer Ready for Concrete
Footer Ready for Concrete

Since we were only going to add a crawl space, it didn't have to be too deep, and fortunately avoided any large boulders to stand in his way.

Block Walls Complete
Block Walls Complete

Over the next few days the footers and floor were poured. Of course it rained like a monsoon the day after it was finished, so we had to wait a few extra days before the cement block could be laid for the foundation. Two men came and built the foundation in a single day. Not a bad day's work.

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Making Some Room


We brought in a tree surgeon that we used before to make more room around our garden. It's amazing how quickly he can bring down huge trees. I was nervous that they were too close to the house, so we definitely wanted an expert.

Timber!
Timber!

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