Our life living off the land in our log cabin, breathing fresh mountain air, and getting back to basics.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Building A Rustic Deck Railing, Part 2

Our deck project is going to take some time to complete, but every little step forward gets us closer to the end result!  We have made some progress since our beginning the process last week, and I wanted to bring you up to date.  We now have 2 posts and the first bottom rung installed...looks like we re moving in the right direction...slow and sure!

After installing the first post, we realized we didn't have enough large logs for posts; we want to use logs that are about 6" in diameter.  So we went to look at the trees felled by a friend who cleared some land around his cabin, and after strategically cutting big tree trunks in the right places, we had the additional 9 post logs we need.

Last week, I mentioned the skip peel method of getting the bark off a tree...this is  what it looks like when you use a draw knife to accomplish the finish...you pull the knife toward you to scrape off the bark...

...sometimes going a little bit deeper to get through to the lighter part of the wood.

It creates a random and rustic look, and gives great opportunity for creative license with what to do with knots and oddities in the wood (it also gives lots of room for hiding the things you wish you had done differently)

Once the post has the finish you want, and if the deck flooring overlaps the girder (if there is no overlap, skip this step), place it on the deck floor and mark where the log will be attached.  We have chosen to line ours up directly with the posts that support the deck floor and are installed in a concrete footer. Yes, you are correct, the post in this picture has not been completely skip peeled, which causes the log to be a little larger than the finished version will be...this was a lesson learned, as our cut-in was larger than it needed to be.
After marking where the post will stand, cut the overlapping floor boards to match the width of the soon to be installed post...  
...it will look like this.
The post will then "slide into" this space.  We have cut the bottom of the post in half, with half of the base sitting on the deck floor and leaving a 7" leg (there is probably a technical term for this but I don't know it) that will be screwed into the frame with 2 5" screws. 

BUT (this is important), before attaching the post, the bottom rail needs to be readied for installation, which includes the skip peel finish and creating the mortise and tenon joint. 

This is the tenon, which was hand made (we don't have a tenon cutter that large); we wanted the connection to be 1 1/2" thick.  Johny measured 1 1/2" from the end of the pole, used a Japanese saw to cut a 1/4" deep slice into the circumference of the pole, and then used a wood chisel to break that 1/4 inch deep layer of wood away, leaving a tenon.
Then he used a 1 1/2" drill bit to make the mortise.

Once completed, the foot rail can be attached by inserting the tenon into the mortise, making the joint.  We chose to make the bottom of the joint 3" from the deck floor, leaving room for feet under the railing.  Of course, the rail has 2 ends, and this joint has to be prepared on each post. 

Once the joints are completed, slide the rail into the first post (the one already attached to the deck), then put the other end into the second post, slowly maneuvering it into it's slot on the floor.  Once stabilized, drill the screw holes and screw the post into position. This is the end result.

The top/hand rail is going to sit on top of the posts, more to come about that stage.

We learned another lesson I'd like to share...I'm sure there will be many, you can learn from our learning!  While it seems intuitive that different types of wood will have different looking skip peel finish looks, there can be some significantly different aesthetic results.  You can see that the branch on the right has a very different look than the one on the left, and I didn't like the one on the right; so far, we've used maple, sweet birch and yellow birch, which seem to have a similar skip peel finish look.  I'm sure once everything is assembled, the differences in the finishes will be less apparent.  For now, I will be quite choosy about whether or not the finish appeals to me.

The next step is the top/hand railing.  We didn't work on it today because we woke to a light dusting of snow on the ground, a cold wind blowing, and the temperature never rising above freezing.  A perfect day for indoor projects! But I must say, this is the kind of wintery day I love (yes, I know, it's spring), because the sky has been a beautiful blue, I've kept the wood stove burning, and when I step outside it feels so good to breath in the fresh crisp air!  Love it!

If I have left off a detail you would like to know more about, please leave a comment...I will be sure to respond.  Or you can send me an email at liseslogcabinlife@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading my blog, you are the best f/f/r/s/f's, see you tomorrow,


Osage Bluff Quilter said...

I can't wait to see the finished product! It will be beautiful!

(it's snowing here!)

Dad/Pepere said...

Looking good! Hugs!

Lise said...

Thanks Patti, I can't wait to see the finished product either! Get your shovel back out:)

Thanks dad, hugs back!

Tracy Callard said...

LOVE this information on how to build a log deck. Thanks so much for sharing. We have a rustic seasonal cabin up in the Catskill Mountains, and have been saving up to put on a deck like yours -- hopefully with local materials for the railings. I can't wait to show these pictures to my husband & the guy who will hopefully build our deck this summer. Thanks again, and enjoy your gorgeous outdoor space!

Lise said...

Thanks Tracy! Please let me know if you have questions...we are no experts but we have some practical know-how!