Friday, June 15, 2018

The Shed Chronicle Part II

This post will cover the construction of my shed's foundation, foundation frame and floor. See here for part I of the story.

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A Start To The Foundation -- FRIDAY, JUNE 15, 2018

There's the first corner. That was the easy part; the nine remaining tiles/blocks all have to be levelled and aligned to that one.

It's a standard 4-way Dek-Block on top of a 2'x2' patio tile on top of limestone screening. The soil there is not terribly well drained, but it's been undisturbed for years. My thinking is that at 576 square inches per tile, the shed will actually bear fairly lightly on the earth, and should ride out freeze/thaw cycles without significant heaving. That's my theory, anyway, and I'm going to go with it and see what happens.

The cost and effort to bore holes four feet deep for poured concrete piers would have been outrageous. From what research I've managed to do, it seems that even piers of that depth don't absolutely guarantee against frost heaving. The method I'm using here is a reasonably sound one that should prove satisfactory for an 8'x12' shed. We'll see.

My work so far has shown me that I'll need way more limestone screening than the three sacks that I ordered. Tomorrow, I'll see how much limestone my Tucson can carry, and get on with adding tiles and Dek-Blocks.

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At Least It Looks Like Someone Is Starting To Begin To Commence Building A Shed -- SATURDAY, JUNE 16, 2018

Three out of ten tiles/Dek-Blocks are now in place. It's nice work if you like heavy lifting. The tiles weigh 80 lbs., the Dek-Blocks weigh 48 lbs. and the sacks of limestone screening weigh 66 lbs.

Not only is the work physically taxing, it's intellectually taxing as well. There is much to mind as one attempts to get spacing, elevation and level to agree from one installation to the next. It's the sort of work that I call 'precision approximation'. Perfection is not going to happen -- reasonable serviceability is about all one can hope for.

A Tamper

While I was at the local Garden Supply Centre to get more limestone screenings, I spotted an array of tampers they had for sale. It dawned on me that tamping was what I hadn't done for my first tile installation, and that tamping was exactly what I should have done, so I bought a tamper.

It's an 8"x8" tamper, well made, and it looks to me like it's fairly effective at tamping down and compacting the limestone screenings. I undid my first tile/Dek-Block installation and gave its base a good tamping. Now I'm tamping all of my limestone screenings installations.

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Rear Rim Joist In Place -- SUNDAY, JUNE 17, 2018

That joist in the above photo is almost but not quite level. I decided that 'almost but not quite' isn't good enough, so I got some shims and shimmed the joist to levelness.

Levelling is exacting, trying work; fraught with difficulties. The books and magazine articles have little to say about it, aside from saying that it's to be done.

Anyway, with the aid of the shims, I should be able to get a dead level floor built. It will be interesting to see how level it still is this time next year.

 A Parting Thought

Gripes about difficulties aside, the work is engrossing; it's fit work for a grown man, unlike so much of what passes for 'work' these days.

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Further To Shims - - - MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2018

I've been strongly cautioned not to use wooden shims; I'm told that they'll compress and rot. So, I'll switch to composite shims, like these that I got at Home Depot long ago.

Home Depot no longer has that exact type of composite shim. They now carry these from Nelson Wood Shims.

Whatever shims one chooses to use, the things are essential. It's simply not possible to get the tiles and Dek-Blocks exactly levelled to one another. Shimming is unavoidable.

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Rain -- MONDAY, JUNE 18, 2018

Today's a write-off for shed work. I'll give the rocking horse a coat of tung oil, and that will be about it for the day.

The Rain Backed Off

I managed to get something done.

Two rim joists in place and fastened at the corner.

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Rim Joists Together And Levelled -- TUESDAY, JUNE 19, 2018

It's not quite square. I'll struggle with that tomorrow.

It's anybody's guess which side of that plywood[1][2] is the good side.

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Squared Up; All The 2" x 8" Joists In Place And Fastened -- WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20, 2018, 1200 HRS

At each joint, three #10 x 3 1/2" deck screws make for a neat, strong fastening.

Next up is to add the six 2"x6" joists.

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2" x 6" Joists Installed -- 1500 HRS

I'll lay down weed barrier cloth before I install the floor.

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Weed Barrier Installed And Floor In Place -- THURSDAY, JUNE 21, 2018

Floor Nailed Down And First Coat Of Grey 'Paint & Primer'[3] Applied

One soon learns to keep an eye on the weather forecasts when embarked on such a project as this. Today was a beautiful clear day, perfect for exterior painting. Tomorrow's forecast is calling for increasing cloudiness, then rain in the night. I'll give the floor a second coat of paint tomorrow morning, then the plywood should be adequately protected from the coming rain.

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Second Coat Of Paint Applied -- FRIDAY, JUNE 22, 2018

I've beaten the rain that's forecast to be coming tonight. It will likely be weeks before there's a roof over that floor, so I'm hoping that my paint job will protect the floor from the elements in the meantime.

And that brings us to the end of this post. Next up will be the shed's rear wall. I'm thinking to make it 6'4" tall, of 2"x3" studs. We'll see how that goes.

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[1] The plywood is nominally 5/8" thick (15.5mm actual). I think what it is is sheathing grade (SHG) plywood. It has a 'face' side, but both sides are riddled with defects. I found that the sheets tended to be concave at one side, so I put the concave side down to make for easier manipulation and positioning. It looks to me like by doing that, I've put the 'face' side down, but I don't think it matters much, if at all. There's information here about Canadian plywood specifications.

[2] Carrying sheets of 5/8" plywood is not easy; a sheet weighs about 45 lbs. I had help with getting the first sheet to the site, but for the next two sheets I was on my own. I found a YouTube presentation of a design for a tote that looked pretty good, so I made one. Here are views of that.

It works fairly well; it did the job for me.

[3] Paint used was Canadian Tire's Premier Active exterior paint & primer, satin finish, base 3 - 3533. The grey colour was copied from a Behr colour chip, 'Moonquake N450-4'. The colour formula for a gallon[4] is as follows:
  • AGF   103
  • B        2Y214
  • E        23
  • KX     9Y48
What all that means I have no idea, but I thought I'd make a record of it here.

[4] That's a Yankee gallon, not an imperial gallon.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Shed Chronicle

Here follows the ongoing story of the construction of an 8' x 12' saltbox style garden shed.

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The shed's site is at the bottom of our property's back yard. The site is low-lying and poorly drained, but I'm not going to let that stop me from building there; I think the site will do in spite of its flaws. Here's a view of the site.

The site used to be quite a productive garden some years ago, but neighbouring evergreen trees grew and grew and shaded it too much. The garden was let go, and now it's just a mess of miscellaneous growth run rampant. Here's another view of it.

Today I started in on clearing out the vegetation. I was making progress, then I decided to get my two-stoke engine powered string trimmer in on the action. That got me a tiny bit of work done; then the string trimmer died. I mucked about with the string trimmer's carburetor for quite a while to no effect. All I managed to do was to waste time.

Anyway, I did get some work done. Here's a view of my progress so far.

At the rate that I'm able to go, it may take me all this summer just to get a foundation laid. We'll see.

- - -

The loss of my string trimmer's use is really bugging me. I may see about getting a new diaphragm kit for its carburetor tomorrow.

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2330 Hours

It's late in the day, and I got the string trimmer to start after another round of dismantling and mucking about with the carburetor. I can't run the machine now; the thing is very noisy and it's much too late. I'll try it again tomorrow, and see what happens.

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Progress -- THURSDAY, JUNE 7, 2018

Most of the vegetation is cleared out.

There are a couple of cedars left to be taken down, and some gooseberry bushes to be removed.

The String Trimmer

This morning, the machine started easily and ran fine. It's been ok all day. I have no idea what it is that I finally did that corrected its problem. Diaphragm type two-stroke carburetors are pure voodoo.

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A Visitor To The Site -- FRIDAY, JUNE 8, 2018

Robins are very discerning birds. Whenever they see soil churned up at all, they're right there to feast on the worms and whatevers that turn up. The guy pictured above has been making frequent appearances since I started pulling up vegetation.

Site Cleared

I have a place to build a shed. Next up is to draw up a list of foundation materials, and get them delivered.

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Nothing Done Today -- SATURDAY, JUNE 9, 2018

We had a funeral to attend.

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Cedar Stumps Right Where I Don't Need Them -- SUNDAY, JUNE 10, 2018

In several places, I'm left with cedar stumps/root-wads right where foundation tiles have to go.

(The knife is there for scale.)

The stumps are firmly rooted; I've no way of pulling them out. I guess I'll have to dig down some alongside them, and chainsaw them off as low as possible. That'll likely be death to my chainsaw's chain, but so be it. I'll fill the resulting depressions with crushed limestone.

Anyway, I've got my foundation tile locations crudely staked out.

I didn't do a precision job of that. The Dek-Block-on-tile method that I'll be going with has a fair bit of leeway for error to it, so my staking job will serve.

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Not Much Done Today -- MONDAY, JUNE 11, 2018

Other commitments. I managed to chainsaw a couple of cedar stumps out of the ground.

They're not very big, but they're tenacious. I've at least one more stump to deal with, then I'll be out of excuses for putting off ordering material, and getting on with actually constructing my shed's foundation. Once the material is ordered and delivered, I'll be well and truly committed.

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Last Cedar Stump Out -- TUESDAY, JUNE 12, 2018

It was a tandem model.

'Disgusting what that did to my chainsaw.

I've since cleaned up that mess and gotten the saw fit for use again.

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Bogus Weather Forecast -- WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13, 2018

There's been a severe thunderstorm warning out all day which has come to naught. I let it keep me from leaving the house, for fear that all hell would break loose at any minute. It's now 1730 hrs, the sun is shining, the storm warning has ended and I've accomplished nothing.

I had meant to go the Home Depot today and order up foundation material. Now that can be tomorrow's doing. In all honesty, I must admit that I was a little glad of the excuse not to go out; I'm not looking forward to constructing the foundation. It's going to be an ordeal.

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Home Depot Weirdness -- THURSDAY, JUNE 14, 2018

I went to the Morningside Home Depot this morning to order up my foundation materials. I had with me a neatly hand-written list of what I needed, like so.

I was thinking, "This ought to be a breeze."

I went to the 'Pro Desk' where one orders materials to be delivered, and one of the Associates there offered to help me. I handed him my list, he looked at it and asked me to read it to him. [!?] Somewhat taken aback, I began to try to oblige him and read him the first item, the patio tiles. He proceeded to muck about at a computer, searching for patio tiles. I could scarcely believe what I was witnessing. It dawned on me that with this man's 'help', I'd be there for over an hour just to execute a straightforward materials order. I didn't want to cause a fuss about getting someone who knew what they were doing, so I blurted out something to the effect that I'd rather do this some other time, and hastily left the store and went home, wondering if God maybe has something against me having a shed.

After a smoke and a cool down, I went to the Home Depot in nearby Pickering, and was served promptly and competently by the Associate there. The materials will be delivered to my driveway tomorrow morning.

The Morningside Home Depot has a problem, and one less customer. The Pickering store is virtually the same distance from my home, and it's a bigger store. I won't be going back to Morningside.

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Foundation Materials Delivered -- FRIDAY, JUNE 15, 2018

What we have there is:
  • Qty 3, 66 lb sacks limestone screening.
  • Qty 10, 2'x2' patio tile.
  • Qty 10, 4-Way Dek-Block.
  • Qty 2, 2"x8"x12' pressure treated.
  • Qty 4, 2"x8"x8' pressure treated.
  • Qty 6, 2"x6"x8' pressure treated.
  • Qty 3, 5/8"x 4'x8' spruce plywood.
And with that, this post is becoming a little unwieldy. I'll continue it on as Part II.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Misleading Tarp Dimensions -- Why Do They Do This?

If you buy a cheapo 6 foot x 8 foot tarp from Canadian Tire, like this 040-5005-4, you could be excused for thinking that you're getting a 6 foot x 8 foot tarp, but you'd be wrong.

What you're actually getting is about a 5 foot 6 1/2 inch x 7 foot 4 inch tarp.

Note that the label says, "Cut Size: 6 x 8'". I imagine that the factory starts out with a 6' x 8' piece of material, then folds over its edges to hem it and install the eyelets. The result is a tarp that's considerably smaller than 6' x 8'.

I don't know whether all tarps by all tarp makers/sellers are like this, but I guess that the lesson is to watch out for those words, "cut size". "Cut size" means the size the factory started out with; not the size you're getting.

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Monday, June 4, 2018

YardWorks 4-Ton Log Splitter 060-3823-0

I've been itching to have a log splitter, and this one was on special at Canadian Tire for $200.00 off, so I got one.

The splitter comes fully assembled except for the wheels, which are installed with a couple of hitch pin clips.

There are hub caps supplied to cover the axle ends.

How It Works

The motor drives a hydraulic pump, which energizes a hydraulic ram which is what powers the splitting ram. The Instruction Manual advises you to check the hydraulic system's oil level before using the machine, and periodically afterwards.

Checking The Oil Level

There's a drain plug at one end of the hydraulic ram that incorporates a dipstick. To check the oil level, you first have to stand the machine up on its motor end.

Here's a close-up view of the drain plug; it's at about the centre of the following photograph. It takes an 8mm hex key.

The dipstick is a 10 1/4" length of 4mm diameter rod with two indicator grooves. Oil level is supposed to be between the two grooves.

It's not the easiest dip stick to read. The Instruction Manual isn't clear about it, but I imagine that the dipstick is to be fully screwed in before an oil level reading is taken.

Plugging It In

The three-conductor, 14AWG (American Wire Gauge) line cord is almost 6' long. I was fortunate in having a nicely situated outlet that saves me needing an extension cord. The Instruction manual advises that any extension cord should be 12 AWG, and no longer than 10 metres (32.8 feet)

Loosening The Bleed Screw

At the same end of the ram as the drain-plug/dipstick, there's a wingnut affair.

That's the bleed screw. I don't understand how it works or what it does, but the Instruction Manual is adamant that it must be loosened off three turns before the splitter is operated.


You have to use both hands -- one to work the hydraulics enabling lever, and one to press and hold the green ON button. Lay one end of a log up against the wedge and start the machine up. The ram will travel to the free end of the log and do its work. The instant that the wood splits, release the button and lever. The ram will return to its 'home' position.

In Conclusion

I'm impressed by and delighted with the splitter. It works as advertised. Nothing I've given it has fazed it. When the ram meets the wood, the wood is going to split, and that's all there is to it.

I don't heat with wood. I have a small woodshed, and what you might call an 'amusement' fireplace, so this splitter will be more than adequate for my purposes. It might even be adequate if I did heat with wood, it's that capable a machine.

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Friday, June 1, 2018

YardWorks Garden Shredder 060-3779-6

It was on special at Canadian Tire for $100.00 off, and I have an overgrown site for a shed to be cleared, so I got one of these shredders.

There's some assembly involved; none of it complicated. Here's a view of what all comes in the box.

Assembly tools are included. There are two socket-wrenches/hex-keys.

The socket wrenches are 13mm for the axle nuts. There's a 5mm hex key for the leg fasteners, and a 6mm hex key for the blade fasteners.

Here's the machine fully assembled and ready to run.

A brief trial with some dry, hard twigs yielded good results; the machine appears to do a credible job within its limited capacity.

Next up will be to set the machine up at my job site with a long, heavy-gauge extension cord, and get on with clearing out a few sickly little cedar trees, and a small jungle of miscellaneous growth.

Following are some observations on the machine's line-cord/plug and its blades.

Line Cord/Plug

The motor is a double-insulated design, so there's only a polarized two-prong plug -- no ground conductor/pin. The line cord is very short, and the plug has a hood to it, like so.

I don't mind the short line cord that necessitates an extension cord, but the hooded plug is a bit silly; the hood limits what you're able to plug the plug into. It certainly won't plug into the triple receptacle end of my heavy gauge extension cord.[1] Ideally, you'd use a two-conductor extension cord, but those tend to be light gauge units. You're unlikely to find a 14 AWG (American Wire Gauge) two-conductor extension cord, and 14 AWG is what's called for for a 15 amp machine like this one. I may end up just snipping away the hood from the plug.

The Blades

Here's a view of the machine opened up, and a close-up of the cutter head.

There are two reversible blades that look like they can be sharpened some limited number of times. The Instruction Manual that comes with the machine mentions that the blades can be replaced, but gives no part number for replacements.

I called the YardWorks support number to enquire about that. The person at YardWorks indicated that blades might be available as a 'special order' item, but he'd have to get back to me with further information; he didn't have a part number or price right at hand.

Hmmm. We'll see how that turns out. I won't be at all pleased should replacement blades be unavailable, or ridiculously priced.

Anyway, I'll let you know what becomes of my replacement blades enquiry, and how the shredder stands up to the work I have in store for it.

- - -

A 14 AWG Extension Cord -- SUNDAY, JUNE 3, 2018

That hood on the line cord's plug was bugging me, and I didn't want to snip it away for fear of voiding the machine's warranty, so I came up with a two-prong extension cord.

I had on hand a two-prong receptacle, a three-prong plug and a 7 1/2' length of salvaged 14/3 SJTW[2] line cord material. That all went together to make this.

It's a little unorthodox, but it gives me a cord that fits the shredder's plug properly, and is the suitable wire gauge for the machine's 15 amp current draw.

There -- ready for service.

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Performance -- TUESDAY, JUNE 12, 2018

I'm delighted with the machine. It did all that I needed it to for clearing out my shed site. Some caution is in order, though.

With big branches that are nearing the machine's 1 3/4" capacity, it's wise to restrain branches from feeding as fast as the machine will take them. The cutters can cut faster than they can eject cuttings, and it is possible to clog up the works to where the motor is perceptibly labouring and slowing. Here's what a clog looks like.

That has to be cleared out by hand, until the outlet chute is clear of chips.


The shredder is well-thought-out and perfectly safe to use. One would have to be really, really trying in order to be injured by the machine. That said, wear gloves and eye protection. When feeding hard branches, the cutters can give them a violent jerk at times that will smack your hand soundly, and/or throw off brittle pieces.

Blade Durability

I'm impressed. After all the work I did to clear my shed site, I expected the blades to be dulled, but they still look pretty much like new.

Blade Replacements

I never did get a part number or a price for replacement blades. but YardWorks kindly sent me a set for free in response to my qeury.

In Conclusion

The shredder exceeded my expectations. I'm glad I bought it. It turned a formidable amount of material into easily disposed of mulch effortlessly.

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[1] My job site is over 100' from an outlet; that's a long way to go with an extension cord. 12 AWG cords are costly, but well worth it. With a 12 gauge extension cord, you have no worries that voltage drop will result in poor machine performance.

[2] Here's a glossary of wire and cable terms. 'SJTW' is in there, along with several other of those arcane line cord material terms.

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