Riding the Rails

The railings of a deck mark the final appearance of the structure. I wanted to make the railings wrought iron and wood combined. This meant a great deal of work to make the railing structure blend with the character of the house. We came up with a design that adds to the flavor of the porch and gives additional style building on the curved effect of the corners.

To finish the curved sections of railing the support structure under the top rail must be added. To bend the support piece I used “kerf” cuts spaced every inch along the board. The “kerf” cuts through 3/4 of the depth of the board. The remaining 1/4 of wood will bend into shape with ease. I used screws to secure the “kerffed” board to the cross-piece. I bend the board into shape a little at a time and secure the shape using screws.

The final effect is great. Now let me show you how it was done. The totals on the railing included a top and bottom crossrail. All 215 linear feet was hand routed to get the proper shape. But how the curves were made is the most difficult part.

It all started with a 2″x12″ x 60″ board. I had just enough room to cut out pieces for 3 of the 4 rails I needed. The inside curve rail was too large to fit in one piece on the 12″ width of the board. This curve I had to cut both the top and bottom rail in 2 pieces and bond them together in the middle. The jig saw left ridges in the board that had to be planed off with a shaping tool then sanded.

Top then side view of the two pieces bonded to form the long inside curve piece. 

I left “tongues” of wood on each half so that they could be joined with glue and screws.

After getting the correct shape of curve for each corner the routing began. I used a Yonoko rail bit to round off the top of both the upper and lower cross-piece. Routing 215 feet of 2x4 board created a huge amount of sawdust. Of course each side of the board had to be rounded, so it was more like 430 linear feet of routing. The upper cross-piece required the top corners to be rounded with the larger router bit. Then, the bottom corners were rounded with a smaller router bit. That makes 645 linear feet of routing in total. Then…everything had to be sanded smooth to be painted white. I used a primer first, then finished with a coat of oil-based bright white paint. The oil-based paint gives that hard, glossy smooth surface.

          2.25″ Router Bit                 Rounded bottom cross-piece at left. Top at right.     Painted top cross-piece installed.

To finish the curved sections of railing the support structure under the top rail must be added. To bend the support piece I used “kerf” cuts spaced every inch along the board. The “kerf” cuts through 3/4 of the depth of the board. The remaining 1/4 of wood will bend into shape with ease. I used screws to secure the “kerffed” board to the cross-piece. I bend the board into shape a little at a time and secure the shape using screws.

Assembling the cross-pieces and the wrought iron pieces completes the railing.

On the Way Back

She’s coming back! The deck is near completion after 2 solid weeks of work. All that is left is the railings, vertical concrete stamping, and final coats of paint. What a difference from when we started. Below is a reminder. It really doesn’t look like the same house. The deck was my brilliant wife’s dream. An incredible makeover for the Grand Old Lady.

It has been a slugfest to complete the deck. Ground breaking was Memorial day Weekend. Total number of build days over the hot and wet summer was 21. Beth and I did the work ourselves. We both feel like finally the project has turned a corner and we can get this thing finished. It will be great to move inside and finish everything.

For those interested we continue to get great visitors from The LIttle Whitehouse and the Roosevelt Institute who are watching our progress as it happens. Thanks to each of them for the support and encourgement. Miss Pam you were extremely helpful in answering many questions we had about the house and especially the Spaldings. So far we have had 10 riders in the elevator. It is working better each day I use it. Everytime someone comes to ride I also get to play “guess the weight.” It is kind of like the carnival game, except it involves how much counterweight needs to be in the elevator for each group of riders so that the rope moves easily. Getting pretty good at guessing. If you are in the area please come on over so I can gather more data for my chart I will post in the elevator.

The Elevator: How it Works

I have posted about the Sedgwick elevator in the house. It is a rope pulled elevator. It seems that this can be confusing to people. Many picture a laborious ride in such an elevator like something out of ancient Egypt. You step into the elevator grab a rope and pull yourself to the second floor. Don’t let go. You will plummet to your death, elevator and all. 

Actually it is an ingenious simple mechanism that allows the elevator to work using counter-weight balance and gear ratios to make the work easier. Modern elevators work in the same manner. There is not a winch with a rope pulling an elevator car up and unwinding to make it go down. Every elevator uses weights that balance with the elevator car. The motor is simply turning one direction to make the elevator car go up and the counter-weight go down. The opposite direction of the motor causes the weight to go up and the car to godown. That is why there are weight limits posted in every elevator. Too many people in the elevator car over powers the counter balance weight. This makes the motor struggle to raise the elevator car and accidents could occur.

The rope pulled in one direction rotates a 48″ diameter flywheel. There is a breaking system on the back of the flywheel that stops the movement when you stop pulling the rope. The flywheel is turning 4 different gears that ultimately turn the Drive wheel that moves the steel cables that are attached to the elevator car on one end and the 500 lb counter-weight on the other. 

So that is how it works. I love the mechanics of it all. Simple engineering at its best. 

Moving Along…Slowly

The deck is taking its final shape. Using a 4’x8′ cement board as the base for the vertical concrete that will be applied next. The railing posts have their decorative features and are ready for paint. Bending the corners with cement board was definitely a trick. Had to build a wooden superstructure that will make the vertical brick stamp feel like an immovable solid brick wall. 50 2x4’s, 28 concrete blocks, and everything custom measured due to the sloping ground; We have a wall. Now to the lathe and mortar. Elizabeth had a major thumb and hammer collision from the nails bouncing on the cement board. The physics show the hammer wins everytime. So yes, not only sweat going into this project but real blood shed in the making of the front porch.

Seems like 10 more days of work can complete the deck. Now to find that time.

The Rope Pulled Elevator

One of the fascinating parts of the Hardaway Cottage for me is the rope pulled elevator. Mrs. Hardaway built the house as a potential rental house for those visiting the springs and the institute. This house is the only elevator in a single family dwelling on the institute grounds. When we purchased the house the elevator was not operational. Gene Spaulding had the elevator converted to an electric motor and removed the rope from the flywheel..

I wanted to remove the motor and return the elevator to its original rope pull operation. There was one problem in accessing the motor. The only way to get into the attic was to climb up the elevator shaft and through a small opening. I first had to cut an access door in the hall ceiling and add a pull-down ladder. Then for the removal of the motor.

My son had helped before the attic access was added. He was able to remove two bolts holding the motor to its mount. The right tools were definitely needed. With tools in hand, and Beth at the store, I decided it was time to get that rope on the elevator. It took a 2″ rope. The best price on this large rope size came from the purchase of an excersize rope. I needed 75 ft. I purchased two and will interweave the ends together to join the lengths and create a continuous loop. 

I removed the last two bolts and realized the rubber gasket used to cushion the teeth on the hub and motor was stopping the removal of the motor. A few good dead lifts of the motor and it jumped loose. Then, the 48″ diameter cast-iron fly wheel started to move. The elevator was at the bottom floor. There was 500 lbs of counterweights that started to slowly bring the elevator cage up to the second floor. I reached out to stop the flywheel from turning, then realized that would remove a great deal of skin since the flywheel was gaining speed. I stepped back in the attic and said “it will eventually stop when it gets to the top. Might break the beams but I can’t stop it.” Up came the elevator until it stopped with a loud bang. Nothing broke. However, the cage of the elevator is wedged in tight at the top of the guide beams. I will have to get it loose with some car jacks.

All I can say is “glad Beth was at the store.” I was not in danger but it was very loud.

I but the rope on the wheel. It is the perfect size and moves the wheel with ease. Now to get the passenger cage un-wedged. 

I have a rope on the elevator.

FDR Hyde Park Sedgwick Elevator

The motor is off and the rope is on!

The Lady Gets a Skirt

My Granddaughter Elly calls the Hardaway Cottage “The Grand Old Lady.:” And now the Lady gets a skirt on her deck. I had been looking at the whitewashed brick on the exterior of the house and wondered how I could mimic that look on the skirt of the deck. Building a brick front would have been far too cost prohibitive. I researched vertical concrete stamping and found that this could be affordably with the durability of concrete. I have purchased the brick stamp. However, I must finish building the support structure and facing. I have one piece of facing on the front. Below is a drawing showing the brick stamp on the skirt and the railing design with the wrought iron balusters. Now to finish the skirt, stairs, and rails by end of August.

And the Deck Goes On and On and On

OK, seems that a 715 square foot deck is a slighty larger project than I anticipated. This ride is definitly not as fun as I thought it was going to be when we started. Now to get it finished. It is coming along. It is just a large project. And following all the building codes really slows things down. As you can see below all of the decking is on. Beth is just finishing putting in the 4,000 screws that hold it to every joist. Finish boards are all along the edge and the posts are trimmed to the right height. I must finish the stairs and the deck skirt. We have special plans for the skirt. Everything has to dry out for three weeks before we can paint it white. Since it has rained every week this summer, that may take a while.

And the Deck Goes On Pt 2

Deck boards across 715 square feet  of area apparently take longer than I thought. Two days and still not finished. Maybe next work day. At least there is progress. The ramp is finished and the section in front of the sunporch is complete. Next time it will be more open space as we finish the right side of the deck.

Work Days are here!

All of you, our family and friends have been incredible supportive of our new project in Warm Springs, The Hardaway Cottage. Many of you have offered to help and we are ready for you! We are going to have two work days one on August 26th and another on September 9th. If you can clean windows, clean and scrape old paint or paint primer we need you! Message me or Mark. You can stay Friday and/or Saturday night. The front porch will be ready for work breaks! We will provide meals, tools and supplies. Thank You!

And the Deck Goes On

Work has continued on the porch doing all of the necessary things to meet building codes for safety. Unfortunately most of the work wil be unseen once the porch is complete. This includes 2-way bracing at each post and beam connection, joist hangers at both ends of 48 joists, and 2 hurricane clips where every joist crosses a beam. So that means 52 braces in 26 locations, 96 joist hangers, and 300 hurricane clips. The hangers and clips take 10 nails each totaling almost 4000 nails for the hardware. Elizabeth learned how to use a palm nailer and went to town. 

The ramp for wheel chair access came out perfect. For every inch of drop there must be 1 foot of length. The drop from the top of the porch and the sidewalk is 15″. The length of the ramp is 15′.

The hand rail posts had to be installed so that the decking could be placed around it. There are 24 hand rail posts and each had to be leveled and double bolted to a joist. I had to use shims to get them all aligned but the work was not too hard.

Finally deck boards are added! The height of the floor is perfect for the sun porch doors to open straight onto the front porch. I just got started but couldn’t keep this interloper off of the finished section. Another two days and the decking will be complete.

Charles Glenn the WWII Era

Charles Glenn

Charles Glenn was the second owner of the Hardaway Cottage. He was the head of a fascinating family during a critical period in U.S. and Warm Springs history. Charles and his wife Cathron had four children; three daughters and a son. During WWII the household included Charles and Cathron Glenn, their children; Cathron Glenn Trepagnier, Eleanor Glenn O’Neill, Ann Glenn Corey, and Alexander Lindsey Glenn, as well as grandchildren including the daughter of Cathron Glenn Trepagnier, Cathron Birge who has been communicating with me. In fact, I would consider their time at the Hardaway to be during the “Golden Years” of Polio treatment in Warm Springs.

The Glenns purchased the home because of the mobility needs of both Cathron Glenn, Charles’s wife, and his son Alexander. Cathron had rheumatoid arthritis. The elevator was very helpful for her, and in addition their youngest child and only boy Alexander had polio. He received treatment for his polio at the foundation, as it was known at that time. Sometime during the 1940s the Glenn family added a bedroom and handicapped bathroom on the main floor of the home for Alexander. This handicapped access was very unusual for the time period. In fact, all the historic homes on the grounds of the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation are handicapped accessible.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to communicate with Cathron Birge, the oldest grandchild of Charles and Cathron Glenn. She was kind enough to share some of her memories with me. She was born at a local hospital in Manchester, GA and brought home to a cottage on the grounds of the institute. Within just a few months the entire family moved into the Hardaway Cottage. She remembers that during her childhood the Hardaway Cottage and the Little White House shared a telephone party line. Also, when FDR was not in town his cook, Daisy Bonner, cooked for the Glenn family. Cathron Birge was not sure if her grandfather and FDR knew each other prior to their purchase of the Hardaway Cottage. But it seems likely that FDR was acquainted with the Glenn family since they were neighbors, and Alex received treatment at the institute. During the 1940’s the institute hosted a fund raiser every Thanksgiving, and during one such dinner Alexander was seated at the head table with FDR and was photographed with him.

Another interesting fact about Charles Glenn is that he commuted between Warm Springs, GA and Oak Ridge, TN for work. Oak Ridge was a government created and planned city for the development of the Atom Bomb. This information sent me on a quest for additional information. The book, City Behind a Fence, chronicles the creation of the city and the lives of the men, women and children who lived there. During the 1940’s when Oak Ridge was in full swing they never were able to keep up with the demand for housing. It makes sense that Charles would have commuted. With the medical and mobility issues of Alexander and Cathron, and the number of family members there would not have been housing available for the Glenn family.

I have been thrilled to learn about the Glenn family and the history of the Hardaway Cottage. I hope someday to host Cathron Birge and any other Glenn family members. It will be so much fun to hear in person their memories, and you can bet we will get a lot of pictures!



The Lady has Curves

It was our youngest granddaughter who gave the Hardaway Cottage my favorite name as only Ellie could. After seeing the house for the first time she nonchalauntly said “I think we should call the house “The Grand Old Lady.” I could not agree more. And this week the Lady got curves. As noted in another post, we designed the front porch early in the process. 

You can see a design choice that helps soften the starkness of the house. The curved corners of the porch were designed to make a strong statement and add great visual interest. Easy to draw, more difficult to make in the real world. Glad to say that the beast has been tamed. The internet is filled with all sorts of methods for doing construction projects. When it comes to deck construction it is more difficult to find ideas that also pass current Georgia building codes. Here are images of the deck without the curved corners. The joist structure is almost complete except for the access ramp, stairs, decking, 52 corner braces, 96 joist hangers with 10 nails each, 300 hurricane clips with 10 nails each, and rounded front corners. OK, still some work to go.

Building curves on a deck can be done in several ways. A small calculation was necessary to determine the circumference of the complete circle then the 1/4 portion I was using to make the curve. 

I used a 36″ radius which would make the 1/4 turn on the corner officially 55.5″ long. I extended it to 60″ length for a slightly sharper corner. I used a nail, string, and pencil to mark the arc of the curve on the joists so that I could cut them to support the curved section. Next, I kerf cut the 2x8 every inch along the 60″ section. The board was extended by 12″ on each side of the kerf cuts to allow for a nailing section. I cut to a depth of 1″. This left 1/2″ of material that became 

flexible to make the curve. One board bent easily with this cut. A second board required an additional 1/4″ depth on the kerf cut to bend correctly. The third board broke at one of the kerf cuts due to a knot. Here is the process. 

So, The Lady has Curves. I did the center inside radius by flipping the board and exposing the kerf cuts. I will use a 1/4″ ply to cover the cuts. With some glue in the kerfs it will firm up nicely. 

Now on to hurricane clip and joist hangers. If you have never owned or used a palm nailer, you must get one. To hammer 2,400 hanger nails in tight spaces by hand is murder. The mini palm nailer was worth every penny of the $40 investment.