Mendocino CA

Mendocino

Mendocino

Mendocino

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Sunday, November 22nd, 2009 Nautical and Marine Images I 1 Comment

Largest Art Project Ever for Uncle Rob

Finished Tower

Finished Tower

To bring something into existence that springs from the font of your own imagination and is realized as a result of your own physical and mental effort is satisfying to a high degree.

Evie and I moved to Mendocino in August of 1994. The house and grounds of our new home needed a lot of attention and for the next three years we went at it hammer and tong. As a result of our efforts we were on the local garden tour in 1998. After that our work load slowed down quite a bit and I began thinking about a new project to keep me occupied in my retirement.

If you have ever been to Mendocino, California you will remember that one of its unique features is the assortment of water towers visible in town. They are left over from the days when all water was pumped from wells by windmills and stored in elevated tanks for gravity feed. Some are now derelict, some have been been converted into living spaces, and some are still functioning as originally intended. They give the town a distinctly quaint and historic aspect. In fact, the whole town has been designated a historic district. After studying these towers for a time I decided that I would build one for our property. I walked around town and took notes on the various construction methods, and I bought a book entitled: Water Towers and Windmills of Mendocino by Wally Smith which included a detailed description and pictorial of how they were built (see below).

The long summer evenings of 1999 found me busy in my shop building the scale model shown below. The model, which is one inch to one foot, enabled me to work out many of the details before I actually started on the real thing.

The winter of 1999/2000 had a long spell of pleasant weather right around the turn of the year and I took advantage of that to get the foundation started. The foundation consists of eight  large piers each weighing about half a ton. I built a reusable form and cast them in place. Next, I connected them all with a 10″ x 10″ sill milled from our own redwood trees (see photos below). This established a base dimension of 12′ x 12′.

(click on images for larger view)

After that the fun really began. About half the timbers were milled from redwoods that grew on the property and the other half were either purchased or were gifts from Bill and Karen, Evie’s oldest son and his wife. They were very generous throughout the project. The whole structure was built in  the traditional way and even though I never intended it to actually hold  a water tank, I have no doubt that it could. We envisioned it mainly as  an observation platform with living spaces below the top deck.

The timbers are all connected at their intersections by 1/4″ steel gussets. Each timber has two 3/4″ or 5/8″ through bolts at its ends that are fastened through the gussets.

Bolt Schedule

Bolt Schedule

The gussets were, at first, a puzzle. I bought the steel and was able to cut them out and drill the holes but I couldn’t bend them where required. My equipment just didn’t have that kind of capability. Eventually, I found a boat builder in Fort Bragg who had the means to do the job, and after that I just took him a cardboard template and he would knock out the whole thing. Since we live quite near the coast all the gussets were double coated with an epoxy paint. Having the walls slope in at 1 in 10 or about 6 degrees definitely complicates construction. I had to measure that angle so often that I eventually modified a standard framing square to reflect the slope.

Gusset Fabrication

Gusset Fabrication

This being a retirement project where time did not equal money, I worked on it at a leisurely pace. This also helped spread the cost of materials out to an affordable pace. The following photos cover progress over the next several years and by 2003 the basic framework was complete.

The Framing Begins

The Framing Begins

After that it was attention to details such as ladders, doors, windows, walls and floors. Originally, as shown on the model, I had planned to cover the whole structure with a siding of some kind, but by the time the basic framework was completed I was so pleased with its appearance that I resolved let it show allowing people to see that this was the genuine article and not just a look-alike.

Hoisting a Gusset

Hoisting a Gusset

Beginning the Top

Beginning the Top

Top Complete, Walls begun

Top Complete, Walls begun

Nearing Completion

Nearing Completion

First Ladder

First Ladder

Inside Study Showing Solar Power Control Panel

Inside Study Showing Solar Power Control Panel

Ramp Door

Ramp Door

The ground floor of the finished tower is used for garden equipment storage (lawn mower, etc.). The second floor is a small spare bedroom, and the third floor is Uncle Rob’s study from which this post originates. The top deck is (so far) just for observation, but Uncle Rob has some ideas slowly cooking on the back burner of his mind. To see a video featuring this tower click here and scroll down to the video.

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Thursday, September 24th, 2009 Largest Art Project No Comments
 

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