Monday, November 16, 2020

Moving Rocks

 In this week's fascinating episode on how to wreck the human body . . . . granite stair treads .

August last year I removed mom's front steps in preparation for rebuilding the driveway .

The photo does not show it well , but after forty years the granite slabs had tilted and sunk due to the weight of the right hand side wall sitting on them and they were no longer level . They were so out of kilter that they collected ponds of water and ice in the corners which made them unusable in winter . The elevation of the driveway would be changing anyhow so they needed to be reset and leveled to the new grade. I got estimates for the work that ran over ten thousand dollars . 

Nope , that's not happening while I am around here .

Having consulted with Mr Google I calculated the weight on those slabs to be about six hundred and fifty pounds each , and the rating on that glorified pooper-scooper bucket was about seven hundred pounds when it was new . No telling what it is now seventy years after it left the factory . As there was no way to really pick up the granite slabs with the bucket and still have traction on the rear wheels , I lifted them with my Home Built Skidder Post on the three point hitch . 

The contractor got to us in October last year and dug up the muddy old driveway down about a foot and laid in a liner and new crushed rock .

And beautifully pitched and compacted new gravel . 

And we let it be for a year . 

Then in early September this year the pavers showed up .

And put in the nice hot top pavement . 
Beautiful smooth bitumen .
We no longer need to go four-wheeling to make it around that bend .
I can relate to that cat .
So last week while we enjoyed a spell of Indian Summer it was my turn to put my best "ugly stripper"  back into it . I went up to Mom's on Tuesday just hoping to shovel out the soil enough while it was still soft and dry and then wait for freeze-up to lay the granite back in place .
 But I got inspired and figured I'd try my new Flea-bay chineseum $98 forklift tines and see if I could even pick up the slabs .
And with the hydraulic oil in the system still relatively cold and the barrel full of rocks in the back as a counterweight , I actually had enough traction to pick up those six hundred and fifty pound granite slabs.
And after about two hours of digging dirt and levering the slabs , I had two of them in place . . . 

Three was  a charm .  The fourth one . . . not so much .  Took about five hours work to get this far .

That fourth slab had a big belly on the underside and was considerably heavier than the first three . The worn out and by now hot hydraulics on the tractor had all they could do to lift it six inches off the ground . It's three thirty pm and I'm beat anyhow , how about I call it good for today . I'll sleep on this one and see what I can do about it in the morning .
Wednesday morning with fresh eyes I figured I got to make it lighter somehow . So after some levering with the six foot bar to stand it up on edge  I set about trying my hand at being Michelangelo . 

Got several decent sized flakes off it and got a larger one started . . . . a minor gain .

Working the seam

So satisfying after beating on it for an hour to see it finally start to give . 
Aha . I'll beat you yet you bastard . That had to be fifty pounds right there . See that nice curved shelf there ? I worked that one with the chisel and maul for another forty minutes . . .
Got ya now . . . That had to be at least a hundred pounds in one flake . 
I probably took two hundred pounds off it by now .

With the still relatively cold hydraulics , the tractor made easy work of lifting it four feet up this time . 
Between getting them in place and actually having them level where I wanted , there was a lot of huffing and puffing levering with the six foot breaker-bar to dig out under them and shim in other places that never made it on camera . 
And the last one goes in place .
OK its two pm and I have not had lunch yet .  If I could only have one more slab it would get me to the level of the wooden landing . 
While chuffing down a sandwich I contemplate my handiwork . Look at that corner of the wall !  Between the chipmunks tunneling , and last winter's ice it's collapsing on us . Best to do something about that now or we'll soon have a mess on the new pavement .

Honestly I was going to leave that wall for the spring . . . but if I could only reset these three rocks . . .
Two hours later . . . not bad for a hack if I do say so myself .  The other corner of the retaining wall also needs a bit of mending but it can wait till next spring . The wooden stairs are in bad shape and need to be replaced , so I'll see what I can do to make it all an even run at that point too . But that's enough for this season . I really did not think I'd get this job done this year at all .


  1. is there anything you can't do? those wooden steps do need to be rebuilt. you can probably knock them out in no time! the granite steps look great!

    1. Going into this one I did not know if I could do it myself. It's the first time I ever attempt anything like this. Hopefully the last .

  2. Bravo, Mike!!! Don't be shy about stroking out and croaking on home projects! It's better than killing yourself with booze and drugs as me and the tards are doing! :)

    Hey - how hard is it to change the chuck on a drill press? Would you know by any chance...?

    1. Most of them are just a tapered shaft fit. Some of them have a phillips screw inside them. The cheap chineseum one I have just comes loose with a good whack from a brass hammer. Sometimes it comes loose on its own.
      I think I am done for now with the big back busting projects. Working on an ongoing project for a customer right now. I suppose I should probably post about it at some point.

  3. You still alive over there, M? Hey - Merry Christmas!!! :)

    1. Yes I am alive, at least I think I am. Just pedaling as fast as I can right now. Haven't had time to slow down long enough to tell you folks about it all. You know, my feeble brain can't cope with more than one task at a time. Merry Christmas to you too.