Of Wall Forms and the Hobbit Hollow Crew.

I seem to have forgotten about my Hobbit calendar. June is a picture of the Dwarves and Bilbo, the hobbit crossing a beautiful arched bridge into Rivendale (Home of the Elves) on their journey to the Lonely Mountain.

I wish I could build something like this for the Hobbit house. My wife actually inspired me to come up with some good ideas for our bridge over the stream of Nimrodel. I’ve done some sketches for an arched stone wall on either side. One that you could sit on and listen to the stream. Like my wife said you’ve got to have a stone bridge just like in the Hobbit.

Summer’s here and 17 year olds need cash. …and I need help. Lots of help. Ethan got a job at a pool complex working 40 hours a week and Georgia is working at Dunkin Donuts. It really is hard for kids to find a decent summer job. So I asked Jude to see if any of his friends might be interested in working a bit this summer. And so the Hobbit Hollow crew began to form. Of course they were all Men from the big folk town of Bree and all have served the Rangers of the North and were involved with the Battles with the Witch King of Angmar. Mike, Kevin, and RJ they were. They are all responsible for killing many Orcs. They are not to be trifled with.

We met Sunday at 7pm and went over to the house. I went over what needed to be done and had a discussion about safety with them. I think they were a bit nervous and that is a good thing.

There were two main things I wanted them to do. One was to strip off all the formwork on the footings and stack it. The other was to get a delivery of stone and add an additional layer of drainage around the site before we put the wall forms up. You can do gravel around the footing after you pour the walls but we would need a machine to get it around and it really isn’t that much material. Three of the boys had football practice later in the day so I told them to only work from 8AM to noon.They really got a lot done. It’s always amazing to see how much material comes out of a footing after a pour. Here’s a picture.

Hobbit Hollow crew stripping the footing forms.Mikey, RJ and Kevin....Jude took the picture.
Hobbit Hollow crew stripping the footing forms.Mikey, RJ and Kevin….Jude took the picture.

I have to admit I was envious that they were there and I was stuck in Queens. They did well. I met Jude at the site that night and we went over a couple of things for the next day. Organize the site a bit and finish stripping the forms. Wednesday they were basically off and I had Jude take the scrap rebar and I-beams to the scrap yard. We got $80 for the scrap. More than I thought. Jude also picked up some filter fabric and drainage pipe for Thursday. I had stone delivered late Wednesday, about 20 tons.

Thursday I had the boys install another layer of filter fabric and additional drainage pipe around the footing. It’s tough work and pretty labor intensive it was also hot and humid out but they did a good job. See what you think.

Additional drainage for the house. I wanted to have a gravel bed to the top of the footing.
Additional drainage for the house. I wanted to have a gravel bed to the top of the footing.

Saturday arrived. Perfect timing. I had two trucks come to the site, one for the rebar and one for the wall forms. We had to do some additional gravel work at the start so we could back the rebar truck up to where I wanted it. That took about 45 minutes or so,and then we were able to dump the 7.5 tons of rebar right off the truck. 

Rebar for the upper structure.
Rebar for the upper structure.

The wall forms that we used are called Symmons forms. They are a steel framed form with a plywood face…and they weigh in at about 90 pounds a piece. This work is not for lightweights. We couldn’t dump these for fear of damaging the forms. So we had to onload the truck by hand. This actually worked out pretty well.I had a friend of mine from work come up to help me with the forms for a day. Darren is a foreman for the company I work for and he is an ace, and really good with Symmons forms. He helped me out more than he will ever know.He was also really good with the boys just as Albert was the weekend before. We had to layout the structure on the footings and snap all the lines in. So while the the Hobbit Hollow crew aka “The Crew” unloaded the truck Darren and I were able to layout the whole house.  Here’s a picture of the crew unloading the truck.

Hobbit Hollow crew unloading the symmons form truck.
Hobbit Hollow crew unloading the symmons form truck.

We finished unloading the truck and took a coffee break. It was about 10 AM. The footing was prepped and ready for forms.

So let’s get started. It really was great. Ethan showed up just as we were finishing coffee.  I put him with Darren and they started to put up the forms. Symmons forms are pretty easy to install. The tricky part is the corners. You basically pin the corners together and plumb up the forms in two directions. After that you just run the forms out pinning them together and nailing them into the 2X4 shoe that is nailed into the footing. So Darren and Ethan were the set up team and then Jude and Kevin were the follow up team. I had RJ and Mike finish up some of the drainage that needed to get done and then they started to put the form ties in. I was kind of running around showing everyone what was what and how to put things together. Here’s a few pictures over the course of the day.

Darren getting the first forms in place and plumb.
Darren getting the first forms in place and plumb.
East side corners started. Kevin and Jude putting up forms.RJ taking another water break.Hmmmm.
Kevin and Jude putting up wall forms.RJ taking another water break.Hmmmm.

 

Putting up forms.Mike installing form ties and pinning them to the forms.I don't know where RJ is. He's supposed to be helping Mike.
Putting up forms.Mike installing form ties and pinning them to the forms.I don’t know where RJ is. He’s supposed to be helping Mike.

After you put up about 4 forms you have to brace them so they don’t fall over. At the top of the form there is what we call a turnbuckle brace. You nail this contraption to a 2×4 and pin it to the form. Once that is done you drive a d-stake into the soil and nail it to the 2×4. The turnbuckle screws back and forth so you can get the wall perfectly plumb.

Once you have all the panels stood up, pinned and braced you add a waler across the top of the form. This helps align the forms so they are all nice and straight. Here’s a picture of the crew putting the top waler on.

Putting the top waler on the East wall.
Putting the top waler on the East wall.

Just talking concrete formwork here. Remember how we discussed blowouts etcetera during the footing pour. Well when you pour 8 foot high walls a blowout can really be catastrophic. As the forms are filled with concrete they want to push outwards. The only thing holding them are what we call flat ties. The ties are pinned through the walls on both sides and as the pressure builds the ties go into tension.(Remember how steel is super strong in tension). So it is very, very important that whoever pins the ties up knows what they are doing and why. I’ve seen these steel forms bend from concrete pressure resulting in massive blowouts. Symmons Form 101…Double check the ties before the pour. Here’s a picture of the form tie system.

Closeup of a flat tie being pinned to the form.
Closeup of a flat tie being pinned to the form.

We worked till about 4 PM. We got all the stand up forms up and braced. Here’s a picture at the end of the day Saturday.

End of day Saturday.
End of day Saturday.

Things are really starting to take shape here. I’m hoping to have the crew put the balance of the form ties in and prep the rest of the site for steel during the week. Hopefully next weekend we will put the wall steel in and begin closing up the forms!!!! Did we have an awesome day of work or what?

This is a bit off topic but I feel that it should be mentioned.  Jude was weed whacking behind our pool last week and he found something.

 Jude was shaken up but he was alright. I went out back…there was a body. Here is a picture after the body was removed.(I had a picture but my editor made me take it out of the blog….we didn’t want to upset anyone)

Outline  of dead woodchuck next to his hole.
Outline of dead woodchuck next to his hole.

It’s funny but there didn’t seem to be any signs of foul play that we could tell of when we looked at the woodchuck. It kind of looked like he was taking a nap. On top of that Ethan, Jude, Terence, and I had walked by this spot numereous times during the week. None of us had seen anything.

Ah yes…I know what it is you’re  thinking…..How did we dispose of the body? Heavy duty construction bags…double bagged of course. Terence held the bag while I did the shoveling. I was thinking….why don’t we smell anything? As soon as this woodchuck hit the back of the bag we got “The Whiff of Death” if you will.  I, unfortunately, had to tie a knot in this bag…with tears in my eyes, as well. Thank goodness I can hold my breath for a long time.

We laughed about it later.

Enjoy your July 4th!

Jim

 

 

 

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