Building My Very Own Geodesic Dome

November 16-30, 1984

Fri, Nov 16
I went to Lowe's to buy 37 sheets of 1/2 inch plywood for the sub-floor. By the time they were loaded onto the station wagon it was almost dragging the ground. Of course the front end was correspondingly higher and the car was very unstable on the road. I stopped at Hechinger's to buy 10 pounds of nails (they were half the price) and then headed for the land. My heart was in my mouth the whole way. I figured there was a good chance that I would either crash or the car would fall apart before I got there.

The car made it. I worked as quickly as I could. First I finished off the few odds and ends of the floor framing that still needed to be done. The corner that I couldn't reach was still unfinished but I planned to work around it until I could get some help with it. Then I started laying sub-floor. I put about 50 nails in each sheet that I laid. After I laid several sheets I came to one of the central girders. Suddenly the sheets didn't match up with the joists, obviously because the girders were not parallel with each other. The solution was to line up the panels with the next set of joists and plan to fill in the resulting gap with a wedge shaped filler later.

By this time the sun was fast sinking and I could see that I would not get them all nailed down that evening. I quickly tacked several sheets in place using only a few nails just in order to get a reasonably stable platform on which to deposit the kit the next day. When I left I felt that I had at least accomplished that modest objective.

Sat, Nov 17
I was up at 7:00 and in to the U-Haul place by 7:45. I filled out the papers to rent a 14 foot truck.

By 9:30 Sandy, Tom, Howard, Larry, Peter, John Wright and myself were ready to start loading. Loading was a snap and in an hour or so we were ready to go. Six of us then drove on up to the land to unload. Unloading was also pretty easy and the whole kit sat very nicely on the platform. I took everyone down to the Apple house for lunch and then they went home while I stayed behind to work a little longer. I managed to nail down many of the sheets more firmly and fill in with a few more sheets also. I was well satisfied with the days work. Now if the weather would hold for a few days real progress could be made.

Sun, Nov 18
I stopped at Hechinger's to buy a carbide tipped saw blade and 20 pounds of nails. Toward the afternoon it began to rain. By 7:30 it was raining steadily. If this keeps up it will be a major setback.

Mon, Nov 19
It rained steadily all day. No work on the dome. I could only speculate on how much damage would be done by the rain and freezing weather.

Tue, Nov 20
Larry came with me to Front Royal. The weather was quite cold. We managed to hang the section of perimeter that I was unable to do myself. Even with two of us it was quite a job. As the day wore on the sun thawed the frozen ground leaving the whole site quite muddy. After lunch we were able to hang some joists in the newly completed section. As darkness approached we had made good headway toward filling in the section although there was still some to do. I was happy with what we had accomplished. We were tired and frozen by the end of the day but pretty happy with what we had done.

Wed, Nov 21
I worked by myself today. Before I started I had to stop by Hechinger's to buy 10 more joist hangers and another bag of Teco Nails. That enabled me to finish hanging all the joists and lay down the plywood sub-flooring. I finished all the flooring that could be covered by whole sheets of plywood. I was also able to cut a couple of other pieces to shape and install them also. By the time I left for home all that needed to be done to the sub-floor was to fill in about ten or so small sections that would be cut to fit.

Fri, Nov 23
Peter came with me today. We had to go down to Springfield to buy some lag bolts which I hoped to use to fasten the base plates to the foundation. I got nineteen bolts, 5/8 by 8 inches long.

We arrived just a little before noon. We had been there about 15 minutes when Sandra and Tom drove up. With their help we finished laying the sub-floor and turned our attention to laying out the base plates. We got them laid all around and proceeded to measure the critical distances. They were pretty far off. We spent considerable time trying to adjust the plates back and forth to make the measurements come out right. They just wouldn't jive. However, it did appear that there was room on the platform for the plates. They only hung over the edge in a couple of spots. Finally, Tom suggested that we go ahead and include the sections that would eventually be left out to form the doorways. That meant build a little temporary platform to hold those sections at the proper level. It looked like there would be no other way so we went ahead. By the time we got the platforms completed the day was pretty well gone. It did look like that would be a great help in getting the plates lined up.

Sat, Nov 24
Probably one of the most discouraging days of my life. I had intended to spend a few minutes lining up the plates and then go on into town to rent a heavy duty drill and set some of the big lag bolts. But the lining up didn't take a few minutes. I fooled around for quite a while and things still were cockeyed. Tom had suggested the other day to measure to the corners from the center of the house. I drove a nail through the floor from underneath where I had lined up the center. Then I found the nail from the top. As it turned out I could measure to a few corners with a minimum of moving. One of the first corners was so far off that in order to have it in the right place the plate end would be hanging several inches out in space. Things were looking pretty bleak. About that time I had also busted my lip when I slipped and hit my face against one of the flanges. Also about that time I happened to think about those cabinets that I had put on Charlie's porch. I had forgotten about them but I didn't remember seeing them the last couple of days. I went immediately over to the house to look for them. They were gone. I looked in the house with no luck. So it looked like some of my material had been stolen. I was about ready to pack the whole thing in.

I went back to the dome. Some of the other corners I was able to measure looked pretty accurate. Finally I decided to nail some lumber to the outside of my perimeter to build out the edge. I hoped to be able to extend the corner enough to give the base plate some support. By the time I nailed some lumber there it looked like it would enable me to set that plate where it needed to go so I tried to set up the plates again. The situation looked promising. Finally I was able to line up the perimeter so that it looked pretty accurate to my untrained eye. By that time it was too late to go into town and rent the drill so I contented myself with another project. I cut the plywood skins for all seventeen of the red triangles.

Mon, Nov 26
Today I rented a drill from Taylor rentals. Unfortunately that did not include bits so I had to go down to Sheets and buy two electricians bits. Then I went to drill holes in my base plates. The drilling seemed to go alright. I didn't hit joists with as many holes as I had hoped and was only able to use lag screws in about 11 of them. I hoped to be able to take the excess back and trade them for machine bolts so that I could fasten the plates down some other way. When that was finished I couldn't resist putting a few of the struts together. It was exciting. I got pretty much of the first row done before I hit some difficulty. It was getting dark so I decided to leave the solution to another day. When I got home I discovered that Lowe's had delivered my insulation and roofing material. Talk about a garage full.

Dome 04 Tue, Nov 27
Toney went along today. We continued the work I had started the day before. Most of it went pretty well until we got to the end of the first row. The last piece was pretty hard to fit but by pulling and pushing we eventually managed to get it in. The second row all went pretty well until we got to the end. At this point the piece looked like it was so much too big that we would never get it in. But it went. As we were leaving Toney noticed that in the process we had split one of the other pieces. I took home a blank to drill for a replacement.

Wed, Nov 28
Again Toney went along. By this time the dome was starting to get pretty high and we were working from ladders.

On the way home we stopped at Arlington Iron Works to see if they could fabricate some iron plates that I could use to anchor the base plates that I had not been able to anchor with the lag screws. That was no problem except that they told me that it might take as much as two weeks.

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