Saturday, December 04, 2010

Outside Christmas lights

Last year I tried to do the outside Christmas lights in the "prow" front of the porch, but I couldn't get high up enough to put in a hook at the inner peak. This year, with Al's help, not only are they up there but they're at the outer peak, a good five feet higher and more visible.

To do this, we first needed some stick-on wire clips. Al's plan was to climb up onto the roof, hang over the edge, stick on the clips, and put the wires in them. We did some of that, but improvised more, and the process ended up far more complicated and requiring a lot of unusual problems and even more unusual solutions. Amongst the many odd things we used to get the job done, the most unusual was a longbow and target arrow. I think I can safely say it's the first home improvement project to ever involve both a longbow and a roof snow rake.

Getting Al up onto the roof is tricky only because the roof segment in question is quite steep, and at this time of year, it's always at least a little wet. It wasn't too hard for him to get up onto the meeting point between that roof and the shallower roof, but that couldn't get him along the steep section alone, so we needed to throw a rope over the whole roof and tie it off, so he could use it to steady himself.

So we tied a three-pound hand weight, the kind you use for exercise, to the rope, but no matter how we tried we couldn't throw it clear over the roof. We couldn't even get it over the shallower, but broader, roof into the backyard. After several dozen tries, from on the ground or up on the ladder, with different weights, and using different techniques, and nothing closer to a success than one time the weight came off the roof and flew into the backyard on its own, we decided we needed another approach.

That's where the longbow came into it. I tied kitchen twine to a graphite target arrow just before the fletching and fired it over the house. Took a half-dozen shots to find the right angle to clear the roof and come down the other side, and even then, it got caught halfway down the other side. That's when we needed to use the roof rake and pull the ladder down, which in turn had to be done from on top of a ladder. But finally we had the rope pulled over the whole roof.

Al was able to climb up to the roof, then along the groin to where he was just a few steps from the peak, then straddle the peak and crawl along it to the tip of the prow.  From there he could stick on one of the clips and then, using the rope, lift the lights up to meet it.  This took a few tries as the kitchen twine and lights kept tangling with each other and themselves, but eventually we got the peak clipped firmly into place.

The original plan was for him to work his way, using the rope, down along each side putting more clips in as he went.  However, the roof was too slick for that, so instead, he made his way back the way he came and climbed down.  However, when fully extended, my ladder was able to reach the corners, so we could put more clips in there and affix the lights at only three points.  One of those has come loose since, so I'll have to go back up on the ladder today and reaffix it with a screw.  Even with only three points, it holds pretty well, and there's enough lights left at either end to spiral around the posts and really frame the house nicely.

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