Monday, June 2, 2014

Honoring the Fallen

Due to several years of ongoing drought, I've had to cut down a couple dozen trees on our 2 acres of land since we moved in a couple years ago. This spring I had three more that failed to leaf out and a four others that had leaves on less than half the branches. So perhaps this fall, I will once again be cutting down more trees. With all these trees, I have been trying to come up with ways to utilize them so that their lives will not be in vain. I have more firewood than I will burn in the next ten years. I've tried selling some but with everyone else suffering from the same drought and dead trees, wood is dirt cheap. Because I don't own a splitter and have to rent one, I can't even recoup my cost of splitting it.

So with that in mind last fall, I saved an eight foot section of an oak tree that my brother and I cut down to perhaps use in other creative ways. I would have saved more but at the time I had the notion that I would cut planks out of it and being at the bottom of a steep hill, I wasn't sure I would get more than an eight foot section up and into my garage. I ended up cutting that piece in half, rolling it onto a dolly and dragging the dolly up the hill with a rope, repeating with the second half and that my friends, was all I could physically do for about a week until my body muscles healed back up again.

I let the wood sit out by the firepit for awhile and contemplated how I was going to utilize it. In the end, I thought I would start by squaring off the pieces by removing the bark. I did that and then started to cut one of my squared pieces into planks that I thought I might make into something someday. I did but the planks were just about unusable. Cutting a straight line with a chainsaw freehand turned out to be much more difficult than I ever imagined. By the time I cut the wood out, planed it flat and then laid it away to dry, I ended up wasting much of the wood. Later when the wood was dry, it had warped so bad that to make it flat I again had to plane it flat wasting even more wood. By the time I was done, I didn't have much left over though I've used some of it here and there for small projects, the rest is still waiting for a calling. If I ever try this again, I'm buying one of those guides that you can clamp to the bar of the chainsaw to cut straight lines to begin with and hopefully avoid this process in the future.

I still had the second half of the oak log to deal with and in the end, I just cut it into two squarish pieces and put it in the garage to dry. You can see those two pieces in the picture above. They dried all winter and as you can see checked in the process. I could perhaps square off one side and cut them into small boards after ripping out the checked parts but I decided that I wanted to honor the tree by keeping the grain intact as much as possible. So I pulled out my power hand planer and started flattening out the sides. I then sanded everything down and stained it. It is now serving as a plant stand to help another plant enjoy life near a window. It turned out so well that I think I will repeat the process with the remaining chunk. Each chunk probably weighs around 60 or 70 pounds so once set in place, they aren't going anywhere.


sage said...

I know of a half dozen or so small sawmills around here which will cut your logs for you--into planks and boards--which would be easier than a chainsaw. I've seen those guides for chairsaws advertised, but have never used one. The post makes a nice plant stand!

Any white oak among your dead trees?

Ron said...

I think the amount of effort expended, blade sharpening (and replacing if you hit any metal), fuel burnt, and risk of injury makes milling lumber at home fairly impractical. And, of course, the end result will check, split, and rot if it isn't cured just right... and even then, it will never have the dimensional stability or strength of a veneer plywood...

Ed said...

Sage - If I had a place to store the lumber, I would certainly opt for a sawmill which we have several around here too.

Ron - You are right that it isn't practical. But the frugal side of me hates seeing stuff like that rot. I just do the best I can and stick with small chunks that I can do stuff with. I've been thinking about getting a container of end grain sealer which is supposed to help eliminate checking on bigger pieces. I've never tried the stuff but it gets good reviews online for working.

Ron said...

Up the road from us is a very large hardwood floor manufacturer. They have huge stacks of curing wood sitting right out in the open.

Around here, I've been making biochar out of less-than-perfect stuff lately.

I recently split some 3' long logs I had cut, and it occurred to me that if I could make one side reasonably flat, I could probably mill the pieces on the tablesaw into some decent smaller pieces. I haven't tried that yet, though. It might work ok for small pieces.

Rich said...

Buy one of those little pointy carving bars for your chainsaw and start teaching yourself how to carve those logs into bears, gnomes, etc.

Or, start a split-rail exercise program swinging a sledge hammer and split all those big logs into rails so you can then build a bunch of split rail fences around the house.

Ed said...

Ron - I have tried to use the tablesaw to mill some wood but I don't have much luck for wider stuff. The first problem I have is getting the side flat enough that there isn't a rock to it, especially since I only have maybe 8 inches of tablesaw surface to support anything before the blade starts sawing. With my power hand planer, I can get a lot closer these days. The second problem is that at full depth, my table saw will only cut about 3-1/2 thick stuff. I make due for small dimension stuff but if I want some actual boards, I'm going to need a better way to do things. Probably just haul it to a saw mill and pay to have someone do it.

Rich - Building a split rail fence seems like prison work to me. Although I admire people who can carve things with chainsaw, I don't appreciate their art enough to even want to do something like that. I would much rather find a different use for the wood. I found one way that I will be blogging about soon.