Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cemetery Maple vs. Saw Mill

Returning from a warm, humid Christmas in Florida, I have found that the chilly 30s and rain/snow here at home seem so much more like -15s and sleet. Regardless, I am here, with layers on, ready to head into another day at the shop. Today's update will be about what we tackled last week on Wednesday and, what I will call, 'the day the cemetery maple met the saw mill'.

The saw mill we have here at the shop is a lot like a giant horizontal band saw. It is a big circular blade that rotates at a quick speed, and paired with lubrication via windshield washer fluid, can cut through massive pieces of wood. The blade runs between two big wheels inside the blue boxes you see in the photo and the whole mechanism rolls on wheels down the tracks. The piece to be cut is stabilized with metal spikes (and wedges when necessary) attached to the base of the saw mill. From there, the saw blade height can be adjusted (to make the depth of the cut whatever you so desire) and is pushed down the tracks to create a flat, level cut. This cut is a working face now to provide a flat, level surface from which to cut the remaining sides. We started with an oak log and cut flat faces on each side to assess which way the boards should be cut. Taking into account the hardwood/softwood, tightness of the grain, and any flaws, we decided which side of the log to cut our boards. As the boards were cut, they were stacked on sawing horses to remain flat while they started to dry. We made sure to take a dust brush to them to make sure no excess sawdust would gather and create an environment for mold to grow during the drying.

Once the oak log was cut into boards, we were faced with the mission of the maple logs we had cut and collected at the cemetery the week prior. These logs are not light and/or easily moved around. I learned to appreciate cant hooks, which are long handled tools (like a rake or shovel) with a hook at the end and used in a lever-type fashion to allow people to move such massive pieces of wood. With the help of cant hooks and gentlemen stronger than what my 113 lbs can supply, we managed to cut two of these massive logs over the course of then day.

I even got to try my hand at pushing the saw. It was surprisingly easy to push through such a hard material. But, naturally, during my first attempt, I hit a knot that had filled with dirt and stones from moving it around on the driveway. Thin, fast-moving blades don't agree with stones so we had to change the blade and cut out the knot with a chainsaw before I was able to make a complete cut. You can see the saw horses set up under the overhang for the boards to dry in this photo. They'll stay there until we move them over to the drying racks behind the barn.

The maple ended up having some beautiful curl to it. Here, I am standing with a book match cut from one of the maple logs. A book match is just as it sounds, mirror copies of grain patterns that result from opening a cut like a book. As you can see, the colors, patterns, and curl are so beautiful we were happy that Jeff happened to drive by the cemetery that day. Now, the boards will dry for about two years (because most were cut around 2" of thickness). Maybe, just maybe, I will get a chance to be a part of the creation that comes from these boards in a couple of years.

And, on a final (and somewhat irrelevant) note, I learned to drive a tractor! The most challenging motor vehicle I have had to drive in the past was my father's Mazda 5-speed pick-up so this was a whole new world. They refer to the John Deer as the Cadillac of tractors on the property and I understand why now. It's so easy to learn and use. From the first few cuts of the logs, we got throw away pieces that couldn't be used for anything so they were dubbed firewood. Now, they came from heavy logs and just because they were sliced a bit thinner didn't mean they were light, especially when we were dealing with 10+ of them. Thus, my tractor skills came into play. I was responsible for moving the firewood to the pile after it was chopped up via chainsaw. The tractor is far more fun to drive than my Buick.

At the end of the day, my hands were somewhat numb and I was coated in an awesome sawdust and windshield washer fluid mixture but, I could look at the drying stack of boards and be proud of how much wood we had done. And, I had learned to drive a tractor! I enjoyed my first day down at the saw mill and I enhanced my woodworking vocabulary a bit more.

Now, on to today's tasks. I hope you all had the happiest of holidays!

1 comment:

  1. That is really good and interesting post, you did really good comparison of the both, thank you for sharing it and keep posting such nice posts