Monday, December 17, 2012

The Revolutionary War Maple

A bit later than promised but, alas, I am here to tell you about our logging adventures on Thursday!

Earlier in the week, Jeff spotted a fallen maple in a cemetery not far from the shop. After chatting with the groundskeeper, we got the go-ahead to slice up some of the trunk for what we hoped would be curly maple slabs. Jeff and Rob and taken a small part of the tree earlier in the week and cut into it to see if it was worthwhile. Even the small portion they cut from showed beautiful patterns in the softwood. So, first thing Thursday morning, we packed up supplies and Trixie the tractor for the trek to the cemetery and spent the day dissecting the truck of a 130+ year old maple tree.

Here, you can see the portion of the truck we cut the slabs from. The picture gives perspective on just how big and thick it's trunk was. The way that the tree had been cut after it had fallen made much of it too short to be used for much furniture purposes so we worked mostly with this big truck log to get useable pieces.

We made the log stable on the ground with wedges and broke out the Alaskan chainsaw mill. This impressive machine is essentially two chainsaw motors attached to one another with an extremely long bar and chain. There is a adjustable stabilizer that attaches above the blade so that it maintains a straight cut throughout. Because of the immense size of this log, we had no choice but to break out the big guns... and it was awesome! After cutting off the top portion of the log, we had a straight, flat base to drag the chainsaw along for cutting useable 2" slabs.

I was lucky enough to get a go at such a crazy machine. I have seen a chainsaw used in my day; I do, after all, have a father that loves maintaining his yard as much as the next guy. But, this chainsaw is a whole different story. Because of it's length and the size of the log, we had to use wedges every 8" or so to keep the already-cut portion elevated enough to alleviate the pressure the heavy wood was putting on the blade. Beyond that, even though we were using newly sharpened blades, it took at least an hour to cut each slab! I am appreciating anything made of real wood more and more each day!

As we spend the morning breaking this massive log into manageable pieces, we are surrounded by the gravestones of Revolutionary war soldiers. Over our sandwiches at lunchtime, the groundskeeper came over and was kind enough to share some of the history of the land this tree grew from. He told us that the oldest headstone they have found in the cemetery so far was from the 1700s. Several of the stones were marked with American flags waving and a pendant proudly displaying a soldier and the words "Revolutionary War". This tree had been growing amongst the original American heroes.

I am still adjusting to living in a place with so much history. I am proud and excited to know that the slabs and boards taken from this aged, historic tree are going to be used to make long-lasting, beautiful furniture pieces instead of pieces of firewood to be burned and forgotten.

After lunch and cutting the two big slabs we could from the log, we used a smaller chainsaw, some iron wedges, and a sledge hammer to break the remaining large pieces of log into quarters. I imagine that every bit of useable wood there is from this log will be so, we needed to get it all back to the shop; cue Trixie. She did her job to carry these huge, heavy logs up to the trailer to be brought back with us. Between the hours of cutting, hammering, chainsawing, and lifting, 3 o'clock was welcomed by all of us. And, now those slabs will be ready to use in about 2.5 years when they dry properly.

Upon our arrival back at the shop, the guys took a small board from the haul that day and planed it to see what curliness there was to be seen. I can tell you one thing, this photograph doesn't do it justice. As the wood shifts in the light, the curls shine and move. It's incredible that nature produces these things and keeps them hidden deep in the layers of it's trees' trunks. We were all so pleased with the results of our labors. I was overwhelmed with, yet again, another day full of new and exciting knowledge. This job is a bottomless pit of new experiences! I'm glad to have survived my first day of logging!

We have some more photographs of our day with the Revolutionary War Tree that I will be posting on Wednesday so keep you're eye out for those! Until Wednesday, I bid you all a good night.

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