New Year, traditionally the time for looking backwards and making resolutions to do better this year. I’d like to pretend that I’m not the same, but I am. It’s just that I’m a bit too busy to be able to post a retrospective and some plans for the coming year. Hopefully I will be able to post something pleasantly nostalgic in the next few days, but in the meantime I can at least Wish you a very successfull and woody 2011!
Archive for December, 2010
The journey back from Bavaria was far less eventful than the journey down – and a few hours shorter as well without having to try and stay on the road and out from underneath jack-knifing lorries. It was a little cold for sightseeing, so we didn’t stop as we crossed over the Mosel Valley on the way up Germany, but snapped a shot out of the car. The snow picks out the Vine terraces on the steep South facing edges of the valley.
I also have a new toy on my Christmas List for next year. But for now it’s back to work – well soon.
This stack is farmhouse sized. The wood appears to be split to half cord length for drying. The construction of the end of the stacks allows them to resist the outwards pressure. I don’t suppose this would work so well for wood cut to firewood length.
The solution to a rectangular pile of cut firewood appears to be the ’4-Poster’ – my term for it. The 2 posts on the end of this garden pile of firewood are clearly too small for the job. But the cunning bit is a wire strung along the pile from end post to end post about half way up the pile which provides a very simple self tensioning of the stack. A single wire suffices for a single row of firewood and two wires for 2 rows – I think this one might actually have 3 rows of wood. Hope I’ve described this well enough – but I plan to try this out as soon as I get back and have the opportunity to cut and stack.
I think the extensive use of softwood as fuelwood makes the firewood stacks a lot more noticeable than in the UK since they will be twice the volume of an oakwood stack – though I did see plenty of hardwood as well.
But perhaps the biggest difference is that people who use fuelwood take more responsibility for source, seasoning and storing their own firewood rather than calling their local firewood merchant to delivery a dumpy sack of firewood on the drive when the stocks get low.
Apparently around here many people buy a licence to cut firewood (or clear brash) in many of the large civically owned woodlands – something of which I fully approve, and used to be possible in the UK until the Forestry commission stopped the practice claiming ‘liability issues’ – perhaps the forced sale of some our civically owned woodlands will help to restart this approach. Though of course I fear that the opposite might happen instead.
I’ve noticed that the Germans are much more likely to maker their own decorations (at least around here in Southern Germany) than we do in the UK nowadays and wood plays a much bigger part in the process than plastic does. So on our return from the woodyard with a pile of assorted Ash some of the offcuts were pronounced acceptable for decorations. Add a few shavings from the horse and some Pine from the woods (not short of Pine around here) and a very effective decoration results.
It works both ways around – a reversable decoration – a MOGOF (Make One Get One Free). I think it could be quite good with a tea-light behind the star cutout but that’s the next step. Back down to the workshop in the basement for some more polelathe therapy now.
Season’s Greetings to you all and I hope that you are well insulated from the cold (if it’s cold where you are) and ready to enjoy a relaxing break before plunging into the New Year. For me it’s been a very hectic year and if it wasn’t for this blog I could easily forget what I’ve accomplished so I’m afraid that a aura of warm nostalgia is going to creep into my posts in the next few days.
The reason for bring my big chainsaw down to Bavaria was to help Rich (my brother in law) cut out some Ash beams for one of his projects. The Ash logs were stored at the local yard of some friends. I had visions of a tumbledown old yard so I was a little taken aback to get there and find a precision facility with a machine for doing everything with wood that you can imagine. Some of the timber stacked in the yard made me very envious. This lot includes oak, maple and pear!
Meanwhilst our log was brought out and placed on end by Forklift in a pristine area covered by the roof overhang – it’s cleaner than some cleanroom facilities I’ve worked in let alone a woodyard! I think the owners Joachim and Mikhail were rather suspicious of my ability to rip this log down with my chainsaw, particularly as I wanted it up on end and had asked Rich to provide me with petrol and salad oil for the saw!
The saw is normally used on my Logosol M7 chainsaw mill and it’s rare that I get to use it free-hand. For the petrol heads amongst us it’s a Stihl MS660 with a 25inch picc0-bar and chain, which is a thinner bar and chain designed for ripping (cutting along the grain of the wood rather than across it) which is much harder work on the saw. Working vertically allowed me to keep the bar vertical more accurately across the log than if I had tried to cut horizontally.
Once we got the log in half it was easier to cope with it. A normal bar and chain would cut a kerf 50% larger and leave a pile of saw-dust 50% bigger than the one I am using, but even so I was pleased that it made fairly quick work of cutting down the biggest log to shape. Can you see what it is yet? I thought not. The answer is a blank for an Ox Yoke. It was obvious really wasn’t it?
This beam will eventually be turned into what is apparently termed a 7inch yoke (measured across the inside faces of the curve that fits the oxen neck) and although its referred to as a yoke, it is for a pair of animals. After the chainsaw the rest will be carved out by Adze and Axe work.
Although there was some cracking at the ends of the logs we managed to get quite a few blanks out with very little wastage and even that won’t be wasted as it will go for turning on the polelathe or making various other projects that Rich has in mind. Now all we have to do is clear up to a Bavarian standard – not an easy task.
Taking a quick walk around the village of Mahringen today I thought I would make a quick survey of the firewood piles. Down here in Southern Germany the firewood store is more likely to be a substantial structure close to the house and all the more so for the farmhouses which are still in the middle of the village, rather than banished to the bottom of the garden as they so often are back in West Sussex.
A serious load of logs behind this barn, cut and split in traditional style stacks and facing towards the sun. As Max reminded us in a comment my recent post ‘I’m obsessed with my firewood’ it’s well worth letting the Summer sun dry your wood as bringing it inside to dry later can reduce the effectiveness of your fire. Though when you do the calculations it’s not by as much as trying to burn wet wood.
The next logpile had gone more for the maximum airflow and airdrying approach. A lot of the firewood around here is likely to be softwood and as JRC told us in another comment on the same post all woods have about the same energy content but the density of wood varies a lot so you’ll need to store a lot more volume of softwood for the same heat content. Clearly the sheds here are sized to store plenty of volume!
By the time I reached this stack it was getting a little too dark and late for a clear photo but this is more after my own style of multiple stacks and leanto’s though it would be nice if English houses still had enough space for several shed loads of firewood as they have here (though I admit it’s only the older houses here that seem to come complete with an array of firewood sheds and the newest houses seem to be as dependent upon fossil fuel as those in the UK.
I don’t normally post on day-to-day trivia but I thought this might be an exception. It may seem a little strange to drive down to the Bavarian Border for Christmas, after all you can get Gluewein and Bratwurst in the UK now (though it’s not the same). But there is madness in my method, and I did need bring some wood working tools with me as there is some work to be done while I’m here (thankfully). Besides I like the ferry.
With the very low temperatures on Sunday night it was a tricky start. It was hard enough to even open the car doors at midnight, but an otherwsie uneventful drive to a 3:30 am ferry. Plenty of space on Sunday night – a lot more space than you get on the floor of a departure hall at Heathrow anyway! But I hear we got through just in time and the ferries are more chaotic now.
Splashing out on some new All Terrain Tyres was a good decision and we had few problems driving even though Belgium’s version of Austerity seems to have included no gritting or even ploughing in some places. Thanks to the extemely treacherous and icy motorways around Brussels we sat in queues for a few hours behind jack-knifed lorries. As we travelled down through Germany the going slowly improved and so did the fleets of snowploughs clearing them.
I’d love to have been able to take photos as we went – but the autobahn’s were no place for stopping and sightseeing this week. Strangely it’s warmer in Bavaria at the moment than it is in the UK and I’ve spent the day with my big chainsaw at a local carpenters yard cutting up some big local Ash. Here is a sneak preview of the work – notice the timber framed construction in the background. Apparently it’s a set piece which is made by a Master Framer during their training and contains within it all of the joints they have to use.
After a couple of weeks in the deep freeze it was almost a relief to have rain on the windscreen instead of snow and ice for a day this week. Unfortunately it proved to be a very brief reprieve and almost as soon as the snow had gone the freeze returned and now so has the snow.
One of the jobs I managed to fit in was to remove a couple of half fallen branches from one of the oak trees on the commons. I’d spent at least an hour working on it before somebody passing by pointed out the unusual branch which appears to be growing from two places on the stem.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen one quite like it. I’ve often seen two branches growing together or crossing but this one branch seems to have grown from two points one on the bole and one further up another stem.
At this time of year I am always trying to persuade our members and volunteers to avail themselves of a Scots Pine for their Christmas tree. I have a special offer on at the moment, Cut one……get as many as you can take away free! After all, every one cut saves me a job later on.
This one is on it’s way to St Peter’s the parish church. I know the Landrover lovers amongst you will have noticed the continuity error – or the quick change in Landrovers between scenes. The green tarp is what keeps my seat dry whilst the air conditioning is on!
No Christmas tree for us this year as we are hoping to leave for Germany tomorrow (Sunday) night, snow storms allowing, to spend a few days with Alison’s sister Elizabeth, Rich (my German correspondent on this blog), James and Christopher. We are planning to use a Landrover with more glass and less air conditioning for the 600mile drive – and I don’t have to take a polelathe as there is already at least one at the other end! Apparently I do need to take a big chainsaw though……..
You may be blissfully unaware of this. The Broadcasting House (BH) Sunday Morning programme on Radio 4 has a weekly quiz for which the prize has been a honey drizzler for quite a while – known as a honey spoon by the programme I think. Over the winter they have decided to change this to a Spurtle – which is a wooden stick for stirring your porridge in case you’ve not come across one before.
The traditional Scottish Spurtle is perfectly shaped for making on the polelathe, a long thin spindle with a stylised thistle shape on one end. Some hold that the thistle is the handle and others that it should be used for stirring.
Most polelathe turners are no strangers to Spurtles and I make many dozens every year (even though they don’t work on my muesli!). As they are a good choice for a first project on the lathe they are often quickly dismissed by turners who move onto more advanced work. But they are a mainstay of my production (As are dibbers) and although low in value they don’t take long to make and don’t require perfect wood, so can often be made with scraps and waste.
I can now reveal the secret workshop where work on the BH Spurtles has been ongoing. I thought I’d finished making Spurtles for the year but some weeks ago I was contacted by the BH programme (partly thanks to Max in Vancouver) to ask if I would make some as prizes for their competition. So I set to making a batch of Spurtles after a discussion with the programme. I’ve designed a new Spurtle shape with a stylised BBC microphone on the end for the BH Spurtles – the Beeb also asked for them to be engraved, but a neat job was beyond me in my cold shed so I’ve left it to them.
It’s just a bit of fun really. But also it’s been opportune as I’ve been thinking for a while about varied Spurtle designs – in the summer I tend to make them as a warm up, and sometimes in the evening if I’m too tired to make anything else, so just knock them out to a fairly standard patten. I do sell all that I can make but I think there is more scope. I’m thinking maybe a set of Spurtles – for the porridge connoisseur – perhaps? I’m also pleased that the first Spurtles for BH were made sustainably from local wood and on a traditional polelathe – though I’m not sure that this was an issue for the programme.