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Archive for the ‘Chainsaw’ Category

2013-01-18 11.50.55

Well it rained for what seemed just about forever. The wettest English year on record – not bad considering that is started with a dry spell which continued until the day that the government declared a drought. But the wind and rain eventually gave way to the cold and cue –  The winter wonderland – but with a few less trees than we started the week – aka the extreme chainsaw training course!

Just occasionally I teach basic chainsaw and tree felling for a local land management college. I did wonder why I was asked to run a chainsaw and tree felling course in January at relatively short notice. All became clear once I saw the weather forecast for the week. We started off with the basic quagmire, moved onwards to the big freeze and then finished off with extreme chainsaw training in heavy snowfall. (Thanks to Peter Underwood for the photo)

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I started the week with a full complement of six students but by the heavy snow fall on Friday I’d managed to whittle it down to the hardcore of Ian, Peter and Jules who were game enough to come out with me for some final felling practice in the snow.

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Working in the woods was fine – it can be quite surreal working during snowfall as you tend to be in your own little universe – the trees block the wind and everything looks and sounds quite peaceful. It’s something of a shock to emerge back into the world and to discover that as usual the traffic in Southern England can’t cope and has ground to a halt.  Luckily we’d prepared for that and with a couple of 4×4’a were soon back at the college – only to discover that whilst we’d been out in the woods felling trees those in the warm heated classrooms had been sent home! It’s a strange world out there isn’t it? Good luck with the assessments guys!

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I don’t very often use my Logosol chainsaw mill in its full configuration which can cope with logs upto 17feet in length – if you can shift them onto the mill! I normally convert it to a cut down version (known as the woodworkers mill) which has a 4 foot log bed and copes with logs upto 8ft in length. But for this job I wanted some 10ft fence posts as well as 8ft planks and boards.

 

The mill doesn’t come with it’s own tractor, you have to buy that separately. For large logs like these it does make things a lot simpler (and safer) than winching and rolling the logs up ramps onto the log bed.

The tree is a windblown scots pine.  Not being valued for firewood all to often softwood trees like this are left to rot on the woodland floor. We prefer to ship our softwood halfway around the world instead. That’s a total waste of resource, and there really are only so many rotten trees needed as wildlife habitats, to leave more to rot while we import our timber is just a flagrant waste of resources.

To hire in a mobile sawmill  is going to cost a lot of cash, maybe 300 or 400 pounds for the day depending upon who you know. It still makes sense if you are milling up oak for a greenwood frame but softwood is inherently less valuable and you’d need to make a lot of planks to justify hiring in a mobile mill?

 

That’s where the chainsaw mill does come into it’s own. It costs a lot less than a bandsaw mill and can be easily disassembled and stored in a corner when its not in use, so it’s less of a security and parking issue as well. It’s never going to be as quick and efficient as a bandsaw but it doesn’t need to be as it can be used for lots of small jobs in difficult to access areas with timber that otherwise will be wasted. The logosol mill is much more than a simple adaptor for a chain saw with an fully height adjustable log bed capable of taking logs upto 500kg. The quarter inch kerf on the chainsaw ripping chain produces a third less waste (and effort) than a normal saw making the conversion of a large log into posts, boards and planks a pleasure. Are you getting the message that I am converted yet?

On my earlier visit to lop off the top and prepare it for planking I seriously underestimated the size of the tree, thinking it around 2ft at the base, but in fact it’s closer to 30 inches in diameter at the butt.

At a rough estimate with a diameter of 25inches at breast height (dBH is the normal measure of timber) the tree has a volume of about 3.5 Cu M and will yield about 3 tonnes of wet timber, about 1.5tonnes when dried – all based upon assumptions of the volume, density and moisture content of the tree. I’m probably being conservative with these figures, but however you put it – that’s a lot of timber.

 

I estimate this 10ft log weighs in at around 400kg on its own and is destined to be turned into fence posts. I start by taking slices off the top of the log. These ‘waney edged’ boards are not waste and all get used used for cladding and weatherboarding. The rustic nature of the edges makes them more popular than squared off boards – and fewer cuts means less effort!

I’ve missed out a couple of photos in the sequence (I got a bit carried away) and to get to this stage, once the log has a straight top I rotate it through 90 degrees and repeat the process for another side until 3 or all 4 sides are squared up and the log becomes a beam. Taking care with measurements at this stage means that less of the timber will be wasted in offcuts. The beam is then sawn down in 4inch lumps (heavy!) of stock which sit on the rails awaiting resawing.

 

The final stage is to resaw the 4 inch stock again to produce the final 4×4 timbers. The same process if followed for 3inch, 2inch or 1inch stock, whatever dimensions of wood you need. Though it doesn’t make much sense to make smaller timber this way – it’s much easier to make 2inch stock and then resaw on a circular saw or bandsaw in the workshop.

This log made 9 4×4 timbers and several waney edged planks.  Having been windblown for some months I was nervous that the timber might have started to rot 0r that I might meet my longhorn beetle friends again, but in the event the quality of the wood was superb.

The pile of waste from the day’s work is small, as much a testament to the quality of the tree that was going to waste as the competence of the sawyer.

Moving the Logosol mill to the wood is the easy bit. Moving the sawn timber is easier than moving enormous logs but the product from the day still weighs in at well over a tonne so you won’t be able to put it on the roof of your mini. It will weigh a lot less once it’s seasoned, but this timber is going to be used externally so seasoning isn’t part of the plan.


I have to admit that in the one day only just over half the tree was milled up. So hopefully I will be back for the rest before it becomes useless, but finding time is always a problem. Mind you it’s a full trailer load so the next batch will have to wait.  There is one more job to do with the mill before I disassemble it again so it gets a ride to the next site, but that will be another day.

 

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Using the ‘Just In Time’ theory of greenwood working (there are some who think it’s a modern invention, but there is not a lot that’s new really) I have to make a pile of planks and posts today. My target is a Scots Pine that fell over on the commons some months ago. It’s a goodly sized tree – the butt being around 30 inches in diameter and dead straight.  It seems a shame to waste it. The pinewood will already have started to ‘blue’ waiting for me to get around to it but as the timber is for outside use it should not be a problem – I just hope that I don’t meet any more Longhorn beetle! So it’s a job for my Logosol Chainsaw mill.


A major advantage of the Logosol Mill in comparison to a cheap bandsaw is it’s ease of transport. I normally transport it in parts and assemble on site, but this site is close to a farm track where I’ve already had one guide rail stolen.  To give me a head start on the job I assembled the mill yesterday evening and left it close to the work site overnight so I can get started on the job as quickly as possible today (after I’ve finished blogging of course).

The transport shuttle across the commons in the evening gave me the opportunity to admire a great sunset through the trees and over the folded landscape of the Western Weald

looking towards the Hampshire Hangers at Selbourne (habitat of the lesser spotted Gilbert White) which is only a few miles away.

To my surprise the warm weather and sunshine is already at work and the Bracken shoots are starting to push up through the matt of last years growth – not long now and the fern will need cutting, time to start sharpening the scythes! All too fast the sun disappeared below the horizon in a blaze of colour.

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I am not the fastest to get going in the morning especially when its dark and cold outside. There always seems to be plenty to do before I can leave, so at this time of year I tend to end up working into the twilight and sometimes by torchlight until I become accustomed to the early evenings again.For a couple of evenings recently the moon has helped out, casting a cold blue light over the work site and I couldn’t help trying to take some photos of the contrast with the warm red light from the dying fire..

There is a tawny owl in the woods very close to the site . As the light fades I sit in a chair and I can hear her (apparwntly you can tell because the females call the males ‘twit’ whereas as the males call to the females ‘twoo’!) as she moves round the fire.

It seems as if I’ve been on this job for ever and it has taken a lot longer than I anticipated but I’ve finished enough timber for various projects as well as bits and pieces for friends. There is still more to mill up but I’ve finished the work at the site for now and spent some time clearing up. Very little will be wasted as the offcuts will go to make firewood shelters at my charcoal site, if not for more chairs (they seem to be much appreciated by all, and I have a couple of orders already).
I’ve left quite some of the timber as ‘waney edge’ boards, a little different and more rustic than what you buy at B&Q, but I can rip them down later to square them off if needs be. Unwanted logs will go to the firewood pile on the commons and the last task is to move the sawn timber from the site to a more sheltered location.

It will take a few days to complete this in between other jobs, even with the help of the tractor and trailer.

 

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It’s not what I’d planned to do today, but I just needed to sit by the fire this afternoon.

The pine project is taking a little longer than I anticipated, having been rained off over the weekend and with progress a little slower than I had thought. But I am now back on it for the next 3 days. I need to plank up another 10 logs, burn up the old brash and then tidy the site, as I will be onto other jobs for a while.

Having a good fire going is an invitation to sit by it, so all I needed was a chair. No time for anything elaborate but luckily I have a pile of pine offcuts and they need to be used one way or another. A simple way to make a seat is to take two large offcuts and bore a hole through one (the seat back) allowing the other to placed through it as a rustic seat. Generally the larger the offcut the more throne-like and eye catching is the eventual seat. Surprisingly enough they are very comfortable – this may be because of the slope backwards on both the seat and backrest.
I first saw one of these chairs placed at a local viewpoint in a chestnut coppice looking out over the Weald towards the South Downs. That was made several years ago by Colin when he cut the coppice. I will leave a couple here and hope they get as well used.

 

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Why is a lot of something referred to as a shedload? Perhaps because an empty shed is a rare thing? It certainly is in my case, but the reason that this is a shed load is because it will be my new shed….eventually. In fact its about a half a shed load at most, but then I am planning quite a large shed. The pile of timber is the result of the last few days work and is now air drying before use.

To move the logs onto the sawbench my capstan winch has been pressed into service. Once the logs are in front of the bench I can then roll them by hand.
This landrover is a 1960 Series II that should be taking it easy in its retirement but it still works for a living. It also has to carry my pole-lathe and shelter to all the shows.

For those who have been watching the recent TV documentary Axmen following Oregon lumberjacks, this is my version of the skyline, and it comes with all of the sound effects and bleeps.

The capstan winch made light work of moving the logs. Not everything went according to plan as this is the second rope this week, the first one broke under the strain.


There is something about a fire that makes a worksite, especially as the weather gets colder. Here the pine brash is burnt, to keep me warm. but only the wood that won’t be used as kindling or firewood so little is wasted.

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The wet summer weather has put me way behind on some jobs. One of these is to make pine planks from some timber logs we cut early in the year.Planks are always useful and I have a number of small projects for the winter that will use quite a lot of wood, so as the weather has been reasonable this week I’ve been spending a lot of time making them.

The woods are on Marley Common, an area which is now a mature pine plantation but which was open heathland for many centuries. It is slowly being returned to lowland heath and we felled about 20 trees to make a wildlife corridor at the start of the year. With the poor weather the pine logs are starting to go off so its the last chance to make decent timber from them

To make planks I use a chainsaw mill. This is a powerful chainsaw (for afficionados I am using a Shtil 660, thats a 92cc saw with a one piece milled 25inch 3/8 bar and a PMZ 1/4inch ripping chain)as cutting down the grain of the wood is much harder work than crosscutting. To make the work much more accurate the chainsaw fits into a cradle which runs up and down an 18ft long guide rail. The logs are rolled (easy to say but not so easy to do) up onto the log bench and the arms can then be raised and lowered on the ratchets to allow accurate cutting.

A chain saw mill is slow work in comparison to a mobile bandsaw (woodmizer) or even a lucas mill (mobile circular saw system). It also creates a lot more sawdust than other narrower blades. What to do with a tonne of pine sawdust? Sadly nothing as far as I am aware. But it is easy to carry to the site and to store when not in use. Although I was very tempted to upgrade to a bandsaw it doesn’t make sense for an occasional user like me and even the top of the range Logosol M7 system which I am using here costs a fraction of a mobile bandsaw which makes it affordable. For more on cutting timber with big chainsaws you can find the logosol UK website here – Logosol UK .

When I started planking a few years ago I just used a standard chainsaw, a simple home-made guide rail and chainsaw attachment. I was hooked instantly. It just feels good to be able to utilise logs that otherwise would go to waste and to make something using timber that you have milled yourself. As well as saving money and timber miles! You can start very simply and cheaply. Some people use simple attachments which hang off an aluminium ladder to get the straight cuts. It’s hard work doing the work manually but it really pays off when you have isolated hardwood logs in places that you can’t easily reach with anything but a chainsaw and lightweight mill. The planks can be carried out when the logs often can’t be extracted.

The finish on the planks is excellent and it always surprises people that its so clean. It can be used as it is for external work or put straight through a planar/thicknesser for planed planks. It doesn’t save a lot of time and money to make pine planks as they are so cheap at the building merchants but as I have both the mill and the timber it seemed to make sense at the time.

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