Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Where wood comes from. Part 1.

One of the sub-projects of the larger house building project has been harvesting trees on the property. The goal of this is to make wood from those trees into finished boards for the house. Not the structural 2x4's and such, but wood for ceilings, floors, window trim, probably a lot of the solid wood for cabinetry.

There were four large trees, an oak, a cherry and two hickory (sounds like the start of a joke) that were in the area that needed to be cleared for the house. I didn't want to just use them for firewood, which really pushed me to make this project happen. There were also a lot of large ash on the property which were dying from ash yellowing and also threatened (though not yet infected) by emerald ash borer. A stand of basswood and a few other fence row trees (two good sized cherry, another oak and a hickory and a wind downed maple) rounded out the trees to become the house.

 Some of the larger trees were felled by excavator so the root system would pull out and to ensure a slow fall so the wood was less damaged.

Yes, that was a huge freaking tree.

This certainly made me think of Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree", if you haven't read it lately it's worth checking out of the children's section of your local library.

Once the trees are felled, then the logs get cut to a manageable length, in this case under 12' long. Then carried with the skid steer to the cul-de-sac where a local gentleman with a portable sawmill did the cutting into boards. He charges by the board foot (a 1" thick length of board of 1 square foot of area, a 2" thick board would only be 0.5 sq foot of area to equal a board foot).

It's hard to see without clicking to see the larger version, but the logs are piled by species and length. In the second picture the log mill is up and running on the right. Portable sawmill. The sawmill is basically a big bandsaw on a sled that is pushed with the blade slicing through the log. The log stays stationary for each cut. It's an impressive system. The one used for this project was pretty small and very manual, there are much larger hydraulic units where logs are rotated and the saw moves via hydraulics and belt systems. It took around 5 weekends of cutting with me restocking the cul-de-sac with logs during the week to get all the trees I wanted to use cut into boards.

Next the wood has to be transported from the spot it was cut, stacked with spacers (called stickers by the professionals), the ends painted with a wax (Anchor Seal) to prevent the ends from drying too quickly and splitting (though we painted a lot of the logs before they were cut to make this easier), the stack roofed so it doesn't get rained/snowed on, shade cloth wrapped around the stack of wood again to prevent rapid drying and to mitigate some blowing rain,  all on a super duty pallet so I can use the skid steer to carry around full pallets. All these steps were mini-projects, figure what to use for the 2000+ stickers, make them, figure out how to stack and sticker wood, stack and re-stack, figure out how to make pallets, get materials, make a stack of pallets, figure out what works for a roof, gather materials, make roofs, research shade cloth, get it in and figure out how to install it. Elise and Aaron were key players in making these wood drying steps and activities happen.

 Here's a picture of one full, roofed and shaded stack and a couple partials. We ended up with 8 full stacks and 1 partial, totaling about 8,000 board feet of rough cut lumber.

In addition, piles and piles and piles of firewood were generated. The "slabs" (sides of wood with bark that get sawed off) account for a lot of wood. Tree tops and logs that are too twisty added a significant amount of wood as well. There is still a lot to cut and then split. Some may sit and rot, but there was probably 4-5 winters of firewood heat for a average size/insulation home generated as a side bonus to this project.

Next post will be about what happens when the rough cut lumber gets to the shop to become boards!

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