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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The best laid plans can get quickly re-prioritized

Last week I took a week of vacation and set the goal of Creating a dozen new pens and finishing up some bowls to add to my stores listings. Well that that was the week that was supposed to be...

I hadn't much more than gotten home from work Friday night and the week's plan were in for a big change. While wandering the streets of my hometown and checking out the happenings at the Back to the 50s Festival that was going to be going on all weekend, I happened to run into my sister in law and nephew. They know I work with wood a lot and my friend, who was also checking out the activities with me burns wood in his fire pit at his home. As we got talking, they mention to us they had recently had a large tree behind their house cut down by the utilities company because it was encroaching on power lines and wanted to know if we had any use for it. Needless to say they had the right people since I build things from wood and my friend burns it. Let me also stop and say this could normally be a conflict between two friends, but by buddy is good about forwarding some of his bounty to me when he has a lot and sees some sizable pieces that might have some potential, so it works out to my benefit usually and thus I can't complain about the rest of it going up in smoke to cook burgers in his back yard (especially since I also get to partake in those on occasion!).

Well, back to the story, sis-in-law mentioned the tree was walnut tree, and knowing this to be a great local hardwood, I was ready to take a look and see what she had! But this was late in the evening and the daylight had already given way to night, so I had to be patient and enjoy the event and wait till Saturday to go check out what they had.

So the next day, after having an enjoyable breakfast at Bekah's Westside Cafe, a regular Saturday morning stop for me and several friends and relatives, my buddy Sonny and I went over to check out the downed tree. Far be for us to let a fallen tree sit to waste away! When we got there, we were both surprised to see the size of that tree! I expected something in the neighborhood of a tree with a 12-14 inch trunk and 4-6" limbs, kind of a normally size tree around many of the homes in our area. Not so with this baby.. it was over 24 inches across the diameter of the lower trunk and the branches were in the 8 - 12 inch range!!! Where we thought we might throw into the back of Sonny's truck and haul it off to our houses for turning in lumber and firewood, this stuff needed further processing with the aid of chainsaw and a trailer to roll the big stuff onto. So the task got postponed to the next day, as we both wanted to get back up to the festival and join the festivities. And that would also give me the evening to get out the chainsaw and sharpen up the blade in preparation to tackle the beast. I felt like I was preparing to join the ranks of History Channels Axe Men!

Well, Sunday we were ready to take on the stumps, trunks and branches, but only after enjoying a hearty breakfast at our local Bob Evans restaurant and filling our fuel tanks for a little manual labor (I'm a desk jockey in my day job). Enlisting the help of my son and 2nd nephew, plus Sonny & myself, we got the remains of the tree cut into (almost) manageable size and hauled home for further sizing and processing.
Before diving in, I took a moment to say a little grace to the wood gods before cutting into the bounty and reducing it down to manageable sizes for storing and drying.

Here, I have chainsaw in hand and am ready to take on the task of reducing the wood to slabs and blocks for woodturning. It's times like these I really wish I had one of those Wood-Mizers, life would be sooo much easier! But, I don't so I got to do it the hard way with chainsaw, axe, sledghammer and wedges.

This was not going to get me to on the lathe, turning pens anytime soon. My vacation plans definitely had a new priority, as I couldn't let this stuff sit out and get all checked and ruined for anything but the fire-pit (Sonny would have liked it, but I had other plans at this point!). So the sawing began and finished out Sunday for me and most of Monday, and I still only had half the pile cut up, reduced to turning stock of around 4" slabs and the ends sealed to control drying. I also had sore arms and cramping muscles at this point, since I don't normally tote a heavy chainsaw around all day, nor do I normally roll and lift big chunks of wood like this on a regular basis.

So I took Tuesday off from cutting (it rained anyway, helping me decide) and worked in the shop on prepping some pen blanks for turning, putting the finishing touches on a couple bowls, getting my eBay store set up. The arm muscles were grateful for the change and a chance to recuperate. Wednesday got taken by a leak in the plumging above the water heater and a failed thermocouple that took some time to replace. Thrusday, I started out by turning a couple of the pen blanks I prepped Tuesday and assembled a couple pens (so I got a "little" of the original goal done!) then dove into the wood again and got few more pieces cut up to size. Friday brought got me back on track, I worked on finish turning of a hollow vessel I'm anxious to finish up and show off, and got the base ring of a Box Elder bowl turned out so I can finish up that project, and I still had time to cut up a couple more pieces of the walnut (getting into the big stuff now!).

Saturday it felt like I never get through one of the larger trunk pieces. My chainsaw was straining to cut that large of a chunk of wood at once, and I discovered some old fence wire a few inches into one side of it, which didn't do the teeth on the chain any good, so got sharpen the chain a couple more times than anticipated, work at the thing from a couple different angles to avoid more wire as much as possible, and got a good workout using the sledgehammer and wedges to help separate the large chunks and wielding the axe to help separate the fibers near the wire until it finally relented and separated. At this point I used the handy-dandy Lumber Wizard to locate the areas of the trunk with wire in it, so I could try my best to avoid another run-in with the chainsaw meeting wire strands. It helped, but I still had a couple more run-ins before I was done, since the slabs I was cutting up were left rather large.

Sunday I had to start getting things ready to return to work on Monday, but I still had a final couple of pieces to tackle and reduce to storable, yet usable slabs. It took the rest of the day to finish cutting up, and it was actually getting dark as I was cleaning up the yard, bagging up the shavings and raking the rest out and around the yard to become overgrown with grass next spring, never to be seen again. It took till Monday night after work to put the coating of end-sealer on the final pieces, but it's all done now. The only sad part of it is I haven't been able to park in my garage stall for the past week due to using the floor area to store all the cut-up slabs after sealing.

It's a small price to pay, for the bounty is worth it, and the projects this will keep me busy with in the years to come are going to be awesome. It's going to me a matter of patience now, waiting for the stuff to dry. I may try my hand at turning of it while still green (I've got enough to learn on I believe). The final task is going to be hauling all of it upstairs for storage. Some of those slabs still weigh a lot!

This entire adventure reminds me of and re-enforces the old phrase about "The best laid plans of mice and men....". It sure isn't what I planned for the week, but it was important enough to change the goal for the value of what I got, and the importance of getting it properly prepared for storage so there will few checks to deal with when time to turn rolls around. But just in case, there's a little extra length on most of the bigger pieces, just in case.

I look forward to sharing more this when I start getting to work with the wood, In the meantime, some other stock that I cut and stored a year or so ago is about ready for processing. The Winter projects, they be a lining up! I look forward to putting more into this blog in the near future, I've had several distractions the past year that's taken my attention in different directions and I'm ready to start creating some content that I hope you'll find useful as well as entertaining. Here's to goals and re-directions (and creating some cool stuff)!

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A Comparison

A Comparison
Various Pen styles and their comparitive sizes