BLOGGING ABOUT THE BLUE HILL PENINSULA
Logs to boards: using a portable saw mill:
On the Blue Hill Peninsula it's natural for trees to blow down during the winter. What do we do with all the fallen timber? The hardwood (oak and ash) is split to burn in our fireplaces. However, not all wood is good for fireplaces. We have to find other uses for softwood. It starts great fires but produces too much creosote which is not good for chimneys. While burning it also pops too much-and throws sparks out onto the rug or at people. Generally, when we have a lot of softwood logs we try to sell them by the truck load to a pulp mill. We stack poor quality softwood logs and low piles of limbs (brush) in the woods to nourish the forest floor.
During the last three winters we’ve thinned and harvested many trees up hill from Grindstone Cottage. The choicest white pine tree required a professional tree surgeon. He came on a WINDLESS day in the fall of 2004. The tree was in excellent condition...a good candidate for the saw mill. It had about a hundred rings; one per year of growth. It was a baby when Oakland House opened its doors in 1889.
By spring of 2006 we had accumulated 7 or 8 really clear logs.
We called Jim’s childhood friend Basil Ladd who has a portable sawmill. Basil and Jim worked for about 4 days cutting the logs into boards. Most of the boards were cut into 7/8” thick slabs (destined to be floorboards). The widest were cut 1-1/4” thick for furniture construction.
The process of making boards:
Roll the logs up onto the saw mill with the help of a winch. This is not a job for the weak of mind or body. Clamp log in place, level the log so the heart of the log is parallel with the bed of the saw mill. Figure what height the blade has to be to cut the first slab. Discard the slab. Saw a few boards, pull blade back. Unclamp the log and rotate it 90 degrees. Figure what height the blade has to be to cut the first slab. Discard the slab. Saw a few boards. Repeat this, rotate 90 degrees again, and repeat this again so you end up with a square block.
Once the log has been trimmed square, cut the block into individual boards.
Finally, stack up all second cut boards that still have some bark on each side. Cut the bark sides square.
Make a foundation for aging and drying the newly cut boards. Lay out cement blocks on a level part of ground approximately 4 feet apart. Use this as a foundation for the drying "stick" pile. Stack the boards in the stick pile with 1” x 1” strips of wood spacers between each layer so air can move easily between the boards. Paint the ends of the boards with latex paint to retard moisture loss.
Cover the top with a loose piece of flake board or plywood to keep the rain off. Don't cover tightly with a tarp. Age for a couple of years.