Saturday, May 09, 2009

A lumberjacking breakthrough

There was still about 8' of the base, the thickest part, of the big tree I felled last year that I didn't get bucked before the snows were too thick.

The hardest part about bucking something so thick is the pinching. If the log were perfectly straight lying on perfectly flat ground, you couldn't just cut down through it for two reasons. First, the cut isn't infinitely thin, so the gap it's leaving behind tends to pinch inward on the blade. Second, even if it didn't, you can't cut down to the ground because your blade will dig into the ground and that's bad for the blade and bad for your safety. Once the ground isn't perfectly level or the log isn't perfectly straight, these factors can usually be magnified in intensity.

The best solution is to prop the log up so you're lopping off an end which is up in the air. Then you can cut straight down. The weight of the piece you're lopping off is pulling away from the cut, not pushing in towards it, so it's not pinching.

Another option is to cut down about 80% of the way, then roll over the log, then cut down the rest of the way, but that's a lot harder, plus it's quite possible for a slight slant to the land or knot in the wood to pinch your saw, and then the saw is stuck and can easily be ruined forever.

This particular log was way too heavy last year for me to lift an end up onto another piece of wood or a wedge, and I don't trust myself enough to do the technique where you cut down and then roll; so I was using a difficult and tedious workaround in which I would cut a wedge out with two cuts at angles to about 75% of the way through, then cut another wedge the rest of the way almost, then finally cut the last bit, getting through too quick for the pinch. It makes the whole process take 2-3 times as much cutting and it's also nervous work.

This year, the wood has dried a little so it was a little easier to move but it was still too heavy for me to lift an end up onto something. However, I had a brilliant idea for a solution that worked quite wonderfully well:

I had some of these around for working on the tractor in the garage. I put one down next to the log, and rolled it up onto the level part. Far easier than lifting it into place, well within my strength. After lopping off a few rounds, I used the second ramp to roll it back the way it came and up again. I went the whole way down, alternating between the two ramps.

The last cut was still a bitch to do because it was cutting a three foot log in half so neither half was able to sit up on something with the other half hanging off, so I had to have it poised between both ramps and then cut, turn, cut, turn, cut, turn to avoid pinching. My saw got a bit tired of the job doing this and started giving off smoke. I cleaned it out and tuned it up twice but in the end I had to use a wedge to split the last bits of the cut. I'll have to check to see if the saw is all right later, after it's cooled down and I've rested up.

The ramp technique really helped so well I will probably use it even for logs I could lift, because, why lift when it's easier to roll?

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