Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Elm of Death

I've slabbed up a couple big elms in the past. I guess I forgot how much work they are! This one was a street tree that blew down in the recent storms.

Trees weren't the only things that got messed up by the winds. Three sailboats wound up on the local beaches. One was destroyed, one was vandalized, the third has a concrete hull and no-one has any idea what to do with it.

Anyways, onto the elm. I felt like a mouse trying to eat an elephant when I started on it.  The trunk portion of it was wider than about 30", which is as wide as my mill can handle. So I spent a lot of time trimming the sides so it would fit my mill. Then since the log was too long I had to cut a 'slot' at the point where I wanted to pull the mill out. I got 8 pieces 2 1/2" thick and about 5'6" long, as there was a big crotch above this. 

On my best days, I can average about 20 minutes per slab, this is from the time I leave my house until I return. This log took over an hour per slab, and I had to do it over two days, just for the one part. All the bark had to be peeled off, then the edges trimmed, the end with the splits cut off, then a notch cut in the middle for the mill to exit in. It was tough, tough going.

I was happy with the performance of the mill(s) though, especially my main one. The new chain and new sprocket continue to work well. The chain does not cut super fast, but does leave a reasonably smooth finish on the boards, except where it gets hung up or stops moving, it leaves a bit of a gouge. Very similar to resawing a board on a bandsaw. Slow, steady constant feed pressure is the key. I am experimenting with different raker settings to see if I can get the mill to feed a bit more easily.

This log held a couple of surprises too. First of all, it did not stink, which was a nice surprise. All other elms that I have cut up smelled awful. This one was practically scent free. A guy who was cutting firewood at the same time as I was there tried to convince me that it was maple. I almost was ready to believe him but there were some leaves still on it that were clearly not maple. The second surprise was the grain - the other elm logs I cut up had beautiful straight grained sections, but this one was swirly with inclusions and kind of irregular throughout. I suspect it might be a different variety of elm than I have seen in the past.

After I cut these slabs out, I peeled the bark off the top half of the log with the crotch on it, cut off a big branch that was in the way, then cut it to length. I hope to go back and get it in a couple days if no-one else beats me to it! I'll need my 60" bar as the crotch part is 53" wide. And there are lots of other logs waiting there still.

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