Sunday, May 30, 2010
Well okay, not an actual windfall (as it was cut to avoid that) but a windfall of wood nonetheless. Our Alaskan birches don't tend to get very large, at least around here, because they either blow down or get crowded out by the spruce. This big guy was too close to the house of some friends and was making them nervous - which is why I found it on their lawn.
A call to my brother Josh, (who took the smaller stuff for his wood stove) and here was my haul:
My idea was to air dry it (I love the way air dried wood works with hand tools) and use it for all sorts of projects. The challenge is to avoid checking (splits) as the wood dries. If the wood is dried in the round, it will almost certainly check, as the wood shrinks tangentially to the grain much more than radially. In other words, as the outer rings of grain try to shrink into smaller rings, they can't move inwards enough to allow them to stay whole, so they split apart. The easiest way to do this is to split the wood into halves or wedges, which allows the wood to move freely as it dries and shrinks (the angle of the wedges become more acute as they dry).
Here's a photo essay of the splitting process.
Step 1: Start a split with the axe.
Step 2: Use a sledgehammer and a sharp wedge to open the split farther. I scored this old logging wedge down in Oregon and it is perfect for this step.
Step 3: Open the split wider with a larger wedge.
Step 4: Leapfrog the sharper wedge and advance the split again.
Step 5: Add another large wedge. A lot of the time I can leapfrog the large wedge to the new position, but this log was not in the mood to cooperate. The grain from the large branch (cut flush) complicated things and the first large wedge didn't release.
Step 6: Split complete.
Alternate Step A: Make a glut. I think traditionally these are made from some tough wood like dogwood. But seeing as I was at least a couple thousand miles away from the nearest dogwood, but only about ten feet from a scrap lumber pile, I made mine from an old 2x4.
Alternate Step B: Use the glut like a huge wedge (which of course is exactly what it is :) to split logs that are particularly large and/or ornery.
And here is the final result after a few hours of work.
And the tool kit:
I don't have any particular projects in mind for this wood, but I'm sure something will come to me.