Gye Greene's Thoughts

Gye Greene's Thoughts (w/ apologies to The Smithereens and their similarly-titled album!)

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Log slabs into something

Back in January 2013 (or 1/27/13, to be exact), a storm knocked down a tree a few houses down, which had been growing along the side of the road.  Unfortunately, the tree's roots passed under the water mains, so when it fell over we (and our neighbors) were without water for nearly a week.  But -- I managed to gain a log, about an arm-span in length.

I think the tree might have been some sort of eucalyptus.  Certainly, it's a hardwood.

I took the log home and slabbed it so that it would dry in a controlled manner -- rather than letting it dry "in the round" and developing all sorts of splits and cracks, thus rendering it un-usable.

My first attempt was to split it with some wedges.  Unfortunately, not all trees have wood that splits cleanly -- and this species was not one of the well-behaved ones.  So, I ended up ripping them by hand, using a converted crosscut saw.

I parked the resulting slabs under the eaves, up on bricks (to keep the termites away).  Although one of the slabs ended up on our porch.

Slightly more than two years later, I took another look.  Here's how they are.

Here's a shot of three of the four slabs, showing the sides that were up.  You can see that they've been bleached by the sun.

But.  Here are their undersides, with a lovely reddish color.  Note the one in the foreground will need some cleaning up:  you can see how it didn't split cleanly.  (Click to enlarge.)

Here are the ends of two of them, giving you a sense of their thickness.  The one on the left is about a fist's thickness (i.e. four of my fingers).  That's enough mass to use for something useful.

I oiled the underside of two of them -- that is, the portions that have not been bleached by the sun.  It gives a sense of their original color.  Nice.  :)

Here's the one that's been on the porch.  It's the other section that didn't split cleanly.

And, here's the porch one, from the end.  Again, it will need some cleaning up (with a handplane, probably prefaced with an adze).  I think this section would be about three finger-widths thick, once it's cleaned up.

My inclination is to make a small-ish woodworking workbench from this log.  The more practical use of the wood would be to make a sitting bench, with a back.  However, I'm afraid that if I made the bench and had it on the porch, then the sun would bleach the lovely color -- even if I oiled it.  And the bench would be too "rustic" go inside the house.  (And there's no room in my workshop.)

In contrast, a workbench would (presumably) be indoors, and thus retain the color.

I'm thinking using two, or maybe three, of the slabs as the surface.  I've read that traditional Japanese woodworking always has the bark side up (and the heart of the log down) -- and for some reason this fits my sense of aesthetics.

In other words (see illustration to the left), most Western wood- workers would cut a log in half and use configuration "A", because it maximizes the work surface:  you can see how you actually get a "leading corner" to the work surface, because the curve of the log is to the underside, where it isn't a detriment.

In contrast, I think option "B" looks better -- at least, when viewing it from the end.  But compared to the first option, you lose a few inches due to having to make the front and back of the slab meet the top surface (where I've made the red vertical lines).  Also, I would only partially clean up the area where the front and back slab meet -- which means that there would be a small valley there.  But, I'm fine with that.

 Here's my vision for the top.  I'd use two of the slabs.  The one with the fork would go on the back, and the thicker, more rectangular one would go along the front.  Only the edge along the front of the workbench needs to be straight (for clamping boards):  the back can be oddly-shaped.

The red arrows indicate the direction of the grain:  it's easier to flatten the work surface with a handplane when both pieces have grain that runs in the same direction.

 Here's a view from the left end of the work- bench.  Note that it's not quite to scale.  Note also the "V"-shaped groove -- which is fine.

The front slab would be thicker, and the back slab -- with the fork -- is a bit thinner.  So, I'd have to supplement the back with a wooden spacer, at least where the framework would be.

Unfortunately, the log wouldn't supply enough wood to make the framework or the legs of the workbench.  (Although the extra pieces could be used as the stringers(? - the horizontal pieces that would connect the legs).)  The solution would be to use one of the many "stumps" (basically, hardwood pilings) that I saved from The Lady's grandmother's old house.  They are of a similar red color to what I've shown you above, and they're about long enough to serve as front-to-back beams, as well as the legs of the workbench.

This, of course, will go somewhere near the bottom of my "To Do" list.  Fun, and interesting -- but not a priority.


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