Gye Greene's Thoughts

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

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Two short logs

Two weekends ago, while doing my pathetically short jog, I came across some short lengths of small-diameter logs by the side of the road.  I recognized them as wattle, which has a lovely reddish-brown color, so I came back a few days later and picked up the two larger ones.

I knew I wanted to use the wattle wood in projects.  But:  if you let logs dry "in the round", you get a lot of splitting -- which reduces the amount of usable lumber you end up with.  So I've found that you need to split them into quarters or eighths (depending on the diameter of the log), or cut the log into slabs.

I knew from experience that wattle doesn't split cleanly, so I would therefore have to saw them into slabs by hand.  I also knew that I wouldn't have time to do that right away, so I put them in my children's plastic wading pool (which was already filled with rainwater), to prevent them from drying out and cracking -- which ruins the wood for woodworking.

And then, this recent Thursday, on my way to the train station, I passed by a house where some workers were tossing branches into a grinder, which blew the chips into the back of the truck.  To the side of the house, on the grass, were about ten log segments from the trunk of the tree.  I stopped to inspect them.

The woman who lived in the house -- I presume -- came out to see what I was doing, and I told her that I do woodworking, and could I please save two of the logs?  She said OK, so I rolled two of them to the side, and she told the workers to **not** load those two onto the truck.

She said that they were fiddlewood.  A friend told me that it's basically a week here in Queensland.

That evening after work, I stopped by and threw the -- fairly heavy! -- log segments into the trunk

So, the wattle first.

I spent part of Friday (home with a sick child) and part of Saturday hand-sawing them.

By the time I got to the point of photographing them, it was getting near dark.  Since I wanted to get my blog entry posted, rather than wait another day, I set up two lights.  The yellow light is a halogen(?) work light -- which is very bright, but kind of yellow-y.  The green light is a solar-powered one from Ikea, which provides a bluer light.

Here's one of the pieces.  You can see that it has a fork, which makes for an interesting grain pattern.  I took a scrub plane to this one, to clean it up a bit, and also rubbed some Danish oil on it to bring out the grain.  However, the oil is still wet, which makes the wood look a little slimy.  Ah well.
(You may want to click the photo to enlarge it.)

This one is from the other small log.  This one is neither planed nor oiled -- but you can still get the sense that it's some nice-looking wood.  Both this and the previous piece are about 10cm by 35cm (4 inches by 14 inches).  That's enough to do something with.

And, here's the resulting stash.  I'll end up making some sort of small-to-medium storage box or jewelry chest, after I let the wood season for a year or two.

And, the fiddlebark.

Here's a shot of the two logs, as I dumped them in my front yard.  They probably weighed about 60-70kg each (130-155 lbs.) when I lifted them into the car (wet wood, freshly cut):  they felt like they weighed nearly as much as me, but not quite.

Here's one of them, with a ruler on it.  Both of them were almost exactly the same length and diameter, so there's little point in showing both of them with a ruler.  The ruler is 12 inches (about 30cm) -- just to give you a sense of scale.

These were of a decent diameter, so I was hoping to heck that they would split cleanly:  splitting is a lot faster and easier than hand-ripping with a saw.  (I refuse to use a chainsaw:  too dangerous.)  I'd never used fiddlebark, so I didn't know what to expect as I began to split the first log...

But!  Here's one of the logs, after I'd split it with some wedges.  It split fairly cleanly:  note the straightness of the split, where I've indicated with the red rectangle.  However, it does get a little ragged further down:  see the blue rectangle.

Here's a shot of the wood in the process of being split.  That's a wedge from my paternal grandfather's estate, BTW.  In fact, most of the wedges I used for this wood-harvesting are from his estate.

Here's a shot of one of the original logs.  As you can see, it's pretty much 12 inches (30cm) across:  that's enough to do some useful things with it.

Once I did all my splitting -- here's a shot of a portion that I cleaned up with a scrub plane -- the area is indicated by the red rectangle -- and then rubbed with Danish oil to show the figure.  This piece of wood is flatsawn.  I'm a little disappointed with the color:  when I was examining the logs when they were on the woman's lawn, I thought the wood would have more of a pink-ish coloring.  Still, not bad -- and the figure is usable.  (Click to enlarge, if you like.)

Here's another piece -- again, cleaned up with a scrub plane, as indicated by the red rectangle.  This one is quartersawn.  It also has some spalting, which gives it some variation in color.  (Again, click to enlarge.)

I have two pieces like this:  about 30cm by 50cm (12 inches by 20 inches) -- enough to make a seat of a simple stool.

Here's an indicator of the thickness.  Should make a good seat for a stool...

And, here's the resulting stash (oops!  getting dark...).  Enough to make a six-board chest (or two?) (explained below), plus a simple stool or two.

Here's what I'm thinking of, when I say a "six-board chest":

Basically, you get six wide boards, and join them together to make a storage chest.

And, here's what I'm thinking of for my eventual footstools.

This first photo shows two footstools made by my late (paternal) grandfather; I'm thinking of emulating the one on the right.

Here's another example.  I'd probably splay the legs like this one, in contrast to my grandfather's design (above), where the legs go straight down.

However, for security (i.e. robust engineering), I'd probably have the legs go all the way through the top, then "wedge" the legs (with the force going against, rather than across the grain -- of course).

For all of these slabs of wood, I'll let them season "loose", on shelves, rather than "stacked and stickered".  ("Stickering" is drying lumber in stacks, with slats of wood as spacers between them.)

My wood-seasoning philosophy is that drying lumber in stacks makes them dry "in tension":  wood wants to shrink as it dries, and if it doesn't have room to flex, it cracks a bit.  Also, the resulting wood has internal tensions, such that if it gets wet and re-dries, it will move to how it wanted to in the first place.

In contrast, my seasoned wood is stable.  It's true that it cups a little bit -- but I just plane it flat.  I'm willing to trade a lower yield for wood that is actually stable.

My approach.


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