Current Topic: This year financing requires us to saw our own lumber. About a five-to-one savings. Fortunately we acquired a cache of logs at the end of last year. Including some twenty-one footers we hope to use for some big beams to rebuild our garage.
It's Been Two Years Since We Last Used The Sawmill...
We didn't use the sawmill last year and more importantly we didn't clean up when we were done for the season. That meant that we had a lot of work to do just to prepare for this years effort.
There was leftover (unused) lumber, a three foot high pile of sawdust and a heap of unprocessed slag. That means we had a lot of cleanup to do before we were able to even use the sawmill. That and the regular tune-up we always do on the motor before we start (oil, filters, fuel-line, etc...) so we don't damage our investment.
So we've cleared the mill deck and placed some bunks to stack the lumber on and processed the slag pile. We serviced the mill motor. A normally simple matter except for the fact that it has been sitting for two years. So once again we had to replace the battery, purge the fuel-lines replacing some that had cracked as well as reviving operating mechanisms which had gummed up from the stale gas.
We also spent a day aligning the track. We had some twenty-foot timbers to saw and we wanted them to be straight. We do this by using a string-line and a level and shim the track as necessary.
And Now We Are Ready To Saw...
At the end of last year we were fortunate enough to acquire some large logs from a storm 'blow-down' event. Since I was given the opportunity I had the logs cut for twenty foot beams. Roughly 21.5 feet. I'm hoping to use these to replace the garage with a post-and-beam structure.
After about four days of sawing we were already overwhelmed with lumber and slag. We only actually sawed about ten logs but they were monsters. twenty-one feet long and average of seventeen inches in diameter. Most of them were actually beyond our handling capacity of about one ton. That's as much as our tractor can lift. The heavier ones had to be set on the mill by lifting one end, bracing it and then lifting the other end while gently rolling it onto the mill bed. Yeah! that description sugarcoated it a bit. It was actually rough riding. But it doesn't stop there. After edging one side of the log it needs to be rotated, usually ninety degrees, and that was a truly brutal effort using only hand tools (peavy, cant hook).
We sawed a couple of large beams at 8 by 12 and 6 by 8 and a lot of 2 by 10. There is also a fair amount of resultant side lumber. Side lumber is only dimensional in thickness and usually has one or both edges that are 'natural' (round) A.K.A. the edge of the log. They will be reprocessed later on a table saw as needed. However... We were now out of space. For as little as we sawed the deck was now to crowded to manipulate the large logs we were sawing. Time for a bit of clean up.
Learning from the past the first thing we did was to buck up all the slag with the chainsaw for firewood instead of just piling it up to rot. Then we relocated the lumber to a more convenient location while sticking and stacking it to air dry. Let me tell you... 2 by 10 by 21 foot Fir lumber is heavy. I hope this stuff lightens up as it drys.
And so we started sawing again.
And after about four more days of sawing we are once again in the same situation. Clearly we have an systemic infrastructure problem here. With very little means to improve. Ugh!
We took a break here from sawing to complete the Tri-Shed-Complex (phase one). But we need more lumber to continue. We are hoping to get the back deck for the main house framed, floored and roofed. As well as build one more small shed, at the back of the property, for general storage with an adjacent lean-to 'Hay Cache' to service the training corral and back pasture. Both these would go a long way towards convenience for this Winter.
And we started sawing again.
After a little over three days sawing we were once again besieged. We also had some heavy rains. Only worth mentioning because the rain found a leak in our fuel system shutting us down until we figured it out. Spoiled way more then a gallon. More then we used sawing the three days. Ouch!
We were also a little more productive this time. No! We are not improving. Sadly. The logs this time were much smaller. Not the monster 21 footers like before. These logs were 8 to 14 feet typically 8 inches at the top. And mostly Fir. They were easy to load and manipulate on the sawmill.
We're looking mostly for 1 by 6 for the back deck flooring. Additionally... We need some framing and siding lumber. For the cases where the logs were short, less then eleven feet, and were greater then ten inches they became 2 by 4 for framing. Any logs greater then twelve feet that could make at least four 2 by 6 became 2 by 6. Everything else became 1 by 6 for the deck flooring. And of course a large amount of one inch side lumber which will be processed later adding significantly to the 1 by 6 we need.
Yep! There is always the slag. Anything that didn't make it to lumber. And it is always in the way. It has yet again boxed us in and needs to be processed. Into firewood. Nothing here goes to waste.
But there is still all the lumber that is in the way. Here's a good example of where we are failing in infrastructure. Ahead of the sawmill is an Additional space of concrete approximately ten feet by thirty feet but it is not utilized. It is the same concrete area that the sawmill is anchored to. Accounting for the space the mill head-unit takes up and the space we don't need to manipulate long logs we could get an additional six to eight feet over the ten wasted. That's a big space. Which is currently hosting an old wood cow feeder that should have been burned twenty years ago.
If we had a shed behind the sawmill we could cache several weeks (on our schedule anyway) of sawn lumber. Stick and stacked. Which is about all we can handle in a season. About a hundred logs. Which seems like a lot but trust me it doesn't really add up to as much as it sounds. Maybe I'll save the next set of slabs (slag). They can be quite useful as siding when the only goal is for reasonable coverage. Perfect in this case.
Of the logs we sawed this season this was one of the largest. Of the shorter logs anyways. We actually sawed a couple of beams out of equally round logs however they were 21 foot monsters. Anyway this log is Pine, over fourteen feet long and over twenty inches at the butt (large end of taper). After squaring it up we were left with a 14 by 10 beam 14-1/2 feet long which we reduced to 1 by 10 for eventual barn siding. By the time we got to the final dimensional sawing we had already generated several large one inch side lumber slabs. As wide as fourteen inches. When reprocessed they should yield another five or six 1 by 10, some 1 by 8 and a bunch of 1 by 6. That's probably close to 300 board-feet of usable lumber. The scrap will also feed the fire for about two days in Winter. That's pretty good for a thirty dollar log and about an hours work.
We sawed up the big pine, and several similar to it, and after three days we down to only one pitiful crooked shorter log and last three very large and very long logs which we cant saw until we clean up the entire area. Otherwise there is not enough space to manipulate them onto the sawmill. Including all the lumber for finishing out the remainder of our building season with and a big mess to clean up. Aside from the regular firewood collection there is also all the slag (scrap) that didn't make it to firewood and a large pile of sawdust. Although the sawdust really isn't in our way for handling the big logs.
We moved most of the lumber around to the various project areas intended for final use. Including a large amount to the back deck area, for two purposes, our possibly final project for this season. We also reduced the slag pile to mostly bark and paper-slices. Everything else that was suitable was cut into firewood until we were left with a small, gradual, slope. The remaining lumber, not practical to move, we stick and stacked as far behind the mill as was possible. This gave us just enough room to drag the big logs to the log-deck and load them on the sawmill.
It was no easy task loading any of the big logs. The first one took us nearly half an hour to just drag the log to the log deck. With the additional time it took us playing ancient engineering with a long 4 by 6 lever, a few inches at a time, blocking and levering, taking us over an hour to set the first log on the mill. Our tractor can lift just under a thousand pounds. And this log was way beyond that.
It turned out that there were actually five logs left to saw. Because the three were so large, and the grass had not been trimmed around them, there were actually two medium size logs hiding in the bunch. We managed to saw the remaining big logs into beams to replace the never quite finished garage. We are hoping for a nice post-and-beam structure 20 feet by 24 feet using the already existing footprint. We sawed four of the logs. Except for the one really big one. The beams range is size from 6 by 8 inches to 8 by 12 and mostly 21 feet long. Except for two 6 by 8 which are 16 feet. The 6 by 8 will be used for posts and so will be shorter anyway.
We are now officially done for the season. We're one beam short of our quota for the garage project but there is still one remaining monster log to saw. It took us already over an hour just to get it to the mill deck. Less than fifty feet from where is is was laying in the dirt. At least off the ground on the mill deck it will not start rotting before we can get to saw it. Other then that there was only side lumber and slag left from the last logs. And so the last mighty slag pile was once again reduced to firewood.
I figure we sawed over a hundred logs this season ranging from eight feet to over twenty. I figure we generated well over ten thousand board feet that will all go to good use. There was also over two cords of firewood reclaimed from the scrap. The total cost for the logs (delivered) was less than a thousand dollars. Operating costs for the mill were a little over a hundred dollars. I'm calling this effort a huge success and a grand use of resources.