Thursday, September 27, 2012


This is a very slow project. A long time ago, a tree root system jumped out at me and begged to become a functional art sculpture.

This piece, with its "tentacles" going off in all directions, reminded me of the "Kraken" from Pirates of the Caribbean, and that's how it got its name.

It sat in the shop for a long time after getting cleaned up. Today, I applied the first coat of gloss spar varnish. Bout' knocked my socks off! The color darkened considerably, and just popped!

Sorry about the photo quality. I'm learning how to use a different camera, and need to adjust the quality for indoor/outdoor conditions.

"Kraken" was so dry, it soaked up almost 1/2 quart of the spar varnish. Guess that'll give me an excuse to run to Ace Hardware tomorrow and do some window shopping along with the varnish purchase.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Please, PLEEEEEEEASE, remind me to never again.....

Can't remember if I posted photos of the root system I recovered from a Douglas Fir tree that was too close to my shop for comfort. This system looked like a tabletop in the making, so I decided to dig around the root and pull the tree over instead of cutting it off at ground level. It took a major effort to do that, plus a bunch of neighbors and friends to get in on the felling when it took place (sorry, no photos of that feat of ingenuity). Using some chains and a "come-along" winch, we were finally able to drop the tree over in exactly the spot we wanted.

That was three summers ago. Here's the system aged and ready for cutting.

After scraping off as much dirt as possible, I worked on removing as much bark as possible, too. This is the result.

Ya just never know what you're gonna find inside something like this, though. After making my initial cut in which everything went according to plan, the going got a lot tougher. The chain started smoking like crazy, so I thought I'd dulled it to the point it would need sharpening. Off to the shop I went.

Came back the next day, and began the rest of the cuts, and the same durn thing happened. Couldn't believe how much smoke that chainsaw was making. I thought for a second the wood in the root was catching on fire. Katherine was watching from the house, and she even mentioned how much smoke that thing was putting out.

Well, after getting all the way through on just one cut, I found out the reason why it was smoking as much as it was. See those dark spots in the center of the wood slabs? Those are a mixture of resin from the tree and dirt that had grown up inside the heartwood. Shoulda known. I think I mighta ruined a chain by going through this concoction, and could have ruined the chainsaw if I'd kept going at it any longer than I did. I'll still be able to use the one center slab for a tabletop if I dig out the resin/dirt combo and fill the void with something else.

This one gets filed in the "lessons learned" department.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Wood Gloat - Part 2

Finally got around to slabbing some logs into "cookies" in preparation for them becoming something or other. Was given these pieces over a period of time, and decided they needed to be out of the weather or they'd go bad. These are the results.

This first photo is of Green Ash. Very, very heavy, and I've never seen heartwood like this in any kind of Ash.

This photo is of Honey Locust (or so I'm told). Some really nice grain in these pieces, but very stinky to work with.

And, finally, some Douglas Fir. These are smaller rounds, but should turn out really nice in a project.

So, does anyone have any ideas on what these should ultimately become? I'm thinking of clocks or maybe even jointing them together and making tabletops.

Would you leave the bark on, or take it off?

Gonna have some fun with these!

Wood Gloat, Part I

Went to a neighbor's bi-annual party this Saturday, and one of the boys asked me if I wanted a hunk of wood. Thought to myself he must have picked something up on their property and though it might be cool. Told him I'd look at it to see if it might be usable. We walked to his truck, and there in the back was this slab that is just screaming to be made into some kind of a tabletop.

Basically, all this one needs is a good sanding, some TLC in some spots that have been filled in with something (not sure what it is), and, voila - a tabletop. This thing is between 4' and 5' long and has some beautiful grain.

Katherine says she wants in on this one. I agree.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Handy dandy "little log" slabbing jig

Thought I'd share this for anyone out there having trouble figuring out how to slab smaller logs. This little jig works great for me. This time the log was heavy enough and stable enough just positioning it right that I didn't have to secure it any more with screws into the ends. Bracing and chucking were enough.

The log is walnut somewhere between 2' and 2 1/2' long, and I'm thinking eventually it might become a bowl.

 Using my 20" bar on the chainsaw meant I'd need to go down through the log from one side, and finish the cut from the other side.

On this log, I decided to lop off a "top" and a "bottom" in order to perhaps make a bowl out of it later.

And, after I was done with the walnut log, I still had enough poop and vinegar left to slab a smallish cottonwood log I had in the shop, too. Not sure what these will eventually become. Ideas, anyone?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Got frustrated - tried something new.....

Awhile back, I posted about some coasters I'd been making with Aspen leaves. Tried all different stages in the season for the leaves, but, without fail, somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of them turned out to be useless for me. They'd dry and either curl up or turn brown:

 No matter what the method, they weren't about to cooperate. So, decided to spray paint them instead. Decided to try copper and gold as colors. Turned out really nice. The paint dries fast and, so far, seems to be holding the shape of the leaf intact.

The photo below shows five of them "curing" with one coat of epoxy (just did these today). Four are mounted on pine "cookies", and one is mounted on a juniper "cookie". The green one in the photo was one I'd done earlier that turned out ok after one coat of epoxy. but one little dimple was left above the surface, so now it is undergoing coat number two. Will also need to give each of the others another coat, as well. Unless I actually route out a leaf shape and put them down into the depression, these leaves never lie completely flat even after pressing them between the pages of books for awhile.

This last photo is of some aspen leaves that were painted a metallic red. Waiting for them to cure, and to see if they'll be usable, too.

Just trying what I hope will be some interesting variations.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Angle Grinder "Carving"

Next step in practicing making a bowl (maybe even ruining it) is to rough grind it down to the approximate shape I'd like. To do this, I used my angle grinder with a mini-chainsaw wheel attachment:

For fast stock removal, I haven't seen or used anything quite like this. The only problem, if you want to call it that, is that it's very aggressive. Much smaller than a chainsaw, but just as much danger (more so if you aren't careful at ALL times). Kickback is still a possibility, and that's why I wear chainsaw chaps, kevlar gloves, and both ear and eye protection. Chips and sawdust fly in every which direction (especially if the wind is blowing). Anyway, here's a short video of me starting on one of the bottom ends of the block:

Lesson learned: Don't use the grinder for all the rough stock removal. Took me six hours to get the approximate rough shape I wanted. On the next one, I'll try to "cone" the block using a chainsaw first. That way, I won't have such a tired old decrepit body by day's end.

A few photos of the work in progress:

In this one, I've already done two sides and an end. Still not tired enough to stop for the day.

 In this one, you can see the "outline" of the pattern I wanted for the top of the bowl. Did this with a Sharpie.

This one shows the "indent" where the scallop is going to be.

And this one, durn burn it, shows a crack that opened as I was working on this side of the bowl.

Guess you never know what you're going to grind into once you get started on something. This last photo shows the exposure after I broke off the cracked piece. My plan is to actually make the base a little smaller than originally intended. Hope the balance is ok if I do that. Won't know until it's done. If it doesn't balance, I may have to make a base for the bowl, although I don't really want to do that cuz I believe it'll detract from the overall appearance of the piece. We'll see, I guess.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Tryin' me hand at makin' a bowl

Well, I've threatened over and over again to try this. Guess it's time to follow through on the threat.

Got some walnut "firewood" from a friend awhile back (some of you may remember this from an earlier post), and thought I'd try to ruin at least one half of the round as practice before ruining the other one, too.

Anyhoo, after slicing the round in half and cutting off the top/bottom (whichever way you want to look at it) with the chainsaw, this is what one of them looked like:

I made the slant on purpose in order to try and give a little variation in the carving.

The next step was to make the bottom very flat. This is where my handy dandy router planer came in a little more than handy.

The finished product is what you see here:

Setup and actual grinding in the next post.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The morer I cut, the worser I got!

Well, the log didn't kill me. I thought I was doin' it to meself, though. This was by far the hardest slabbing project I've ever tried. It took a total of five days (2-3 hours per day is all I could handle) to slab this bad boy. Won't ever try that again, that's for sure! From now on, I stay with stuff I can handle more easier cuz the more I cut, the worser I got. You'll see when you look at the photos.

This photo shows how the cuts from both sides using my 32" bar didn't quite meet in the middle. Seemed like no matter how hard I tried to get a flush cut, the chainsaw had a mind of its own.

Another faux pas - Can't really see it in this photo, but the cut is really very badly curved, so am not sure how much of this piece will remain intact as a table top because the curve, when planed down to level, will make the slab too thin.

Here's the next slab. Again, the cuts didn't line up, and I was getting even more frustrated.

This was the last, and by far, the most exasperating cut. Thought it would be the easiest, but turned out I was running out of poop and vinegar, and so I tried to break apart the two slabs toward the end of the cut instead of beating myself up any more. Turns out, the cut was a lot less deep than I thought and part of the bottom of the log just totally split off leaving some very uneven voids. Durn burnit!

Well, good news is I got six slabs to work with.

Not as good news is the heart of this log turned out to be a log of its own. When I cut the third slab, the heart literally fell out of the log. You can see one edge of the slab on top of the other on the ground, and the heart is standing up but ready to fall over.

Lessons learned, I guess. Smaller just might be better from now on.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Biggest durn burn log I've ever tackled!

Recently posted about some cottonwood that I'm cutting up into rounds, and also ripping others for table tops. Well, the very biggest one is something I've been deliberately putting off for a very long time simply because I knew it was gonna kick my butt when I dug into it. Started this thing three days ago, and thought I'd gradually work into it doing one gas tank full per day in the chainsaw. Today, I did almost two gas tanks full and am still three cuts with the 32" bar away from being done. Tomorrow will be a day off!

Yep, that's the bad boy before any cuts had been made.

Next step was to cut with a ripping chain (only a 20" bar) which took me all day yesterday to cut. Granted, all day consisted of about 2 hours but it felt like 12 by the time I got done!

Because the log is sitting right on the ground, I couldn't quite go all the way through. Plus, the 20" bar didn't even go half way from end to end. This was stacking up to be a major burr under my saddle!

I looked and looked at that log trying to figure a way to rip all the way through, and the only thing I could think of was that the log had to be set up on its end so I could cut down through it. Can you say 600-800 lbs.? So, a friend of ours who comes up for firewood every once in awhile took a look and volunteered the use of his truck and chains to try to tip it up on end.

The photo above is of the truck. Didn't get any pics while tipping it up on end cuz I didn't want anyone to laugh at me trying to hold the damn log to prevent it from twisting and falling over on me. 

Well, after about 6 tries, this is the result.

Now, please understand I stand 6'4" tall, so this log on end like that is about 5' tall. For a little better perspective, I took a photo of my old bud, Riley, beside the log. Riley is my very old Irish Setter, and he actually stayed when I asked him to pose for the picture. He's standing about 10' away from and in front of the log.

Anyway, I found that my chainsaw kinda had a mind of its own as I was cutting from both sides. I thought I had enough of a first groove cut from both sides to help keep the 32" bar true and straight as I went down through. Boy, was I wrong. No matter how hard I tried, that durn burn chainsaw just had to overlap which prevented me from getting a clear cut on the second slab. The first one went pretty well. The second one not so much.

The first slab on the ground.

Here's a few pics of the second slab.

The last photo above is of the second slab on the ground. The heart of this cottonwood is almost separated from the outer part of the tree. Thought the slab was going to split when it hit the ground, but it didn't. If the heart isn't secure enough to withstand the pressure when it becomes a table top, I'll probably remove it somehow and fill the void with epoxy/resin over rocks or moss or something else.

This was one Labor Day I don't think I'll forget very soon, that's for sure! And I still have three more cuts to do! Heaven help me! What have I gotten myself into?