Saturday, May 28, 2016

Measure Twice.....The End is HERE!!!!!

Yep! The end is HERE! The journey is over, but it ain't necessarily what you might think.

After having determined the other channeled log wouldn't work, it became necessary to find something else that would. Problem is most aspen trees don't grow big enough in diameter to meet the needs of this project. I probably already mentioned that in one of my previous posts. If I did, then my apologies. But it's true, dammit! Plus, the client wanted the bark to be left on which presents all kinds of obstacles of its own.

There are only two logs left in the inventory from Mark Guthrie, but there are also two problems with those logs that can't be overcome.

The first one is too small in diameter (see, told ya aspen don't generally grow big enough):

The second one is too split to begin with to be usable:

Bottom line? I don't have anything on hand that will work. Time to look in another direction.

A few years back, a friend of ours, Lorris Smith, my son Bobby, and I went over to Evergreen and harvested some aspen trees. Lorris saved some of those logs for me for a time I might need them for a project. I'd almost forgotten they were there, but lo and behold, Jodi was home and said there were several logs that were large enough to meet my needs.

Off to Lorris and Jodi's to get me some logs that I know...I just KNOW, will work!

Well, let me clarify that a bit....might work. That's right. Might work. The reason? Bark. Damn bark.

After having been outside in the elements for a few years, those logs did what came natural to them. They started drying out, and, as they did so, the bark started peeling. Only three of the logs in that pile came close to having at least some of their bark intact. The largest one had the best bark (farthest to the right in the photo below).

Home and unloaded in front of the shop:

Now all that remains is to decide which two out of three might work for what I still need to do. Truth is, none of them truly met the criteria. The largest one with the best intact bark would actually be problematic because I'll still need to find a couple of more logs about that same size. Otherwise, everything will be disproportionate, and that would simply not do! No sirree!

So, before I actually cut into that large log, I decided to try one more thing: take a hike! Well, at least take a hike that actually involves walking and look more deeply on our own property for something that might work. There are still about 20 acres that need to be thinned out for fire mitigation that I haven't really looked at very close for woodworking possibilities.

Luckily, our friends, Mike and Iris, asked me to watch their dog, Pagan, overnight. I love that dog. Plus, she's really big and really well trained to stay close. I think I'll take her on that hike I was contemplating. Yep! Hadn't done any hiking for quite some time because it just didn't feel all that comfortable not having a dog know, the wildlife thing?

Anyway, way up in the hinterland corner of our property, I found what I was looking for --- three dead aspen trees that might work, one of which was already down. Is my luck about to change?

Nope. The next day, I drove to the meadow as near to the site as I could get (Pagan went home -- imagine my sad face here), and began cutting into the trees. The results were more than disappointing as you can see in the photo below. I even contemplated trying to use one of the rotten core trees by hogging out the core with the chainsaw, cutting the "slit" on one side, and finally leveling the bottom of the cut, but, alas and alack! The core was too off center, plus there simply wasn't enough "good" wood around the outside to allow me to do this and have confidence it would be structurally sound enough to wrap that I-beam.

Guess I'll be forced to use the biggest of the logs from over at Jodi and Lorris's after all, disproportionate or not.

Setting it up on the router planer:

Clamping it so it wouldn't wobble or roll during planing:

 Making some sawdust....actually, making a LOT of sawdust!!!

Taking it down to where it needs to be, and looking good so far!

Setting up to cut off the ends so they're perpendicular to the planed surface. Yeah, that's a handsaw on top. Trying to set it up to slice it off with a chopsaw didn't work the last time, and I'm pretty sure wouldn't work this time either. The only other option available was to do it by hand. Not optimal, but certainly realistic.

Y'know, even though this log has been drying out for what seems like forever, the damn thing is still wet enough in the core to close that kerf as the cut was being made. What to do? What to do? The only thing I could think of was to put a spacer, in this case a large flathead screwdriver, in the gap to keep it pried open enough to allow the back and forth movement necessary for the saw to keep cutting.

Almost through:

 Now for the other end:

And it only took 45 minutes to lop off both ends. I'm either out of shape, or I'm getting too old for this s**t! Lots of breaks while sawing to catch my breath, so I'm thinking it might be a combination of the two.

Draw out the lines marking where the channel will be cut, and use the angle grinder to cut chainsaw guides:

Looking good....or so I thought:

Two things happened here that helped determine my next move:

1. I hit a soft spot in the wood, and before I could pull back on the chainsaw, the blade went all the way through. Yep! The wood looked (and even felt) solid, but on the outside of the log that wasn't part of the planing some rot had set in that I couldn't see under the bark. That's grass on the ground you see in the gap in the photo. Damn, damn, damn!

2. The log split at the perpendicular rendering this log useless (along with the hole created when the chainsaw went all the way through) for this application. More damns, damns, damns!!!!

I QUIT!!! The end is HERE!

That's right. This job got the better of me. I'm going to call the client early next week and return his downpayment.

Lessons learned, and there are a few, include:

* Trust your gut feeling first and foremost. My gut told me channeling these logs might be problematic. It was. I should have insisted on going with my own suggested method which was to mill every single log right down the center and seamed them after notching to clad the I-beam.

* Avoid using aspen for this kind of application. It doesn't grow big enough in diameter, and even after years drying out is still too wet to prevent it from splitting and warping during preparation. That wetness is also a pre-cursor to rotting from the inside out. Not a good thing for sure.

* Make sure all, and I do mean ALL, logs are already on hand before beginning any part of the project. I didn't factor into the bid the possibility the trees the client had on his property might not work. As a result, I spent an inordinate amount of time and effort tracking down something that would work (and virtually none of it did anyway) before ultimately deciding to pull the damn plug.

And there you have it. Bruised ego? Yup! Shaken confidence? Oh, yeah! Embarrassed? Just a tad.

But, the end is HERE!!!! On to other things.

Measure Twice.....Part 5: The End is Near

In the last post, at the very end, the question was asked as to what's up next? The answer was "Fixing my other mistakes". I tried. No, seriously! I tried....very hard. The harder I tried, the more frustrated I got.

The first piece up for fixing was relatively easy. Since I cut the longest piece too short, it was a simple matter to cut a section out of that one that would be long enough to replace the other one I'd cut too short. Make sense?

The one with the channel cut in was an entirely different matter altogether.

At the client's home, it appeared the slot hadn't been cut wide enough. Upon further review once I got it home again, it became clear the cut was plenty wide, but because the log was still wet in the core, once that open slot had been cut almost all the way down through the log, the two "sides" started closing in on each other.

Scrambling around the shop looking for scraps I could shim in between the two side that would do so without going too wide apart, I came up with a solution as seen in the photo below.

Even with this solution, I had to use a great deal of care not to force them in too quickly or too forcefully for fear of cracking those sides along the bottom of the cuts.

What's more, the bottom of the cut still needed additional hogging out to make them as square as possible, and one of the sides had to be planed down with the router planer to accommodate a lower ceiling on one side of the I-beam than the other. So, smaller spacers were inserted to the proper length of 3 5/16" to keep them apart as long as necessary to be able to plane down the lower side.

Okay, those smaller spacers weren't gonna work while the chainsaw was in use to hog out the bottom of the cut because they kept falling down into the cut as I was using the chainsaw. The danger of that became immediately apparent as the chainsaw grabbed one of them and threw it by my head too close for comfort (yes, I was wearing my helmet with face mask on). So, some scrap 2x4s were inserted and tilted as necessary to get them out of the way while doing the hogging.

DAMN, but this is getting way more complicated than I wanted it to be!!

Once the bottom of the cut was hogged out to the proper depth of 6 1/2", the next step was to mark how much had to come off the top of just one of the sides.

That was easy enough, but setting up the log on the router planer so it would be level and even lengthwise and sidewise was a real challenge until I remembered the clamp and end blocks method to hold it steady enough to adjust it in small increments until level.


Routing if off down to the correct depth was pretty easy, all things considered. The sides are still a concern because the pressure being placed on the 90 degree cut at the bottom is huge, and the sides definitely want to close in on each other if I even think about removing those spacers.

I'm definitely NOT happy with progress on this project thus far! Seems like every one step forward results in two, or more, steps backward.

I keep telling myself the end is near, the end is near, the end is near. Every time I do that, the end seems to get farther and farther away.

Next up? Trying to find more logs that might work because this one ain't gonna be structurally sound enough to work, and the other one that still ain't even in my workshop yet hasn't been located out in the forest yet either.

The end is near, the end is near, the end is near......

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Measure Twice.....Part 4....Cuttin' up the BIG One....Again!

I know, I know! This one was supposed to be about cuttin' up the BIG one again. Well, to a certain extent, it is. It's just not about finishing cuttin' up the BIG one....again.

The previous BIG one was a nice one. Nice, but too short --- after I'd cut it that way. Yeah, my bad. Problem is I measured the section of the I-beam this BIG one was to be installed in twice, but only wrote down what I measured once, and THAT was after I misread the measurement....TWICE! So, back to the drawing board, find a new BIG one, and don't screw it up again!

It takes two of us (thanks for your help, Mark Guthrie) to get it up onto the table. Dang, but that thing is heavy!

Now the blocks are placed to keep it from rolling:

Positioned right? Yep. This one is over 8' long, though. Maybe it should be mounted on that sled I made out of a door to be able to move it back and forth in order to use the smaller router planer? Nope. Too heavy. Every time I tried to slide the door forward or backward, all I did was move the entire apparatus. That ain't gonna work!

So, even though I didn't want to have to do this, I knew it was time to set up the "big boy" router planer using those 4"x4" steel tubes as rails.

Now, how to lift the rails high enough, keep them stable enough, and keep them level enough? I'd tried, in my previous "tweaking" just resting them on the extensions on the side of the workbench, but that didn't allow for the spacers used to keep the rails evenly spaced apart from each other. Nor did it allow for any height adjustment, a critical necessity for any router planing that needs to be done!

An "aha" moment! We have lots and lots of empty 5 gallon buckets to elevate things, and if two of them stacked on top of each other isn't enough elevation (it wasn't), we also have lots of concrete cinder blocks to weigh them down and elevate them even more. If that isn't enough, then a series of 2x6's will be stacked on top of the cinder blocks until the apparatus gets high enough (elevation, Dudes and Dudettes, NOT the other kind of high). Before all of that, however, the floor needs to be checked for level.

Yup, level as can be in that particular spot, so proceed with vigor....

Clamp the two ends together for stability using a spacer in between the rails:

Elevated high enough for the router sled to clear the log, and go for it:

This BIG one may be too wet. WAIT, what? Too wet? That tree was standing dead for a couple of years! How in the world can it possibly be too wet? Reality is that dead trees standing take a looooong time to "dry out" enough to be usable in woodworking projects of a more "rustic" kind. A lot of lumber that's cut is stacked, stickered, and left to dry for periods of time depending on the thickness of cut. Full logs usually take longer because, well, because they're a whole lot thicker to begin with.

Add to that the fact aspen trees sometimes dry rot from the inside out before they're cut down or they fall down, and that rot process renders them virtually unusable for woodworking applications if it's allowed to go too far. It's also one of the primary reasons it's been so difficult to find any usable aspen logs big enough to meet the criteria for this job!

This BIG one hasn't started that process yet. Hopefully, once it's cut into, that'll allow the drying process to proceed without any dry rot. A calculated risk, for sure.

For more on the Quaking Aspen species, please visit the National Wildlife Federation Quaking Aspen page.

Well, maybe this BIG one isn't as wet as another one of the logs I cut into that seeped water like a soaked sponge when pressed by an index finger, but it's certainly more "green" than desirable, for sure! Guess it remains to be seen what happens to the log with warping and splitting once it gets cut into. Oh, well....

A "side", in this case the top of the log, has been leveled.

Man, this process sure does create a LOT of sawdust!

Post routing and general cleanup of work space:

Now, I have to contact the client before going any further on this one. The first BIG one I did was notched to hide the underside of the I-beam for a portion of its run to accommodate a sliding barn door the client plans to install. Before a notch is put into this one, I want to make absolutely sure I'm doing it right because running all over the countryside to find another log this size in the event I screw things up again isn't something I really want to have to do.

I'll leave it at that for now.

Next up? Fixing my other "mistakes"....

Monday, May 23, 2016

Measure Twice.....Part 3....The Scrap Heap Just Keeps Getting Bigger!

OK, now I'm getting frustrated! MORE than a little frustrated!

I've cut down quite a few dead aspen trees to try and use in this ongoing project saga. That's actually something that could be considered a good thing in that it cleans up dead stuff, gives it a "renaissance" (get it? Renaissance? The name of my blog, my FB page, and my website? Y'know? Dead Wood Renaissance? Yep! Just thought I'd throw that in there for, y'know, s**ts, grins, and giggles), and, hopefully, remains utile enough to get this project done.

Finding logs large enough in diameter has, as you already know if you've been following this blog, been difficult, at best. So, when I finished up cutting three sections, notching them, and even cutting a channel in one of them, I thought I was ready to test fit them to the I-beam in the client's home.

And that's when the fight started....with myself. I got all fired up thinking this was going to be the bomb when everything fit like a glove. Wrong!

Me to Self: "Can't you do ANYTHING right?"
Self to Me: "It's not my fault!"
Me to Self: "Is TOO!"

Oh, well....

Two pieces were cut way too short. Honestly? I don't know how I could have screwed up that badly other than I'm mathematically challenged and don't even know how to read my own tape measure!

Back to square one cuz those "finished" pieces just wound up on the growing scrap heap!!!! Dammit!

Starting out working with the "replacement" log in the photo below, I realized it just barely fit the bill for adequate diameter. So, I'm going to have to be very careful to not remove too much material in order to make that all important channel cut.

The rest of the milling has to be done the old fashioned way on my own router planer because the budget on this project has been seriously busted, and labor from this point on is just something I'm going to have to "eat". My apologies to Scott Shaeffer for not using his expertise to mill my do-over bad. Plus, congrats on becoming a new Dad!

Once everything is set up on the planer router, it's a pretty simple process to take it down to the thickness I need. It's just more time consuming and labor intensive than Scott's sawmill would be.

Going through the guide groove process....

Now comes the fun part....once again.

Using that handy dandy little wagon with a chainsaw milling jig mounted to a very used, very decrepit old wood pallet, the grooves got cut. I must also say I'm actually getting better controlling chainsaw cuts the more I do them --- not that I necessarily want to do them. Nope. I'm just getting better at doing them.

Hogging out the excess left over is always fun....well, not really. It's a confined space that the angle grinder doesn't fit down into, and the other chisels and long neck die grinder are a leetle bit difficult to get down to the bottom with, too. However, they're what I gotta use for the finishing touches because that's what's on hand.

After ALL that work, the log came up short! It's supposed to be exactly 43" long, and, as can be seen on that ruler, it isn't....43" long, that is. Methinks I gotta figure out a better way to get those ends perpendicular to the work surface and the two ends parallel to each other. In eyeballing this particular faux pas, it became pretty clear to me my screw up was in not taking the time to set up the cuts the way they needed to be set up before actually making the cuts.

Another one bites the dust! It just got put onto the scrap heap that keeps getting bigger and bigger!

Next up? Cuttin' the BIG one....again!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Measure Twice......Part 2....Oh, what the HELL!

There seems to be more "Parts" to this project regarding measurements than I care to admit!

Because the chainsaw went through the very last log I was working on, I had to begin looking for a new source of aspen logs off the client's property. Turns out he only had three dead trees on his property that looked like they would meet the diameter requirements for the notching and channel cutting. Unfortunately, one of those trees was rotten in the core rendering it useless for this kind of work. Y'all already know what happened on one of the remaining two. So, a few phone calls were made.

Luckily, a neighbor had some dead aspen on their property, and they were kind enough to let me look at them to see if they'd be big enough in diameter. Turns out just barely....I hope.

The only saving grace with aspen, as far as I'm concerned, is that it's a soft wood and easily cut. It's just very hard to find large diameter aspen trees....a necessity for this project.

Grumble, grumble, bitch, moan.....hope these work! They damn well better work! I'm getting awfully tired of cutting down trees for this project!

I only needed one section, but, upon further due consideration of previous screw ups, I decided to take enough sections to at least give me a spare or two if I screwed up again....ya know, that old measure twice sage advice. So, I cut down another tree, and sectioned it off.

DAMN, but those logs are heavy. I'm thinking they might be too wet to use, but at least they're home where I can work on them to make that determination.

Did I already mention how I needs me a truck to haul this kind of stuff around? If I didn't, well, I'm mentioning it again....I NEEDS ME A TRUCK!

Enough for the day! Once again, them old bones of mine are rebelling telling me to give them a rest...a very LONG rest!

See ya next time!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Measure Twice......Part 1....Oh, What the HELL!

Man, when ya think ya got it going on shouldn't that mean ya got it going on? I mean, think about it. 

My last post was about milling the logs. Simple, straightforward, effective, and, above all, efficient.....or so I thought. But I digress.

Now that all those flat sides have been milled, those logs are just waiting to get notched and fitted perfectly encasing that I-Beam. THAT's what I'm talking about!

Now comes the hard part, though because the next step is notching those logs, and I chose to do that with my trusty old Stihl MS-440 chainsaw. Yep! The heavy one. No lightweight less than manly chainsaw for me. No sirree!

Took me awhile, but the cuts actually came out pretty straight. The learning curve wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.

Ok, now that one is a bit longer, so cut those ends off before getting started with the chainsaw. Oh, did I mention that the sliding arm 12" chopsaw didn't go all the way through that log? No? Well, it didn't. So, that meant the rest had to be cut the old fashioned way....with a handsaw. A lot of work, but worth getting a straight cut all the way through.

Next up was scribing a straight line the entire length of the log to act as a guide for the angle grinder chainsaw wheel attachment. This had to be done freehand eyeballing as the cut was made. Turned out my eyeballs are still pretty good and my hands were pretty doggone steady. The cut was almost as straight as if I'd used a saw guide and circular saw.

Now that the guide groove is cut, the next step is to cut out the notch down to perpendicular. That's the hard part because if the cut goes too deep, it'll go right through the log and ruin everything.

Now that the weather is nicer, chainsaw work outside is much more pleasant and safe (no carbon monoxide by doing it inside).

And, voila! After what seems like a back-breaking amount of time and effort, the notch is cut. I gotta say, I was more pleased with the way this came out than I thought I'd be.

This one is ready to be test fitted! Dang, but it feels good to actually start seeing some results from all that work. Problem is my body is rebelling and, as I shared on my FB page, it is experiencing technical difficulties. Even with pacing myself, old age seems to be creeping in and limiting how much I can actually do on a day-to-day basis. Even with that, aches and pains I ain't experienced before make me wonder why I'm doing this s**t on occasion.

Two down and two more to go, but these two are going to be more difficult. Why, you ask? Because they require a channel cut instead of just a notch. So, making sure not to go all the way through the log is even more important.

Mark up...yep, lines are measured and drawn. Looking good!

Guide channel is cut using the angle grinder with chainsaw wheel attachment. Yep, those look good, too.

Set up outside to cut with actual chainsaw. Make sure log is stable and firmly held in place. Don't want kickback because that would hurt. Yep, I have experience with that, too!

So, multiple cuts with the chainsaw, and the rest of the material has to be hogged out using a variety of tools including chisels, die grinders, and sanding/grinding wheels for a hand drill (angle grinder is too big to fit down into the channel).

Looking good on the first log.

Not looking so good on the second log, though!

I knew it! I just knew it! The slight curvature of the log was just enough to make the diameter too small to accommodate the channel cut. The chainsaw went right through and rendered the log useless for this project. Time to start looking for another source of logs.

This is just one of many reasons I don't particularly like working with's hard to find large diameter tree sections. Oh, well....

All that measuring and nothing to show for it on that last log.

Next up "Measure Twice.....Oh, What the HELL!....Part 2".