Sunday, September 3, 2017

Peeling Me Some Pine Stumps

For this one, I'm going to back up just a wee bit just to show how much charcoal actually had to be removed on the fatty before getting down to the core wood. That's why I titled this post "Peeling Me Some Pine Stumps".

After removing quite a lot from a part of the log that amounted to about 1/3 of the circumference (second photo below), that's when the decision got made to shorten that bugger down and try to find another one to go on top! My rationale was not only to do a "Treebeard" type of column, but also to lighten the load. That damn thing was way too heavy as is to keep on maneuvering it into position to work on.





The other one had to be eyeball flatted with the chainsaw before I could realistically get a feel for how it was going to sit on top of the fatty.




Once I got the bottom (or top, as it were) flattened, it was pretty simple, really, to mark the top (or bottom, as it were) and flatten that with the chainsaw. It really didn't matter at this point if everything wasn't perfect. There just had to be enough wiggle room left over in order to put the whole thing under the router planer later on in the process to get the top and bottom (or bottom and top as it were) perfectly parallel with each other.




Some pretty solid core wood on this one. Yep, I think it'll do.




One side had a bit of dry rot, but it isn't enough to rule out this log. That should come out easily enough with the angle grinder and rasp disc.




This one, however, was going to be more of a challenge overall because it had dry rot all the way through. That debris in the center will need to get power washed to clean it all out.




A kind of a "before and after" duo of photos of the fatty after some serious grinding:






There's actually a LOT of work that goes into grinding and shaping on projects like this. Some folks prefer the more "natural" look which involves leaving everything alone. I personally don't like that look very much. Everything needs to flow before I'm happy.

So, once the other side was ground down, this side looked to be a bit easier to work with. I said "looked to be", not that it actually wound up that way. No sirree!




And this is why it turned out to be more difficult than anticipated....lots and lots of grooves, crevices, and inlets that the grinder couldn't get into. That's when the long neck electric die grinder came out and away I went!




Getting there!




There's that symmetry thing again. Some of the "feet" of this piece stuck out way too far, so they got trimmed using the chainsaw. Then the grinder....again, in order to round over the edges to give it all a more flowing look.




Showing the crevices the grinder couldn't get into.





All cleaned up, and ready for the router planer.





The two pieces that will be the bases of each of the columns. Now it remains to get that router planer set up and plane them down to equal heights.





Only two more to go to have two columns!!!! Gettin' there, for sure!

Next up....."Almost a BooBoo!"




Saturday, August 5, 2017

Whaddya Gonna Do??????



Remember my last post? Yeah, that one....the one talking about some level of symmetry? The one that showed two "columns", one of which was a whole lot "skinnier" than the other one? Well, I made a decision to at least try to begin cleaning them up just to see how much rotten "skin" there was to remove on each one.

The fatty was first in line:




Just getting it set up so I could work on it outside was a challenge in, and of, itself. Those little garden carts do have some use after all!

The first thing I had to do was to modify the cart. I'd already set this one up to be able to do small rip cuts with a chainsaw by placing a pallet on the inside rails of the cart and adding some "sides" to the apparatus.





Because the spot I would be working on these pieces wasn't quite level, I thought adding some weight (cinder blocks...can't really see them in this photo, but they're there....trust me, they're there) might be appropriate in order to help stabilize the apparatus and keep it in one place. Adding another pallet over the "sides" to get the height just right for working on the piece worked very well, too.




I'm not sure, but I think that root system weighs a TON!

Next step was to start removing the grey matter with my angle grinder and carbide rasp wheel.

More work than expected, but still making progress:




Ok, stand it up to see whether it will actually have a flat enough backside to be able to get it up to the fireplace wall without it tipping forward (Alan and Mendon have small kids, and this thing would squash them flat if it fell on them).

Looking good:




Still looking good from a different angle:



(Editor's Note: The photo above is also the one that got me thinking of going in another direction. The symmetry just wasn't there)

Flat backside still looking good, but, DANG, that charred stuff is daunting!




Truth is, I got disillusioned!

Not only was there more charcoal "stuff" to be removed than I'd bargained for, but the photo below shows just one result of all that "stuff" being thrown every which way by the grinder.

Add the wind into that equation, and, well, you get the picture.

And, that doesn't even take into consideration the caking of charcoal on my clothes! Fortunately, I have a pretty good air compressor I used to blow off most of the charcoal residue before tracking it all over the house in order to take this photo.




The farther I went into that "stuff", the more I realized the core wood was still very good. That, in turn, led me to realize further that the symmetry was going to be "off" if I went with the whole log standing. That, in turn, led me to realize I needed to either find another root system with some symmetry to this one, or I needed to go in another direction.

Whaddya gonna do? WHADDYA GONNA DO?

In discussing this with Katherine, she expressed some concerns about whether or not the "skinnier" of the two columns would even be structurally strong enough to be able to handle the weight of the mantel. She made a very, very good point, for sure.

So, the decision was made to try and do a "Treebeard" type configuration.




This would involve cutting the "fatty" to a much shorter height (with Sampson's help, of course).




And then, finding another root system that had some symmetry comparable to the "fatty", and that could be turned upside down on top of the "fatty" to give it that "Treebeard" look.

This one had promise:




So did this one, but this one also had a LOT more dry rot.





It was then I realized I'd actually need THREE root systems, not just ONE additional system, to make my idea work! Boy, am I ever slow!

Back to the woodpile!

This one looked promising. But, again, a LOT of dry rot.




Rotten into the core.




Breaking off pieces that are cracked all the way through. Had to use a wrecking bar to do it.





Now, THAT one had some serious potential!!




And then there were two....





But now I needed two more:

This is the one I just wasn't too sure about. That dry rot actually goes all the way through the log....




Well, I'm gonna try it anyway. The mark on the log in this photo is the height I needed to get the log down to. I'd already done an eyeball type cut with the chainsaw to level it fairly well on the bottom. Just too tired to make that last cut today.....potential accident waiting to happen, so.....




Gonna stop here with this post. Suffice to say, I did find three more stumps I thought would work.

Next up....Peeling Me Some Pine Stumps!




Monday, July 31, 2017

Fireplace Mantel --- Root Systems That'll Work are Kinda Scarce!


So, how does one go about finding root systems that might work? Basically, one must go hunting....out on the property....in the hinterlands....in the up and down terrain....slipping and sliding on those slippery slopes.

The thing is, though, any root systems that might work are actually kinda scarce. Don't get me wrong. There are lots and lots of dead tree stumps all over the property. But finding something that isn't rotten all the way through, or that is the right height along with a good circumference and solid core? Well, those are few and far between.

The old Stihl 440 Magnum chainsaw and I certainly had our work cut out for us....in more ways than one! That chainsaw and I had to cut some of the stumps to an approximate length right there onsite, load them in the truck, and then bring them on home to be further inspected. DAMN, but those things are heavy....much heavier than they look, even at only four feet long, for sure! Plus, this old guy (me) ain't no young whippersnapper able to do what I used to do without hesitation awhile back any longer. At this point, I'm beginning to think, after manhandling a few of them into the bed of the truck all by myself, that maybe this might not have been such a good idea after all.

Got 'em home (unloading was a whole lot easier than loading....whew!) and leaning up against some old cottonwood slabs outside the workshop. Now I need to take a really hard look at all of them. The stumps I did find that might....I say MIGHT....work are shown below:







After sifting and sorting, turning and then turning some more, reality began to sink in....not too much "good stuff" to work with here. But that's actually a good thing because it sorta made picking and choosing the "good stuff" pretty easy when one comes right down to it.

In the end, I wound up with only two stumps that were solid enough all the way through to even come close to being able to use....at least in the conceptual picture I kept seeing in my own mind's eye.

The first one had the right "stance", but I wasn't too sure if it was big enough around in order for everything to be symmetrical (I ain't too linear, but this project called for two columns that were roughly the same circumference).

The second one also had the right "stance", but is quite a bit bigger around than the other one.

First one:



Second one:



Now that second one is interesting, for sure. There's a lot of deep charring that tells me this tree got hit by lightning at some point in its life, and the end result is basically charcoal varying in depth from 1/2" to 1" deep into the wood virtually all the way around.

That's the bad news because this stuff is extremely dirty to work with what with all the soot that gets ground off in the smoothing process. Even working on it outside the workshop in open air doesn't prevent that soot from getting into everything including eyes and breathing passages if proper safety gear isn't being used. So, eye protection and dust respirator/mask are an absolute MUST!

The good news is that I know from experience working with other pieces like this one that the interior core wood is still sound all the way through. It'll just be a little more difficult to get to it, and to work with it because it's gonna be a virtual resin pit all the way through. If it ain't one thing, it's....

Let's set 'em up and see what we have, shall we?

So, here they are side by side in the kind of configuration I'm thinking would look pretty cool as two columns on either side of the fireplace opening.




Still not so sure about the symmetry. That one on the left looks kinda skinny, don'tcha think?

Next up....Whaddya Gonna Do?




Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Fireplace mantel ---- Whose Idea Was This Anyway?!

This is the first in a series of blog posts not yet written except for some random not very detailed musings on my Dead Wood Renaissance Facebook page (gonna have to scroll a lot in order to find all of the posts) on the process used in making a big fireplace mantel, much bigger than anything I've tried....ever!

Now that this project is pretty far along in making it a reality, I'm kind of left wondering whose idea WAS this anyway?

It's certainly taking a lot longer than anticipated.

It's been hard on my tools (more on that later).

It's been hard on my back and whole body (more on that later, too).

And, it's been many, many, many lessons learned in patience and in getting every detail right, for sure. Some of those lessons have been good, and some have been, well, not so good (and even more on that later, too).

But, wait! I just remembered.....it was kinda sorta my idea with a lot of encouragement from good family friend, Alan Wahl....sort of. So, I can blame him, right? RIGHT?

Seriously, though, it all started out with Alan asking if I'd be willing to make a fireplace mantel for him and his family. I won't get into the genesis of his request, but suffice to say, this guy has done so much for us over the years, there's no way I could possibly have said no. It was the least I could do to try and give something back that he and his family could enjoy anytime they stepped into their family room.

The original idea was to just have a slab of juniper cut to thickness by Scott Shaffer, owner and operator of Wilfer Mobile Sawmill (yeah, the same guy I mentioned in a previous post about "To Mill or Not to Mill....That is the Question") on his handy-dandy sawmill. His website is The Log Yard.

That log you see in the first photo below kind of resting apart from the others? That log is a svelte 9 feet long! And that's the log that pretty much jumped right out at me as being "the one".

As a little aside, yes, that mountain you see in the background to the far left in a couple of the photos below.....that's Pikes Peak --- just a random thought for the reader to cogitate on. No reason, really, for pointing it out other than Scott's location was waaaaaaay out there on the Eastern Plains, but still within eyesight of America's Mountain. No wonder it's the landmark that it is!








In the end, the slab for the mantel was cut to a 3 inch thickness right from the heart of that log, and is about 11 inches wide.

If I had to venture a guess, I'd put its weight at somewhere around 200 pounds, and that would probably be a somewhat conservative guess. I know I can't lift it all by myself....no way, no how!







That was really supposed to be the end of it....cut a slab, sand it down, put a really nice finish on it, and help Alan install it in his home on.....the wall (Pink Floyd anyone?):





If there's one thing I don't like, it's seeing a straight cut on a mantel's backside placed up against an irregularly shaped wall like Alan's. Those gaps and voids in that kind of configuration just do not have any appeal.

Being the stone facing on the wall is so irregular in shape, my initial thought was to try to scribe the mantel slab to try to carve and shape the backside to conform to those irregularities....another thing I'd never tried to do before, but would be willing to at least try.....not a whole lot of confidence in my ability here. There simply HAS to be a better way!

Hmmmm.....if only the back edge could be left as a live edge.....the wheels began to very slowly turn.

Hmmmm.....after a couple of revolutions of those wheels, it hit me that it might just be easier to install the mantel using a couple of columns that it could "rest" on instead of trying to rebar that behemoth onto the wall, itself. That way, a backside "live edge" might just be possible, and those gaps and voids would be more natural because the front and the back sides of the mantel would also be more natural....a true "live edge" all the way around with the exception of the two ends, of course.

Yep! That's the ticket!

I wanted columns! Columns that would support the mantel! Columns that would be unique and special!

Thing is, my friend really liked the pedestal I'd done for our daughter, Jessi, for her TV stand, a pedestal that I liked to call "Treebeard".




Well, DANG! It's off to the far reaches of our property to find just the right root systems that'll fit the bill, that'll look sort of like the "Treebeard" pedestal, that'll have the structural integrity to be usable (solid all the way through with minimal dry rot), and that'll both look good when finished and also be able to support some pretty heavy weight.

Some pretty strict parameters, for sure.



Next up....Root Systems That'll Work are Kinda Scarce!