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Monday, August 23, 2010

Fabulously rugged

It's going up into the nineties for a few days, but Risa suspects that's it for this year -- the Canada geese have left -- like they know something we don't, and the orb-weaver spiders are everywhere.

So her thoughts have turned to firewooding.

She might have enough wood for this year, or she might not. To be sure, she needs to fill one more bay in the woodshed. There's plenty of lodgepole on hand, not the best wood, but it was free. We picked up eleven truckloads of it from a place where the utility was clearing power lines, courtesy of the landowner and Craigslist.

Larger diameters of lodgepole present a similar problem to one we're familiar with from cutting up cherry logs. The bark fibers wind tightly around the bole, and the pieces resist splitting. Moisture will stay inside the logs for practically forever unless they are split. Risa's solution to this is to run a slot down the length of the log, vertically end to end, half an inch deep, with the chainsaw. Maybe two slots sometimes.

These chunks average thirty inches in length and range from ten to twenty inches in diameter. They're too much work for the little electric saw, and Risa dislikes using gasoline saws where there's an electricity supply. And don't talk to her about bucksaws -- she often works alone, and needs some kind of slave energy source at age 61.

Fortunately, the friends who gave her the garden shed to tear down also offered her some other odds and ends.

"You want this?"

"Wow, what a saw. Where'd you come up with that?"

"Garage sale, five dollars, over a decade ago, "she said. "We cut a lot of wood with it for awhile, but lately the chain won't stay tight. We figure you'll know what to do with that."

"Maybe ... sure, let's put it on the truck."

Back home, Risa examined her new treasure. It's a ten-amp industrial-standard electric Skil chain saw, with a heavy-duty twenty-inch bar and chain, and extremely heavy. She suspects it was built between 1957 and 1963. Fifty years old! The bar is tightened with the usual screw, but instead of a pair of 9/16 lock nuts on embedded bolts, as one finds nowadays, the bar is locked down with a bolt mounted in a spoked knob. The end of the bolt had worn down to the point that tightened the knob all the way would not secure the bar. She rummaged around in the garage and found a lock washer large enough to shim the gap, and the problem was fixed.

The chain wanted sharpening, which was soon done. The only non-trivial repair would be to fix the saw-bar oil pump. But this was solved by simply remembering to hand-oil the chain before each log.

Risa set up her "sawhorse," which is a wheelbarrow to catch sawdust (for blueberry beds and the like), with a slotted wooden pallet mounted on top. The new saw performed even better than anticipated -- the motor is fabulously rugged and does not overheat while cutting a twenty-inch diameter log.

With any luck, Risa will be back in the garden by the time the hot spell is over, picking such tomatoes as will ripen this year, starting the apple-drying operation, getting in the last beans, and planting out the peas she's started in flats.

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