Monday, April 20, 2009

Milling is Awesome

When we moved up here, we didn't know what the Dirty Fisherman was going to do. He's an accomplished carpenter and all around handy guy. It was assumed that he would fish. And he did when we lived in Wrangell. He could have found a deck position after we moved to Sitka, but he would have been gone for longer periods than he would have liked. Plus we sort of hitched our wagon to a behemoth on the hill. There is a silver lining, though, he's found out that he likes to mill.

tDF is a wood snob of the highest order. The man will pick through every pile of lumber at the yard until he finds the clearest, straightest, truest boards. I appreciate the effort but it's sooo frustrating. The solution is for him to make his own lumber. We bought an Alaska Mill for $5 at a garage sale. Yes, you can mill wood with a $5 doo-hickey...attached to a $1,200 chainsaw.

It's a jig that attaches at the powerhead and the tip of a chainsaw. The top rides along the top of the log while holding the bar level to rip through at a specified depth. The saw is an older Husqvarna 2101XP. It is only one of our four (4) chainsaws.

You can see our other Husky, there are two Stihls on the left. As you can see, we are not chainsaw purists. (For those who do not know, there are two types of people Stihl users and Husqvarna/Husky users. It's like the Ford vs. Chevy of the chainsaw world.) We are using the largest saw to rip through the Alaska Yellow Cedar logs.

There are a few other tools that make milling a fun, rewarding, and not at all a dirty experience:

A hatchet for whacking off lumps on the log. We also use the hatchet for peeling the bark off. Here, the DF is cleaning up the ends of the log.

A person could also use a draw knife for cleaning up the edge. It's important to get as much of the dirt off the log before milling. Dirt really dulls a chain. A sharp chain reduces kickback and generally makes the cutting go much faster.

A spud bar and a peavey. The peavey has a hook that let you roll a log in place. Both of these tools (along with the Ford you see in some of the next pictures) are used to move the logs into place.

Finally you're ready to get started. For the first pass it's really important to make sure the mill has a smooth surface to run along, this ensures a flat, even cut. We use a ladder and a board. The vibration from the saw rattle the aluminum ladder something fierce, but it's a light and resilient surface.

That Ford is are ground-based yarder. Yay Ford. So then begins the 20-30 minutes that tDF trucks through a log. You have to keep your hand down on the throttle and make sure the saw doesn't bog down in your cut.

So I bet you're wondering what is that yellow thing that looks like a mustard bottle taped to the mill. It's a mustard bottle taped to the mill. It's full of bar oil that is used to lubricate the tip of the saw. The chain pulls the oil into the cut reducing the heat and friction of the chain through the wood.

It's my job to squeeze oil onto the bar tip. I'm a good oiler.

After moving through the log, squirting a bunch of oil, and swearing here's what you get:
A very happy husband. Oh, and a clear 12+ inch slab of Alaska Yellow Cedar.

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