Sunday, January 29, 2006

Wood Score and a Lesson

The computer has been driving me crazy today. To get away from it while I had some software downloading I went out to attack the big chunk of maple. Last summer, I scored a whole bunch of Manitoba maple chunks from a neighbour's garbage pile.

One of these chunks is about two feet (60cm) in height, width and breadth and came from a place where two major limbs split off from the trunk. It has both my splitting wedges well embedded with no signs that the little cracks they've caused are going to widen any further with more pounding from the sledge hammer.

So I'm using Dad's electric chain saw to carve off big chunks from the sides until the thing is small enough that the wedges will do the job. This is not fast, and the chainsaw kind of hurts with the incipient carpal tunnel, so I only do a bit at at time. Not a big deal, but until I get the splitting wedges out of this giant chunk of burl, I'm not going to be able to split any of my firewood.

Axe in elm"Don't you have an axe?" you ask? Yes, I have a nice axe. It does a great job on dry, frozen pieces of non-knotty maple. But I only have knotty chunks of maple and non-knotty chunks of elm.

"So split the elm!" you say. It turns out elm is not so easy to split. I was warned about this by my father when he gave it to me. Mom and Dad have a wood stove. It's a major heat source for them in the winter and they have a large wood shed that Dad fills every summer and fall and empties every winter.

Frankly, I was surprised when Dad offered me the elm, especially when he gave me 11 pieces, all at least 8" (20cm) in diameter. "It's hard to split," he told me. I guess Dad's getting old, I thought.

log in air Here's a tip: If your dad who burns half a forest every winter gladly gives you every chunk of a particular type of wood he's got because it's hard to split, it's not because he's getting old. It's because it's a type of wood that's got fibres knotted around each other like the hairs in a Rastafarian's dreadlock. This is wood that wouldn't split if it was holding illegal drugs at a rave and cops started pouring in the front door and the back door was clear.

Heres another tip: A chunk of elm on the end of an axe can break all the ice on your walk before you will knock enough wood from it to use in your fireplace.

Anyway, I was out sawing away at the big chunk of maple, when my excellent neighour Pam came by [Previous entry about Pam]. We chatted about a few things and she told me that my example of only using free firewood has inspired her to collect scraps of wood when she is walking around the neighbourhood.

"Oh, no," I said, "I'm happy that you're saving money, but now I've got competition for the free wood."

Then being Pam, she told me that I could just go help myself to her woodpile whenever I need some.

"Oh, Pam," I said, "that's really kind of you, but it would violate the whole point of free firewood."

"Well, you know," said Pam, "there's a fallen branch over by the yellow house at the corner, I saw it and thought of you. It's big, but not too big."

Free wood

"Great," I said, "I'll go get it." We chatted a bit more and after Pam left, I went to Gladstone and discovered the "not too big" branch was a fallen tree limb. If it had been just a little branch, I'd have taken it, but this was practically a log, so I knocked on the door and asked if I could take it. The woman who answered told me she'd call her landlord and a minute later told me to go ahead.

I don't know what kind of wood it is, but it's been dead a long time so it's dry, snaps apart easily and may just take me through until I free the splitting wedges.

The lesson? If you create a competitor who has a slightly different market than you, you might create a scout.


JuliaR said...

It’s only people who have never tried to split wood with “just” an axe, who think that’s all you need. I have some friends who heat their houses with wood and they all have log splitters. Good luck getting your wedges out - you are braver than I am.

David Scrimshaw said...

Oh, man, those log splitters! Maybe I'll come across one at the Great Glebe Garage Sale this year.

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