After picking up the Chinese elm logs the other day, I noticed hours later they were rapidly beginning to check. I headed out a few hours after that to seal them up, and of course, a few hours later it was raining. The not-yet-dry Anchorseal began to wash away:
My truck bed ran white with wax:
And so did my driveway:
The following day I moved the pieces to the back yard, shortly before it began to rain again. I put them under the Hollywood junipers, where the thick foliage from the trees had left dry spots:
Here’s my foot for some scale:
Then it began to rain really hard, causing me to run all around the front and back yard trying to move recently collected wood to dry places in the garage and under the house’s rather large eaves. There are no gutters, so of course by the end of this effort, especially in the uncharacteristically (for LA) hard rain, I was completely soaked with dirty, LA smog-infused (and roof grime runoff-injected) water:
That’s actually the moment right there that I decided I no longer love the rain. I used to kick off my shoes and socks and go out and run around in it. I even once had a similarly rainstruck girlfriend, and some of our most fun moments were when we were frolicking in the daily torrential downpours of Sarasota, FL. I’ve loved rain more than any other weather my whole life, especially powerful thunderstorms and mild hurricanes. I think that’s over now, though. As I’m aging, and as I’m needing dry conditions outside more and more, I’m really losing that old magic. I finally understand what all the rain-haters out there have been feeling. I guess I still like the rain itself, but it really clashes with a less hippyish and more productive lifestyle :)
Speaking of, today I headed out early – 8AM – to see about ripping these short, fat logs into turning blanks, or at least something I could get onto my band saw. Here’s the mess after quartering the largest log, and halving one of the smaller ones:
Here’s a peek inside one of the small logs:
Then halfway through the next of the 2 small, round logs, my cheap Homelite 16” electric chainsaw started revving without spinning the chain anymore. I checked inside and played with the chain and gear wheel, reassembled it, and it worked again for a short while. It happened again, and I figured it was just a safety mechanism to prevent injury to the machine or the user. I was making a hard cut, after all. I looked for some kind of tripped switch, found none, and eventually felt like I’d figured out I could just push the chain to reengage it. It kept working, but it also kept tripping more and more, after shorter and shorter useful periods. Not long after that, unfortunately, I lost all ability to spin the chain anymore.
Here’s a video of the first cut through the largest of the logs – 5 minutes of fighting over a few separate takes. I removed the end guard at some point for extra space. Included in the video is the trouble beginning while cutting the second of the small logs, with several attempted restarts, followed by the end of the chainsaw’s life:
It turned out that I’d stripped the plastic 3” internal gear, part of the planetary gear system that drives the chain:
The gear box is full of shredded black plastic:
Look at the teeth inside the 3” internal gear here, and note that their front halves are entirely gone, shredded to nearly their base
It’s quite clear to me now that I need a decent quality gas-powered chainsaw with at least a 20” bar for the things I do. 16” is just too short, and electric is such a hassle. I thought gas would be the pain, but having to look for a plug, having to watch that I don’t cut the cord, and the overall shoddy, plastic makeup of these things makes it ridiculous. I had to ask one guy if he had a plug anywhere near the logs in a craigslist ad that I ultimately gave up on, and he said if I had a 200’ cord, I could run it from his house. It’s not worth it.
Well, at least I got these pieces cut and sealed. They were all sized to about the limit of my lathe, and will definitely push it to its limit with how heavy they are:
Here’s my hand on one of the smaller pieces for some scale:
I really slathered on the Anchorseal. In an hour or so they were dry, and I flipped them and did the other sides. I want these pieces to work, and not end up checked terribly like so many other logs I’ve brought home. That was why I wanted to cut these up soon. The smaller chunks of trees are much less prone to check than short logs left in the round. There are so many more forces acting on every cubic inch in an entire log, both radial and concentric.
These are all pith free, or the pith is on the edge, ready to be turned away. That should aid in keeping them from splitting. I’d also like to not leave these for months and months, but get to them in the coming weeks. I might buck some into shorter pieces for bowls or plates. Oh, and if anyone was curious, I counted the rings of the largest remaining log tonight. It was a little hard to follow them in some places – they’re not super pronounced in the wax-covered end, and they wiggle all over from fat to thin as they trace their way around the pith – but the number puts this tree somewhere between 45 and 50 years old.
-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator