|Project by Mark A. DeCou||posted 09-08-2014 05:47 PM||6688 views||6 times favorited||32 comments|
Project Story: A Treatise on Trees, Faith, Miracles, and a Fork In the Road
Back a few years ago I had a dream…..”Hmmm…wouldn’t it be cool to reclaim and salvage some big natural edge table-top sized slabs out of these trees around here that have blown down, or which just grew in the wrong place and had to be removed for someone’s progress to push ahead?”
Simple dream really….but making it happen takes miracles, God-sized miracles, patience, and timing,
I love trees, most of us on this website love them also. My dad was a woodshop teacher, and gave me the love of trees, always a new sapling planted in our yard that we had to play around as a kid, making sure our football didn’t break off a limb. I guess some things run in our blood, and for me the love of trees and the sawdust-craze came from my dad. But, I don’t know where he got it, his dad was an economics professor, must have been further back.
From my experience, tree lovers are not taught, but rather they are born, and I’m no exception to my own rule.
I like planting trees, I like making things from trees, I like listening to the wind blow the leaves, I even like nurturing and pruning. I also enjoy standing back wondering about where all the years have gone as I’ve watched saplings grow into trees during my 50 years on this planet.
Visionaries and Dreamers plant trees.
For hardwoods, none of us will live long enough to plant and harvest the same big tree, so if we go about planting, it has to be for other reasons than just making a profit for ourselves.
If you love trees also, you know and understand just what I mean.
Unfortunately, things happen, and Tree lovers have to come to the understanding that trees get in the way of other people’s projects at times, and storms can cause irreparable damage, or even blow an old tree down.
When I’ve seen a big tree go down, I soon notice that a whole group of saplings suddenly spring-to-life with the new flow of light and water due to the passing of the old giant that was shading them. There is something poetic about that, and us people are no different. I understand that someday I will get out of the way so that another “sapling” can have some light and grow.
For years I have seen big piles of trees that were only being used for firewood. But, when they were too big for easy splitting into firewood, the trees just seemed to get piled up with a bulldozer and one day burned on a quiet-wind-day…which isn’t easy to find in Kansas.
Sometimes the environmental conditions take a few years to come together before a big pile can burn safely. I’ve driven by big piles like that, thinking I have more time to come up with a plan.
Then, one day I go by and it’s just a pile of black ashes and dirt covered root balls sitting there, and I realize that I’ve missed another big one, or two, or ten.
Know what I mean? I think you do.
Several years ago, back when this website was new and fresh I started a forum topic ”You know you are a Lumberjock when….” here is a link to that old topic
We had fun for awhile together putting all of our humor, sarcasm, and wisdom down on a keyboard, making each other laugh, or cry about how all of us tree lovers have the same quirks, habits, thoughts and dreams.
So, I know you know me, and I know you, you know that The Dream has a purpose.
During the pondering-the-Dream-to-Fruition investigation period, I snuck over by some big log piles with a tape measure, and tried to determine about what size of a machine it would take to cut up such a tree, so that the large limb crotch wood could be utilized on table tops.
What I found was that for our Kansas Plains trees, is that the machine needed to cut bigger than 48” wide, and yet still be small enough to transport the machine down the highway.
What we ended up with is a machine that cuts a tree diameter of 51.5” between blade guides.
And I think in most cases, that width will allow us to mill out slabs with the upper crotch wood, which I think is the prettiest part of a tree, other than the root ball wood.
The root balls are difficult to harvest wood from, since the rocky soil imparts lots of blade-dulling limestone, Chert, and Flint Rock into the roots. The root balls are just nearly impractical to cut through without hitting a blade-ruining stone at some point.
So, my focus is on the higher crotch wood.
Now, when I have a dream like that, its usually way bigger and more involved than I have the brains, or means to accomplish, and this is one of those cases.
And, in these cases, I just pray about it and move onto other things that are more pressing….like back to earning a living, raising a family, holding some old junk vehicles together, fixing up the old house, going to church, and other things that come first in a dreamer’s life.
If you are a dreamer, you are either one that has forced things to happen, or you are like me who waits upon the Force of the Universe to do His Will. The first method is usually pretty risky, while the second path has no risk at all….namely, that in God’s Will it will happen when the timing is right for it, and not a moment before.
Not all of us have this type of Faith, and some don’t want it. I used to be like that, an atheist until my early 30’s, but God showed Himself to Me back in the early 1990’s, and I’ve learned to be patient and wait, and watch, and pray. It’s been a wild ride for sure, and I’ve had to change my thinking, motivations, and plans, but I wouldn’t want to go back to the other method now that I have tasted this side.
Probably the most frustrating thing to learn is that my plans are not always His Plans. Garth Brooks has a song I like that goes something like “Thank God for unanswered prayers.” I’ve come to learn that my ways are useless and lead to disaster, but if I can just wait, I get to see the Hand of God move in miraculous ways.
So, Friday last week I spent the day seeing “The Dream” come to life right before my eyes.
When I had this “Dream”, I didn’t want to be just another guy in the phone book that had a factory built bandsaw mill that he operates to make a little extra money. There are a lot of them around the area in which I live, and finding so many to compete against didn’t seem like a good plan.
Those normal log mills are all limited on log size, and are designed for quick piles of normal sized boards. I on the other hand had the vision for something unique, something bigger, albeit slower, but something that would cut up slabs like few can do. And the machine to do that work would require God to do His thing.
I discovered several years ago, the work of George Nakashima, which is being carried on by his daughter Mira. This work involves huge slabs of wood with natural edges, exquisite finishes, and architectural-looking wooden bases. But, wishing to build with large slabs, and having the knowledge base and the equipment to handle the job are vastly separated. I learned that on my first big slab builds back in the 2005-2006 time frame.
So, God picked a person to help me with this dream, one who is older, wiser, smarter, and far more capable. When we first started working on this Big Log Mill together, I thought I could handle the project. What I quickly learned is that I am wholly incapable of designing, building, or financing such a big project in metal, hydraulics, and motors. I’m the one with the Mechanical Engineering degree, but not with any sense on how to actually build something that worked. So, you can probably assume that I’m the lesser factor in this project build, and if you didn’t assume that, I’ll just tell you.
For some months, we’ve had this log mill, and struggled with a few things. Cutting small logs was not that big of a deal, but once the blade guides started to get wide, the blade wouldn’t track as smoothly as I wished for. We tried different things, but some how the problem kept returning.
But, on Friday last week, it all came to fruition, and we were able to mill out some large slabs of Burr Oak (White) that are 4” thick, up to 49” wide, and 13’-0” Long. The slabs are consistent in thickness from end-to-end, side-to-side, and across the middle. A more beautiful cut seems impossible to imagine, and so the Dream Came to Life, and I just had to tell you about it.
Ok, so now what, you ask?
I don’t have a big plan of what to do next, but I know that I have slabs to use, or sell. There has been a lot of investment in money, materials, and other resources to accomplish this, and so I know God’s plan is not to have it sit around and gather dust….but I don’t know exactly where the future heads right now.
Someone once said, “That when you come to a Fork in the Road, take it.” So, that’s where I am now, looking at a Fork. And what I see in the Fork is beautiful crotch wood, just begging to be saved.
At this point, it seems difficult to think about taking this large slab-cutting rig on the road to do custom cutting, as it takes so much equipment, trucks, trailers, etc., to get the work of moving huge trees and large slabs done. So, I don’t know what the next step is, and in the mean time I’ll just be cutting up slabs and waiting anxiously to find out.
This type of wood, if you haven’t ever messed with it, is so heavy, that one guy, even a big hefty guy like me, can not turn over a big slab by himself, and I can barely pull one end of it around.
I don’t know what they each weigh, but they take equipment to move them. As they dry out, the weight will reduce some, but they are not the type of thing you can deal with in a “normal-board-style-wood-shop”, with “normal-board-style-design-and-construction” techniques.
Ok, So What DO I have?
This large Burr Oak (White) tree fell down at the farm South of me. My neighbor asked if I wanted it. I didn’t have a clue how to cut up a tree that huge, nor how to move it, nor what to do with that large amount of wood, nor where to store it. But, I said, “Yes.”
I used Burr Oak on a few projects, here is a link to a China Hutch and Table Set
Gives you a vision maybe of what Burr Oak can look like. Burr Oak does not have large sections of clear, knot free wood, like what Missouri Red Oak does. But, if you like knots and figured grain, Burr Oak is pretty hard to beat.
And, God did His thing, and the plan came together.
The Chainsaw is not running, stopped to clean dirt out of the bark along the cut line. Once at the shop where we mill the logs, we are using a big pressure washer to clean the logs before cutting.
Friday, we took one of the large limbs from the Wind Blown Burr Oak tree and made 5 really neat looking slab table tops. They would be great for a Dining Table, cut in half to make a Coffee Table, maybe an Executive Desk Top, or a Conference Room Table. I figured up the Board Feet on the biggest of these 5 slabs to be about 160bdft.
And, here’s the cool part…I’m just getting started, there are a lot more logs and trees that I’ve accumulated that just needs to be processed, Elm, Ash, Walnut, Cedar, Osage Orange
So, for those of you rooting for me over the years, I hear you and say “Thanks!”
Thanks for Reading along,
Please Note: (all text, photos, designs, machinery, is all protected by copyright 2014 by the Author, no unauthorized use of any in whole, or part, is allowed without expressed written consent by the Author, Mark A. DeCou)
-- Mark DeCou - American Contemporary Craft Artisan - www.decoustudio.com