Hi Daiku, and Thane thanks for stopping in to this old pelters niIch
Well Thane thanks for asking--by all means he sure did,I knew the names of most of the stations and sites along the Alaska Highway, like Dawson City, Fort St John, Dawson Creek, Carcross, The Liard |Hot springs,--many stories of black bears, living in tents at -50F, the perma frost problems the list went on and of course really held my attention at 6 years old.
I had the opportunity of travelling the full length of the Highway when I retired, what an amazing experience to see the places he had been, and to see the spectacular landscape
Back in the early 80's I was hauling logs to a local sawmill for a friend. He introduced me to the sawyer. And this sawyer had many years of experience cutting logs to lumber and harvesting trees to make logs.
While we were waiting for the heater to warm up the hydraulic tank so we could run the mill during the winter time when it was fairly cold at the mill, we’d sit in the ‘tool room’ around the wood stove and wait. During these times I’d ask him to “tell me a story.”
He would tell about getting his truck stuck in the mud and how he and his brother would pull it out.
He’d talk about driving his truck to Boston to deliver three by planks for the forms for building Logan Airport before highway Route 95 was built.
But most of all, I liked the stories he’d tell about harvesting logs before chain saws and using heavy equipment that had hydraulics.
One story that is my favorite to tell is when I asked him to describe to me step by step how they did it.
He said that they’d go to the woodlot and pick out the tree that they wanted to fell. They didn’t have a chain saw so they would chop with an axe the felling wedge area. This would allow the tree the space it needs to fall off the stump.
To make the back cuts; they’d use a two-man cross cut saw.
Lining up they’d saw the back cut and put in wedges to hold the tree from “sitting back down” on their saw.
Once the “hinge wood” was reached, they pound in the wedges and the tree would fall over.
These were eastern white pine trees.
I asked: “ok, so now it’s on the ground, what did you do next?”
He said they’d “limb it out.” That is chop off all the limbs until they reached the top of the tree to an area where the trunk was about 8" in diameter. Most of these limbs would be dead branches and that they would pop off with a single blow with a sharp axe. Now they didn’t use a regular axe, but they used a double bladed axe.
I have heard that some people sharpen their double bladed axe heads differently. That is one cutting edge is sharpened for one use and the other is sharpened differently for another use. I’m not sure if his was this way or not.
He mentioned that with the right sharpening and a good swing you could chop off one of these dead branches with a single blow. And then follow through just like a golfer would do. But instead of ending at the top of the back swing; you’d then continue to swing down to the next neighboring branch. And that you would kind of rock your body left and right; as well as side step to advance up the log from the stump to the tip.
After he described this to me, I went to my tool shed and found one of my father’s double bladed axes and sharpened it up. During one of our regular harvesting jobs I decided I’d give it a try. And I laid down a nice big white pine and then I limbed it out using a double bladed axe using the double chop method. And within a few minutes I was swinging and side stepping my way down the log chopping off all the dead branches. Most of them with a single blow of the axe. It was fast and it did work. I was very proud of myself for learning the old way of doing things.
Chopping off a green live branch was a different story. As they don’t usually chop off with a single blow, depending on the size.
I said: “ok, so now you have it all “limbed out” what did you do next.”
He said that they’d then site it to see where the bends in the tree were so that they could figure on cutting the straightest logs. They would site it from stump end known as the butt to the top. Then they’d site it from the top to the butt. While walking back and forth they’d pick up a small chip or branch piece and place it on top of the log where they think they’d like to make the cut to make the logs. Kind of like a marker. They’d move them as they view the log and see where they’d be best for making the most out of the tree.
Back then they didn’t use a “logger’s tape” like we have today. They’d layout the lengths of the logs using a “layout stick” and a hatchet to mark the spots. A “layout stick” was a small round branch 4' long. Just small enough so you could hold it in your left hand and light enough to carry easily. The stick would have a ring carved into it at the middle, 2' mark. The ends would both have a ring carved into them 4" from the end. That was so that if they wanted a ten-foot log you’d layout two sticks and a half. The four-inch ring was the added “trim” that every log will have in order to have the extra required by most mills.
So starting at the butt end, you’d lay the stick onto the log and chop a small cut at the end of the stick. Just one wack to create a line. Then move up the log and place the end of the stick at this line and make the next line. Move over four inches and make a cut through mark. A cut through mark would be made by making two wacks removing a small piece of bark and exposing the white sapwood against the dark bark, which was very easy to see.
I used the stick to layout logs for many years until we were taught by forester how much wood we were actually wasting using this method. Once logger tapes were used then the stick was ‘retired’.
“Ok” I said, “now you’ve got it marked where you’re going to cut it to lengths. How do you cut it to length without a chain saw?”
He said that they used the “two man” cross cut saw again.
Ok, well. I could see that.
But, I asked: “when cutting down through a log, and the log is held up at each end the saw kerf would close on the saw blade. Using a chain saw, when we see this we’d stop cutting down, and reach the bar under and cut up with the top of the bar.” “How do you do that with a two man cross-cut saw? You can’t cut up the handles would be in the dirt and too long to allow you so pull it back and forth?”
He said that I was right that they couldn’t saw up. What they had were small, sometimes wooden, wedges in one pocket and a small hammer in the other pants pocket and that they’d saw down from the top on their mark and if the log started to close up on their blade that they insert the wedge and pound it in to hold the kerf open so that they could saw down through and not get their two man cross cut saw stuck in the log.
“Ok, so now you’ve got the log sawn into two pieces and the log dropped a bit when it was cut through and released. This dropping may have shifted the log and you can’t get your saw out because it has the handles on each end. How do you get your saw out?” I asked.
He said that most two man cross cut saws have one handle on one end held on with a bolt and a wing nut. They would turn out the wing nut, slide the bolt(s) out and take the handle off. Then the thin blade could be pulled through the logs and released to cut again.
So when you’re in one of those restaurants that have old long two man cross-cut saws hanging on the wall, take a look at the handles. I’ll bet one of them has a wing nut on the bolt. I have seen some, some do not, so I don’t know if the wing nut is on the back side against the wall or whether these weren’t used in the woods.
Well that my favorite “sitting around the wood stove story.”
Thanks Jim for sharing, and a look back in time, I could follow you through each step, those old stories are sure wonderful reminders of the days gone by
Large pines like the ones you are referring to usually required a soft landing to keep them from damage, we would clear a felling spot and leave the brush to cushion the fall, I expect you did the same thing
I expect there are some that wonder how they handled these large logs without hydraulics, well the old timers were pretty well versed in this category, around here the logs would be skidded to a loading area, and then rolled up on the sleighs one at a time, using long chains and one horse as motive power, it worked really well, and one could build up really large loads quickly, and I might add cheaply--most everything we did cost very little.
Maybe you had some other loading techniques that you might share
The double bitted axe you referred to was also used by my father, he kept one bit thinner and sharper for chopping, and one for brushing and using where there might be stones hiding in the snow
Thanks again for coming on board keep you stories coming
In the spring of 1945 (before the snow went) I went with my father and my uncle to the local saw mill as they drew the logs there to be sawn, the saw mill was powered by a steam engine, which ran on slab wood from the logs, I can remember going in the engine house to get warm, and listen and watch the steam engine driving the large circular saw, what great power.
As I grew older I realized how important it was for the circular blade to be held at a constant speed to keep it from wandering in the cut, the blades were hammered to cut straight at a certain RPM.
Steam engines are like diesel motors, they are driven by a sliding valve that admitted steam at each end of the power stroke I helped install a 45 hp steam engine at UCV that can drive the Grist mill there, taking over from the 45 hp water turbine for part of the time to conserve water.
The steam engine worked with 125 lbs of live steam it certainly was not a toy, and could be quite dangerous. We found that out in 1987 about 3 years after the Grist mill was opened, a very large thunder storm knocked out the water main to the whole village, and in turn it stopped our ability to feed water into the boiler as it worked, if the water level had dropped too much it could have blown with disasterous effects.
It was from this scare that we installed a back up 200 gal water tank that would feed water to the injection pump by gravity, this would give us enough time to pull the fire and lower the heat to the boiler.
Steam power is wonderful -powerful- and quiet no sound That also goes for the water turbine--powerful and quiet also.
Richard, In that old mill did you use lard as a lubrication? That's something always there in the operating windmills around here, a slab of pork fat hanging from the ceiling to wipe over the wooden gearing to reduce wear on the cogs and teeth. It comes to mind when reading your story now only because we killed the pig this weekend and with all the meat set up to cure and packed in the freezer I'm busy cutting up fat and rendering it for lard, the less pure part of which I'll use as a lubricant and some of which will be hung and dried in slabs. Oh yeah, our wood boiler for warming the house is out of use right now until the pipes which feed the safety mechanism to cool things down in the event they overheat are repaired.
Hi Don welcome on board, and thanks for sharing and the question
Well I am going to be quite frank, we did cheat a little, we did use a modern grease for lubrication especially in places where prying eyes were not allowed--one of the reasonings being that the historic equipment was very expensive to repair so we used a top quality lubricant to allay wear, thereby extending out the intervals between forced repairs--
We were quite aware that in the 1860's modern lubricants hadnot arrived on the scene in any great quantity at first only in industrial centres like Massachusetts, Chicago, Pittsburg, and New York and the predominant lubricant in the frontier regions was beef tallow and lard at that time.
This was a common question by visitors --"what did they use for lubrication then". We of course said lard and tallow which was highly regarded and rendered down from the slaughter of animals for human consumption
Also Goose grease was used as a rub on for colds,lard was mixed with many things for many purposes also
I am quite interested in the mentioning of the boiler heating system you use--it brings to mind the one we installed at UCV to heat water for the woolen mill
It was widely used in England, I will try and describe it for everyone--The boiler in an upright low pressure vertical tube boiler, connected to pipes that lead to the attic space about 20 feet above the boiler--in the attic is a heat exhanger just another closed tank full of water with tubes inside for the steam to pass through
The way it worked is unique--the boiler is low pressure--7lbs sq in-- and saftied at that pressure--as the water boils it of course produces steam which rises up the vertical pipe to the tank in the attic--there it heats the water and cools back to condensate,--running under gravity back down another pipe to the boiler--the 20 foot height gives it enough pressure to inject itself back into the boiler so it just keeps circulating--if it happens to overheat the safties blow to relieve the pressure.
This system is closed and only needs a periodic injection of some water from an ordinary water source--it works like a dream--it was urprising how much hot water one can get from an armful of wood
Today the cold has reappeared with vengeance around here, a time for things to slow down, a time for remembering, but as always a time to heat up the shop and make a few hand carved handles for a couple of orders that have come to my attention through that wonderful electronic medium--email--thanks to it we all can have these wonderful nightly conversations and exchange stories like those above.
I will be using black walnut blanks for these 3" offset broadaxe handles. You maybe noticed the tree in my "Broadaxe handle carving" DVD, it has given up many twisted limbs which contain the natural bent fibres for the handles above
Another lad from Utah wondered if I could carve out a "Casselman" style chopping axe handle for his early axe head that he intends on using for demonstrations out there next spring, so you can see I am going to have a fun winter ahead
Carving out handles was a winter pastime by the old wood stove, alittle each night--except saturday night--that was our weekly trip to town to purchase the supplies that we needed, provided we weren't snowed in which happened often back then
From your postings, Richard, it's clear to see that your work was really bound up in a good way with the different times and conditions of the year, something, for the most part, that technology has now done away with. Another indication that we are all just misplaced souls here on a strange planet. I have seen descriptions of the wood generated, steam heating systems you write of up there and think that it is in many ways an ingenious way of heating though it would take a good deal of expertise to install right. My heating system is by no means so ingenious but relies on electricity and pumps, (a great drawback in my opinion), to get the warmth distributed from the source out there in the barn, throughout the house. The furnace heating the water directly until it reaches a temperature of 60°C when pump no.1 switches on circulating water between furnace and accumulation tank standing right there next to it. Once the 1,500 liter tank is up to sufficient temperature the thermostat inside the house can be set and pump no.2 will switch on sending water circulating throughout the radiator system and back to the accumulation tank to be reheated by more fire. The furnace itself is connected to the water mains as a source of cooling in case it gets overheated. At just under boiling a thermostat opens the valve and fresh cold water is let in to cool it all down. By clicking here you can see how it's all set up.
Last edited by Cecile en Don Wa; 12/21/1108:37 AM.
Hi again Don for coming on board, sure was a nice posting for all to see and learn--your heating system is just great, was it a patented setup or custom built?
Either way it is great especially if you have your own wood supply. The only draw back to wood is that it requires a constant presence to add fuel once in a while. I suspect though that you do lose some heat through the flue.
I also burn wood in a (so called)-- high efficiency wood stove (pacific energy), it takes burning one step beyond the cheaper models by heating the incoming combustible air before it reaches the burn chamber, thereby the fuel burns at a higher temperature, and keeps the emissions down in the outgoing smoke flue. There is quite a bit of heat escaping though and as most of us know the chimneys have to be a certain temperature or problems begin to develop, like freezing up on real cold nights from the liquid creosote condensed on the interior surface, or no draft, it seems to be a no win situation, but one can try and keep as much heat from escaping as possible
It also sounds like you are really into living the right kind of life, but as we all know it is not for everyone, many, many like the city life, but for me and especially since the great ice storm a few years back, that knocked out the power lines for a great large area of Ontario, give me a good wood stove and at that time quite a few hunkered down in our wood heated home. I was fortunate enough to have had a generator at that time and I travelled around starting up peoples furnaces to give them some heat--it was unreal many were just sitting there wrapped up in blankets not knowing what to do.
Knowing how to keep warm, plant a garden, slaughter an animal for meat, dig a hole in the ground for water, burn candles the list goes on--kids should be taught this as part of regular schooling in my book--it might save their lives in the years ahead.