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tool to chop up branches: ideas wanted!  RSS feed

 
Paula Edwards
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About 90% of the garden work I am doing at the moment is building Hügelbeds. I have got some thicker material which I put at the bottom but I get heaps and heaps of thinner branches. I chop them up with the secateur and the bigger pruner. I need to get it in smaller pieces, maybe 20- 30 cm long in order not to create too much fluff.
Cutting this up per hand is an awful lot of work! If I would have a tool/machine whatever to do this faster I would save so muche time!
The twigs I cut up are 0.5 cm to 2.5 cm thick and all kinds of wood with or without leaves, but mainly with leaves on, hard and softwood.

It would be reallly great to get some ideas!
 
Steve Landau
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Location: Vermont
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After a storm last year, I took out my Small Tablesaw.

I was able to have a fixed blade, and hold the branches. I was able to quickly cut them to reasonable size. 2-3 feet. And diameters up to 4"


Of course you need local power. Further away, I use Cordless re-cop but it vibrates alot.
 
Paula Edwards
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I have an electric chainsaw and I do read manuals. It states that it is dangerous to use it for cutting up branches. I guess it is as well dangerous with the table saw, because a branch could bloc the blade.. I don't know I'm usually not a health and safety freak!
 
Burra Maluca
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I'm not sure how big your 'bigger pruners' are, but how about a pair of long-handled loppers?



Image taken from here
 
Rose Pinder
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Not sure how this will survive the forum moderation, but read up on faggots (a system for bundling thin branches so they can be cut to length). This is if you have large amounts of material to process.

http://www.powerswitch.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?p=211378&highlight=#211378

http://coppicer.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/woodbine-faggots-and-hooks/

http://www.thecbj.com/coppicing-and-faggot-making/


btw, a drop saw (what I think you are calling a table saw) is much safer than a chain saw.
 
Robin Hones
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Rose - the 3rd link you posted above was particularly fascinating. Thank you
 
Jordan Lowery
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Yes excellent info! I am going to make that faggot bundling tool they have a drawing of. I can see it being used to do the same with bamboo poles and much more. I planted some hazels last year so in years to come I'll start coppicing them.
 
Marc Troyka
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When I chopped up branchy stuff for my hugel beds, all I used was long handled loppers and a hand saw for thicker stuff.
 
Paula Edwards
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I actually do use loppers most of the time I place the stuff in a wheelbarrow that I don't have to bend down.
The idea with the faggots is actually quite good. That would mean that I simply bundle the sticks und throw the bundle in the beds.
I could drive in strarposts, maybe right where the bed will be. Bundling would make the whole bed a lot more compact than with chopping down.
Underneath the starposts I could lay some lengths of timber thick enough to get my arm through that would make it easier to bundle.
It is still a lot of work getting the side branches off but the idea simply sees miraculous as it solves two problems at the time: the work is less and the stability of the bed increases (I would certainly pull the starposts out after building the bed).
 
Peter DeJay
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Location: Southern Oregon
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My favorite tool for cutting small to medium branches is a thin kerf Japanese pull saw. I have several that I use for building, so I use the smaller double sided one for branches. There is a huge variety of shapes and sizes of these types of saws, even ones designed for pruning and bamboo. Here's one such.



However, for small branches, if loppers aren't practical, I sometimes use my ratcheting plumber's plastic pipe cutter, such as in the photo.
These ones cut up to about 1 1/2 inch pipe, so they would handle probably up to an inch thick branches. There are longer handled ones that can handle pipe up to 2 1/2 inches.
 
Kristaps Vinogulajs
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Rose Pinder wrote:Not sure how this will survive the forum moderation, but read up on faggots (a system for bundling thin branches so they can be cut to length). This is if you have large amounts of material to process.


Interesting, but they are kind of long for use as firewood. Are they supposed to saw afterwards? I mean why dont cut them in right lenght when making a faggot?
 
Mike Dayton
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Location: sw pa zone 5
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Why couldn't these Faggot bundles be made to the right size to just fit into your rocket mass heater? The ones they were showing were large bundles for easy carring, a smaller bundle could be tied with the stove opening in mind. Just a thought , but the bundles are fairly long so you would not have to add wood as often. The branches may try to expand after the strings holding them are burned off, but if they have dried in that compact shape I think they may stay that way as they burn. I would love to hear if someone tries the idea. As far as the Huglebed idea goes I do not chop the branches up much, I just add add dirt untill they are all covered. Most of the wood is on the bottom, but some branches extend upward to give a natural wicking action as they rot. The root will follow then down to the main water storage in the larger logs down below. They do not have to be neat to work well.
 
Kristaps Vinogulajs
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Mike Dayton wrote:Why couldn't these Faggot bundles be made to the right size to just fit into your Rocket Mass Heater? The ones they were showing were large bundles for easy carring, a smaller bundle could be tied with the stove opening in mind.

You mean putting all bundle with twines in the stove?
I do not have a rocket heater but what i have seen on videos the opening are very small for only a few logs and they should be loosely in there...
 
Rose Pinder
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The point of making faggots, in the context of this thread, is precisely because it is a functional system for cutting many small branches to the length you want.

From one of the links

1. Cut half a dozen or so straight 1" dia. stems and hammer into ground about 4" apart -- this forms a jig to pack the brush into.

2. As you cut up the tops of the tree branches, anything less than half-inch dia. isn't worth cutting. Insert between sticks, snapping any lateral branches and bend them straight. Try and pack as evenly as possible.

3. When you've packed a good load, thread twine underneath and bind tightly. Do that every foot or so and you'll end up with a long log-like pack of brash.

4. Provided you've bound the pack tightly enough, you can now cut the faggots to length with a bow saw. Again, if packed tight, you only need one band of twine to bind the faggot together (ahh, the joys of youth!)

Basically, it's an excellent job for kids to do while the grown-ups have all the fun wielding chainsaws and felling axes.



My emphasis. So yes, make a jig to place the faggots in, and then cut them to the length you want for firewood bundles (or loose I guess too if you want to do it that way)
 
Kristaps Vinogulajs
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Ok, thanks! Now its clear for me. I will try to make some, although it seems to be time consuming thing.
 
Rosalind Riley
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Hi Kristaps

In response to your observation about the length of faggots - here's a quote from Raymond Tabor's Traditional Woodland Crafts (great book from the UK):

" Made from the real offal of the cut, those sticks with no craft use at all, they fuelled countrymen's hearths, baker's ovens, and brewer's maltings. And in the wider countryside faggots found other uses too: as a base to corn and haystacks; laid in ditches instead of pipes since water percolated freely through them; and staked on river banks or tidal marches to prevent erosion.... Evelyn tells us a proper faggot is 'a full yard long and two feet in circumference'"

ie they had great small-industry value, and I believe were also used to fire the boilers of London hotels in the 19th century. They are still used in riverbank stabilisation, though are usually called "fascines", made up to 3m long from hazel and willow.

NB Evelyn is John Evelyn, Sylva, or a discourse on forest trees, 1786

I usually make a few not-terribly-tidy faggots and put them in the woodshed as a source of kindling when it's been raining to hard to find dry stuff outdoors.

NB I agree about using long loppers. A nice wide bite.

Cheers
 
William Bronson
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I had a couple of ideas for this.
First, I wanted a chipper shredder, but I am very, very cheap. So I was considering a used(I am a plumber) garbage disposal. There is even a point at the bottom of each where mechanical energy could be applied.
The size of the branches would be extremely limited and its liable to not work at all, so I have yet to even try it.
The other idea I had was an old style paper cutter, the kind with a giant beveled blade. Haven,t tried that either,but it holds way more promise.
 
Jay Green
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Hatchet or machete works.
 
Dan Boone
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I know it's been more than two years, but I'm posting in thanks to Rose Pinder for sharing the links about making faggots. For many months now I have been cutting thorny brush and lower limbs from thorny trash trees to improve the access through my bit of forest, and at first (I am embarrassed to admit) I was just burning the stuff to get it out of my way. Then I started getting infected with permaculture concepts and began stacking it in one location to try a hugelkultur bed, which I am still constructing. But then I found this thread and those excellent faggot links. My property has erosion problems everywhere (after many years of abuse and neglect as a grazing lessee ran cows on it without maintaining anything except his fences) and deep ravines that have been scoured into barren square notches by excess runoff. I've also got places where there is no soil at all, just bare sandstone across which water flows during wet seasons. In short, now that I know what faggots are, I can see infinite demand for them and infinite places to usefully put them, for erosion control, stream restoration, and sediment capture.

Today I made my first faggot. It's rough and loose and I need a better class of twine to make the next one better and tighter. (The temptation to cheat and use plastic cable ties is enormous...but no.) Anyway, I felt an immense sense of satisfaction as I plonked that first one down and secured it in a useful place. I need a thousand more!

Thanks again, Rose.
 
ben harpo
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When it comes to taking apart the top of a tree that is already felled. Nothing beats a kaiser blade.
 
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