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Human chainsaw

 
pollinator
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Today’s new problem . . . I’ve just had another chip drop, this time two 13ft cherry logs. They are16 to 24 inches across and need to be sawn up and split. I don’t own a chainsaw, I’d rather not own a chainsaw and the wife definitely isn’t happy about me using a chainsaw. I can go along with that even if it means I’ll not be able to finish some PEP badges.



I’m a buy it once kinda guy. So I want a good saw that will do the job and last many years (I can dream). I also do trail maintenance and up until now used a standard off the shelf bow saw, which is ok up to 12 inches. I recently discovered the TV series “Alone” where people get dropped in remote locations to fend for themselves. The favourite saw appears to be Silky folding saws. I’ve seen these handle some pretty big trees and heard them described as human chainsaws. It would fit the bill for trail work but would I be sacrificing efficiency for the convenience of mobility? I have a similar saw with a 12 inch blade which is awesome for anything up to 4 inches.

What are your thoughts? Should I just get a bigger bow saw or a Silky? Or is there a better solution?

Silky Katanaboy

 
pioneer
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Perhaps you could hire a merry band of lumberjacks to follow you around.

Just kidding. I'd trust the Japanese here. They've been human powered woodworking for many, many years. Though their tools are focused around Japan's softer woods, they still work wonders, especially if you're smaller like they are. It will not be easy no matter what you use, that's a given, but it will provide a nice workout. I don't have a single woodworking power tool right now because I too am buy it for life. Besides space, I wouldn't be able to settle on a drill press or band saw anyway without more research.

 
pollinator
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What is the largest diameter of those logs?  My wife and I both use a circular 'chop saw' for many building task, but I also use it for sometimes up to 8" round logs.  These are cut to size for splitting.  Typically under $200.00 new, they tend to be sold with an abrasive disk for metal cutting, but you can replace it with a 14" saw blade which can just about cut through 6" in one shot.  You can cut things deeper than that by rotating the log between cuts to finally give you the finished cut.  Definitely a tool for many projects.
ChopSaw.JPG
[Thumbnail for ChopSaw.JPG]
 
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ive got a similar problem, just got a load of rejects from sawmill for firewood, oak and hickory, some have nails or metal in them
logs.jpeg
logs
logs
 
gardener & hugelmaster
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Do you have a weed eater?

https://www.stihlusa.com/products/trimmers-and-brushcutters/trimmer-heads-and-blades/

https://besttrends365.com/products/grass-trimmer-head-coi-65mn-chain-trimmer-head-for-brush-cutter?utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=bing&utm_campaign=Bing%20Shopping

A axe or machete is another option of course.
 
pollinator
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If I recall you have mentioned you also want to do some more woodworking.  Here is a great woodworking project that creates a great saw for the shop, as well as being able to handle a larger projects.  

The blade can be a variety of bandsaw blades (fewer teeth and more set for a more aggressive cut) that will rival a chainsaw.  



The folding saw you posted has a very aggressive tooth pattern and style.  it will likely do a great job but requires a lot of labor, although it is very portable for trail work.  

If you want a project one can do from scrape wood and make a very function tool.  Otherwsie I think your posted saw will make you happy.
 
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Hi,  How about thinking out of the box.   Since you would like to split the wood why not drive wedges into the logs first and split them in half.  Then your smaller saw will be able to handle the cutting work needed.  Who knows, once you see the split logs you might have a need for them without cutting them up.  I once made sled runners that way.
 
steward & bricolagier
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Why do they need to be cut up? Personally, I'd use them to edge a garden bed or driveway or something. I don't cut anything I'm not required to :D Cut firewood is easy to obtain. Good long edging logs are not.
 
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i love those silkys, but that would be a lot of sawing. i don’t know how easy bigger log saws are to find in your area, but i have a german one that i like that’s a bit faster…but still would be a fair bit of sawing. if i was local to you i’d swing by with my chainsaw for just a few of the rounds!  
 
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I'm with Pearl - Cherry wood is sought after by many wood-workers. Some of it is clearly rotten, but I'd consider carefully if any of it would be useful before just turning it into firewood or smaller.
 
Pearl Sutton
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Edward!
Money making opportunity! Find out what sizes people on permies need, and sell cuts :D
Cherry wood is SO beautiful!  Imagine wood spoons out of cherry....
I know there is a wood turner local to me who would probably buy wood like that if it were here, bet there are some near you.
 
Edward Norton
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Wow, I love Permies, such awesome feedback!

My head is always buzzing with ideas but sometimes they’re a long way from reality. I signed up for logs from chip drop because I need firewood. I wasn’t thinking outside the box. This is beautiful cherry, which would burn well but Arthur, Pearl and Jay rightly pointed out, it would be a shame when I could use them for garden construction projects and I have many of those planned.

One of the logs has 11 feet of straight trunk with very few branches. The other, from the base is rotten in the core but it appears to be a side section about four feet from the end, so I could in theory end up with some nine foot and eleven foot boards. However, I’m working with logs that are 16 to 20 inches once I cut off the rotten section. Can that really be split by one person and muscle alone? The only time I’ve done this was for my three log bench badge bit and that log was less than 12 inches across and already dead with a crack I could take advantage of. I’m up for the challenge, but the only time I’ve seen this done was with a chain saw.
 
Edward Norton
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Edward!
Money making opportunity! Find out what sizes people on permies need, and sell cuts :D
Cherry wood is SO beautiful!  Imagine wood spoons out of cherry....
I know there is a wood turner local to me who would probably buy wood like that if it were here, bet there are some near you.



I now feel ashamed that ever considered turning it into firewood. Can’t thank you enough . . .
 
rocket scientist
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Yup, Cherry wood is beautiful and makes very nice turned pieces!
Cherry wood is also an outstanding smoker wood!
Very smooth flavor in cheese, also fine for smoked prime rib.
Turn those less than top-quality pieces into the wood for your smoker!
 
Pearl Sutton
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Edward: Thinking sideways, it's a permies skillset!
Wonder if we could come up with a badge bit for thinking sideways...
:D

A thought: If you found a woodworker who wanted to buy some of it, they might make your rough cuts for you. They have the tools and skills.
Community is a permies skill too :D
 
Jeff Steez
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Edward!
Money making opportunity! Find out what sizes people on permies need, and sell cuts :D
Cherry wood is SO beautiful!  Imagine wood spoons out of cherry....
I know there is a wood turner local to me who would probably buy wood like that if it were here, bet there are some near you.



there's a place you can sell spoon blanks online: The Spoon Crank
 
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My guess is that if the tree people dropped them off for free, it's not worth much as a saw log.  Looks like there are some knots in it that might not generate good boards.  Lots of people burn cherry and other hardwoods, they aren't necessarily terribly precious, just depends where in the world you live relative the to species you're looking at.

What about a cordless chainsaw?  

I've used a silky and it's ok.  I think they're likely great for portability, wildcraft survival and trail maintenance.  For firewood cutting I'm not sure they'd be the first choice.  For a few hundred years they used something like in Jeff's picture in the second post.  That one is huge but there are many one man saws out there.  With some sharpening they really cut well.  Jordan Holland donated a sharp and fine tuned one to Wheaton Labs and we used it this summer.  It cut amazingly fast.  I didn't get enough of a chance to test it out but I suspect it could rival a cordless chainsaw until you get tired.

 
pollinator
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If the logs are still green, paint the ends with acrylic paint to slow the drying rate down.
It prevents splitting and ensures the wood is more useable for woodworking.
If you slabbed it [ probally 2inch but check ] and stacked it correctly for drying you may be amazed at the price obtainable.
 
pollinator
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I'm sure it's different everywhere, but around here, woodworkers generally don't want wood from mystery sources and definitely not from someone's yard. Too much risk of hitting hidden metal (you'd be amazed what kind of stuff other than just nails you find!) with their expensive tools. Even if you give it away it'll just end up as firewood. We've got walnut and cherry all over the place here, though.
 
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I have two chainsaws that I'm afeared to use, lest I cut myself and die.
I do uses the third one which is mounted on a pole.

My opinion, treat yourself to a Sawzall.
A reciprocating saw is a great cutting tool and will worth the money.

They are way safer than a circular saw, angle grinder or chainsaw.
They make rough carpentry a breeze, they cut off bolts and through metal conduit, as well as thick plastic barrels and tree limbs.
 
gardener
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I get a decent amount of logs like this (though these two look like better quality than most of what I get) and have been slowly improving my manual lumber processing game over the past few years. I do not have a chainsaw and do not intend to get one. I wish I had a lumberjack saw (one of those big crosscut saws like Mike and someone posted), but I don't. I do have a few nata (a machete/froe/axe), some axes, about six metal splitting wedges, and two wooden gluts (wooden splitting wedges) I made out of persimmon. I also have a charcoal line, a sledgehammer, and some wooden mallets.

If it were me I would try to rive some good boards out of these.

My very amateur (but slowly improving) process with the tools I have would be:

1. Find the knots and crotches
2. If there are not any significant knots then you have been blessed with an amazing log and you could probably split amazing lumber.
3. More likely there will be some major imperfections. I would then cross cut the logs to get sections with clean straight wood.
4. I would remove bark and draw a chalk (or a charcoal) line where I intend to split the log. Using some nails and suspending a heavy rock to draw plumb/straight.
5. I would score the line with an axe or machete, trying to get into the real wood not just the inner bark.
6. I would start the split at the end of the log carefully trying to start it across the line I drew with an axe or nata first and then come back in with wedges as I open the split.
7. I would gradually shuffle my wedges down the split and switch to my wooden gluts as the split opens enough. Depending on the wood and any twist or other imperfections it seems to split most of the way when you get about 35-40% down the length.
8. Then I would clean up the split and cut into better lengths because inevitably I can't split a log straight all the way through.
9. Then if I want to make boards of a particular size I will use my nata to rive lengths with 90 degree grain direction for minimal seasonal wood movement (the slightly superior method to quartersawing in terms of limiting wood movement/deformation)
10. Then I'd clean up any rough splits with a draw knife, an axe, or a nata.
11. Then if the wood was still wet I would seal the ends with something, paint, or wax, whatever you're comfortable using. I have used wood glue before... recently I just let them check a bit because I have a little bit better feel for drying and I don't want to use plastic glue. But I think you could make an environmentally friendly end sealer.
12. Then I'd sticker the boards to let them air dry for a few months to years, depending on how wet they are.

I used this method to get the wood for these projects: my shaving horse and my planing board.





Again I'm an amateur, learning as I go, I don't have ideal tools, so I'm sure there are superior methods out there and if anyone wants to share their chainsaw-free method I would be very interested!




 
L. Johnson
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Ah about my crosscutting now: I do use a silky gomboy folding saw. It works. It is not as fast as a proper crosscut saw.

I have a pretty big bahco bowsaw blade that's waiting for me to make a frame for it. It has a more aggressive tooth profile than my silky, so I expect it will speed up my crosscutting by x2 or x3.

Good crosscutting technique can save you time and effort too. Lining it up with your legs set well at a proper height and using both hands to pull the saw on a firmly set log will go WAY faster than cutting one handed in an odd posture on a log that's rolling around. I say this because I learned it to be true from experience!

I wish I had had a teacher to help me move past all these tiny elementary points and teach proper form and such, but alas I'm left with youtubers and net articles.
 
John C Daley
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I do not understand why people reject chainsaws.
Used as designed and without rushing they are very handy and safe.
I am aware of stories of accidents but I just take care and save a lot iof time.
 
L. Johnson
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John C Daley wrote:I do not understand why people reject chainsaws.
Used as designed and without rushing they are very handy and safe.
I am aware of stories of accidents but I just take care and save a lot iof time.



For me the biggest reason is they are noisy and unpleasant. I do woodworking entirely for pleasure, not profit or out of necessity. Using a chainsaw would ruin my fun.
 
Mike Haasl
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I used to poo poo (or is it poh poh?) cordless chainsaws but for lighter use I think they're pretty darned nice.  Less likely to cut your leg off, no stink, quieter and they still get the job done.  No worries about if they'll start and they're easy to pick up, nibble a bit off a piece and set back down.  Great for roundwood projects.

If I'm cutting a cord of firewood I'm using my gas saw still...
 
thomas rubino
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Hey Mike;
I love my EGO cordless chainsaw as much as I love my Husqvarna pro.
One little issue I catch myself doing with the cordless...
Forgetting to check the bar oil!   Dang hate when that happens!
With a gas saw it is a no-brainer, run out of fuel... fill fuel AND oil!
That cordless that you grab to cut off a branch and put away never runs out of fuel...
Sure the battery needs charging but it's not the same.
I freely admit my cordless bar is going to need replacing much sooner than it would if I just checked the bar oil more often!

 
L. Johnson
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Another reason I prefer not to use chain saws and power tools in general is a preference for using tools with fewer moving parts. In my experience the lifespan of a machine is often highly related to its complexity. The more complex it is the more points of failure it has. The simpler it is the fewer, and they tend to be easier to repair as well.

Yet another is, these days hand sawing is one of my best aerobic exercises! Combining a lower petroleum footprint with exercise feels very good.

I don't want to shame anytime for using power tools, in fact I think the speed that they let you work can become more efficient for professionals and busy homesteaders and probably cancel out the energy costs by virtue of efficiency.

It's a personal choice, but since asked I thought I'd share my values.
 
Mike Haasl
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thomas rubino wrote:I freely admit my cordless bar is going to need replacing much sooner than it would if I just checked the bar oil more often!


I remember Travis Johnson saying that he never puts bar oil in his saws.  A $20-$40 bar is cheaper and consumes less oil that if you use bar oil for a few years.  He was cutting dozens of cords of wood without bar oil without wearing out the bar.  So it might not be that big an issue.  Maybe just put some in when you think of it as you're doing more substantial jobs?
 
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William Bronson wrote:
My opinion, treat yourself to a Sawzall.



+1 on the sawzall recommendation.
 
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Can that really be split by one person and muscle alone?
Oh yes! Unless it is full of knots...Straight-grained Cherry is super easy and fun to split by hand with a good axe or 6 to 8lb maul...I like to cut it 12 to 14" in length. That way, you can split it with a good golf swing! (don't have to bend over to stand it up)...If you have Grand children, you can get it split and stacked for pizza and ice cream. (No, I don't exploit kids. I utilize their youthful skills, abilities and competitive spirit to accomplish a common goal)...And, it teaches the little keyboard punchers some life skills like teamwork, problem solving and bartering skills and a sense of accomplishment for a job well-done...When they get to stay over at Grandpa's house in the winter, they ALL LOVE the heat of the wood stove that THEY helped to fuel;

If you have an unruly child,  save them the knotty chunks of Osage Orange...That will teach the toughest of us some humility really quick!...swearing is permissible in this case
 
John Weiland
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John Duffy wrote:.....If you have an unruly child,  save them the knotty chunks of Osage Orange...That will teach the toughest of us some humility really quick!...swearing is permissible in this case



Ha!.....Yep.  That and those certain elm trees with knots all the way up and down the trunk.  Even my gas chainsaw cries "Uncle!..." when it sees me approaching one.
 
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Edward, I'm in the same boat as you at the moment. I have a big pile of ash and oak logs that I want to process but no chainsaw (yet). I have resisted buying one on ideological grounds (I don't want to rely on petrol) and, more recently, financial grounds (my van keeps breaking down!).

I've cross-cut a lot of logs using a bow saw with a Bahco blade and it does work - but it is incredibly hard work. It really is worth buying the best quality blade however, the cheapo blades are a false economy and you'll end up damaging yourself. My wrists don't thank me for the months of bow saw use.

I've also used a much smaller silky PocketBoy for pruning and coppicing. They are phenomenal saws, especially when the blades are new and sharp. I wouldn't want to be cross-cutting cherry with one though. I suspect you'll end up bending the (expensive) blade. That said, for coppicing small diameter poles, they are unbeatable.

A while back I picked up a 2-man cross cut saw, similar to the big one pictured above. I think I need to spend some time sharpening and tuning it to give it a fair test but I would saw that it is the most difficult of the three manual options. Maybe on a much larger tree it would come into its own.

If I was faced with those logs, I'd probably split them into halves as L Johnson suggested. Take a sledgehammer and a few wedges and work your way down the length. There is a technique to this that will prevent your wedges getting stuck: never hammer them all of the way home (as you can tap them sideways to remove them if they stick out) and never hammer a wedge into the very tip of the crack, always leave a few palm widths. Start at one end with one wedge, bang it in, then as the crack opens up, add another wedge a few palm widths further on and bang that home - the first wedge should become loose and you can then place that further along. If there is a natural crack or check in the log, use that as your starting point.

A split log will be much easier to cross cut (sapwood is always easy and there will be half the heartwood to sweat through). It also gives you an opportunity to check for defects or rot and work out whether you'll be saving the timber for use or splitting it for the fire.

If the timber does look to be good quality, you can probably find someone with a chainsaw mill to come and make some slabs for you. The slabs would likely be worth more than their time costs you and then you could sell them or use them as appropriate!
 
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Edward Norton wrote:



Following up on Luke's post and looking at your picture again...

I can't see the other sides of the logs, but from what's showing:

The log on the left will probably split from the back side (as shown) and start careening away or weirdly towards that big knot.

The one on the right will probably split fairly clean most of the way to the back where it looks like there is a big multi-branch crotch.

If you could just do two cross cuts before splitting to eliminate those two imperfections you'll probably get a good split.

Luke Mitchell wrote:
If I was faced with those logs, I'd probably split them into halves as L Johnson suggested. Take a sledgehammer and a few wedges and work your way down the length. There is a technique to this that will prevent your wedges getting stuck: never hammer them all of the way home (as you can tap them sideways to remove them if they stick out) and never hammer a wedge into the very tip of the crack, always leave a few palm widths. Start at one end with one wedge, bang it in, then as the crack opens up, add another wedge a few palm widths further on and bang that home - the first wedge should become loose and you can then place that further along. If there is a natural crack or check in the log, use that as your starting point.

A split log will be much easier to cross cut (sapwood is always easy and there will be half the heartwood to sweat through). It also gives you an opportunity to check for defects or rot and work out whether you'll be saving the timber for use or splitting it for the fire.



I'm legitimately really interested in figuring Edward's problem out because I'm frequently faced with similar dilemmas. Are you suggesting splitting the logs as is, and just letting the split run around the knots/crotches? When I tried to do this on a castanopsis log (a very hard wood close to oak) the stress of the wedge put all kinds of funky splits throughout the log in odd spirals. That might have been because of the twist of the tree though. I'm still super green on all this.



 
Luke Mitchell
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L. Johnson wrote:

The log on the left will probably split from the back side (as shown) and start careening away or weirdly towards that big knot.

The one on the right will probably split fairly clean most of the way to the back where it looks like there is a big multi-branch crotch.

If you could just do two cross cuts before splitting to eliminate those two imperfections you'll probably get a good split.



I agree with your analysis there. The log on the right looks like it will have more potential anyway and that would be the one I would spend more time and effort splitting. The log on the left looks very rotten, at least at the end facing the camera (and the glimpse of the branch that has been removed from it). It may be that the heartwood is in better shape further up the log.

L. Johnson wrote:
Are you suggesting splitting the logs as is, and just letting the split run around the knots/crotches? When I tried to do this on a castanopsis log (a very hard wood close to oak) the stress of the wedge put all kinds of funky splits throughout the log in odd spirals.



Cross-cutting behind/above the large branch on the left log and in front of/below the fork of the right log would make life easier.

For the log on the right, if you start the split from the end nearest the camera, you might find the split runs far enough to make the cross-cut easier. I usually find that splitting into a fork or branch won't affect how true the split runs but it will stop its progress suddenly.

For the log on the left, you could try turning it 90 degrees and splitting it without cross-cutting. Sometimes the knots are shallow and you can simply split "behind" them. Given that the log looks fairly hollow at the bottom portion, you might not have any issues with that branch anyway.

Finally, given that the log on the left looks to be in quite a bad way, I would try it as-is. If you succeed in getting some good timber from it: great! If not, it was probably destined for firewood anyway.
 
Edward Norton
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This turned out to be a no-brainer and I was over thinking, as usual. I had my eyes on a Silky Katanaboy from the moment I saw one used on TV. I went down a rabbit hole, figured it would be awesome for trail work and parked the idea until I had the need. Further research here and all the great feedback above settled my internal argument.



I opted for the 650 version. The 500 was my original choice but the log on the left is pretty close to 500mm across where I wanted to make the first cut, just after the rotten side limb.



The saw is a totally different experience to any other saw I’ve used as it’s a full body pull motion. I would say 70% of effort comes from your leg muscles, the rest is engaging your core and keeping your arms almost locked and not moving. A bow saw is mostly arms and I would typically do three to five minutes before swapping hands, letting one arm rest a little. I felt I could use the Silky for hours. I still swapped sides just to keep everything loose. I’m glad I opted for the 650 as I was using almost every tooth.



It took me a very steady 18 minutes to saw right through. My heart was elevated but I wasn’t out of breath or feeling fatigued. A true test would be a couple of hours or more. 2 hours is about my limit, on trail, with a bow saw.

As you can see the heart wood is very rotten and the core is hollow. There’s still some decent wood left and I may be able to harvest so 4inch boards, I’ll know after I start splitting.



I’m really enjoying the conversations going on especial from Luke and Mr Johnson. Once I’ve made a bigger dent in the woodchip I’m going to haul both logs round the back of the house where I’m setting up a temporary workshop. I should get a better idea of where to split and cut. I’ll post some pictures when they’re moved.

Luke Mitchell wrote:Edward, I'm in the same boat as you at the moment. I have a big pile of ash and oak logs that I want to process but no chainsaw (yet). I have resisted buying one on ideological grounds (I don't want to rely on petrol) and, more recently, financial grounds (my van keeps breaking down!).



I’m sure having a chain saw with your offsite location would be a big asset. I’m like you though, didn’t want rely on petrol / oil. I took plenty of trees down in the UK with just hand saws. Wish I’d had one of these though. I think it would be a great investment. One consideration though, I’m a hiker and have strong legs from my rugby playing days, so using big legs muscles for me is a lot easier than arms. I’m sure I can work on my technique. I think most folks would find leg muscles way easier than arm muscles.
 
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Pearl Sutton wrote:Why do they need to be cut up? Personally, I'd use them to edge a garden bed or driveway or something. I don't cut anything I'm not required to :D Cut firewood is easy to obtain. Good long edging logs are not.

Yea, I prefer manual power myself too...but for me, anything over about ~4"-5" thick is just too much damn work with any kind of hand saw.

For logs this big, I'd rather just use them as edging or something, too.  

However...after reading this post...I may stand corrected!  Cutting through that beast in just 18 minutes using mostly leg power is pretty fantastic, actually!  That's probably comparable to a chain saw, but without all the risks!
 
Edward Norton
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I set to last night when it was a little cooler.  I found a long stretch without any knots. I used some lumber I had lying around to lever it over so the split line was on top. I used my woodsman axe to start the split.



I have four wedges - I work along the split hammering in with a 4lb hammer. The advance wedge opens the crack wide enough to remove the last wedge which leap frogs to the front as I move along the log.



The cherry split with ease. There were a few fibres crossing the gap, but nothing major. I was keen to see what I had and if I could harvest any useable lumber. I was very impressed with what I found, but also slightly dismayed. This logs future is fire wood, smoker wood and spoons . . . and maybe a few small items. Carpenter ants had created an amazing habitat with a vast laberynth of tunnels and chambers.





This morning, I cut an 18inch piece and split into firewood / small project lumber. What’s left is beautiful.





The second log has ant tunnels in the heartwood on close inspection. I’ll know more when I split it but I have to chop up the bigger log first and create some space. I’m taking advice from another thread I started about working in the heat and stopping out door work today. They are in full sun and it’s already north of 30’C on that side of the house.
 
Luke Mitchell
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Nice work! That split about as cleanly as you could hope for!

It's a shame the ants have eaten most of the inside. I think saving a few blanks for spoons or small (non-impact) tool handles would be a good use for some of the better pieces. Fruitwood makes great mallets too...

Edward Norton wrote:
The cherry split with ease. There were a few fibres crossing the gap, but nothing major.



Those fibers are sometimes called "straps" and are the origin of the expression "strapping lad" (meaning "strong young man", for those unfamiliar with the expression). Cutting the straps with an axe was considered to be the hardest of the tasks when splitting logs.

One again, great work Edward. Thanks for sharing.
 
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Thanks for sharing this Edward - very impressed also by that saw.
It's nice to know the tree was obviously felled for a good reason. I was going to ask if you had a use for a big pipe or trough when I saw that hollow trunk, but I guess you're past that stage now.
 
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Another type of system to look at.  Froe and Maul.



 
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