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First Wooden Pitchfork Attempt  RSS feed

 
Brian Hamalainen
Posts: 100
Location: Chimacum, WA Sunset Zone 5, USDA Zone 8B
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The other day I was volunteering at the local "Food Forest" (in progress) and noticed that they didn't have a pitchfork. They were using a shovel to collect up and move grass clipping mulch.

Having read of JUDITH BROWNING'S HUSBAND'S WORK on the the topic and having a freshly cut down 1.5" diameter by 8 foot long Alder sapling in my truck, I thought I'd give it a quick shot.

I made it roughly 5 minutes into the project before my Carpel-Tunnel acted up rather suddenly and I lost my grip on the pole... while carving on it with a very sharp knife. In general, I do fairly good at keeping my body parts away from the sharp bits. Considering that I was doing detailed work at the time, my hands were a bit closer.

I guess "Close" counts for "Horseshoes, Handgrenades, and flailing hands near a sharp knife". Ooops...

Picture set 1.
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The split
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The notch before the slip
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The blade
 
Brian Hamalainen
Posts: 100
Location: Chimacum, WA Sunset Zone 5, USDA Zone 8B
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The cut, which flayed off most of the tip of my left humb (I might be able to PM pictures, if wanted), was beyond bandaids. I soaked 3 napkins in blood, still dripping all over the sidewalk before I got the bleeding to stop. That's with lots of direct pressure, pinching my arteries, and holding my hand above my head level.

I was sure it would need stitches, but nope, just a washing and a dab of "Bio-Glue" sealant.

A week of healing later, I picked up my slowly drying sapling and started carving again, though MUCH more carefully and wearing leather gloves this time. I also shaved off all the bark for more even drying.

I'll steam bend the "tines" once I get them all split, wedged, and "pegged" (I used 3/32nd inch steel "fence"/"bailing" wire bits.

The clear bands are a stuff I like to call "BottleWrap", strips of PET soda bottle that are heat-shrinkable. I made the cutter following this Russian guy's model: http://hackaday.com/2014/06/20/super-simple-way-to-re-use-plastic-bottles/ I guess lots of people in Brazil have been doing it for much longer than him.
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Brian Hamalainen
Posts: 100
Location: Chimacum, WA Sunset Zone 5, USDA Zone 8B
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PS: Yes, I know that Alder is a far from ideal wood choice due to how brittle it gets with age, and yes, I know that I am MANY years away from the quality of work Judith's Husband creates.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5955
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Hi, Brian..........sorry about your thumb. Cuts happen here too, never any stitches....his are usually when he is distracted by something or tired....
Having an assortment of well sharpened tools in order to use the appropriate one for the job helps a lot in avoiding injury....and, as with any craft, it takes lots and lots of practice while learning the nature of wood in general and individual woods in particular....it can take many years and is always a continuing learning experience.
Looking forward to more pictures of your progress.......... .good luck.
 
Charles Tarnard
Posts: 337
Location: PDX Zone 8b 1/6th acre
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I've been collecting a few scythes and sickles and such to replace my weedwhackers and other high noise, high throwing-crap-at-my-body-parts style tools. I can't seem to remember to wear my FREAKING GLOVES!!! So far only minor injuries, but I need to make a better habit of having gloves around or I'm going lop off a digit.

This is awesome to see.
 
Brian Hamalainen
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Location: Chimacum, WA Sunset Zone 5, USDA Zone 8B
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Judith: I know what he means by distr- Hey want to see pictures of my cat? I have them on my pho- I forgot to email that guy, I should do that... After I sleep.

I need to get some form of "appartment deck friendly" steamer put together before I can try to do any more wood bending. Would you kindly ask your Hubby if dipping/pouring/soaking the area in boiling/hotish water would work for softening/making the wood more pliable, even after the heat has left? I could heat a canner full of water and either dip/soak it, or laddle hot water on to the area of need easier than make a steamer. That said, if it will only remain pliable while it is too hot to touch, not much good.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 5955
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Brian Hamalainen wrote:
I need to get some form of "appartment deck friendly" steamer put together before I can try to do any more wood bending. Would you kindly ask your Hubby if dipping/pouring/soaking the area in boiling/hotish water would work for softening/making the wood more pliable, even after the heat has left? I could heat a canner full of water and either dip/soak it, or laddle hot water on to the area of need easier than make a steamer. That said, if it will only remain pliable while it is too hot to touch, not much good.


I really admire your perseverance, Brian.
I can't tell from the picture how large the tines are........usually he works them to their final shape, including the point, after wedging and before bending. I guess if your original piece of wood was one and one half inches they are fairly small so there might not be much whittling to do.
He usually works with green wood and finishes the project as quickly as possible while the wood has some flexibility........he did end up doing something similar to what you mention on the last of the forks........heated water in a kettle and poured it over the wood into another container....and repeated several times....it worked OK. The wood he had was still really 'green' though, just dryer than optimum.
I think you might just have to experiment and see what works. If the wood is really dry and the alder brittle it may take steam and he has no experience with that. Do you have a way to hold the tines in position for a month or two after steaming?
Next time, To keep the wood from drying out after cutting, try wrapping in cloth, a tarp, pack in leaves or shavings...some use plastic, but that can lead to fungi.
He does suggest, for the next one, try ing a larger alder pole and quarter it, then make a fork out of each quarter so that the grain is working with the shape of the fork. He saw that the alder that you used split nice and straight but he isn't familiar with that wood and has never worked with it.
be safe It's amazing how skin regenerates though....I have scars along my left forefinger knuckle from repeated 'jumps' from the hatchet splitting kindling over the years and my left thumb has lost that same tip more than once.
 
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