Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Free Range

I've learned a couple of things about chickens lately. One is that they are very amusing, running around like aliens on the landscape, the other is that free range is just another term for having chicken poop everwhere! I was happy to find my dogs relatively disinterested in birds running around (most chicken keeping tales end with a murderous canine) but not so pleased to see my porch covered in landmines. It looks like the porch screening project has moved to the top of the list!

Here is Steve Wagner planing down a seat for his continuous arm. Steve was given the class as a retirement gift and I think that he is a bit surprised by how much work goes into building a chair, so much for the easy life.

One of the questions that just won't die concerns how long a log can be kept green and usable. One of the reasons that I like using white oak is the longevity of the log. Unlike maple, ash and hickory, white oak can be kept for a long time without succumbing to rot. I usually try to keep the log a whole as possible and in a shady spot or under a tarp. When I have small splits that aren't going to be used for a while, I sink them in my pond. I've often wondered what the limits of this method are. I know that folks are digging ancient trees out of bogs and lakes all over the place, but I was concerned about the potential change in properties in the wood from extended submersion.

This piece has helped put my mind to ease. It was in my pond for about a year, long enough to get a nasty coating of green goo on the outside. But after I cut it open, I was happy to find beautifully intact heartwood. It worked and bent just beautifully. While I don't expect this to put an end to the storage questions, it is an encouraging hint to the possibilities.


Anonymous said...

Did you know that one explanation for the sound of a Stradivarius violin is that the wood would have been transported as part of a raft of logs floated along rivers and often spent time completely submerged in sea water? Never tried to get a tune from a chair but......

Steve in Kansas said...

A year ago I bought two beautiful logs from a logger in south central Missouri (I only needed one, but he was only charging $50 each. . . you know how that goes). I used one last winter and spring. I'm going to retrieve the other one (a 6+ hour drive away) soon. I painted the ends and stored it in a barn. I'll let you know how it works. Any predictions?

greg said...

You need to train the dog to keep the chickens off the porch! I had one that did that. If a chicken got on the porch, my wife would shout and stomp her foot at it. The dog figured it out, and took up barking at them if they dared come up again.

I had a red oak log I kept for two years leaning against the north side of the barn with the bark on. The sap wood spalted, but the heartwood remained usable. If you can rive it and it doesn't break, it's OK to use. Spalted wood is brittle, and will break when you try to rive it.

I also had a stretcher I made out of a piece of maple firewood. It too was spalted, but I didn't notice that until it broke two years later, snapped right off where the tenon entered the leg. That was an interesting repair.