Turning Archive 2004
>My bad boy let me down...
I knew it would happen one day, but not this day. :-0 I recently had the opportunity to process a very large American Elm tree, about 45 years old. The tree grew in my wife's parents back yard and had sentimental value to her and her family. A series of storms had finally taken their toll on the Elm, which had grown into a perfect specimen of the stately American Elm.
The tree service felled the monster and left me the section that I wanted, from the ground up to the first tripod crotch. The largest end of the tree measured 32", the opposing end was about 18" before the tripod. I was salivating about the crotch and dreaming of what may lie beneath the bark on this huge crotch section.
With a rented truck and my two chainsaws in hand ( a Stihl 026 and a Stihl 066), I made the 45 mile trek across Houston to the location of the tree. It was brutally hot and humid and although I know it can't be a million degrees, it sure felt like it. Ahh, another day of log processing along the Texas Gulf coast. You don't need diet pills to loose weight! Just get a chainsaw and process a tree in the broiling sun all day long... You'll loose weight alright... You may even get a trip to hospital with a heatstroke!
With all my saftey gear on, I tried to start the 066. Pull, pull, pull. Nothing. It just would not fire. This was the first time my bad boy had refused to start. I had come to love the 066 and have used it extensively for 7 years. We have processed thousands and thousands of pounds of logs together, but not today.
Reality set in and I knew it was going to be a loooooooooong day if I had to use the 026 to process the Elm. My grandpappy always said, "If you're gonna be a bear, be a GRIZZLY." With no time to get the 066 repaired and time running out, I fired up 'ol faithful, the 026. Baby bad boy fired up, ready for work and work is what it would get, by the bucket full...
My 026 carried a 20" bar and a full tooth, anti-kickback chain. For those of you who know, this is not the most ideal setup configuration for ripping. My 026 was setup for limbing and the occasional extrication of a stuck 066. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. So I began processing the huge tree with the little 026.
Many of the cuts had to be made twice as the bar was not long enough to crosscut, or rip the larger end of the tree. In addition, the chain speed was much slower than its bigger brother, which made everything move in slooooooooow motion. The end of the first day had about 75% of the tree processed into bowl and platter blanks, with all but the largest sections completed.
I had hoped a night off would make the 066 more agreeable to starting and began the second day with high hopes. Once again, the 066 decided to stay on holiday. No efforts to start the beast were successful. Looking at the task ahead, I once again knew it would be a very looooooooong day again as I tackled the worst of the tree with the little 026.
I finally finished up around 5:00 p.m. on the second day, whipped, well done and soaking wet with sweat after loosing more than 5 pounds in the endeavour. The tree was processed and is now in my studio, awaiting its final reward. The 066 and 026 will both be taken to the repair shop for a checkup/tuneup and whatever else they need to get back "up to snuff".
The crotch by the way, was magnificent, simply magnificent. Two superb platter blanks, triple A - veneer grade came from the main tripod. The subordinate crotch in the tripod yielded an excellent crotch as well. The trunk had superb colour and a wild, grain pattern. Quite beautiful and striking...
I sure felt "whupped" after that trip, but it was worth it in the long run. I will be making bowls and platters for my wife's family out of the best blanks from the tree. For those of you who had a special tree that you played on when you were a kid, you know how nice it is to be able to save some of it if possible, to revisit the good memories you experienced as a kid.
When I was a kid, it was a huge Mulberry that grew in my mums backyard. My borther and sisters and I would climb it and eat the Mulberries until we were sick... The next day we would do it all over again. With purple stained hands, clothes and faces we had many good times and fond memories of that Mulberry.
When a storm damaged the tree a few years ago, my mum asked me to turn something for each of the kids. I was able to get several large sections that I turned into bowls and platters for my brother, sisters and my mum. Ordinary wood to everyone else, it was and continues to be priceless to me and my family.
My mum was legally blind when her bowl was finished. However, she was able to feel the bowl with her hands, as I told her about the beautiful swirling grain and figure in her Mulberry bowl. Priceless indeed. Much like the stately American Elm is and continues to be with my wife's family. How fortunate we are as woodturners to be able to save precious timbers and turn them into something our families, friends, or clients can long treasure.
Take care and best wishes to you in all of your woodturning endeavours!
Better Woodturning and Finishing Through Chemistry...
Steven D. Russell
Eurowood Werks Woodturning Studio
The Woodlands, Texas
Machinery, Tool and Product Testing for the Woodworking and Woodturning Industries