The past three days I've spent up the road at Keith's farm milling an ever increasing pile of logs. It's one of those 'things' that have been on my list of 'things to do' for some time, but ironically, time is the issue.
So when I noticed a small opening in between a couple of Continuous Arm Chair courses I raced down to Dad's farm, collected the sawmill and readied myself to mill as much as I could in four days.
The first couple of days started with a bang. I had the mill set up by late morning and managed to have half a dozen good sized English Oak logs milled by the days end.
The second day started with another English Oak, followed by two of the best Poplar logs I've come across.
Almost dead centre heart and as straight as a gun barrel. I know there are purest furniture makers out there who dismiss poplar as a secondary wood in comparison to even pine, but having used it for over seven years now I can absolutely vouch for its stability, ease of hand planing, sawing, dovetailing and all round usability.
Thirty minutes later the above log had been squared and reduced to a dozen perfect boards.
Straight grained , nice figure and absolutely clear Poplar.
Not every log in the pile was as straight forward as the Poplar. Just last week I was fortunate enough to score an Algerian Oak from Riddells Creek. Not the best saw log by a long stretch, but then how often do you come across such a mature specimen of Algerian Oak? Ummm, not often.
It took a while to get the whole thing squared up and the big branch inclusions made the blades distort a little, but I think the end result was worth it. Some of the best ray fleck I've seen in Oak of any species.
I ended up with three of these 60mm thick boards with matching ray fleck. Pretty nice.
Even when rift sawn the figure in this Algerian Oak is stunning.
But as I've discovered countless times before milling logs, you have to take the good with the bad. The bad came in the form of this Pin Oak which had been growing along side an historic old home in Woodend.
Before I even got it on the mill I dug out this square section tube, chain and roofing nails which had been there for so long that the tree had grown about 60mm over the lot. I should have left it at that, but the thought of some straight Pin Oak boards made me persist.
When you hit a nail with a bandsaw, there is a distinctive 'zip' noise, followed often by the cut quality dropping.
This picture repeated itself about a dozen times. There were more zips than a zipper factory! I lost count of the nails I dug out of the log until in the end I gave up on it. One things for sure, the Pin Oak wasn't suffering from an iron deficiency!
But on the good side again, I finished up with some Elm from the trees that fell down near the Campaspe River. I had to rip the log down the middle just to get it on the mill! Here's a couple of the boards from just one half of the log. Over half a metre wide, 60mm thick and all together stunning!
I've got a full day today in the workshop, preparing for our next chair course which starts on Sunday and a visit from the Furniture History Society members on Saturday. But tomorrow morning two mates, Tim and Bern will be on the doorstep bright and early for another full days milling. We are going to tackle some of the biggest logs I've ever come across. From English Oak to more massive Elms. There's a bit of Chestnut there too and even Holly. I've got a feeling it's going to be a good day!