Monthly Archives: February 2014

Cold Days and Sawmills

I guess I should have clarified the title a little better: Cold Days and Sawmills Don’t Mix. Like most of the country, we have been experiencing some cold, cold weather this winter. That mixed with some snow and I am a happy camper. Since moving to West Virginia year round I have often been heard complaining about the mild winters. It’s cold and snowy for a day, but then it melts and makes everything soggy. You can’t rock climb, you can’t ski, you can’t sled and, while you can still work outside, it’s just not that much fun in the mud that’s left in the wake of melted snow. That is where my husband and I are stuck right now. We still have some siding we need to cut up for our chicken coop we are going to build this spring, but the weather has not really been cooperating with us (when we get the sawmill running for that I will take some detailed photos and post about the whole process). The last set of logs my husband cut up when he had Christmas Eve off ended with a blanket of snow covering everything. It makes for pretty pictures, but numb extremities to say the least (although our dog was pretty happy…..even if she doesn’t look like it in the picture).

Christmas Eve lumber cutting in the snow.

Christmas Eve lumber cutting in the snow.

But enough with talking about how snow and sawmills don’t mix! Let’s talk about the sawmill. Yep, that’s right, we own a sawmill. If you would have asked me 5 years ago for a list of things that I would own in the future, I am pretty sure sawmill was not even close to being on the radar. The idea came when, like I talked about in the last post, we were cutting down trees over here and some more over there and a whole bunch in-between. While we burned the tops of the trees for lack of better things to do with them, and stacked the medium size pieces for firewood for our future house that wasn’t even close to having the ground broke on it, we were quickly being over-run with stacks of large, 20’+ long logs that we didn’t know what else to do with. We had talked about how cool it would be to have someone come in and mill up the wood for us to build a barn with, but what’s the fun in having someone else do all that work for you? Now this is the part where about 97.4% of you say “That sounds like a lot of fun to have someone else do that for you.” But then again that 97.4% probably also wouldn’t think that buying a large piece of vacant land and building it from the ground up sounds like fun either J And to be honest, I have those days too where I think the same thing, but then I look around at everything we have done so far, and how amazing it will look when we keep checking more and more off of our to-do list, and then I realize that I am being silly.

One of the many logs we cut up for lumber.

One of the many logs we cut up for lumber.

When we realized that the money we would spend by having someone come in and cut up the lumber for us would cover a large portion of purchasing the sawmill ourselves, it seemed like a no-brainer. Then we would have the mill on hand to be able to cut wood anytime for any project. Of course if you factor in the hours upon hours of cutting we did over the 2013 summer, I guess you could say that it’s not really that good of a price. But satisfaction in doing hard work is its own reward.

In the end we decided on a Wood Mizer LT15. According to the Wood Mizer website, “The LT15 is an overachiever in its class and has produced more than 2.5 times its published board foot per hour in several industry competitive events. The LT15 is a powerhouse that will take on any size project, dream, or lumber demand.” SOLD!! How can you argue with a description like that? “A powerhouse that will take on any size project, dream, or lumber demand”?? Yes please! And so far it has held up to its end of the bargain. Over the course of 5 months (April – August 2013) my husband and I spent most of our free time milling up wood and stacking wood. To say that it was a learning process is almost an understatement. After eventually figuring out how we could get the most rectangular objects (our lumber) out of a circular object (the log), we made the mistake of cutting lumber that we assumed we would need without having an actual barn plan, only to find out later that we probably didn’t need quite all of those dimension pieces at those lengths. But, like they say, practice makes perfect, right? We also ended up having to re-arrange a few of the stacks of cut lumber more than once. While we knew to use 1” X 1” wood stickers lain perpendicular to the boards between each layer to promote horizontal air movement, we failed to realize the importance of keeping all vertical columns of wood the same width as well. By not stacking 1” X 6” boards on top of 1” X 6” boards, for example, we initially prevented vertical air movement between all the wood. A number of them got a nasty black layer of mold on them which doesn’t harm their structural integrity, but looks pretty bad. It also didn’t help that the summer of 2013 was a very rainy summer increasing the amount of moisture that was unable to escape from our slowly drying lumber. But we learned; and in the process we sort of stopped rock climbing, and biking, and going for hikes, and playing disk golf, and you get the picture. All spare time was spent cutting wood. Get up, go to work, get off work, drive home, change and gather supplies (i.e. beer), drive to property (luckily only an 8 minute drive away), start cutting! I should probably point out that we were responsible with our supplies– all beer was consumer post sawmill use. It just always seemed like a good idea 🙂

Poplar log slowly turning into lumber.

Poplar log slowly turning into lumber.

And so continued the summer. Even our parents got put to work when they came to visit. The same with a large number of friends; and they all continue to love us and be our friends, so I guess it couldn’t have been that bad. In the end we had cut:

Dimension

Length

Number Cut

 

Dimension

Length

Number Cut

2” X 6”

9’

48

2” X 10”

9’

8

11’

10

17’

9

13’

16

2’ X 12”

9’

9

15’

17

17’

36

17’

9

1” X 3”

9’

44

2” X 8”

13’

6

15’

9

15’

39

1” X 10”

13’

100

16’

11

15’

20

1” X 6”

9’

109

Wood, wood and some more wood.

Wood, wood and some more wood.

We didn’t keep exact track of how many trees that was, but it was probably close to 12 poplar trees (for framing) and 2 red oak (for the 1” X 6” loft flooring). We planned a “Barn Raising” party during 2013 Columbus Day weekend. We figured that would be enough time for the wood to dry and that we would be able to entice a bunch of friends to visit and work for the long weekend. My husband and I had gotten married Columbus Day weekend the year before, so it was time for another big party (Goal for 2014: House Warming Party that same weekend – I see a trend). In total, we had about 18 friends from out of town, a handful of local friends and both of my parents come help for the long weekend. I am pretty sure that my dad was almost as excited about the barn building as my husband and I were; he is a mason in Western New York, which is about a 7 ½ hour drive – in a normal vehicle. He ended up coming down with his work truck. Now, when I say work truck, I don’t mean his day-to-day pickup truck. I mean his big honkin’, semi-truck cab, diesel sucking, flat-bed and trailer-towing truck. And it had 2 scissor lifts on it along with a whole array of other tools. I almost died laughing when I first saw him pull in our driveway with that thing. That’s why I love my dad; go big, or don’t bother coming at all. But, that will all have to wait for another post….

One of the 2 man lifts my dad brought for our barn raising.

One of the 2 man lifts my dad brought for our barn raising.

My dad's large truck he drove 7 1/2 hours loaded with equipment for our barn raising.

My dad’s large truck he drove 7 1/2 hours loaded with equipment for our barn raising.