Tuesday, February 27, 2007

We had a windy day in mid-February. When I was out back one evening, I walked past one of our large spruce trees in our backyard. I happened to glance over at it and noticed that it was swaying way too much at the lower trunk. The more I looked at it, the more concerned I got. The soil around the base of the trunk was actually swelling 3-6 inches everytime there was a significant gust of wind.

I called Caleb, a local licensed/insured tree pruner/remover whom I've hired in the past. He came out immediately. The prognosis was not good: the tree was about to uproot. We guessed that it lost some root support during the major windstorms in November and December and now that the soil was warmer and wetter, it was just a matter of time. It would probably fall that night, if the wind continued to pick up. If it fell on its own, it would most likely fall to the east...right into a major powerline, a couple fences, and the neighbor's house!

However, since it was already dark outside, Caleb could not remove the tree that night. So, he tethered the spruce tree to an adjacent spruce tree with a large rope and called it good for the night. We all called it an evening and hoped that the wind would die down. The tree was leaning noticeably to the East.

Nils Peterson, a local timber framer, happened to be over for dinner with his family that night. I think it was fun for him to witness the whole thing, especially Caleb trying to stop the inevitable with a piece of rope.

In the morning, Caleb returned with some help and started de-limbing the tree. It was still somewhat windy, so he had to climb up the tree with a chainsaw and cut off branches while the tree swayed unpredictably in the wind. I think he was somewhat scared (I wouldn't have done it), but he kept on it until it was done. I joked that I hoped he had life insurance... He didn't think that was so funny. :-)

Of course, I wanted whatever usable logs I could get from the tree. So, he felled a 24' log into my backyard. We all miscalculated, and it took out the phone line which ran from the back alley to our house. The phone company fixed it right away, so it was no big deal.

The picture below shows Caleb lopping off the top of the tree. High up in a swaying, dying tree, right above some nasty power lines. This is something I wouldn't have done, but he did a great job.

At the base of the trunk, where Caleb felled the butt end of the tree, it was clear that this tree was dying. There was a 8 foot long vein of rot in the trunk of the tree running up and down, and carpenter ants rushed out of the newly-felled tree. I don't know if the ants caused the rot, or merely took advantage of an already sick and dying tree, but IT WAS ALL BAD!

Once felled, I had to cut 6' off the butt end of the log to find healthy usable wood. Then, I had to cut the log in half to navigate out of our backyard.

In addition to a 6' log that Caleb lopped off up higher in the tree, I ended up with 3 small-length spruce logs. I used a come-along, a peavey, and a timberjack to navigate the logs out of our small backyard fence and into the back alley and ultimately onto my trailer and to the sawyer.

My daughter and I dropped these off at Jon's for milling today. I'm hoping to get these shorter pieces milled into a couple posts and a couple girts and possible a few joists or rafters. Spruce apparently has a fantastic strength-to-weight ratio, but I think I'll use this spruce for posts and non load-bearing timbers.

Well, the cabin will have some timbers taken from our home. That only adds to the unfolding story...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

In early February, my friends Sean and Darol and I made an early-morning trip to the woods and collected firewood and logs. Sean needed firewood, and I needed logs, and Darol (shown below) just wanted to come along for the fun of it.

I found two recently fallen fir trees and a western white pine log. Sean felled a dead standing grand fir tree and filled his trailer with rounds for splitting into firewood.

The conditions were sketchy. The snow was high and the roads were slippery. Obviously, those conditions become even more questionable when you are pulling a trailer loaded with one ton of firewood. Sean's Toyota got stuck a couple times, but nothing too serious.

As a matter of principle, I really don't like ATVs. That said, I've been known to use them on rare occasions. We brought Sean's ATV, which is equiped with a winch. It proved to be nearly useless, though. Its weight is too light in comparison to a large log, and with the road being so snowy/icy, it just could not get sufficient traction. Thankfully, we all learned to leave it behind next time.

After the trip, I dropped off the three logs at Jon's (to be milled) and I picked up the first batch of milled timbers. They turned out beautifully. More on that next time...

Friday, February 02, 2007

I've been brainstorming some joinery possibilities for connecting the common rafters on the shed (lean-to) to the top plate. I put them all into one example. I think the tusk tenon is the winning candidate at this point. In the first picture, I've widened the top plate from a 7x9 to a 10x9 to better accomodate the rafter joinery. While this might not be necessary, I could enlarge this plate...and this shows how that would look.

NOTE: The last picture shows the most recent revision, which is much more simplified. I believe it solves a lot of obvious problems with first designs.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

As far as design goes, its time to flesh out a couple of joints that have been troubling me. I really like the idea of using common rafters on the lean-to section of the roof (the roof covering the porch). The main cabin has a roof pitch of 9:12, but the lean-to roof is shallower than that. My design shows these common rafters attached to the continuous top plate, but I never drilled down into what the joinery would actually look like there.

My initial thought is to use an angled, shouldered dovetail tenon on the common rafters. The whole tenon is 3" long, and the shoulder is 1" long. The rafter tenons would join with mortises cut from the top of the top plate.

Any thoughts?