Monday, March 10, 2008

The time has come to mill some elm. Not for my cabin, but for some yet-unknown future project.

Here in Moscow, the elm trees in parks and neighborhoods are, unfortunately, dying from Dutch Elm Disease.

Last July, the city felled massive. beautiful elm trees from the city park as a stop-gap strategy to save the remaining uninfected trees. We arranged with the city to take some logs. We had to rent a forklift to move the massive logs around, as the largest log probably weighed in at around 5,000 lbs. The forklift could barely manage! We hauled the logs to a friend's farm outside of town.

Our goal with this elm is to mill it into 2"-4" thick slabs and let the slabs season for awhile. The slabs will be fantastic for cutting hardwood braces or even for making fine furniture.

We borrowed a large Sperber chainsaw mill from Nils Peterson, and set to work. In order to get a straight and level first cut, we strapped a ladder to the logs with NRS straps. Subsequent passes with the mill just sat on the flat surface of the previous cut.

Little did we know, it turns out that back in the dry summer, we dropped these logs right in the middle of a seasonal spring runoff "creek". What a mucky mess! It was actually somewhat comical, as our feet sank into the wet muck as we worked. It will be good to get this wood out of the water ASAP.

The elm is beautiful, especially right after milling. The dark heartwood and the grain patterns make it worthwhile!

We brought the elm slabs back to my workshop. They will sit and start drying. The rule of thumb is 1/2" per year for hardwoods, so it will be awhile before these slabs are stable enough for furniture, but they will probably be ready for cutting braces within the year.

There is a lot more elm milling to go in the coming weeks. Its hard, slow, work. Yet, I am sure we will be able to do some fantastic things with the gorgeous elm in the future. Imagine the fantastic (and strong!) knee braces you could carve from these slabs...


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