Wednesday, April 29, 2009


We heat our house with wood and we cut and split most of it ourselves. Sometimes when we’re cutting firewood, we come across a piece of wood that’s too beautiful to burn. Then, Dave gets out his chain saw lumber mill and we cut 2” slabs of lumber from the trunk of the tree. Today, we milled red elm and white ash, two really beautiful woods.

The setup for milling lumber is tedious – draw a horizontal line on the end of the log, Measure up from that line and screw in a wooden plank on either end of the log. Each plank holds two nails. We wrap a string around all four nails and use that as a straight edge. Then we screw four lag screws into the trunk, two at either end. On top of the lag screws we place an absolutely flat 2” X 12” (held flat by steel angle irons running the length of each side.) Then, Dave clamps a milling jig to the bar of the saw and cuts down the length of the trunk. As he cuts, I slide little sticks into the kerf (the cut) to keep the wood from compressing the chain.

We take out the lag screws and turn the slab of lumber over to reveal the surprise inside. Smooth, beautiful in its grain and color, each slice brings new pleasure. Budd is hoping for white ash to refurbish an old panel truck, Dave is planning for book matched red elm stair treads, Tom is dreaming of furniture. Me, I just love the idea of creating something from materials we make ourselves. Like sweaters knit from yarn from my sheep, the wood we mill at the sugar bush becomes beautiful things, hand made in the most basic meaning of the word.

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