Sunday, April 14, 2013

Fifty future banjos

Last week we had a yard tree felled. It was healthy but leaning enough to get sun to make me nervous about wind storms. This tree was black cherry, dead straight, and just wide enough to get me thinking about banjos. Said Eme after seeing the logs, "You should take them to the sawmill and get them cut into boards!" Exactly what I was thinking, my daughter!

The first step was giving the tree trimmers instructions to leave the logs. I asked for 6' logs, knowing that 5-6' boards would be perfect for banjo work and wanting to make it easier in case I couldn't find a sawyer and had to do anything with them myself.

Check. The ones with painted ends are candidates for cutting. The rest will go to my in-laws' fireplace.

I called around and found a guy with a portable sawmill who was willing to do such a small job. Today he showed up with his sweet machine and a helper.

Sylvie was excited and ready to go:

Setting up the WoodMizer:

With proper supervision:

Loading the first log:

Eme's interest waned to nil after her early Richard Scarry-inspired enthusiasm. Today she only cared about picking flowers. As far as Eme is concerned, every flower that blooms is intended to be picked. Just don't let her catch you ditching a bouquet she gives you.


The sawmill is a beast. It loads and turns logs with hydraulics and is operated by remote joysticks (the control panel is on the stand between the machine and the truck). The blade assembly zips up/down and forward/backward and cuts fast.

Cutting the first log and spewing sawdust into a pile that would fill an entire wheelbarrow:

As the first boards came off the saw, I got busy building a foundation for the pile:

While they cut everything worth cutting, I stacked for air drying. Here's the final result:

I stacked most of that and took a break to make coffee for the guys and pull out my banjo for some show and tell. The one guy in particular is a musician and was excited to see the banjo and pick on it a little. Deliverance was requested, so I fumbled out an approximation.

With all the prep and stacking, the whole job was a lot of work and cost quite a bit. As the sawyer reminded me more than once, I would have saved a lot of money had I left the logs longer to make less work for him. To do it over, I'd be a little smarter about it, or just go to Randy's place and pick from the hundreds of logs he already has. Live and learn!

Overall it was a ton of fun and I'm very pleased with the haul. I figure 174 board feet wet, 120 after shrinkage and planing. If I did my job right and much of it dries straight and flat, there's a lot of banjos or other small projects in that pile at well under retail cost on the wood (52.5 banjos, to be exact, if it all dries perfectly).

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