We just collected some nice cherry logs that the county had cut down, but now the question is how to cut/split them into more manageable pieces? Some of them are about 18" in length and diameter. Tried a small wood splitting wedge and hammer with little results. The wood is still relatively wet, which I'm sure doesn't help either.
I heard that a chainsaw doesn't work too well cutting with the grain, so that leaves a bigger (manual) splitter, a log splitting machine, or maybe a really big bandsaw. What do you guys use?
I don't think a splitter would leave a clean enough edge.
If I had a bandsaw I might use it to round the blank before putting on the lathe, but I think I'd still split the log with the chainsaw. Going with the grain isn't all that bad if you angle the saw a tad. You do get very big curls and it can jam up the drive wheel thingy (just shut it off and clean it out). I hear there are special rip chains too, though I don't own any.
Dave has already pointed you to my website, but I will add a bit to what you will find if you go there. A chainsaw is ideal for cutting up large wood like this. Cutting along the grain is very much preferable to cutting on the end. You will cut faster and easier without beating up yourself or the saw.
When I have large logs, I crosscut them to length in multiples of the diameter, adding a few inches. Using your 18" log as an example, I would cut it around 22", or 40", or 58". Notice that the extra few inches are only added on once, to account for cracking on the ends. You need to add that for each log section you cut, so if you want to have them all in single size billets, then you are going to have to cut each section long. That makes it easier to handle the wood, but you lose some on each blank.
Chains and chainsaws - ripping chains have developed a mystique that is not deserved. They are specifically designed for cutting lumber using a chainsaw mill. They will actually cut slower than a regular chain. If you are going to regularly cut large wood, a big saw is in order, and once you get to a certain size with a certain size chain (and I am not sure what the threshold is), you can start using a skip tooth chain. This is just like the skip tooth bandsaw blades. It only has half the teeth of a regular chain, but it cuts faster because less teeth in the wood means the saw can keep its rpms up at max easier, and that is how the saw is designed to work. One warning on skip tooth chains though - they can really take you for a ride when cross cutting or even ripping smaller pieces. If you are a novice chainsawer, it would not be a good idea to start out with one. Get used to your saw with a regular chain before moving up to a skip tooth. You will not find these at the local stores either, at least for the most part. I buy mine from Bailey's on Line, a supplier to the logging industry.
Good luck with it, and if you have more questions, this is a good place to ask them.
Thanks, those pictures are really helpful. What size saw were you using, and how much are those bad boys selling for roughly?
Also, for somebody who doesn't handle a chainsaw on a regular basis, would you recommend going that large (i.e., how safe is it vs. using a smaller chainsaw)?
Your comment about waxing the pieces for storage prompted me to do some more research on that subject as well (I thought you just let it dry naturally, of course nothing is that simple). Seems like people use all kinds of techniques for preserving and storing (green) wood - I presume you wax the end grain to prevent it from drying out too quickly? What wax do you use, and where and how (exposed, paper/plastic bag/?) do you store the wood (I was thinking of storing the pre-cut pieces in my conditioned basement workshop)?
The saw in the pictures is actually my little saw, and is not that big at all, although I guess big is relative. It is a Stihl 026 with a 20" bar on it. I also use a Stihl 046 with a 28" bar. Now that saw is a monster! My 026 has a 0.325 bar and chain, and I do not think that it is capable of taking a skip tooth chain on it. I do not use anything BUT a skip tooth on the 046 now, which has a 3/8" chain. I do not know what the current price is on either saw, as I bought both in 1999. I bought the little one first and then promptly got into some HUGE wood that was way too big for it. I had to do some real fast talking with SWMBO for permission to buy the second saw, which was in the neighborhood of $700. But, both have more than paid for themselves over and over, so she is happy and so am I.
I have a number of students who ask me about chain sawing, and there are several things to consider. One is the size of the lathe you have, or intend to acquire in the near future. It is no good cutting blanks that are 24" in diameter if all you are going to swing is 12". Still, you need to be able to process logs larger than the lathe you will have, so again it is no good buying a 14" saw if you have access to logs that are 30" in diameter. Keep in mind that you can cut to twice the length of your bar unless you have one of those stupid homeowner bars with the thing on the end that allegedly keeps people from hurting themselves. Price is a factor as well. Avoid cheap saws. A cheap saw will cost you more in the long run, because you will burn it up and THEN go and buy a good saw. Now, having written that, I started out buying a Sears saw way back in 1993 and putting it on a credit card because a big tree had come down and I was dirt poor with no cash flow yet. We knew turning would pay off eventually, so we spent the $200 on credit. At that time it was one of the largest expenditures I had ever made for a tool. That saw cut steadily from May of 1993 until May of 1999, when I gave it to a friend of mine and bought the Stihl. He is still using it to this day for firewood. Don't expect that performance from all saws, and I would not extrapolate the quality of that saw to today's offerings. Perhaps some others will offer their experiences as well.
I recommend the Stihl 290 Farm Boss for my students who are looking for a good medium sized saw. It is a bit more powerful than my 026 (Stihl changed their model numbers a couple of years ago by moving the zero from one end to the other, so they are really still the same). It will serve for most cutting, and I am pretty sure it uses the 3/8" chain. I am not sure how big a bar it will take, but I know it will be longer than the 20" on my 026. You do not need to run the same bar all the time. You can own several different bars and chains, using a shorter one for most of your cutting, and saving the big one for those big logs.
Safety is VERY important! If you are not experienced, get someone who is, and who is in the way of operating the saw safely, to show you how to use it and then practice a bit under their supervision. Chainsaws are tools that can maim or kill in seconds, and cutting wood in the wild can throw all sorts of variables at you for which you are not prepared. A lot of thought needs to go into cutting a log lying on the ground, and even more if that log or tree is still fastened to its trunk in any of several different ways. I am in the process of working on an article for harvesting wood for a magazine, in which I will discuss some of this stuff. If it is not printed, it will go up on my website, but a lot of what I have to say would be too much to cover here right now. Suffice to say though, that size doesn't matter a whole lot as much as safe sawing practice. I can address some of that in a different post though.
When I wax my wood, I use Anchorseal, a product of UC Coatings. I do not have a website off the top of my head, and I need to get it, but you can find them on the web by searching on the company name. They will sell directly to the public now in several different quantites. It is a brushable wax emulsion that dries in about 30 minutes or so and is designed for the lumber industry. I am actually storing most of my wood out in the wind and sun right now, although I am working on some inside storage in one of my unused buildings. Out of the elements is best, and I use paper bags for roughed out pieces. Plastic will not allow water to escape, and will foster rot. Storing them in your shop should be fine as long as you do not allow them to dry out too quickly. Just be sure any bug problems are taken care of before they come inside.
Good luck with it. I have given you a whole lot to think about here, and some of it may be a bit controversial for some people - i.e. those who do not realize the inherent danger of chainsaws. Don't be afraid of the saw, just respect it. One final comment about chainsaws, and I know I have one former student reading here who can vouch for this. The expense of a saw may be a bit overwhelming at first, but consider the cost of buying your wood blanks. He bought the saw I mentioned, and came out for some sawing time along with turning. After about one hour in the woodpile, he had acquired some very nice wood along with the sawing techniques he had learned, and that wood, if purchased, amounted to about half the price of his brand new saw. Viewed from that perspective, that saw paid for itself in less than one full day of cutting.
Oh yeah, one final thing. I have a short segment in my upcoming DVD that deals with the chainsaw and some of its attendant equipment. I also saw up a log for blanks on film. The DVD should be coming out in the next few weeks.
I cut a lot of blanks using my Wood-Mizer and a chainsaw. Bill addressed using Anchor-Seal. I will take it a little further. I coat my blanks with one coat on all cut sides and at least two coats on the end grain. On really large blanks like I have been working on today (7x20"x22") I often give the 4 sides two or more coats and the ends 3 or more. This is especially true when it is a wood prone to splitting. With those large blanks I want as little drying as possible before they are used.
Thanks for all the great advice - I'll be keeping an eye out for that DVD as well. Just curious, though, if that picture on your log cutting page has you cutting a 20" long log with a 20" saw, how come the bar sticks out by several inches? Is that one of those quirky ways they measure chainsaws or was that maybe a longer bar after all?
BTW, that Stihl 290 seems to run in the low to mid 300s with a 20" bar, not cheap but quite a bit less than a monster-size bandsaw or that Wood-Mizer that Barbara is using.
That 290 runs about $330 and while it may not appear cheap, it is one of Stihls answers to the "consumer" saw market. Just realize that for the $330 you are not getting a pro saw. But with moderate use and good maintenance it could last you a long time. One of the Stihl memos goes on about the 290 being (paraphrased) " designed for 100 operational hours" and "dealers are encouraged not to recondition" I know of one Stihl dealer that will no longer rebuild them, not that they can't be rebuilt, more that they are a pain in the neck to work on. I'd check the warranty as well.
For $50 less, I would consider the Husky 55 Rancher, same power, lighter saw, magnesium crankcase instead of plastic and a 2 year warranty with lifetime warranty on the ignition.
Re the transition point for skip chain, it would be viable at about a 28" bar length. Here's some blurbs from Madsens site regarding chain
When running a bar length of 24" or less, full compliment is the best choice. It will always be the fastest and smoothest cutting sequence on short cutting attachments. Even those who like skip tooth configurations because they take less time to sharpen will find on short bar lengths, full compliment doesn't take much longer to sharpen.
When running bar lengths of 28" to 32", the best sequence is less certain. In these lengths, the size of the cuts being made with the saw need to be taken into consideration when selecting the sequence. For example,sometimes longer bars are run when a pro user wants to minimize bending on a job that requires a lot of limbing. In this case, the cuts are more similar to whatwould be done with short bars, so a full compliment chain is the best choice. On the other hand, if most cuts on the job are large softwood trees and the bar is usually buried in a deep cut, a skip sequence would probably be the best choice. also, on the longer bar applications, a skip sequence chain does reduce sharpemning time.
When running bar lengths of 36" or longer, a skip sequence is usually the best choice. These bars are rarely run to eliminate bending over, and most often are used on jobs that require mostly deep cuts. Even with these conditions, we do occasionally see full compliment chain being run when the job also requires a fair amount of limbing. In the end, the best sequence for you requires some compromise and consideration of many factors.
Thanks Dave, for that info. That is sort of disappointing to learn about Stihl, but I guess it should not be a big surprise. One other thing that I forgot to mention is that with Stihl, the odd number saws are homeowner quality and the even number are professional quality, or so I have been told. Based on what you have written, I would either look at an even numbered Stihl or the Husky. I know several people who have Huskies and are very happy with them.