Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Summer is finally here so it is time to set up the wood mill and make lumber. Lumber comes from trees and not just from lumber yards. In the course of one hour and about $1.00 in gasoline, I have 15 two-by-fours and several other boards that are all cut true to size, straight with no warp or twist, and the cost is a little sweat and gasoline. We have through attrition several large pine, fir and spruce that have died and would have to be brought down anyway. So why not turn them into lumber?
My wood mill is capable of churning out about 2,000 board feet of lumber in an eight hour day. I try to get to the trees that have died and are suitable for lumber before they start to break down, insuring that the lumber is already mostly dry and suitable for lumber. We live in a area that is semi arid and as I write this the humidity is recorded as 11 percent. It doesn’t take long for lumber to be ready to use at our elevation.
When I cut the lumber to dimension, it will stay that size, and there will be no twisting or warp. The one exception is aspen which I am told has a very high percent of water content. I have not had much luck with air drying aspen lumber as the grain is twisted and it seeks its equilibrium once it commences to dry further. Aspen has a pretty grain and is a pretty wood but not the easiest to dry. One help in drying aspen is to seal the end grain with paraffin wax paint. It also helps if you quarter saw the boards but a log only provides a small amount of quarter sawn boards and there is more waste associated with selective sawing.
I have found that the better you take care of equipment the better it will serve you. That is certainly true with wood mills. I last put my Lucas Mill away two years ago and due to surgery last year I did not get to use it last summer. I got it out a few days ago, set it up, fueled it up, lubricated and oiled it and gave the engine a pull and it started immediately. In fact, the Honda 13 horse power gas engine has never once failed to start at our high altitude on the first pull. I had some logs already cut to length and ready to mill out and so it was time to get started right after I tightened the belts and sharpened the blade.
I milled out in one hour enough two by fours and four by sixes to last me a long time. We need to replace our board walk, build a partition under the house to give added support to the first floor, construct a new saw buck and I’m sure I’ll find other needed projects. Since there is always a certain amount of waste in completing these projects, I will mill out the other three logs I have on hand just to be sure I have enough lumber.
I suddenly discovered that at my age I can no longer haul around and lift 20” logs. I regret that my days of lumbering are coming to a close so my plan after this season is to advertise and sell my mill. I will miss the smell of freshly cut pine, fir or spruce and the pure joy of making your own lumber. Not to mention it is fun to use a large piece of precision equipment. Unless you have never milled trees into lumber you have not experienced that aroma of fresh cut wood to its full extent or the pure fun of making lumber. Not only is a practical tool to have if you live as we do, but it pays for itself in no time at all and is just plain fun to use.