What if a chairmaker held a splitting party and no one came? You guessed it. The chairmaker would have to do the work all by himself. That’s my situation.
As I do every springtime of every year, last month I went to the logyard and selected my logs. Then, I had the driver deliver them to our shaded side yard where we process them. Finally, I called Kevin, the farmer up the road with a four-foot log splitter on the rear of his tractor. Every year Kevin drives Old Bessie to The Institute to help out with the splitting party. Actually, Kevin does all the work and I help out. I defer to him because he is strong as an ox and can actually lift a four-foot oak bolt by himself. I have trouble rolling one.
To begin the party I layout the logs and Kevin fires up the chair saw to cut the first bolts. Then, while he splits the bolts into eighths I make the remaining cuts. Meanwhile, Kevin just keeps bulling through the bolts I have created, stacking the split billets as he goes along. Finally, Kevin uses the splitting maul to pop open the six-footers. We start at 9:00 and by noon the party is over. The year’s oak logs are reduced to neat piles of splits ready for Don and me to make into bending and spindle stock.
Imagine my shock when Kevin answered the phone and told me he had taken a new job as a long-haul truck driver. He wouldn’t be able to attend the party. It took a few days for reality to settle in, but I decided I had no choice but to open those logs the old-fashioned way: with maul and wedges. I know how to do this work, but I can’t say I ever loved it, and I’m not a spring chicken anymore. I decided to draw out the party (at which I was the only guest), by doing a bit each day.
First day I did just the chain saw work. I cut the logs into bolts: one six-footer, two four-footers, two three-footers, and about eight two-footers. The four-footers are for sack back classes and for the rocking chair class. The three-footers will be used for bending blanks by the people taking 2 Kids chairs class in September. Some of the stock will also be cut into blanks for the five long spindles that support the crest on the rockers. The two-footers will yield hundreds of spindle blanks for sack backs. Mercifully, this year I had only scheduled one class that requires six foot bending stock: the balloon back class in November. That one long bolt will yield more than enough for those chairs and any sales through the catalog for the rest of the year.
The second day of this year’s protracted splitting party I burst out one four-footer and one two-footer. It had been so long since had done this I had to remember which end to the maul to hold. I worked about 45 minutes, but it was like a workout at the gym and I was spent. When I was done the two bolts were neatly stacked on four by four bearers that would keep them off the ground.
I was back at the job this morning. I wheeled the cart with the maul, wedges, hatchet, and froe to the log pile. In a similar amount of time I split up the remaining four-footer and two more of the two-footers. I was more productive today because I am getting to shape. At least that’s what I told myself. When I knocked off it was gratifying to observe that there were fewer bolts and more piles of splits spread around the yard. I took some photos just in case I need to prove to someone that I did this work by myself.
I plan on returning to the job tomorrow when my goal will be to rive the three-footers and the remaining two-footers. I will save lone the six-footer for the end, as splitting it will wipe me out. I expect to be useless the rest of that day. I anticipate it will be Friday.
Today I remembered a trick that in the old days (in my younger days) used to amuse me and I tried it again this morning, just to see if I could still manage it. Obviously I can, or I would have never embarrass myself by bringing it up. Before stacking the four-footers I remove the heart. The split’s cross section is shaped like a piece of pie. The pointy part of the pie (the heart) represents the tree when it was a sapling and is usually too gnarled to yield bending stock. I split out the heart before stacking to get rid of it and to lighten the billet. When doing so I used to try and get the heart air born. This usually takes two blows of the maul. The first opens a crack in the near end and the second completes the split, separating the heart. The shape of the wedge flying the length of the billit will actually lift the heart into the air. It jumps free. I managed to get air on seven of eight billets. One rose so high it came close to hitting me. As anyone who has studied here knows, I amuse easily.
My quota of bolts for today are stacked and waiting for Don and me to to take them to the resaw. As for the rest of the afternoon, I think I will take a nap.
In other news:
The Hampton Summit, the first novel in my series for young teens (and for adults that are young at heart) is now available in both softcover and eBook. http://www.amazon.com/Hampton-Summit-Castleton-Series-Volume/dp/1482731622/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1367421699&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=the+hamton+summit
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