Eddie's Portable Chain Saw Mill -
Page two - 1999
It is now mid March 1999, last year I made my first chainsaw mill. This year I made version-2 and with it comes a story of an angry creek, a MIG welder, a fallen river-oak (Casuarina) and my battle to save it from decay and the creek.
xmas-eve I woke to the sounds of water rushing near the room where
I stay when at Nimbin Rocks. This is what the entrance to our
co-op property looked like. The creek which is sometimes little
more than ankle deep had broken it's banks and was about 2 meters
over the bridge (which would normally be visible in the centre of
this photo). This was the first time I'd seen the bridge flooded
but it has been a regular occurrence since then.
the flood I set my sights on this river-oak. I had looked at
it before when it was this sitting on it's stump and laying over
the creek. The idea of harvesting the wood while it was 3 meters
off the ground and supported at each end was rather daunting. I
wasn't sure if the wood was still sound. The flood had dislodged
the log from the stump and it seemed a little more practical to
retrieve it. I chipped the bark off in places and the wood seemed
in fair condition. The log had caused a log-jam which is a bad
thing because it's likely to increase erosion as flood waters are
diverted around it - so everyone was happy for me to remove it -
if I could!
On returning to Nimbin the creek was much lower. The log was mostly submerged in chest deep water, the bottom was stony. My only real option with the equipment I had was to cut the log while it was below the surface of the water. I spent a long time trying to figure out the forces on the log so it did not roll on me, roll out from under me or jam the saw. I'm still here so I must have got it right. Two long but fairly narrow pieces were cut with the log in it's natural resting place. It's a bit weird watching the pieces silently sink away. These were winched onto the bank and towed out with my car. The other two cuts were more difficult - I had to winch the log to the surface while being careful not to apply forces that would jam the saw bar. Holding the heavy saw with its long bar out of the water while cutting below the surface was a bit of a strain. It was hard to gauge progress and often it seemed like it wasn't cutting at all. Eventually the remaining trunk was cut in to three pieces. The wood was water-logged (as you'd expect a log in water to be) and didn't float. It was still buoyant enough to be lifted by me. That's another wierd feeling - picking up a few tonnes of log and wrestling it into place. Once I had them in postion it was a 20 minute job for our friendly farmer to pull them out with our 4WD tractor. We towed them 20 meters onto the grass but that isn't the end of the story.....
The ladder mill I'd made last year served me well but I wanted a range of rails of differing lengths and widths. I also wanted rails I could cascade for longer lengths and I want to use my ladder as a two piece ladder again. I decided against trying to make the pieces of the two designs interchangeable so now I could choose any extrusion I wanted. I fancied using 25mm round aluminum tubing for the rails and rectangular section for the cross pieces. Round tubing was harder to obtain than square so I changed to using anodized, 3mm walled, 25mm square tube for the rails and 3*50*25mm for cross peices. I initially intended to weld the rails at 45 degrees to the cross pieces, that is - weld one corner so it's a diamond view end on. In the end I took the easier option of keeping the rails with the top and bottom sides parallel to the cross pieces. The cross pieces only extend about haf the width of the rail so the saw carriage can wrap around under the rail and prevent it lifting off. I MIG welded the rail assembly - MIG welding has a page of its own.
The carriage is similar to version one with the main difference being that the extrusion the saw attaches to is set at 5 degrees. The saw saw still attaches with one bolt at each end of the bar. The each bolt goes through the middle of a spacer which set the slab thickness, not two bolts per end as previously. Version one had the extrusion set square and the bar bolted to diagonal holes at each end. The new system is much easier to use, it also easier to make the spacers. I'm not sure there is any need to set the saw at an angle at all - I stayed with what I knew worked. Once again the slides were epoxy/kevlar and the rest epoxy/glass, aluminium and PVC foam.
On returning to Nimbin with my new rig I found the logs were not where I'd left them. While I'd been away Nimbin had the biggest flood in 8 years. One piece was back in the creek on a mud flat. One piece was still on the grass and the largest piece was in an erosion gully with the end flush with the creek bank (see right photo and top photo). I milled this piece into 70mm slabs where it lay but had to move a small amount of soil to do so. I had some problems which were chain problems but the mill worked well. I only cut around 6 slabs a day because after that the chain was blunt and I'd had enough and there were other things I wanted to do. On the last day of milling this log the flood waters start to rise again. I took advantage of this to tow the piece on the mud flat into a better position. The photo at the top of the page shows the second last 70mm slab being cut as the water was rising. After the last 70mm slab was cut I towed the rest to higher ground.
is most of the wood I cut during the week. It will crack as it
dries and require filling. The aim is to make coffee tables for
sale. River-oak is much more difficult to work with than camphor
but I hope its character will appeal to people as it does to me.
The exercise (in more than one sense of the word) is a gamble -
I'll have to wait for the wood to dry and see what condition it's
in and look for a market.
piece is now being used as a bed side table - I may have to wait
years for it the dry enough to sand and finish. I'm not likely to
knock this one over by accident!
As expected the slabs cracked and opened up. Filling and sanding them has been very labor intensive. I'd estimate 2 to 3 times the work goes into making a River-oak coffee table compared to a Camphor one. I'm not optimistic the money I make from them will justify the many hours that have gone it them - but fingers crossed anyway. Below is a table I made for myself and I'm quite fond of it. Being one of the early ones the wood continued to crack and I had to repair it. My last batch of tables was made from slabs that had dried longer and they seem to be fairly stable. If they crack more then I've got plenty of firewood to see me thru the winter :(
The response to my first batch of tables has been very positive so it could all pay off. There are another 3 logs which I have to decide whether to mill or not. If I go ahead I could get at least 100 table tops from them and probably more like 200.
On the Camphor front.
this is what you don't want. This is one of the pieces from the
stack after nine months of drying. This was the most exposed of
is a stack I made in October 1999. It's been nicknamed the amoebae
tree for obvious reasons. You can see a large crack across the
middle of the top piece when it was freshly cut. This tree had
been standing dead for about 5 years. In order to attempt to
reduce the cracking I wrapped the 15 high stack in builders
plastic for the first month and partly wrapped in in hessian (I
ran out) after that. Due to work deadlines I'm unlikely to be
doing any more milling till next April or so.