Posts Tagged ‘chainsaw’

My New Project (Knock on Wood)

We’ve been away from Maine for 3 weeks now.  But just because we’re in our hometown on the East Coast for a family simcha, Chanuka, and Thanksgiving, doesn’t mean that we don’t have Maine-like adventures!

Today we went on a nature walk along a river located about 2.5 miles from my home.  The packed-dirt path is frequented by lots of people walking their dogs; joggers; and families out for a stroll.  It’s a very beautiful area with heavy tree cover (unless you are hiking in late Fall, of course, and the leaves have dropped), and even though it’s off a main road, after about a mile you lose the sound of traffic completely and instead  hear only birdsong.

So there we were, walking with our dog, when we noticed several downed trees due to a nasty storm a few months earlier.  In order for the path to remain unobstructed, the branches and trunks had to be chain-sawed and pulled off the side of the path.  But in some cases the trees were so massive, that a chainsaw would not do it.  Clearly heavy equipment had been brought in, and alongside the road the trunks, more than 36″ across, had been sliced neatly into 3″ thick pieces and stacked.

I suppose most people passing by would have thought, “wood,” but I thought, “Table!”

I convinced my husband that we really needed a coffee table and this would be so easy to make.  I could rent a belt sander from Home Depot and smooth out the surface; I could use a pressure washer to clean the mud from the craggy bark; I could polyurethane the table top,  and we could take one of our thicker unsplit logs from our woodshed in Maine and mount it to the newly envisioned table top as a base.

Lately I have been a woman on a mission, cleaning out my house.  Like so many Americans, I just have way too much “stuff.”  The way I’ve been successful in giving away things or throwing stuff out is to ask myself the question, “If I moved to Israel tomorrow, would I take this with me?”  and if the answer is “yes” then I keep it.  So my husband, who has been amazed at my recent proclivity for tossing stuff, was surprised by my sudden need for a coffee table.  “What do you need it for?” he asked.  “Why would we drag a piece of wood to Israel?”

“Are you kidding?” I said.  “Who in Israel has even seen a solid piece of wood 3′ across?  I mean, they don’t even have trees this big in Israel!  It’s going to be such a conversation piece!”

The only problem was that by now we were about 1.5 miles from the trail head and the massive piece of trunk weighed about 150 lbs.

“No problem!” I said, “we’ll just roll it!”

The only things that were rolling at that precise moment were my husband’s eyes, along with a look of utter disdain.

Despite the look on his face, my husband (says he) loves me!

Despite the look on his face, my husband (says he) loves me!

“You have got  to be kidding,” he said. But one look at me and he knew that I was most definitely not kidding.  I was going to make this happen!

There was a small detail.  It was 33 degrees outside, the path and wood were uneven and muddy, and I lacked gloves.

“Not to worry,” I told my husband, “I will roll the entire 150-lb  piece of wood by myself back to the car.  But I will need to borrow your gloves.”  Prior to this I had been keeping my hands warm and toasty in the pockets of my down vest, but the weather really was too freezing cold for log-rolling without gloves.

“How can I let you do that?” my husband said, exasperated and knowing he was about to get a lot more exercise than he had planned on.  Honestly and truly, I was not being manipulative.  I had been doing some strength training at the gym to combat my osteoporosis, and I was kind of looking forward to the challenge.  I figured as long as I kept the wood very close to my body and walked slowly, I could manage rolling  this unwieldy, wicked-heavy,  monster piece of wood.

My husband wouldn’t hear of it.  “You go waaay too slowly, and I don’t have the patience.”  It was true — but what about the old adage of the tortoise and the hare?  True, he did manage to roll it with some momentum and covered a lot more ground in the same amount of time as I could, but sometimes that big chunk of wood got out of control, careened wildly, and toppled to the ground.  Let me tell you, picking up and righting  a 150-lb piece of hardwood was no picnic, and it fell more than once.  Also, because my husband was going faster, he had to stop and rest every 30 or so feet — so I’m not sure pokey old me was all that much slower at the end of the day.  As we made our way through uneven ground, mud, and uphills, my husband became more and more distressed.

“Please,” I’d beg, “let me take over!”   But just then some people would meander by, and his macho side would take over.

“I am too embarrassed with all these people around,” he admitted, “to have you do the work instead of me.”  I couldn’t believe it!  My husband was never one for false pride.  Such gallantry!  (Or was it chauvinism?) (And besides, how did it make me look, to be strolling carefree and unburdened alongside a grey-haired old guy  who was struggling mightily?)

By now he wasn’t looking too good.  The rest stops were more frequent, and his face had a rather alarming ash grey tone.  One strapping young athletic  hunk passed us with his Swiss Mountain Dog, and offered to help.  (“Yes!” I thought.)  But my husband waved him off.

Meanwhile, during the rest stops, people passing by were only too happy to contribute their remarks.

“Way cool!”

“Amazing!”

“Whoa!”

“What are you going to do with that?”

“Wow!”

“What a great table!” (That person obviously “got” it!)

With every positive adjective I beamed with delight, and my husband grew increasingly despondent.  Finally an older woman passed us, looked us and the wood up and down, and said to my husband,

“Doing penance?”

My husband liked that one.

So with his cross to bear, so to speak, we made it to the car in about 45 minutes of rolling, grunting, and resting.  Luckily at that moment someone else was parking their car at the trail head and offered to help lift the slab into our car.

My husband was still grumbling when one of the passersby commented, “Wow, every time you look at your table, you’ll have a story!”

“I know, right?” I replied.  My husband gave her a dirty look, but I only grinned my happiest grin.

P.S.  When we got home I measured the beast:  34.5″ x 37″ x 6.5″ of solid hardwood.  Yippee!

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Where Burly is the New “Hot”

A modern-day Paul Bunyan

A modern-day Paul Bunyan

Monday September 30 was Woodsmen’s Day at the Fryeburg Fair and I was not about to miss it!  Besides the usual midway, agricultural exhibits, farm animals, crafts, harness racing, hucksters, and fried food (the amount of oil used during the week of the Fryeburg Fair is enough to fuel a small country), Woodsmen’s Day is a full day of lumberjack contests and events.

This vendor was selling custom-made wood signs.

This vendor was selling custom-made wood signs.

I guess some customers request all sorts of inappropriate sayings.  I give the vendor a lot of credit for posting this sign, despite a potential loss of business.

I guess some customers request all sorts of inappropriate sayings. I give the vendor a lot of credit for posting this sign, despite a potential loss of business.

Participants come from all over New England, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Minnesota and Wisconsin to participate in crosscutting, bucksawing, underhand chopping, axe throwing, log rolling, springboarding, chainsawing and tree felling through thousands of pounds and lengths of logs, boards, blocks and trees as they work against the clock.  There are identical contests for lumber “jills” as well as “jacks,”  and their muscle mass is pretty intimidating!   The event is held at the infield of a racetrack, and the huge grandstand is completely packed with 8,000 – 10,000 onlookers.  Who knew that sawing a piece of wood or rolling a log could be so exciting?  And yet I found myself cheering the victors and groaning when contestants failed along with the rest of the pumped-up crowd.

Both tiers of the grandstand are completely full, along with spectators watching on the ground.  The woodsmen's contests attract thousands of spectators.

Both tiers of the grandstand are completely full, along with spectators watching on the ground. The woodsmen’s contests attract thousands of spectators.

This event, called the Under Hand Chop, requires enormous hand-eye coordination!  The contestant stands on a solid wood block, and using his axe, must chop through the block between his feet with some very powerful swings without falling off the block or, G-d forbid, injuring himself in the process.  The winner chopped through the wood in less than 15 seconds.

This event  requires enormous hand-eye coordination! The contestant stands on a solid wood block, and using his axe, must chop through the block between his feet with some very powerful swings without falling off the block or, G-d forbid, injuring himself in the process. The winner chopped through the wood in less than 15 seconds.

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This pictures was taken moments before the final cut, when he chopped all the way through the wood beneath him and was left standing on what was now two pieces of block wood.

This picture was taken moments before the final cut, when he chopped all the way through the wood beneath him and was left standing on what was now two pieces of block wood.

Working against the clock, in this event logs must be unloaded as quickly as possible into a neat pile beneath the truck.  Then they must be reloaded back onto the truck.

Working against the clock, in this event logs must be unloaded as quickly as possible into a neat pile beneath the truck. Then they must be reloaded back onto the truck.

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First, the contestant must chop a gash into the tree trunk that will be large enough to accommodate a slab of wood.

First, the contestant must chop a gash into the tree trunk that will be large enough to accommodate a slab of wood.

Then he climbs atop the slab, and hacks away at another gash higher up on the tree.  He then makes his way up to the top of the tree, chopping gashes, inserting the slab, and climbing, again and again.

After inserting the slab of wood into the gash he’s created, he climbs atop the slab, and hacks away at another gash higher up on the tree. He then makes his way up to the top of the tree, chopping gashes, inserting the slab, and climbing, again and again.

Once he gets to the top, a new challenge awaits:  he must chop a thick block of wood that is nailed to the top of the trunk in half.  This is much harder than it sounds:  he is now balanced precariously on the narrow plank of wood that he inserted into the gash on the trunk, while 12' - 14' above the ground!

Once he gets to the top, a new challenge awaits: he must chop a thick block of wood that is nailed to the top of the trunk in half. This is much harder than it sounds: he is now balanced precariously on the narrow plank of wood that he inserted into the gash on the trunk, while 12′ – 14′ above the ground!

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At the final stage, chopping the attached solid block of wood at the very top.

This woman (known as a "lumberjill") won every one of the women's events.  She was STRONG!

This woman (known as a “lumberjill”) won every one of the women’s events. She is STRONG!

Women also compete!  The winning time for chopping through this solid block of wood was just over 6 seconds!

Women also compete! 

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The winning time in the men's division was just over 5 seconds

The winning time in the men’s division was just over 5 seconds

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The logrolling contest was much more difficult than it appeared, and many lumberjacks were flummoxed.

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This extremely big strong guy was the champion chopper…

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. . . but perhaps in his next life he’ll join the plumber’s union 😉

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Here are the winners of the crosscut competition.  These women sawed off two pieces from this solid block of wood in about 6 seconds.

Here are the winners of the crosscut competition. These women sawed off two pieces from this solid block of wood in about 6 seconds.

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This woman is all smiles - - she won 4th place in the young women/collegiate division.  She comes from a logging family.  "Once wood gets into your blood, it stays," she said.

This woman is all smiles – – she shows off her 4th place ribbon in the young women/collegiate division.  She came to the competition from the University of Minnesota. She comes from a logging family. “Once wood gets into your blood, it stays,” she said.

The lumberjacks and jills who entered the paired crosscut competition were all tough and strong, but they babied their saw blades with a gentle touch.

The lumberjacks and lumberjills who entered the paired crosscut competition were all tough and strong, but they babied their saw blades with a gentle touch.

Making sure the handle is tight before the competition.

Making sure the handle is tight before the competition.

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Both immediately before and after the event, the saw blade is oiled lightly with a brush, and any dirt or dust is removed.

Both immediately before and after the event, the saw blade is oiled lightly with a brush, and any dirt or dust is removed.

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Both men and women entered the axe-throwing contest.  Here a man takes aim and is about to throw the axe toward the target.

Both men and women entered the axe-throwing contest. Here a man takes aim and is about to throw the axe toward the target.

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And now he lets it fly!

Excellent shot, but just short of a perfect bullseye.

This woman executed an excellent throw, but it was just short of a perfect bullseye.

Lest you think it can’t get any more exciting than this, you haven’t been to the skillet-throwing contest.  This is a women-only event, in which a heavy cast iron skillet is tossed as far as the tosser can throw it.  It is measured for both distance and accuracy.  Sadly, the fair’s oldest regular contestant, Mildred Heath of Conway, NH passed away this past February at age 103.  In recent years she threw the opening toss from her wheelchair, but she always won in her age category!  This year’s winner in the “under 45” category tossed the skillet 61 feet.  You won’t want to mess with her!

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Before I left the fairgrounds I went to the Expo Center which held two different displays (one from Maine and one from New Hampshire) of dueling moose taxidermy.  A pair of bull moose in rut (mating season) were dueling by charging against one another and head-butting.  Their antlers became entangled and tragically, neither could break free.  They died from a combination of exhaustion and starvation.  Their decomposed bodies were found and reconstructed with great skill by expert taxidermists.  Here is the result:

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A Jill of All Trades (Not!)

Alas, I suffered a huge disappointment today when I found out that I would not be attending a class given at a nature center:  Chainsaw 101.

Years ago, we bought a big, gas-powered chainsaw on the cheap from a Sears Outlet that was going out of business – doesn’t everyone need a chainsaw?  It remains unused in its original box.

Here in the Maine woods a chainsaw is as much a fixture of one’s tool collection as a carton of milk is to one’s refrigerator.  We paid handsomely for all of our downed trees to be cut in chunks and then split for firewood by a local handyman.  We only did the stacking.  It hurts to know we could have done the chainsawing ourselves, if we only knew how.

Oh sure, I could read the chainsaw’s manual – but there really are tricks to doing it expeditiously, by angling the cut with or against the grain just so, not to mention sawing safely.  That includes wearing not only safety goggles, but chaps and steel-toed boots.

I was anxious to enroll in that particular session of Chainsaw 101, since other similar classes had always been offered on Shabbos, and this one was the only one given on two consecutive Sundays.  Admittedly, I dawdled, because I figured that everyone in the Maine woods knows how to use a chainsaw except me, so how popular could such a class be?  When I finally got around to calling to reserve a spot, I was dismayed to hear I was far down on the waiting list, with little hope of attending at all.

Turns out that anytime they announce the formation of a Beginning Chainsaw class (and they even have separate classes for women!!!) they fill almost immediately.  The next class to be offered will be in the Spring, but unlike the Fall, with its clear, cold and bug-free days, the Spring class will be held amidst swarms of biting blackflies.

Apparently there must be a lot of wannabe woodsmen and homesteaders that are new to Maine.  As I said in a previous post (albeit in a different context):  I thought I was the only one . . .