Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Another type of woodworking

I've heard it said that if someone spends too much time in a furniture making workshop, they risk the possibility of becoming a piece of furniture themselves!  I haven't exactly noticed any stretchers growing out between my legs, but for quite a few years I have had an additional occupation of removing trees, both in residential settings and in the woods.  I find the heavy work intrigues, and it does get me out of my lonely in the shop, the chance to work around some good people who are well experienced in the business and very enjoyable to associate with.  Mostly a crane operator rings me up to assist him on jobs these days, on the average three or four times a month, just enough to provide a change of scenery and to keep my hand in it. Chainsaws are also tools that I enjoy using very much, sometimes modifying them to obtain greater power, they are a deep subject if you want to pursue it.

Tree work is very much a trade that best has a lot of study associated with it, if one wants to gain efficiency and try to help mitigate the dangers.  There can be a certain degree of unpredictability that goes along with it, tremendous diversity in the situations, so being careful on all fronts requires a lot of awareness.  Working at heights has it's challenges and enjoyments, the need to pay close attention to what you are doing, lesser so to where you are doing it.  Overcoming the fear factor has been quite interesting, if not spooky, and there are payoffs besides the wages, the air is amazingly fresh and clean above the forest floor, the view sometimes sublime that few get the opportunity to see, it can be most invigorating. The work gives a chance to visit some locations in the prefecture that otherwise I wouldn't, and to mix it up with the locals a bit. Tree cutting brings them out of their houses, people want to investigate, and there is a fascination. There is also the opportunity to sometimes obtain logs for what I do in the shop as well, though in my area, Pine or a pretty unusable Cedar is often what is being cut.  Unusable for furniture that is, though the logs go to auction and are purchased for use in construction. Some large trees are in our schedule from time to time, sometimes hundreds of years old, particularly at temples or shrines, and around the old farmhouses.  Why they need to be removed isn't a subject for much debate, age and disease has affected many of them, leaving in that state can be very dangerous to people and structures below.  The forest trees haven't been maintained very well, removing some to allow more light to help the others to better prosper is a valuable consideration.

Thought that I would post a few of the times and places, hope that you enjoy the photos, click to enlarge.



Dan McCallum said...

Wow. Those are amazing pictures, thank you so much for posting them. Are they mostly around the Nagano area?

There is no way I would climb up to those heights. I prefer my logs already down!

So what kind of wood are they? That last one is awesome, looks like a 6' bar with your friend?

And what are you doing with your saw's cylinder head in the metal lathe?!

djy said...

Hi Dan, thanks for the comment and questions. Yes, pretty much exclusively in Nagano Prefecture, the closest major town being Matsumoto. Nagano city is about a hour and a half away. Hakuba, where they held some ski events during the Nagano olympics, is just up the road.

The job at altitude does have it's intrigues, and I wasn't so young anymore when I first started to do it. Fortunately, I met what they call a 'tobe' here, a person who specializes in working at heights. He used to help us out on jobs, and watching him gave me confidence along with the advice he offered. In the beginning I thought to myself, "no way". Basically, I think that wanting to do it is the deciding factor, and people getting impatient below when it is taking too long.

The trees with the reddish flaky bark are the local Red Pines, growing all over the prefecture. Often some nice clear wood, but loaded with pitch. The third photo is a nice Chestnut, also common in the area. The disease that wiped them out in the west has fortunately never made it over here. The darker more elongated bark ones in the second pic are Sugi (Cryptomeria) , a type of Cypress. The large last one at the shrine is a Momi tree (Abies firma), a type of fir.

I inherited that big saw from the first guy that I started doing tree work with here, when he died. Not a tree related demise. The bar is a little over five feet long. Nice when a job calls for it, but it's not very often. Turning the base down on that cylinder, making it thinner. It reduces the amount of volume in the combustion chamber above the piston, to yield higher compression. It's real advantageous for increased torque.

Timberwerks Studio - Dale J. Osowski - Furniture Maker said...

Great post Dennis, it reminds me of my days working for tree services in my area. I still stay in contact with the crews and at times give them a hand in exchange for trees that I mill here.

djy said...

Hi Dale,

Thanks. I participate in one tree worker's forum, mostly people in the states and Canada, and it seems that a lot of guys doing removals, have a hard time finding a market for their logs. The mills won't pay very much, and very often they just get cut up for grade hardwoods! I suggest to them to try and contact woodworkers in their area, through an association if one exists, and possibly advertise in a newsletter, but not much appears to come of it. It seems like people would be interested in obtaining mill, or anybody close by to do it for them, is that the problem? Perhaps a lot of people don't realize how nice air dried material can be, easier to spend the money and get wood that is ready to be used. Thinking of Walnut for example, the air dried is so much nicer with all the subtle colors remaining. It sure seems a waste turning into firewood.

Timberwerks Studio - Dale J. Osowski - Furniture Maker said...

Hi Dennis

I love working with air dried wood. I think the problem with many woodworkers is not having a mill near by. I use an Alaskan mill, not much money involved compared to a band saw mill and I enjoy using it. I'm a member of the I'll post a logs wanted ad every once in awhile and get some good replies. The table I am placing in the exhibit was made using local woods I milled here. Such a great resource many are over looking.

djy said...

Real good idea on letting tree guys know that you are looking for logs, instead of waiting for their ads. People get busy, a few bucks coming in for a log and quickly unloaded, it works out well for everybody. Being a furniture maker, you tend to see the material in a different light than most people who don't do anything with the wood beyond cutting the trees.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dennis,
I'm also living in Nagano Prefecture, closer to Ueda City and about 45 minutes from Matsumoto.
I'd be interested in getting some logs for furniture. I've seen a couple places that could mill it up and I have space for air drying.
My Japanese is pretty non-existent still, but I'd like to hear more about getting logs like that chestnut.
Thank you,

djy said...

Hi Michael,

Probably the best consistent source of logs near my location is the auction yard, where they get sold about twice every month. Some auctions are better than others in terms of just what is available at any given time. I wonder if there also might be a place near Ueda? The chip yards are another source, if they will agree to sell a bit of what has come in, but usually my experience is that they won't go to any trouble to pull out good looking timber from the sometimes huge stacks of logs. If something might be right on top, then they will make it available, and cheaply, but otherwise they won't be bothered. So, it is pretty sketchy. Cool if someone might agree to set good logs aside when they come in, but the people who work in those places seem to pretty much see everything as chip, with little discrimination between the potentially woodworking useful, and otherwise.

Why don't you see if there any log auction yards or a chip plant out your way? I can give you directions to the auction place near me. No Japanese might be problematical, you have to sign up and fill out some things to become a member and get squared away with them to begin with. Give me a call if you want.

The other thought is to possibly contact some folks doing tree removals in your area. If they don't have logs themselves, they could quite possibly direct you to a source. Nagano ken has a lot of very useful species for furniture making, and many trees get removed for one reason or another.