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Natural Tools

Post in 'The Gear' started by Eric Johnson, Aug 14, 2007.

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  1. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I know many of the people on this board don't cut their firewood out in the woods, but there are a few who do, and we can use all the help we can get when it comes to safety and productivity.

    I cut between 15 and 20 full cords every summer, mostly in one-hour sessions after work. I generally cut a tank of gas (1/2 cord) and haul a load of last summer's wood home. That's about 1/3 cord per trip. Over time, it starts to add up.

    Anyway, I wear all the safety gear, including a logging helmet with face and ear protection, kevlar chaps and kevlar-lined steel-toed logging boots. I carry a couple of plastic felling wedges with me, but other than that and the saw, nothing else except a cell phone. I used to carry a small hatchet, which was useful for pounding in wedges and on occasion, chopping my saw out of a jam. But then I lost the hatchet. I replaced it with a claw hammer, which I also promptly lost (Woodlot: 2; Woodcutter: 0).

    That's when I wised up. Now, when I think I'm going to need to wedge a tree over, I cut a small wooden club from a sapling or a branch before starting to make my backcut. It's easy to bang the wedge or wedges in with the club, and you can just abandon it when you're done. Make a new one next time you need it. So that eliminates one heavy tool that I have to carry around and keep track of.

    You've probably had situations where you're cutting a branch or a stem under compression, and it pinches the tip of your bar so firmly that you can't get the saw loose, no matter how hard you pull or how much you cuss. This is really frustrating because it's usually a relatively small branch and it's pinching a very small part of your bar and chain, but there's no getting it loose.

    Now, everybody should have an axe (at minimum) in the cab of their truck, and even better, a spare chain saw, for occasions such as this. I have both, but they're usually a couple hundred yards away, across a sea of slash. Unless absolutely necessary, I try to find a way to avoid making the trip. One way to do that is to use a cut round to bash the branch until it lets your saw go. This isn't as hard as it might sound. A big, green block has a lot of weight and momentum, and you can exert a significant shock load to a branch or other offending tree part, often enough to break it. You can also use this method to knock a hung tree off the stump, or break through a partially-cut tree stem that might be pinching your saw bar.

    Both approaches may sound a bit crude, but they work, and can save you a lot of time and aggravation.

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  2. carpniels

    carpniels Minister of Fire

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    Sounds like a good idea. I normally don't have these problems because
    a) I am a much better tree cutter than Eric so I never get hung up or pinched (wink!!!!)
    b) I am normally cutting within 200 yards from my house, so I can get whatever tool I need from the garage/workshop if necessary (which it never is, see a).
    and the most important one :
    c) I don't cut down trees only buck fallen ones. That avoids a lot of dangerous situations and potential pinching and hangups.

    Good luck Eric.

    Carpniels (who cannot even stand in Eric's shade when it comes to woodcutting ability and experience)

    PS. I like the cellphone idea very much. God forbid anything really bad happens and you are not able to reach the real world. That would be aweful.
  3. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Well, I'm learning, Niels.

    They put in a new cell tower near where I cut, which gives me an excellent signal everywhere on the property. Last year it was pretty spotty, but I knew where the hot spots were, and figured I could always crawl up to one if necessary. Now, however, I can dial 911 from the comfort of my own accident scene.
  4. babalu87

    babalu87 New Member

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    Eric, if you listened to your dad and painted the axe AND hammer BLUE you would still have both of them ;)
    Now I just need to remember to do the same with my wedges, axe and maul. It is surprising how quick orange, red and hickory can disappear in the woods.
    Thankfully I do just about all my wood cutting on my own property so it bounces back eventually.

    ROFL
    All I can picture is our resident caveman Hogwildz swinging a piece of wood at a tree
  5. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I'm color blind, so that sort of thing doesn't do me much good, either. Actually, I learned the club thing from him. He learned it from Swedish chainsaw wizard Soren Eriksson. I came up with the "flying block" approach myself the other day--out of desperation. Reminds me of what the old man still tells me: "You're strong; you don't have to be smart." But I get a little smarter (correspondingly less strong) every year.
  6. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

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    Eric, another little trick that I use (even tho it is not a natural tool) is to carry a spare bar and chain. If you really get hung up and pinched tight, just unbolt the bar from the powerhead and bolt on your spare. Cut the stuck blade out and continue with your chores. It doesn't save a trip to the truck, but it does save a trip back home, since I don't usually carry a spare saw, but I do carry my 24" bar just in case a big oak gets in my way.
  7. granpajohn

    granpajohn Minister of Fire

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    My wife tends to lose gardening tools all around our wooded property. Sometimes they bounce back, but not always. I let some blaze orange surveyor's flagging follow me home from work and started tieing a piece on each of her tools. Works better than expected, and I don't have to paint my grandfather's axe pink (or something). Also, you can tie it on at 16" interval for quick log length measure. (I use this more than I would've thought.)
  8. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Sometimes it is like Christmas around here. I came across the six foot pry bar I left somewhere in the woods the other day. I left it out there 15 years ago.
  9. Burn-1

    Burn-1 Feeling the Heat

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    From this Swedish logging video that Roo offered up last year.

    Take your cell phone and a first aid kit. To make this even more thread-relevant, there's a neat 'natural tool' in the video where the logger makes a cant dog from a sling and a small tree.

    Although man-made, I have been playing around with a Swedish felling lever on some smaller trees. It makes pinpoint falls, and it can help release a saw from a small tree as well.

    In the video I always liked the secondary chain brake on the throttle handle. Eric noted that we can't get them here, and that they're only meant for above shoulder height use. But this past weekend I tried out a new Stihl with a secondary chain brake on the throttle and it worked pretty well. It's not in available on all models. I wish it was available for the 260 but I'll probably consider one of the saws that does have when I get a new one.
  10. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    Glad to hear that the rear-handle chain brake option has made its way to this side of the Atlantic. The one I saw at the trade show in Sweden was a prototype, and they (Husqvarna) said that it wasn't available at the time in North America. My dad uses the Swedish felling lever all the time. Unlike the ones you can find at trade shows around here, this one is made from light, high-tensile Swedish steel and it works a lot better than the one I have. The Swedish one is definitely much better, and you can use it in combination with your hooks (also Swedish) to make an effective cant hook. That's what that little hook on the side of the bar is for. Of course, he's got my mother to help keep track of the gear, and they work in pine plantations, so they don't move around as much as I do and their terrain (old crop fields) is a lot more friendly.

    Another thing you can do with that lever, Burn-1, is to bore a slot into a hung-up tree, then insert the business end of the lever and turn the tree around like you would with a cant hook. Works great on small trees, and gives you the leverage you need on bigger trees that are just barely hanging in there. If you really want to go to town on a hung tree, bore a square hole in the stem and then stick a small sapling or other piece of tough wood in there for leverage (black locust comes to mind), and crank that baby over. Just be careful you don't get carried away (literally) and wind up on the ground below the tree as it's falling. Don't laugh--I've come close.

    A spare bar and chain is always a good idea, for the very reasons you mention, Jags. Plus, you may simply break a chain or blow out a bar during the normal course of cutting. And I like the flagging idea, grandpajohn, especially the part about using it to measure your wood. I use my saw, but I can see where a tool handle with a piece of flagging would work pretty well.

    BB--when I worked in the woods for a living, I'd lose clothing all the time. In the winter you start peeling off layers and hanging them on various trees. Then come spring, (after the wife is convinced you left your clothes at "another person's" house), you're walking around the woods, admiring your work, and collecting old sweatshirts and other fashion apparel.
  11. DriftWood

    DriftWood Minister of Fire

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    When I'm scrounging, cleaning or stacking wood the smallest branches were a problem. Now I brake them off with a 1-3 foot piece of 2-5" dia. limb used like a axe. I just strike down from the top of the branch that I want broken off, at the base of the branch with the limb piece held and swung like a hatchet. If it doesn't bake off in one swing try try again.
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