8/5/16: Odds & Ends

  • Moved the first log since the accident


It was a moving experience. Ok, bad pun. I decided My wife decided (and I was able to test her theory and prove her correct)- with the finger out of sorts, I couldn’t move logs with a chain, so I focused the last twelve days on moving branches and making brush piles. Twelve trees, twelve days for brush piles- it takes me an entire day to clear branches. With the branches out of the way, I was finally ready to move some trees. It had been a month since the accident. I broke (on purpose) the arch off the trailer with the neighbor’s help last week, and welded some feet on it to keep it stable while lifting logs. On Thursday, my wife came out to watch. The operation went slow- because I forgot where to place the arch- I put it at the end of the log, thinking I could slip the trailer under the middle- nope- can’t get it high enough with the arch in that location, so I had to lower the log, and move the arch (which weighs about 200 lbs), and lift again. The arch is eight feet tall, the chain hoist takes up a foot and a half underneath that, and the strap hangs another foot below that. Then the logs, which are usually at least 20 inches drop the height almost another two feet. So, added together, 8 – 1.5 – 1.5 – 2 = 3 feet of clearance. The trailer is about 3 feet high, so any small variation won’t clear the trailer. Yes, I need a shorter trailer, but options were limited at the time.

My wife took a lot of photos, but we got it moved.


Then we noticed the bark beetles and powder post beetles had started in on the wood.

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Oh no! Yup, they sat for so long on the ground, that the bugs invited themselves for dinner. Bark beetles made it easy to peel- my wife was having a lot of fun with it, actually:

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But now it’s a race against the bugs: I have to borate the logs quickly to stop any progress by the bugs. That was Thursday. She came out on Friday to peel another. On Saturday, I moved one with the trailer, then said, “forget it, I’m going back to skidding the smaller ones”. I hooked one up and was able to skid it without the trailer. I did four more that morning (a record for me!), then went home to mix up some more borate solution. Did some shopping with my wife, then went back out to the property Saturday night to apply the borate. I still have one log next to the racks, and two more monsters on the ground needing to be moved off the neighbor’s property onto racks. And I need more ingredients for my borate solution. But it’s progress, nonetheless.

  • Neighborly neighbors

I have some great neighbors. He’s a retired telephone guy from the arsenal. He rubbed shoulders with Wernher Von Braun back in the first days of the space program. He has all kinds of welding equipment, and let me borrow his forks, gives us corn from his garden, and kept me sane when I nearly lost my finger. They are in their 80’s, and are some really good folks- probably the best neighbors I’ve ever had. Now they aren’t perfect, but they are pretty good.

  • Besides work & building a log cabin, what else is going on

    • cell phones

      I’m paying about $70/month for two phones and a data plan. I didn’t add the data plan until I was running my own business, and I just kept it because it was convenient. Now I’ve found a plan for $35/mo for 2 phones, no data, and 800 minutes and free texting. Seems like a good deal, so I’m going back to a basic candy bar non-smart phone. Boring, but saves money.

    • Church choir pianist (and now orchestra)

      I usually play the piano for the choir. My church’s Sunday music is pretty boring- think: traditional Methodist/Catholic/Presbyterian hymns from the late 1800’s. No rock and roll or guitars. The organ is preferred, but there is a piano on the stage just in case.  I played my sax in church back in the 1990’s, but it was outlawed soon after that (probably my fault. People really hate Bach for some reason). Anyway, with my finger out of sorts, I can’t play piano, or ukulele. I’ll probably start back at it next week, but still have areas on the tip of my finger that I have no feeling, so it’s not perfect. My church also does a Christmas Festival every year. It’s a free concert with a choir and a quilt display. They invited me to play sax (!) this year in the church. All traditional  Christmas songs. It’s in it’s 12th year, I think, so pretty neat to be invited to play in it. I originally went to school as a music major, but my professor said don’t do it professionally- do it for fun. I originally started on piano at age 4 (all my siblings and I play). We all play at least two instruments. I play woodwinds (except oboe and bassoon) , piano, accordion, ukulele, a little guitar, etc.

    • truck headgasket

      Ahh, yes- I need to fix this hunka……Ellery diagnosed it as “two dead cylinders- you need a new head gasket”. Fine. What a pain. It’s a 95 Toyota Pickup with a V6. This is a common problem on these vehicles. I’ve got everything apart, but I can’t remember if I need to clamp the cam gear to get the head bolts off without messing up the timing or if I can just take it off. I should probably do the timing belt this time; last time, I was kinda lazy. Just a big pain. But I do need a truck to haul big stuff out to the property- Civic ain’t quite cutting it.

I’m back to work and we’re moving logs like crazy: I moved four on Saturday and four on Tuesday. I just have 2 more monster logs that I need to move with my arch and then I’ll be done with all the ones I cut in the past two months, which means I’ll have about 30 total.  Next up I need about 20-30 more logs to start stacking walls. It’s still early August; I believe the plan was be done with logs by end of September, so that goal is very do-able.

 

2016 June 24: Military trailer Log arch

I’m finally ready to tackle this log loading problem. Here’s the issue:

I’m getting trees from the property next door. I’m cutting them myself, bucking them (I figured out that bucking a tree means taking off the limbs), then skidding them (dragging them) with a tractor over a small ditch and onto my property where I stack them on some sacrificial logs to keep them off the ground until I peel them. With a smaller log, the tractor can pick it up with tongs, lift it high enough to skid, and I can easily skid it and get it to where I want, and this process takes about 1 1/2 hours:

  • 30 minutes to fell and buck
  • 30 minutes to load and skid
  • 30 minutes to unload

Unfortunately (or maybe I can be positive and say ‘fortunately’, two years from now when I look at the finished house and see massive log eye-candy saving me tons of money on A/C and heat), my logs are usually more than 18″ diameter- some of the bigger logs (A.K.A. “monster logs”) are 26″+ and 50’+ long. It takes anywhere from 4 hours on a good day, to a couple of days to move one log. It’s extremely exhausting – I’ve lost 10 lbs in a month of working. I’m estimating these logs weigh about 6,000 lbs. My tractor is a Ford 3000 diesel. I think it’s rated at 47 hp. It’s not 4wd, but it has a lift on the back rated at 2,000 lbs. It gives up on monster logs. Me too.

Problems multiply when the log gets bigger. The log outweighs the tractor by 2,000 lbs, so lifting it makes it nearly impossible to steer, so ‘just plain skidding it’ is out. I have a military trailer, which is rated at 2.5 tons, but it is about 30″ off the ground, and the tractor can only lift to about 29″ (or some amount extremely close to whatever the trailer height is). But seriously- does it matter what the height is? It can’t lift it high enough to clear the bed of the trailer, and I’m sure it’s that way by design. Yes really. Some guy at the Ford tractor factory colluded with another guy at the military trailer factory 50 years ago, and they are still laughing about their “little joke”. I’m sure of this. It’s a conspiracy.

Cheap, fast, or good: you can only pick two.

‘Why not just get a bigger tractor,’ you may ask? I might reply, ‘Why not just buy a house that’s already built?’ But actually the answer is: I’m doing this debt-free. Pay as you go. You understand when I’m done with this, I’ll have a $400k home that cost $40k to build. Some folks love a telehandler- and I do too- but the cheapest I can get one that I’ve seen is about $18k. My brother-in-law has one, but getting it from Utah to here would cost about $2,000. And he uses it all the time, so he doesn’t want to part with it for even a month. I understand. So the solution has to be cheap. And good. The kicker with my solution, is that it actually ends up being ‘fast’. -er. Instead of 4 hours minimum on a monster log, I’m hoping it is 4 hours maximum. Maybe even 1 hour. Ok, let’s not get greedy.

I came up with a few work-arounds before settling on my current solution:

  • tie two tractor jacks together with a beam bolting them together. But 29″ (the height of the tractor jacks’ lifting height before they begin to buckle and get very unstable (also on my list of conspiracies….) is also not high enough to get it on the trailer.
  • hope that the tree falls near a still-standing tree that I can use with a chain hoist for lifting. This is rare.
  • build a tripod and use the chain hoist in that for lifting. But the trailer usually can’t fit under the tripod. And I have to move the tripod when I unload it, too.

All of these methods take time. Lots of time. And lots of muscle.

I’ve been thinking about a solution for a long time. First, I’ll get a helicopter…..No. It’s something called a “log arch”. You can buy one for like $800 that claims to handle logs “up to 15 inches in diameter”, but I know I can make one cheaper. I searched for “log arch” on google and found a ton of videos and methods. My favorite one, and the most elegant and simplest solution in my opinion is this one:

I already have the trailer. Just need to mount some kind of pivot system.

I got out my copy of LibreCAD, and drew up some plans. After tweaking them a bit, I had my logarch.  I’ll make them available for free.  I checked my math a few times -mostly the shear calculations for a bolt: I figured a force equal to a 6,000 log at standard acceleration of 9.8 m/s^2 gave me about 132,000 psi to work with. I ran it by Ellery (my super-practical better-than-an-engineer mechanical genius friend), and his immediate response was “3/4 inch grade 8 bolts”. I felt proud that it took me an hour of calculations from an engineering standpoint to come up with what he said in 1 second. He plays guitar, violin, banjo, etc., and I play piano, accordian, and now, ukulele.

I bought some 3″ x 3″ 1/4″ sidewall steel tube, and a 1/4″ flat plate. The guys down at C&J welding were super impressed with the youtube video. They all gathered around to give me advice on what kind of steel, welding techniques, issues I might encounter. The owner wants pictures of the completed log cabin. It’s the business that my buddy Ken H. recommended when he was still alive. I can see why. Super nice down to earth hardworking guys.

I need to make all my cuts and learn how to weld (yes, from Ellery), but hopefully, I’ll start welding it on Saturday.