Shortly after I posted about my White Wolf Fian challenge I ran into some good fortune. An arborist friend of mine called me to ask if I wanted any white ash as he was clearing a building lot for a client. “Cool!”, I thought. “I’ll be able to get some timber from which to make my spring pole lathe!” When I got to the job site, there were over a dozen ash trees in various stages of being felled, all between 8″ and 14″ in diameter. Perfect. I picked out a couple that would be suitable and my friend said he would put them aside for me. I was to pick them up the next day and because he was looking at least an extra day on the site, this was no problem…except local firewood-urchins visited the site during the night and stripped the site bare. They only left some branch wood.
By now, 3 months has passed since my challenge at Pennsic. 9 months still to go including an Ealdormerian winter when it is not pleasant to work outside. Thrown in something of a minor mental breakdown (ok, two of them) and what have I accomplished? Zip… Zilch… Nadda…
And then yesterday, a ray of hope. I chanced upon one of the many local tree companies who are always busy at this time of year and struck up a conversation with them. As it turns out, they were finishing up for the day but would return the next day to drop the last tree they had been contracted to do…a tall, straight ash tree, 16″ across at the butt and clear of any branches for the first 40 feet of the trunk.Perfect.
I arranged to meet them the next morning at the site and because the tree was still standing, I had no fear of anyone taking the timber for firewood.
The tree folks warned me that this thing was heavy. Really. Heavy. I knew it would be but I had a plan to make it more manageable. You see, I need half of this log in order to make the bed of the lathe. I could see no reason to attempt muscling it around in any form bigger than one half. So, just as would have been done 1000 years ago, I split it in half down its length using a series of wedges and a liberal application of brute force (a sledge hammer).
In the past I have used wedges to split some very large diameter logs into more manageable pieces with good success. However, I had never attempted to split one that was near 7 feet long. I had also never been overly concerned about how straight my work was because I was just going to chainsaw up the pieces to become bowl blanks. For this lathe bed, I wanted to get it pretty straight so I would have less work making the top surface flat and so I didn’t waste any of the wood (This stuff doesn’t grow on trees you know. Wait…). 5 minutes later…..
Ummm, I cannot see how this could have possibly worked out any better. The split followed the centre of the log perfectly. Both halves are straight and the split surfaces are dead flat. To say I was pleased would be a great understatement.
The two halves are no safely stored under cover at my Shrub’s place. I’ll head back there this weekend to get some work done. As I said, one half will form the lathe bed with a chunk left over for one of the poppets. The other will supply the other poppet and, if I split it well, the 4 legs. My goal for the weekend will be to accurately size the bed and cut the groove for the poppets (details of what this all means will follow, for those that do not speak pole lathe).
The other nice thing to happen in the past week was the arrival of Carole A. Morris’s book, “Wood and woodworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and medieval York”. I received this book as part of a trade with Lord Evan Quicktongue. It is one of the most significant texts dealing with Viking-Age woodworking, especially woodturning. I consider it a essential source for research of my Fian challenge.
Until next time, thanks for stopping by