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Beech Logs and Table Tops

Posted by Rosemoor Garden on 24 Feb 2009 at 09:34 AM

Towards the end of January Rod Knight, Phil and myself, together with a local farm contractor, ventured into Rosemoor’s lower woodland area to cut a number of sizable slabs of beech (Fagus sylvatica) from a fallen tree. These slabs are to become table tops for the new picnic area that is being created in the woodland fringes of the Formal Garden. Several natural features have already been installed, including stumps for seats and balance beams for children to play on, and the inclusion of some natural, rustic tables for use in the area will further compliment the project.
The beech tree itself was blown down several years ago and by the looks of it was a monster of a tree! The base and root area of the trunk (which we were going to be cutting) was in some places around 1.75 metres in diameter, so when it was standing the tree must have been quite a sight. To help us cut this huge piece of timber, we enlisted the help of a local farmer with his telehandler (much like a very large forklift) to move and position it for cutting, and also to help with removal of the slabs once they were cut. With such a huge trunk the usual small 38cm chainsaw would have little if any hope of getting through, so this is where the fun began (for me anyway - it’s the small things in life that make me happy!).  Another arboriculture team lent us one of the largest saws available - a ‘Husqvarna 395xp with a 1.25 metre bar and chain (compared to the usual small 38cm bar it was a monster) and I couldn’t wait to get started. Even with this large cutting bar I would still have to cut from both sides, ensuring that the cuts met in the middle.

With the help of the telehandler the log (which was about 3 metres  in length) was moved away from the stack and positioned on three lengths of timber to make it stable and keep it off the ground. This was to make cutting easier, and to prevent the chain from cutting into the dirt, which would blunt it (and a chain that length would take a while to sharpen). First a 25cm slab was measured to be removed at the base end to enable us to reach the good, untouched wood.

It was important to get a level cut and, because the bar was so big, and because I would have to meet the cuts from each side, this was a tricky operation. Marks were made around the circumference of the trunk to give me some guidance, and with the saw sharp and fuelled I was ready to go.

I started cutting from one side until I was around two thirds of the way through the log. I then moved around to the other side and did the same, trying to match up and follow the cut I’d made on the first side. I got around three quarters of the way through and then went back to the first side and continued until I was all the way though that side. With just a little more to cut I moved for the final time to the other side and finished the cut. Once the slab was cut it fell flat and we could see not only if the untouched inner wood was any good, but also if my cut was any good; I was pleased and relived to see that both were pretty good.  We needed four slabs for the picnic area, so the next slab would be the first table top. We went through the same procedure of measuring but this time we only needed 10cm thick slabs.

Four slabs were cut and all were pretty level and flat apart from the last one which, due to a blunt chain, had a bit a curve in it.  A blunt chain, especially if it has hit the dirt and been blunted on only one side, will tend to cut in a curve and, the bar being the size it was, this was accentuated.

Each slab was individually loaded onto a pallet and then onto the back of the tractor trailer, and we towed them back to the yard where they were unloaded ready for some final preparation work.  Once this is complete, the ‘tables’ will be positioned in the picnic area.

Tom Williamson - Gardener


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