Western Log Home Supply Archive Page
Thursday, February 26, 2009
During the last ice age vast areas of the northern latitudes of what is now the United States were covered with, yes, ice. Glaciers slowly moved across the land and ground the bedrock into dust. Everything in their path was pushed out of the way and deposited far from their original source. As proof of this, walrus and caribou remains have been found as far south as the Carolinas. Trees slowly moved south as the temperature cooled.
When the climate warmed and the glaciers retreated signs of their visit remained. Large boulders in New York’s Central Park still have the grooves in them caused by the glaciers. Long Island, NY is a terminal moraine left behind as the glaciers retreated. Potholes and lakes were formed as the glaciers melted and turned to water. Eventually, vegetation began to carpet the landscape once again and as the cycle of living and dying ensued, the rotting vegetation began to form soil once again to provide a substrate for a new forest.
During the periods of heavy rainfall and snow melt in the spring, some of this vegetation was washed downstream and was deposited in the bottoms of ponds and lakes. Parts of trees and even full sized trees ended up in lakes, became water logged, and sank to the bottom. In time they were covered with clay and other sediment and were lost far below the lakes surface, not to be seen again for thousands of years.
One of these lakes lay north of New Haven, CT in the town of Hamden. The organic debris from the forest was washed into the lake and sank to the bottom. In times of heavy rainfall and flooding, layers of leaves, twigs and nuts were buried. Logs and various other wood debris were also covered and would not be seen again until the area was mined for clay to make bricks.
The logs which are found in this area are generally Eastern hemlock, various oaks, and sycamore. Buried deep under a tomb of clay they do not rot because the temperature is cold, oxygen is in short supply and the moisture content is high.
Yale University (especially the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies) has carried out radio carbon dating to determine how long these logs have been buried. This determination is based on the half life of Carbon 14 and has given quite accurate results over the years.
This author had a sample of Eastern hemlock carbon dated and found that it had died 1,250 years ago. An oak log was dated as having died 4,200 years ago. It has been found that sycamore logs are some of the oldest trees having been dated some 6,200 years! This probably attests to the fact that some 6,000 years ago the hills of Connecticut were made up of a large number of sycamore trees.
In the mid 70´s I noticed a large log, more than 2 feet in diameter, which had been pulled from the clay pit. A thought quickly came to mind: “How about making a gun stock from this ancient tree?” A chainsaw and 10 minutes of cutting led to a stock blank that was the approximate size of a normal rifle stock and about 3.5 inches thick. As a person who holds a BS in forestry and as well as a Masters Degree in forestry from Yale, I new that some quick work needed to be done to prevent the rapid deterioration of the stock blank. Rapid drying and shrinking of the wood stock blank would result in checking and splitting much to the chagrin of the gunsmith who would turn a rough piece of wood into a thing of beauty.
The wood was taken to a nearby stream and with the help of a large rock, was submerged in the water. This was left in situ for nearly a month. Now the wood was completely saturated and was ready for a chemical stabilization process. I took several pounds of polyethylene glycol (which looks like a block of paraffin in its solid state) and dissolved it in a special long vat of warm water. To keep the water warm a gold fish tank heater was installed. The stock blank was now immersed into this vat and left for several months. Remember “Haste makes waste.”
The technical explanation of this process is as follows: The wood must be thoroughly soaked with water for the PEG to be able to move through the wood cells. After this chemical has completely saturated the wood it is slowly dried over many months in a dark cool place. The PEG turns back into a solid after drying and fills the cell walls of the wood. If the cell walls are saturated with a solid material they cannot shrink when the wood is dried. If the wood cannot shrink, then it cannot crack and split.
After the initial several months of drying in a cool location, the stock blank was set aside and nothing more was done to it for 5 years. Then I sent it to a gunstock maker and had the sycamore stock blank semi-inleted for a Martini action which had been rebarrelled to .22 hornet caliber. A friend of mine (Rick Dotzenrod at Big Sky Firearms & Outfitters Incorporated) has a gunsmith shop and he engraved the action on both sides and used silver for the relief engraving of a fox and a crow. Additionally, he fitted the old wood onto the new rifle. Finally, to embellish the rifle further, he finished the exterior of the stock to a high gloss.
The stock does not have the brown color of normal sycamore wood, but looks more like mahogany. Referencing the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory Wood Handbook I found that sycamore gets red with age and this piece was certainly old. It is unfortunate that I did not save a piece of the raw wood to be carbon dated but like they say “Too soon we get old, to late we get smart. ”
The end result is a beautiful little .22 hornet single shot rifle that is more than a little unique. Everytime I take the rifle out for target shooting I think of the long and interesting process that was required to bring the gun to fruition. I must say that my good friend, Rick Dotzenrod, did most of the labor for this project. It goes to show that two heads are better than one.
Clyde can be contacted at 719 547 2135 or www.WesternLogHomeSupply.com
by: Western Log Home Supply
Monday, February 23, 2009
In 1972 I was on an Inter-Regional Fire Crew (Hotshots) out of Clarkia, Idaho on the St. Joe National Forest. Our job was to be ready to deploy on 15 minutes notice to fly wherever we were needed to fight forest fires. In August of that year we flew to Monterey, CA to fight a fire in the southern redwoods and in the Manzanita scrub on the rim of the mountains.
During the mopping up phase of this fire, just above Big Sur, I was called down into a canyon by my fellow firefighters. I was the only person in the crew that had a BS in Forestry and was working on my Masters in Forestry at Yale University. They had spotted a peculiar tree that defied a rational description.
In the canyon was a redwood tree (Sequoia sempvirens) that had foliage that was completely white, not the green that one would think of. The tree was not some small seedling of one or two years but rather a tree that was approximately 16 feet tall. Now remember if a tree does not have green foliage, then it cannot take sunlight water and nutrients and convert it into food for the tree (photosynthesis). Quite simply, if the tree does not have the green chlorophyll in its foliage it will die.
So what was the reason that this tree had white foliage and yet it still survived?
First of all, there was a genetic anomaly in the tree so that the tree did not have any chlorophyll.
Second, it had to survive but how? The only explanation that I can give is that it had a root graft to a normal productive redwood tree. Thus it was basically a parasite and took its nutrents from a healthy tree and that is how it survived. Without this root graft it would have died very early in its life cycle.
It is uncommon, but not unknown, for trees to have white foliage without the life sustaining chlorophyll, but they do not live long, only a few years.
Is this tree still living? It is doubtful. As the tree gets older and larger it requires increased amounts of nutrients. Eventually the donor will be unable to accommodate this high demand for nutrients and the parasitic tree will die.
I still have photos of this tree as well as some of the sample foliage. It was quite an unforgettable experience for someone schooled in botany and forestry. As they say in the natural sciences: never say never.
Clyde Cremer holds a Master degree in Forestry from the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies in New Haven, CT. He has over 35 years of experience in the forestry industry is currently the president of American Log Homes Inc. in Pueblo, Colorado.
by: Western Log Home Supply
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Mention the words “log home” in these environmentally aware times, and unfortunately the first thing likely to spring into the minds of many people is an image of lumberjacks clear-cutting entire forests and destroying habitats for spotted owls. At a time in this planet’s history when climate change, pollution, the destruction of the natural environment, and soaring fuel costs are truly legitimate concerns, the thought of a home made from trees can understandably cause an initially panicked reaction.
That notion of log homes being anti-“green,” however, could not, however, be farther from the truth.
Today’s log homes are, in fact, among the most environmentally friendly residential choices available, good both for the planet and for the people who live in them. Log homes can help restore, renew, and safeguard nature. The best-made log homes are manufactured with virtually zero waste. From every stage of their creation, from standing timber through construction to move-in, are responsibly built log home leaves one of the smallest carbon footprints of any residential choice.
A Log Home Begins: Responsible Logging
Every log home has its start when the logs from which it is built are first cut. Today, the most responsible builders of log homes become responsible stewards of the environment by carefully choosing the trees they cut for the most positive impact on the environment.
Some trees may be harvested strategically for log homes with the goal of optimizing the well being of trees left behind. Done correctly, this can allow remaining trees more room to grow and more direct access to sunlight and rain.
More importantly, however, is the fact that the smartest log homebuilders aim to use dead standing timber—trees that, at first glance, may look alive because they appear upright and strong, but have in fact died. One prime example of such trees are pines killed by beetle infestation, a major problem in America’s forests.
Dead standing trees scattered throughout the forests are removed selectively by helicopter logging. In many cases entire tracts of woodlands may be composed of dead standing timber, which are most efficiently removed by clear cutting. Either way, such dead trees have drier wood that is much more prone to catching fire from lightning strikes, sparking power lines, or careless campers. Caught alight, one such dead standing tree can lead to the devastation of vast living forests and related ecosystems.
Fortunately, most dead standing timber is prime material for log homes. Beetles, for example, attack only the cambium, the thin growing layer beneath the bark, leaving the rest of the timber unaffected. Since a tree destined for a log home will be milled down to its heartwood, any and all traces of infestation are eliminated long before construction.
In these fundamental ways, logs are a sustainable resource. And that fact alone makes log homes a superb green building option. But there are more good reasons still why log homes make superb eco-friendly choices.
Log Homes: Less “Embodied Energy”
The term “embodied energy” is becoming more and more familiar among folks concerned about the environment. In brief and put as simply as possible, it refers to the sum total amount of energy expended to produce a product. For a brick wall, that would mean every bit of energy involved in digging up the clay, trucking it to the brickworks, building the moulds, firing it in the kiln, trucking it to the store or brickyard or building site, similar energy for the mortar, and assembling the wall, plus a share of the energy expended to make all the machines or equipment used in every step of the process.
By this standard, the walls of a log home contain consume less energy than walls of brick and mortar, and also less than walls of milled boards. That makes logs a much more responsible building material choice for the wellbeing of our planet.
Log Home Milling: Waste-Free Manufacturing
Once they reach the mill, responsibly harvested timbers go through a milling process that is a model of environmentally responsible manufacturing. Virtually no part of the tree goes to waste.
As mentioned, trees destined for log home construction are milled down to their heartwood and cut to length. But what, you may wonder, becomes of the parts that are milled or trimmed away?
When a manufacture receives a log it is usually in the form of a "cant." A cant is a round log that has had slabs cut off of the sides to make it square. These cants are ready to be run though the planner machine but before this happens they go through the first grading process. Logs that have a large amount of cracks, bends, curves, bows, or other flaws are either rejected before they are even milled or are cut down to a smaller usable length and placed in a Grade B or Grade C pile. Logs that make it through this process are Grade A logs.
These Grade A logs are run through a large planner which mills the tongue-and-groove pattern into the top and bottom of the log and makes one face of the log round (the side that is on the outside of the home) and mills the inside face of the log flat. This is done with tungsten carbide tipped cutter heads which makes for an extremely smooth finish.
After the logs are milled they are cut to length according to a log layout. The log layout is a blueprint of the house and contains the exact length of every that is going to be used in the home.
When the log is cut to length it a small slab is cut off the front of the log to make it flat and smooth. Sometimes if the log has a crack which was not seen in the first grading process that portion of the log will be cut off to assure that it meets Grade A standards. These small trimmings from logs are sold as firewood.
Logs graded “B” or “C” because of cracks, bends, curves, bows, or other flaws that render them unsuitable for large-scale quality construction also may be turned into playhouses, sheds, or garages.
Logs which are below Grade B or C quality logs get cut up for dunnage, the strips of wood that secure bundles of logs for shipping or are used to make the borders for gardens.
Even the wood shavings from the planer machines that make the tongue-and-groove cuts that fit logs together are sold for horse bedding or to decorate and hold moisture in garden flowerbeds.
Believe it or not but even the finest particles of sawdust finds use with environmentally friendly composting toilets or to soak up oil on shop floors.
Some enlightened log home manufacturers take the notion of waste-free sustainability one step further still. They become members of environmentally conscious industry organizations that actually fund the replanting of trees to keep forests well managed, healthy, and growing.
Once a log home has been built, its value as a green living choice becomes all the greater. Especially when a log home is positioned on its site to take maximize direct sunlight during the colder months and to maximize shade during warmer months, logs are an ideal building material, absorbing heat effectively and releasing it slowly to reduce heating costs in winter, and keeping interiors well-insulated against exterior heat in the summer.
Using dry wood to eliminate shrinkage and built following proper construction, sealing, and chinking procedures, log homes are also extremely airtight. This factor not only further reduces heating and cooling costs but also improves indoor air quality. The result is a far healthier interior environment.
In such practical, everyday ways, log homes provide true benefits to those who build and live in them. From the ways in which the logs are harvested, through their milling process, to the construction of the finished home, they make an ideal choice for anyone who wants to reduce their carbon footprint and live a sustainable, environmentally responsible life.
by: Western Log Home Supply
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