Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Manual Labor

The winter storms took down a few trees by my house. Using a chainsaw is dangerous. It's twice as dangerous when cutting up storm damaged trees. The trees are bent over and tangled together. Today I misjudged a fair sized yellow birch. While cutting a good sized branch, the tree took a sudden twist and bound up my chain. This does happen on occasion. I shut the saw down and pondered how to get it free.

My first thought was to lift the branch to relieve the pressure. It was too heavy. My next idea was to perhaps use my 3.5 foot German crosscut saw. The thought of manually cutting the tree caused me to reconsider. Since the tree was within reach of my 100 foot extension cord, it was a simple matter to use a reciprocating saw with a rough cut blade. The chainsaw was soon free.

It did get me thinking. I bought that crosscut saw so I wouldn't have to rely on powered tools. As far as manual saws goes, its quality. If I had to cut all my firewood by hand, it would be the saw for the job. Of course, it would be one heck of a big job. The saw is usually in my truck. Should a tree come down and block the road, I can make short work of it. A guy once pulled out his chainsaw the same time I took out my crosscut saw. I had the offending tree cut before he could get his gas chainsaw started. He took a bit of a ribbing from me and seemed a bit ticked off.

Sure, for one medium sized softwood tree, it was a fairly easy job. Had it been a matter of cutting up 5 or 6 cords of hardwood, the gas saw would soon overtake my efforts. I could do it. Once cut up about 3 cords with a crosscut saw. The best thing that I can say about that is that it was good exercise.

Most of my firewood is split by hand. A couple pickup truck loads were split with a hydraulic splitter. Most of those had to be split into smaller pieces with an ax. Old fashioned kitchen woodstoves take fairly small wood. I'm pretty good at it. Been doing it since I was kid. I've a fair number of hand tools for the job: two axes, splitting maul, sledge hammer, and various splitting wedges. I've a pickaroon and several pulp hooks for picking up wood and unloading trucks. A good sturdy wheelbarrow is darn handy for carting wood around.

I do an awful lot of this work by hand. Usually I don't mind. However, cutting up wood without a chainsaw is something I'd rather avoid. A good sawbuck for holding the wood in place makes sawing easier, but it's never easy. Sawing and splitting wood, even with chainsaws and hydraulic splitters, is hard work.

With just hand tools, it's harder work and takes a lot longer. The time factor can be critical. While I'm cutting firewood, there's other things I'm not doing. I'm not fishing or hunting for more food. I'm not working in the garden. I'm not writing on the computer. Theres always things to do. Heck, I'm not sitting at my kitchen table with a hot coffee enjoying the view. That's too is an important part of living in the country. I've got to take the time to appreciate things. Otherwise I might as well be toiling in a cubicle.

My lovely wife currently is recovering from shoulder surgery. All the trees weren't cut up today. Instead I came inside to cook dinner, bake bread, do laundry and dishes. There are only so many hours in the day. Right now I'm glad I have a few power tools to save some time and labor. However, I'm always thinking of ways to get by without gas or electricity.

A few more strong backs around the house would be nice. Should any friends or relatives want to double up with us, it'd be great if they could swing an ax.


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