I Took Friday Off

p1550707I went to the APF Forestry Exhibition in Warwickshire on Friday and left my car for a walk across the field of cars leading to the show. Actually it was more a field of trucks, SUVs, four-wheeler dudes that foster the image that goes with the territory. p1550697Some things are best said in black and white so that’s why we are in B&W mode here. I say we but really mean me. I have a book called This Was Logging’ and every forester and woodworker should own a copy. I think that it may still be in print but secondhand copies can be had today for around £6 secondhand or even new.

What on earth (pun) this means I couldn't see.

What on earth (pun) this means I couldn’t see.

It takes you to the days rooted to mass distribute wood around a continent and on into the big globe. But the book is equally as much about the incredible record of a photographer’s first-lens view of logger life in the virgin forests and a period of logging now long gone and never to return. I know back then they were in hog heaven thinking this was a resource that could never be exhausted but of course, ignorance or not, it was exploited to death.

This giant reminded me of something in a sci fi. Picking up logs in a jaw that severed it in two effortlessly made me think you need to keep friends with the driver/operator.

This giant reminded me of something in a sci fi. Picking up logs in a jaw that severed it in two effortlessly made me think you need to keep friends with the driver/operator…

Looking to back then and then to today I wonder how long we would have lasted had the equipment at the show been available back then with no checks and bounds to curtail the lumbering empires seeing themselves as the great God of unchallenged superiority and dominance.

...so much power.

…so much power.

There would have been no chance. Watching a machine capable of limbing a whole tree in a matter of minutes and then sever its 18″ stem from its root and pulverise it into chunks and chips in less is quite an amazing sight even if it is in the most negative sense of the word.

Split, crosscut and piled a mile high in an hour. I did wonder what most wood is used for these days.

Split, crosscut and piled a mile high in an hour. I did wonder what most wood is used for these days.

Being there at the show made me ever more conscious of how destructive mass making and mass wasting has been, is and will be into the future. I do know that the men operating the equipment never left their cabs, never broke a sweat and never touch a lump of wood throughout the whole process. As I said to one man extolling the virtues of cheaper products as a result of such equipment and said, It doesn’t matter how the operator feels. The point is whether wood products will be affordable, which they won’t be if we go back to having guys chopping them down with axes and hauling them out with horses. We don’t need to be concerned with the mechanics of harvesting, but we need to be interested in the condition of our forests and their management.” Somewhere in the mix came reference to China again and the need for cheap products even of quality and the usual boring rationale that’s always applied continued. Whereas there is truth in part to what’s often said, there are many assumptions too. One is that the alternative is that, we go back to having guys chopping them down with axes and hauling them out with horses.” People often use extremes to validate what they say. The other is that global consumerism is always a good and positive thing.  My response was simple and based on my experience harvesting trees for my work; I don’t know my friend, give a man a chain saw!!! I know when a man swings an ax the process makes him much more considerate and I have done both and saw what a chainsaw does to a man.” He continued a little more: “China is thriving because consumers around the world select products with the lowest price, if quality is adequate. Highly efficient machinery is required to offset low wages. The greater the productivity provided by the machinery means the less wages are a factor in determining product price. An employer would love to pay workers a nickel a day, but they have to compete for skilled labor, so a machine that makes one employee produce hundreds of times more output than one working by hand, means the employer can afford to pay higher wages.”   And I said to this; “Sorry, my friend, That doesn’t really work either. It’s not about mass making but the way we live. Your assumptions are all based on consumerism but we don’t all want cheap goods from any continent but to buy something from a woman we meet and a man we know and a kid down the street, thats all. Everything that’s made can be made just fine without cheap.” 

Anyway, guys need to make a living, I think to myself, so I don’t want to diss anyone, but the consequences to equipment like this is mostly to feed the global printing machine’s seemingly insatiable appetite and then the mass-manufacture of throwaway furniture by you the know who’s of this world. So there I was bored to bits by what some might call big toys for the boys when I saw a woman’s turnings and a man straining at cuts with a gouge and my synapses pinged.

Roughing out the carving with his chainsaw.

Roughing out the carving with his chainsaw. Practical and pragmatic.

Piqued with the reality of real wood and real measures to work it, I sat at a distance watching chainsaw carvers trimming out a horse…

A horse rises in the chainsaw challenge for supremacy.

A horse rises in the chainsaw challenge for supremacy.

men and women chatting excitedly about seeing things emerge from a man’s hands and a woman’s hands and I smiled my inward smile of admiration knowing they valued what might one day be lost.

Just a piece of car coil spring and then a knife. Love it!

Just a piece of car coil spring and then a knife. Love it!

A blacksmith hammered a car coil spring into a knife blade as an Irish neighbour fed the blacksmiths dog and explained to an onlooker

Knife blades from a coil of steel.

Knife blades from a coil of steel.

why his hand turned and very beautiful burl bowl was worth the money. Oh, I’m not naive.

This is Malcolm Mc Andrew explaining his work. His trailer developed a problem and he had to abandon it for a season but arrived less equipped. But he forged on and did the show. That's the fighting spirit of lifestyle woodworkers.

This is Malcolm Mc Andrew explaining his work. His trailer developed a problem and he had to abandon it for a season but arrived less equipped. But he forged on and did the show. That’s the fighting spirit of lifestyle woodworkers.

Adding the corralled artisans is more a nod to the past by the organisers I am sure. Had it not been for the efforts of the artisans pouring themselves into this element of realness the show would have to show where it’s true heart was. So I enjoyed my hour of realness visiting with new-found friends and people nodded as they passed and all in all I did enjoy a break into  the zone.

This kit took 20 tree stems and turned them into a mountain of chips in under ten minutes.

This kit took 20 tree stems and turned them into a mountain of chips in under ten minutes.

I like bikes with frames made from wood, even plywood.

I like bikes with frames made from wood, even plywood.

Tree kit is more like a climbing store I use to visit in Manchester when I was a rock climber.

Tree kit is more like a climbing store I use to visit in Manchester when I was a rock climber.

The loneliness of the long distance pole lathe turner. There were lots of them at the show.

The loneliness of the long distance pole lathe turner. There were lots of them at the show.

I loved this meet here. The weaver of swill baskets was told by the lady that her daughter was watching a TV program with one of his baskets in the film. She got one out that she had bought from the same man here and took a pic of the tv one with her daughter with theirs in the foreground.

I loved this meet here. The weaver of swill baskets was told by the lady that her daughter was watching a TV program with one of his baskets in the film. She got one out that she had bought from the same man here and took a pic of the tv one with her daughter with theirs in the foreground.

Trugs for garden harvesting and tool toting. Imagine that he makes his living from making trugs. Love it. Keep it small, keep it simple and keep your values.

Trugs for garden harvesting and tool toting. Imagine that he makes his living from making trugs. Love it. Keep it small, keep it simple and keep your values.

Woodworking, carving and turning all in place here.

Woodworking, carving and turning all in place here.

What a beautiful range of true Windsors here. Just lovely.

What a beautiful range of true Windsors here. Just lovely.

he didn't seem bothered about making a sale or anyone around him. He just kept peeling away and before I knew it he had made a scythe stem we call a snath or a sned. This is a conchoidal shaping in the straight first and then steamed and bent to shape to fit around the body to allow pressure points to be applied during scything swings.

He didn’t seem bothered about making a sale or anyone around him. He just kept peeling away and before I knew it he had made a scythe stem we call a snath or a sned.
This is a conchoidal shaping in the straight first and then steamed and bent to shape to fit around the body to allow pressure points to be applied during scything swings.

And there as you might expect was good old Wood Mizer

And there as you might expect was good old Wood Mizer

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17 Comments

  1. Mike Towndrow on 18 September 2016 at 6:13 pm

    Looked like a good show Paul thanks for sharing it with us.
    Having tried using a pole lathe I can vouch that they are wonderful to use. So much feel and feedback through the wood as you cut in perfect time with operation of the treadle.
    I like the picture of the chap making a Snath. I’ve been doing quite a bit of mowing lately for the Earth Trust using an Austrian scythe. These scythes are made of ash and shaped from one piece rather than through steam bending, so thought I might have a go at making one some time.



  2. Christopher on 18 September 2016 at 6:27 pm

    Thanks for sharing this with us. I couldn’t be there , Obviously lol but still it was almost as I was . A tiny tad. I enjoy seeing people sharing there craft with the public.
    Funny, just last night I was thinking about the Ebony from Africa and how it’s also almost a memory soon to be real.
    It’s a shame what we have done to this earth . All for one thing. Money!!
    The list goes on and on Ivory, Wood, diamonds, fossil fuel, the fish in the ocean and who pays the price for this total anilation. My question is Why can’t people see what’s happening and put a stop to it.
    I wanted to buy some Apple wood this past week for a Tenon saw I’m having made. For the handle. Good luck searching for this. I’m told by several lumber yards. Anyway thank you for sharing your Day off with us.
    Ziggy



    • Mike Bronosky on 18 September 2016 at 7:21 pm

      Christopher, don’t know where you live but I live in the US. Done a search on Google with “apple orchards near me” and came up with an international list of orchards. Drilled down the list of states and found an orchard about 50 miles from me with about 20 different kinds of apple trees.
      Some rough deductions. Say a orchard has 100 apple trees and an apple tree lives about a 100 years, mathamatically one tree dies per year. I know this is not right but just guessing and injecting numbers.
      Contact owners close to you and see if the we sell you a x inch diameter log y feet long for z in money. Have them give you a call when a tree dies. May be you could go help him harvest part of the tree for a piece of it.



      • Tom Stenzel on 19 September 2016 at 2:37 am

        Mike, orchards plant dwarf trees to ease with the apple picking. Also as a tree ages it becomes less productive. Orchards now cut the tree down based on formulas for the most apples over the most years in the least amount of space. The important result for us is that the cut down trees aren’t large enough to provide any useful lumber.

        Finding any fruitwood has become really difficult.

        -Tom Stenzel



      • christopher Mitchell on 20 September 2016 at 8:02 am

        Thanks Mike , good look out.
        My situation is almost at a critical stage. I live in Florida, Have plenty of Orange trees just short on Apple. lol. My saw will be in production in a few weeks so I dont have the time to season any Apple for it. The saw Maker no longer can get Apple At least not at the present.
        In addition to your advice I’m disabled so in order for something like that to happen I would have to pay someone to do all the leg work and that could get expensive. I do like the idea though. I read where how much Apple is harvested for lumber each year from the US and I couldn’t believe the amount. Unfortunately I think all of it is exported to other countries. Even the lumber yard where I have purchased my lumber for the past eight or nine years is exporting all the good stuff. Makes me so mad I could spit fire.
        Im speaking of our Domestic wood here. Walnut especially. I’m friends with the owner so its not like I’m a stranger but business is business. Right? Doesnt matter how I feel about it.lol
        I have a slab of Apple 18″ wide 4 1/2″ thick and 68″ tall already seasoned but that’s for my instruments I’m not using that for a saw handle.
        I’m Not sure what I’m going to do any suggestions would be nice.
        I can supply the wood or just select what he has. Walnut, Curly Maple ,Cherry or Hickory. What do you think? . Thanks for your advice I do appreciate it.
        Chris



  3. DayJ on 18 September 2016 at 7:02 pm

    Time well spent



  4. Joe on 18 September 2016 at 7:34 pm

    Paul, and anybody, check out this documentary from 1946 California.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=DLCCzLQ4V8E



  5. Ian W. on 18 September 2016 at 9:01 pm

    Well would you adam & eve it. Second photo down shows a long base four wheeler displaying the logo of Kettering Borough Council. Still resident in my home town, born and bred.
    I find it somewhat disturbing to see a tree in all it’s glory felled to the ground only to finish up as a pile of chippings or logs to burned and never given the chance to shine after passing through the hands of a woodworking craftsman.



  6. Wayne on 18 September 2016 at 10:00 pm

    Paul,
    At that show, you were two minutes drive away from my house. You should have called in and helped me with my workbench build!

    Wayne



  7. JulioT on 18 September 2016 at 10:31 pm

    As someone said some time ago: “when the last fish has been fished, when the last tree has been cut, when the last river has been poisoned, you will realize thay money can’t be eaten”.



  8. Sylvain on 19 September 2016 at 10:05 am

    The first comment is just nonsense. Anybody can organise any show about any subject matter and name it Euro-blahblah…
    I am not an European official or civil servant. Before making any comment about EU policy, one should at least try to find information.
    http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/forest/strategy/communication_en.pdf for example.
    I read on Wikipedia that EU could not put in place a coordinated protection of the forest before 2012 because of the opposition of some Member States, UK among them.

    Back to the subject, Those heavy machines are compacting the soil and destructing everything where they go through. Belgian has excellent horses dedicated to logging work.
    google “débardage au cheval”
    Sylvain



    • Paul Sellers on 19 September 2016 at 12:49 pm

      I am not sure who this is addressed to, Sylvain, so I can’t make all sense of it. The link you sent was very interesting and thanks for that. Also the reality of compacted earth and of course other subcutaneous damage too. I know too that horses developed to pull love to pull and with a skilled person working them they do almost if not no damage at all.



  9. Gav on 19 September 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Some genius suggested that a “bio mass power station” was a suitable option for a backup energy source in Western Australia. The power source was using virgin timber from either native or plantation forests as far as I can remember. At the same time there are higher refuse fees being directed at everyone from the general public to contractors to encourage reusing waste product because it was cheaper to bury it. One of the specific reasons was being the methane and other gases etc that pollute the groundwater and the air from decomposition underground, yes we love to bury stuff here. I use recycled hardwood a lot of the time as do many other woodworkers on a small scale in my area and it is slowly increasing but bigger industries really need a prod. At the very least if some of that technology was used to process the really useless wood waste into something useful such as wood pulp for paper products or “bio fuel” there wouldn’t be such a big problem. Machines are great- if used in a considered and efficiently productive fashion. So are government incentive programs, the tax incentive/superannuation funded timber industry for paper pulp collapsed so all over Australia there are blue gum plantations being ripped out to rot or be burnt or chipped for no purpose other than to free up the land for some other use. Do the dots ever get joined up or is it purely a result of people formulating policy that has nothing to do with the physical manifestations of how we live because they have never had anything to do with the products we use every day? Apologies if this is a bit of an off topic rant but the divide between what gets done and how it gets done seems to be a universal issue today. Trade shows really do demonstrate the extreme ends of the spectrum. In some ways this is great. In some ways questionable. We can choose and we can share the humanity that can be put into what we do so I am grateful for blogs such as this.



  10. RayS on 19 September 2016 at 4:50 pm

    I’m from BC where there is serious logging. Those million board feet a shift mills require a lot of wood fibre. The logger has changed. While hunting we ran across a those feller-buncher machines, ran by a pretty young thing. A long way from a rangatang in a grey Stanfield knit wool undershirt ! But we don’t do high lead logging anymore, either.



  11. Simon on 19 September 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Lots of stuff going on in this particular blog but the comment about cheap products got my interest.
    I went to a wood recycling centre near me to get some wood to make a tool chest, really interesting but the health and safety brigade has been and the entire wood rack was going to have to be dismantled and checked, re assembled and a different roof put on because the “experts” thought it might blow off. The structure is massive and has been there for about 40 years and survived at least 2 hurricanes and the roof has never budged. I have a hunch that anyone called an expert is usually no such thing!
    However while waiting my eye caught 3 small mahogany chests of drawers, nothing fancy but good honest workmanship, £40 each! much nicer than anything made today and good for another hundred years. Similarly at the local hospice shop yesterday another chest, a bit bigger 5 drawers, a bit light for mahogany, a bit of moulding missing on the top drawer about £170. If i didn’t already have a beautiful mahogany chest in every bedroom I would have bought the lot.!



  12. Jeff Polaski on 20 September 2016 at 3:43 pm

    You are right that some things are best in black and white. A number of generations have grown to adulthood seeing noting but color picture, TV and movies.

    I cannot imagine Orson Welles having filmed “The Third Man” in color. If I even try to imagine it, I shudder deep inside.



  13. Jeff Polaski on 20 September 2016 at 3:45 pm

    Oops! Errors in diction and grammar don’t count today.