I always knew that I would have to do something with the troublesome trees that started me down this road to chainsaw and blogging obsession. It wasn’t a question of “if” but of “what”. Then along came Carver Kings and their episode on carving/building a massive medieval table (see review here), and it hit me: I need a new table and I need something to write about in this crazy quest to create the world’s best chainsawing adventure blog. Why not combine these two things into a new adventure? I had already purchased a Granberg chainsaw mill and had planned on milling some of this wood into useful lumber of some sort. Why not a table top? Now all I needed was something for a base. The Carver Kings had used stumps for their base, and it looked freaking impressive. I happened to have a couple of stumps that I had thought might make good fodder for a foray into carving. Why not use one for the base?
Deciding to use one of the stumps for a table base was easy. Anybody can decide , “Hey, I’ll use one of these stumps as a table base.” Deciding is easy. Getting the sucker out of the ground without doing too much damage to the stump, myself, or my chainsaw would prove another matter. My design for the base involved incorporating some of the root structure, and incorporating the roots meant digging to expose those roots for surgery. Digging the roots was a bit of a chore, but the use of a small Karcher K2.27 CCK pressure washer helped both in softening/moving the earth away from the roots, and in cleaning as much abrasive dirt off of the roots as possible in the hopes of not totally destroying the chain on my saw. Of course, the problem with digging and cutting roots lies in the danger of hitting rocks and dirt which can dull (or break) a chain in an instant.
As I dug out below the roots to clear room for the chainsaw bar and chain, I diligently used the pressure washer to wash all of the grit and dirt from the roots, I still managed to dull the chain on hidden bits of grit and rocks. As you can see from the pictures below, there was even an instance where the root had started to grow around a rock. I was always extra conscious of where my feet and legs were in relation to the saw in order to keep my fleshy bits out of way should there be any kickback or chain breakage. Luckily there were no major collisions between saw and rocks (but there were a couple of orange sparks moments where I would immediately stop cutting and investigate what I hit), but I did gain a greater appreciation for the fine art of hand filing a chain in order to get up and running as quickly as possible. Hand filing may not be as precise as using a bar mounted guide, but it is the fastest way to file a dull chain in the field. I can only imagine how much faster it would be if I was more practiced in the finer parts of hand filing.
It was quite a chore digging and cutting the stump free of mother earth’s warm, loving embrace. The hardest part was cutting through the large central root going straight down to the under world. Plunge cutting so low to the ground was a bit nerve wracking. I tried my best to excavate all around and well below the root in order to see any hazards that might be lurking. As careful as I was, it was still a bit tense taking the “plunge” and inserting the bar of my Stihl MS271 into the heart of the stump. Once again, being mindful of where my tender bits were in relation to the reactive paths of the saw was a must.
After the stump was finally free of the dirt, it was time to begin phase two. The rough shaping into something resembling a table base. One major problem involved in this project will be poplar’s propensity for mold. This is a very wet wood, and it seems to mold quite quickly. Keeping the milled and shaped wood from molding during the drying process will be a huge problem, and knowing that this first attempt might be ruined by stained wood is a daunting thought.
Once the stump was free, I quickly came to a stunning conclusion: stumps are heavy. My chosen stump, fresh from the ground weighed close to 400 pounds. Before I can move it to a more sheltered place for a more controlled drying (if you count moving it into a rundown garage as a more controlled drying environment- at least it is out of the full sun and rain), some rough cutting/carving has to take place in order to reduce the weight. Once the stump was turned upside down it was given a thorough pressure washing. The initial cutting of the roots was made more difficult by the harder and stronger wood of the roots and their different grain structures. Sometimes the cuts were of a bucking nature; sometimes the cuts were of a ripping nature, and sometimes somewhere in between.
Even with the stump up-ended with all parts in full view, the stump was not finished with it’s quest for revenge on the saw that spelled its doom. While trimming the saw from the bottom, I encountered a rock totally embedded in the middle of the stump. It was a small rock, but it was more than enough to damage half of the cutting edges of the cutter teeth on my Echo CS 590 Timber Wolf. To the Echo and Oregon chain’s credit, the saw managed to finish the cut. It took over an hour of filing to restore the chain to a sharp cutting edge. The following pictures show that when it comes to cutting stumps (or any part of the tree to a lesser extent), you can never know what lies lurking beneath the surface (the same could be said of a pretty girl’s smile, but that is a story for another blog).
Slowly the stump is taking shape. Sometimes I wonder why I am putting myself through this, and then i remember that I think playing with chainsaws is cool.