Archive for October, 2010

From Logs to Lumber

So you might have been wondering what we did with the trees we cut down last fall.

The medium sized branches Papa Flannel cut up and used for fire wood in their wood burning boiler. The small unusable pieces we hauled out to the pond in the winter and tried to burn but the pieces were still too green. Burning FAIL.

Instead we added them to our brush pile behind the fence which is now the home to lots of critters. Which helps offset the homes we probably destroyed clearing out that brush for the fenced in yard so it all works out in the end. But trust me it was not fun hauling that big brush pile all over the place in the deep snow.

The big pieces we intended to use so they have been sitting on the driveway to our shed for the past year. We painted the ends to help keep them from rotting.

I refused to let them sit out there for another winter and finally started calling around for someone with a bandsaw. We could have taken them somewhere to be cut on a big table saw but using a bandsaw on site is ideal. Bandsaws have a thinner blade so there is less waste, are said to cut a straighter line, and you don’t have transport the heavy logs. The only downside is that bandsawing costs more but I found a local guy who does it on the side for a very reasonable price. Tow behind bandsaws like his cost roughly $10,000 so it’s understandable that is costs more. Plus he only charged us for the time the machine was running not the set up and take down time.

The bandsawer brought his father and Papa Flannel came out to help us move the heavy logs.

This part the cherry tree was pretty curved but it produced a surprising number of nice boards.

Check out the nifty hydraulic arm the bandsaw has! No wonder these things cost so much.

Now onto the largest piece of the black walnut. Look at the size of that thing!

For being such an old tree it was disappointing to see how little black there was. The oldest parts of the tree have the least amount of white whereas the younger branches are mostly white. The black center is desirable and the darker the color the better.

When we got the center Flannel Man had two 3″ slabs cut so he can make gun stocks out of them. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited he was about this.

This shot was taken while they were cutting that last log. The fine dust shows how little waste there is with each cut. Considering how many boards we got out those nine logs that is a small dust pile!

As they try to get down to a wider part of the tree there are a few cuts with natural edges. They can be used as is (as they dry the bark will fall off) or you can have the ends cut to make them more useable. We just decided to have them cut while we had a bandsaw there to do it.

Look at all the lumber we got out of those logs! It’s hard to tell but that’s a four foot tall pile.

We ran out of 1″x2″ spacers so the bigger slabs are on the trailer for now.

And here’s the bark ends that won’t go to waste. Our co-workers were happy to take them for fire wood.

Now we just need to figure out how to dry it all! Sitting in our un-heated shed it would take close to 5 years to dry so we’re looking to dry them in a kiln. They would take 6 months to dry in a standard kiln and about a year to dry in a solar kiln. Solar kilns are preferred because the wood dries slower which causes less warping and splitting.

Like I said before Flannel Man plans to carves some gun stocks out of the 3″ black walnut pieces. I want to make some nightstands out of the cherry to match our cherry bed so I had some 2″ slabs cut for the legs. I also want to make a bench for our entry out of some of the black walnut pieces that have both black and white coloring. That tree was between 50-60 years old. It was there long before our house was built and had a huge presence in our back yard so I want it to have a presence in our house since we had to cut it down. I’m not sure what we’ll do with the rest of the lumber but we have at least a year to figure it out.

The whole process was really exciting to see board after board come out of those logs. It took 1 1/2 hours to cut everything so it only cost us $85. Considering all the nice lumber we got out of it I’d say that’s a good deal!


Using Polymeric Sand with Flagstone

To finish off our new rock wall flowerbed we needed to come up with a way to fill in the gap between the driveway and the rock wall. As I mentioned before planting hardy groundcovers weren’t working because of the winter plowing and small amount of salt that we use so we really wanted a hardscape to fill in the gap. It was too small for an asphalt company to bother with so that was out of the picture plus we really wanted to treat the area is more of a walkway instead of a continued driveway. So we looked into different patio/walkway options. Pavers are a common patio choice but we were afraid it might look strange next to a natural stone wall and cutting them around each curve would be very tedious. So we decided to go with a very natural look and decided to use flagstone. We live in the country and this rock wall area is the first thing you see when you come to our house so we wanted it to fit in with the natural setting.

We started with a 6″ deep base of 3/4″ limestone with fill (aka. sand). We were able to get 1 1/2 tons at our local quarry for only $17. We filled in the area one inch at a time compacting each layer by hand.


After pricing out flagstone we decide to go with flagstone from Fargo in what is called Buckthorn color. It is a mostly tan color with a little gray mixed in. We wanted a mix because someday we want to have tan rock (either real or cultured) on the house but our rock wall is mostly gray since that is what color most rocks in our area are so it needed to bridge the gap. But what sealed the deal was that it was one of the cheapest flagstone options at $14/lb.

The dry fitting took a many weekends to complete because we had to make 3 trips to the stone yard for more flagstone and leveling imperfect rocks was tricky. For the edges and small corners we used a masonry chisel to make smaller rocks. Chiseling natural rock is always unpredictable though so many of the cuts didn’t turn out as planned.


To fill in around the flagstone we wanted to use polymeric sand but were having a difficult time finding sand meant for such big gaps. The typical polymeric sand from your local big box store can span a maximum distance of 1/8″ and there is no way we could meet those tolerances with natural stone. After a lot of research I found Gator Dust. Gator Dust is able to cover spans of up to 4″ because it is a mixture of small pebbles and polymeric sand. It comes in either a gray or a tan color (we used tan but honestly it still looks a bit gray) and is very simple to install. The hard part is figuring out how much of it you need. We initially bought 10 bags but only ended up needing 6. It is always better to have extra though since all of the sand should be put in at one time. Our area is 40′ long x 2 1/2′ wide at the widest point and had on average a 2″ gap.

We started out by trying to cut a small hole in the bag to pour the polymeric sand only in the gaps but the dust is so fine it went everywhere. So for our second bag we just poured it everywhere and compacted it down. Using a rubber mallet to hit the rocks helped compact the sand around the rocks. Then we carefully swept everything off with a hand broom. Cleaning the sand off the rocks is very important because it can leave a white film on them. After reading many horror stories from people online we made sure we spend plenty of time cleaning off each rock by hand.


Finally, we had to pull the trigger and wet the sand before the wind blew it away or something. Just a few quick mists of water and it set up perfectly. It’s easy to over wet it so follow the directions carefully. You don’t want water to puddle anywhere.


We’re really happy with the way it turned out! The Gator Dust has held up great so far. The finished product has a bit of flex to it and is more flexible when it’s wet so be aware of that if you have heavy patio furniture on it or something. The only thing we’ve seen is that it has started pulling away in a few spots where the it meets the asphalt. But this is due to the uneven edge we had to work with and that fact that some of the Gator Dust was on top of the asphalt.

The whole area is a lot more functional and visually appealing now compared to what it used to be:


This is the story of two twenty something newlyweds who are learning to adjust to life in their first house, a 1973 fixer-upper.
DIY Savings