A girl, a tree, and some hand tools

On Saturday morning, I was heading down toward Sequim (or Sin City, as we like to call it) when I was unavoidably detained. About halfway between the house and the gate, a tree was down across the road. Not that huge of a tree, but I knew before getting out of the car that it was too big for me to just move it off the road by myself.


Tree across road

A little geography: To the left in this photo, a few feet off the road, there is a steep drop-off into a canyon. To the right is the stump end of the tree, about six feet from the road. (It appears to me that the tree was struck by lightning in the storm last Thursday.) The real problem was that most of the length of the tree, the top end with all the branches, was hanging over the edge of the canyon.

I walked back the quarter mile to the house to grab my Swedish bow saw. David was out of town, and we have a rule about not running things like chain saws unless there is someone else around. I picked up this bow saw for $10 at an army surplus place, and it is amazing. The blade is about 30″ long and is super-sharp. It is my go-to tool for cutting anything more than about 1″ diameter.

To digress briefly about tools… I should explain that I have always had a particular affinity for hand tools. There is something about using hand tools, a rhythm, a pattern, a sound. Don’t get me wrong, power tools definitely have their place, and I do use them. But whenever possible I always seem to choose the hand tools first.

Back to my action-packed tree saga! Since I had an appointment I couldn’t spend a lot of time dealing with the tree. I cut it on the downhill side (to the left in the photo) and was then able to move the 16′ piece to the side of the road and drive on.

Tree in 4 parts

Later I loaded up a cart with my trusty ancient Workmate, the pickaroon, leather gloves and a bottle of water. I really didn’t expect I would be able to haul that thing uphill; it’s an alder that turned out to be over 60′ long, green and very heavy. Luckily the first part of the drop-off wasn’t too steep, so I was able to scramble down a little ways and cut off another 12′ section and haul that out. The rest of the tree was fairly easy to muscle up onto the road. The photo above shows the whole thing, cut into 4 sections.

Saw and pickaroon

Then I started cutting it up. With my hand tools. The pickaroon (with the wooden handle in the photo above) is very handy for grabbing a log without bending too much, and the Workmate was just perfect for holding the logs at a good working height. Once I had trimmed off all the side branches it all went fairly quickly; in fact, I was amazed that the entire job took only a little more than an hour and a half. Damn good workout, too.

The photo below shows the stump end of the tree, up on the Workmate; this piece is about 12′ long, 9″ diameter and very heavy.

Fat end of tree

It seems odd that a tree over 60′ long can be reduced to about 2 cartloads when it’s been cut up. The photo below shows the whole thing, some in the cart already; altogether about 400 pounds of wood, which will be premium firewood when dry. Oh and the smaller branches will be used for fuel in my outdoor oven! This is how I like things: nothing goes to waste, including my time and energy.

Tree cut up

I simply adore my hand tools. Still dreaming of setting up my own forge so I can make and repair my own tools one day. In the meantime, every time I encounter a challenge like clearing a tree from the road, I feel a little more confident that with some time, effort and a few good hand tools, I can easily and safely tackle just about anything.

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