Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ulmus pumilla, Siberian elm.

Photos of the 2" elm slabs cut by my Amish neighbor with his bandsaw mill.  We currently have some 2600 board feet, mostly cut through and through, though the big butts from the 42" & 39" diameter trees  near the house were quarter-sawn.  We will be making chairs, of the 'Welsh Stick Chairs' variety, from the book of the same name.  Octagonal, tapered legs through saddle seats adzed from the planks, and various steam-bent parts for arms, backs etc.  Plus spindles from ash, elm or mulberry, the various windbreak trees planted, planted and volunteering here in South Dakota.

The slabs at the bottom of the stack above are some 16"-18" wide and 90" long.  On top of them is some of the shorter, quarter-sawn stuff.  Behind it, not visible, are slabs 24"-26" by some 66" long.  Siberian elm is nothing like American elm in color, as it is mostly heartwood, not sapwood; the grain is not interlocked, and it dries to a light brown, like coffee with lots of cream.  
 Here's the front view of the south facing kiln.  It is 99" wide, and at the top, about 87" high.  Depth is some 55" or so.  The windows area is about 90" x 60".  (All of the materials came from a building left for us on the property here, a building the former owners used for smoking cigarettes, made entirely from pallets.  We call it the 'Pallet Palace'.)
 Here is the back, with, obviously, doors open.  The inside is insulated with fiberglass, and the insulation is covered with black plastic to protect it from all the humidity.  In front of the slabs, we stapled down all the roofing paper from the 'Pallet Palace', as an impact resistant facing.  The floors are OSB, painted black.  It sits on 4x6's, which rest on bricks, and in  the center is a steel u-channel.  (From a buried car part, part of the clothesline.  The previous owners were car people; they mulched the brome grass on our two acres with 38 Chryslers, Plymouths and Dodges.) 

The light colored areas are fiberglass from a shower stall.  The upper piece has a cut-out into which the fan fits nicely.  The larger piece below the fan is a suspended baffle to help direct the air through the planks.  On either side are two hanging pieces of metal, salvaged from a door, once used for a picnic table top here, and, now painted black, serving nicely as absorbers.  There is also metal roofing sitting on stickers on top of the pile, as another absorber.   

Outside the doors, high and low, left and right are sliding plywood pieces for ventilation.  The kiln has only been loaded some four days or so now, and on a sunny day, with the fan off, it's been above 130 degrees F.  We're still experimenting with the vents, but so far only the top vents seem to need opening, and then only one inch or so.  (There are lots of cracks and crevices helping with ventilation.)  It does seem to be working, as the insides of the glass are covered with condensation in the morning.  We guess that it will take several weeks to remove appreciable moisture, but as we are not going for flat, un-twisted boards with 12% moisture content, but chair parts, central heat dryness is not necessary.

The loading area is quite small; maybe, were all the slabs uniform, 36" high, 86" left to right, and some 36" deep.  With irregular edged planks, we've fit in what can be fit in. My rough calculations show a capacity of maybe 250-300 board feet.  
 Here I am chasing away our black cat, 'Toe-toe', aka 'The Black Varmint', who, though thumbless, somehow managed to tag the side of the kiln with white spray paint.  The boards there were the best of the lot from the Palace, which I ship-lapped and nailed on.  They probably don't need black paint, though maybe green would be nice.

As of yesterday, the first chair seat is roughly adzed, and the first four tapered octagonal  legs are made.  (The trees were felled back in October; initial contact with the Amish gentleman about his bandsaw mill made in February, and the slabs were finally cut in April.  My hands are slowly recovering from hefting planks.  We will eventually have photos of the various tools, the shaving horse, my seat adzing station, and the rest.

We have, as said, two acres here, one acre wide and two deep.  Some 12,000 square feet in the north end is plowed, and will be planted with sweet clover, red clover and white clover, besides, we hope, pulses, various fodder beets, potatoes, maybe emmer.  There will be some ten fruit trees, and various other plantings.  Enough for now.  "Viva Christo Rey!"

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