Firewood is not the Only Option for Trees Felled by The Big Wind

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Sounds of chain saws continue to fill the air in neighborhoods across Ohio as homeowners gradually cut and chop limbs and trees felled by the Big Wind of September 14th.

The majority of the downed wood will become firewood, but some homeowners resist the dismantling of trees that have actual or sentimental value.

Mike Ecker is director of Horticulture at Dawes Arboretum near Newark. He is an expert on what to do with downed trees and limbs. He says individuals with trees or limbs they value needs to contact someone who does milling.

At Dawes, the winds took out dozens of large trees, and Ecker says he and his staff are still trying to clean up the area. Then, they will decide if the trunks are worth turning into lumber.

Ecker says Dawes lost large native trees including beech, white oak and sugar maples, some between 200 and 250 years old.

Ecker says anyone with a single tree, or large limb, might not have a large enough job for a big sawmill. He notes that some people have home mills and might take on a single limb.

Jeff Evans has a home mill on his farm north of Alexandria. He interrupted a day of harvesting soybeans to demonstrate what he calls his hobby. He says business picked up considerably after the Big Wind blew through. Evans says his phone has been ringing off the hook with homeowners calling to ask if they can bring in a log or will he pick up a log.

Evans explains that moisture in wood must be reduced to seven percent to make furniture. That can be done quickly in a kiln – added cost or, for the patient, boards can be stacked evenly with sticks between them in a dry place, attic for example and left for about two years.

After a day of working on the limb behind my house, friends and family left 13 feet of the largest part of the limb.

Evans estimates he would charge $65 to cut up the limb, and figures there might be enough wood to make a table, definitely enough to make a table top.

Evans fires up the diesel motor that runs the saw in his home mill located behind a barn. While it warms up, he uses a forklift to pick up a maybe 10-foot by 1 foot log and deposits it on a narrow steel table.

Metal arms on the table are adjusted to hold the log in position. The blade is in a large arm over the log. The arm glides along a steel beam below the table as Evans walks it the length of the log to remove the first layer of bark, revealing the pine wood beneath.

Soon, all of the bark rests on a scrap pile – destined for firewood – and nine, one inch by 6 inch clean boards are stacked and ready for their next destination. The process took about 15 minutes.

Back at the house, the 13 foot long remains of the limb that fell have split completely in half lengthwise. The two halves have arranged themselves like something of a bench, so I sit down and consider what comes next.