Friday, September 30, 2022

Earning a back ‘wood’ badge of honor

Author photographed loading boards at the sawmill in progress.

What’s the primary building material when you live in the woods? Wood, of course!

Where do you get wood for projects when you live in the woods? At the local sawmill! There is always one nearby.

When wood is locally sourced, it’s significantly cheaper than from a corporate home store. Plus you are supporting the economy in an area where jobs and opportunities are in short supply. And there is no shaving of truth. A 2 by 8 (2×8) is the full two inches by eight inches.

Nominal and rough-cut boards
Author’s image of a rough cut 2×6 sandwiched between a planed 2×4 and a planed 2×6

But there are trade offs. Handling the truth can be painful since potential slivers have not been milled off. And more importantly, freshly sawn boards are heavy! Due to water content acquired while being part of a living tree, a locally sourced “green” board is easily twice as heavy as its kiln-dried corporate counterpart.

So to prepare for the fall shed-building project, it’s a good idea to get the wood ahead of time and let it dry a bit. Or buy a very large kiln.

18-foot-long 2x8s would have done the job, but the sawmill had 20-foot logs, and you can’t blame the owner for wanting to sell the extra 2 feet. And the eventual overhang will provide additional living space for all the critters who don’t take up residence inside the new shed.

Since there was no long trailer available, the plan was to put the 20-footers on top of the truck to get them from the mill to the “camp*.” A previously constructed rear support (canoe carrier) would be used, and a new front support would keep the wood from scratching and crushing the cab of the truck.

Supports in place, it was off to the sawmill on this hot and humid day. There was some hope that there might be some help in loading, but the owner and single worker were quite busy creating boards with the big bandsaw. It’s fascinating to watch, if you aren’t busy loading heavy boards.

Applying certain tenants of physics, the first layer of boards made it to the top of the truck. Then the usual contrary voices piped up.

“Maybe leave it at that, and make two trips.”

“And take all that extra time?”

“It’s a lot of weight.”

“Don’t be a lazy wimp. Get that second layer up there.”

So the second layer went up. Only once did an unruly board decide to make an unplanned descent, banging into a leg and the ground, but avoiding dinging the truck. The bottom layer was screwed to the support and the second layer to the first. The plan was coming together nicely.

The rear support 2 by 4 is bowed a little under the weight, but still looks OK.

But sometimes the best laid plans of moose and men go awry.

The trip started just fine. With flashers blinking, the wood-laden truck headed home at 30 MPH. All was well until we were on the final road.

Stewarts Landing Road is five miles of curves and hills. The farther one gets from its intersection with County 119, the more the road surface transitions from pavement to potholes. Close to the camp, it’s hard to tell it was ever paved. The road is reminiscent of “Don’t Let it Bring You Down” by Neil Young, which he characterized by saying, “It sorta starts off real slow and then fizzles out altogether.”

Turkeys cross the road
The author paused the journey and attempted to count the turkeys on the road. It soon became apparent his count was short by one.

Halfway home, unsuccessful bump avoidance provided unwanted thrust to the superstructure. The upward view out the windshield showed that the boards had repositioned themselves. A stop for inspection revealed a broken 2×4.


Without any means of reinforcing the brace, the best course of action was to creep forward even more slowly and try to get home without hitting any more bumps. Half a mile from the goal, this proved impossible. Too many potholes.

A loud CRASH announced a further change of position.

Post-crash positioning.

The inspection stop revealed less-than-perfect support. But the good news was that the tailgate, now acting as a support, was keeping the wood off the ground.

Mike, taking his usual morning run, arrived on the scene. “Do you want to unload some and come back for them?”

“Well, not really. It’s going to be a problem since I screwed the boards to the front support. So I think I’ll see if I can make it.”

“I’ll run alongside.”

After a few minutes of creeping along while Mike watched for disaster, I yelled out the window, “I’m going for it,” and gently stepped on the accelerator. Mike’s pace was somewhat less than 10 MPH, so he soon disappeared from the side view mirror. Luck barely held, with the supports disintegrating just as the truck stopped.

Hurrah! Just made it! Note the board ends on the ground.

Soon after, Mike ran up the driveway. “Need some help unloading those?”

It’s good to admit when you need help. Seeking help (perhaps psychological?) prior to the entire escapade would have been the proper course of action, but in this case, late was certainly better than never.

We got to the business of unloading and placing the boards in the kayak shack for drying. The smashed superstructure was an issue. Screws that hold well in normal conditions hold exceptionally well when bent, resisting all efforts to withdraw them.

The author took this photo of the bent screws foiled in their attempt to never move.

But after some persuading, the screws were removed.

Proper lifting technique? Photo by Mary.

Partway through, Mary brought water from the house, knowing that dehydration is a serious problem for sweaty old men. We took a break and were entertained by a Monarch butterfly.

The Monarch is sure Mike is worth his salt.
The boards were too long to include the entire length in this photo by Mary.

With Mary adjusting the position of the boards at one end, and Mike and I hauling and heaving, we had all the boards unloaded and stacked in due course.

Yay! All done!
Wood neatly stacked in the kayak shack. This wood stack is only 107 miles from Woodstock, NY.

No worse for the wear? Not really. Disregarding the condition of the author, there was a bit of damage to the truck. It now sports both the requirements for a Backwoods Badge of Honor. Rust on the rear fender was already present, and now, as the result of the weight of the boards on the smashed support, the tailgate is bent.

The working truck really belongs here in the Adirondacks. And I’m a member of the club, having recently moved in, full-time.

Modified tailgate.

Maybe I’ll do something about the rust, but the tailgate seems right just the way it is.

*Mimicking the terminology of the “Great Camps” of the fabulously wealthy of the early 1900s, Adirondackers fondly call their abodes “camps.” And why not? Every man and woman’s house is their Great Camp.

And if you’re curious about just how much weight broke the support, here’s the bathroom scale result for one board.

Author balanced a board on the scale.
Author image of result. You can figure out how much the 15 boards weighed.

Related Stories

Randy Fredlund enjoys hiking, paddling, and taking pictures of the area around his camp on Stewarts Landing. He is happiest when breathing Adirondack air.


16 Responses

  1. WTC says:

    That’s not a Badge of Honor. 900lbs resting on a single 2×4? No tie-down straps, no safety flag? Sorry, that stunt earns you a Badge of Irresponsibility.

    • Randy Fredlund says:

      Perhaps you are correct.

      However, the tie-downs were unnecessary since all the lumber was screwed together. The 2×4 was not adequate, to be sure. Yes, a safety flag would have been a good thing. The weak logic was that the boards were above the level that would be a safety issue. Also, more weak logic was that in this neck of the woods, traffic was unexpected (only one car during the entire trip).

      So yes, clearly some irresponsibility.

  2. Joel R says:

    That’s nice looking hardwood. Is it maple?

  3. John says:

    That sawmill around the corner? Sadly, a thing of the past. Once upon a time, there were three small mills nearby; not only could I buy rough-sawn lumber, but could trade a few fresh-felled logs for the boards I’d need. I feel lucky that today one of those mills is still operating.

    • Randy Fredlund says:

      Still quite a few around down in or just out of the southern Adirondacks. Perhaps there is greater demand due to the population outside the park.

  4. David Patterson says:

    It’s 90×15=1350(lbs.) Not 900!

    • WTC says:

      Thanks David, missed the decimal point and misread his text, thought it was the whole load.

      1350 lbs balanced on a single 2×4 is even more reckless, and nothing to brag about.

      • Randy Fredlund says:

        There is no weight listed on the rough cut boards. Yes, the weight on the 2×4 was far too much, but not something that was known. The original plan for two trips was a much better one.

        Bragging is not the intent of this story. It is an account of an incident where discretion was foolishly lost to expedience. It is a cautionary tale. The tale should not be interpreted as a brag or a “how to,”

  5. adkDreamer says:

    I suppose when an online forum becomes void of discretion and looses any sense of moral duty to is readers, these types of useless stories somehow become attractive enough to print. Needless to state the obvious that but for a horrible accident or injury the author more likely than not, would never had submitted this story.

    Rebuttal to the authors ‘so called’ truth and In defense of dimensional lumber numbers, a 2 x 8 that originates from the milling process begins as a 2″ x 8″. It ends up as generally a 1 1/2″ x 7 1/4″ after the planing process. I don’t believe for one minute that customers would be demanding for the shavings and saw dust to make up the difference.

  6. cvjxn says:

    so right about the usefulness of local sawmills:: a few years back I had no trouble getting full 2×3’s to use as purlins for a metal roof on a hundred year old camp… Was able then to put 2″ foam board tight between the purlins — great addition to insulation and support for being able to walk on roof for pine needle removal. (very low slope!)

    Curious as to to why noone (participant or reader) has mentioned the time lost with all the extra work due to slow driving and broken single 2×4 as compared to the time for making the second trip??!!??!!

    • Randy Fredlund says:

      Yes, any time savings were soon lost. Impatience was “rewarded” as usual.

      The potential worst case was not weighed properly against short-term gains.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *