In the hardwood bottom-lands of the Mississippi Delta, large oaks, maples and hickorys die every day. Some just get old and fall. Some are unlucky enough to get struck by lightning and crash to the ground suddenly. In any case, this is why I bought the Lucas Sawmill 9 years ago – to have the ability to salvage pieces of this venerable wood from hardwood trees that have reached the end of their lives naturally.
The base of this 36″ red oak was struck at the base by lightning shattering it’s support system and leaving it’s top precariously hanging 15 feet above the forest floor. Mother nature left this beauty hanging in the air which preserved it beautifully. I hoped that the time outdoors had left some spalting in the wood grain but we wouldn’t know until much later. My goal was to salvage a 21 foot, 7,000 pound section of the limbless trunk and get it up to the sawmill for processing.
There were two great challenges on this one. First, I had to disconnect the trunk from the shattered top of the tree where it had contacted the ground – with all of the weight of the trunk on that point. Second, the trunk had to be dropped from it’s high perch where it had been left stranded. Now, you might be thinking that hauling 3-1/2 ton red oak trunk to my sawmill would be a third challenge but….you haven’t met “Sunflower”, my Kubota 8560. She does this kind of lifting with unboastful reserve. She’s the kind of girl every farmer dreams of.
When the lightning struck, the tree crash landed at the point where the massive branches had once grown proudly away from the trunk. The immense downward pressure caused by the entire weight of the tree was stored at this point and gets released – sometimes violently – while cutting these branches away. One false move and the entire tree could shift, crushing anything in its path. Cutting wood with these forces can also bind a large chain saw bar and require hours of cutting to remove. I had to be careful as I only have one chain saw capable of making these massive cuts. After cutting one branch at a time and gradually releasing the pressure, I moved up and made a through cut on the massive trunk just under the crotch of the tree. Now the trunk was free to roll off of it’s high perch. It did roll some But it didn’t fall.
The next morning I gathered my tools, summoned “Sunflower” and headed back to take another run at it. A rope tossed over the trunk where it sat precariously atop its former base allowed a chain to be pulled up and around and connected to the tractor. You should have seen the dog jump when that thing hit the ground. Priceless. The chain was re-set and we hauled the log up to the shop. There I cut it into two 10.5 foot lengths for the sawmill.
Below are some pictures of the resulting slabs from the first of 2 halves of the trunk. I’ll cut the second piece later and post some additional pictures then. The cuts did reveal some spalting but not what I’d hoped. Still, these are absolutely gorgeous pieces.