Peeling Saplings For Molly KoolBy Helen Opie #904 "Molly Kool" (1es 1eo 1ea 31ar)
Here are my steps to peeling the spruce saplings for making my spars.
First I talked to a carpenter friend learnt which was the better tree, fir or spruce. Ray told me to choose spruce because that is a tough, flexible wood; fir is brittle and likely to give under strain. Then he told me how to identify both. Fir branches grow out in neat whorls each set at about the same height, sort of like umbrella ribs; spruce branches are more randomly or irregularly spaced. Spruce has prickly needles and fir has smooth flattened ones.
Next, I went out in the woods behind my friend Heather's camp to look for some straight spruce saplings. Everything there was fir. Will Taylor (Heather's uncle) of Hull #607 was with me for moral support, and he cut the first tree. I cut the others while he limbed that one - because I want to do as much as I can myself. We went down the road to where someone had cut over the land leaving patches of small saplings. All were straight because they had had other trees close around them to force them straight upwards for sunlight. I found 3 saplings close to each other and also where I could cross the water-filled ditch. Cut them with a 21" bow saw. Cutting off the tops at about 1 1/2" diameter also removed most of the live branches. I removed the others with the saw - my chopping skills with my hatchet were laughable and mostly scarred the bark. Splitting kindling is my only hatchet skill. The dead branches broke off easily. Sometimes I bashed them with the back of the hatchet.
They went home on Neil Bent's trailer, a man who was splitting wood for Heather, to be carried to me the following week when his brother Gordon would come to my place to put up a netting tent over my small fruits.
Meanwhile, getting nervous that I should have cut the trees at a different season, I read on line at http://northernwoodlands.org/articles/article/peeling_logs an article by Carl Damrow (of VT) that trees for leg projects should be felled in spring as soon as the sap begins to flow and show new growth, that until early July might be OK. We had a very late spring. Murphy lost and I had cut them soon enough! He said they should be peeled as soon as possible. (Would mine be too dry and therefore difficult? I'm good at worrying and nothing else presented itself.) I made a test-stripping the other evening and the bark peeled wonderfully easily! Worry laid to rest. Today I peeled them all in less than a day. It was more difficult to separate the next strip on my trial pole because the wood had dried out and the dried sap was adhering the bark. Once I was into protected bark, all stripped easily. I'd allowed 1 day/tree - did all in about 4 hours including hauling heavy sawhorses to front yard. I was awaiting firewood delivery and needed to be where I could be found. Another plus is that today was garbage day and the garbage man was curious about what I was doing. I invited him to come see and roped him into taking some photos. He'll be back in two weeks and by then I should have the hull out from under her rain cover so he can see what she looks like. He is already horrified by her size - or lack of it.
The two tools I used most were my kitchen boning knife and canvas pliers. If you have an artist friend who has canvas pliers, borrow them. They permit a great grip because they have 3" wide jaws, and they are easier to keep hold of than ordinary pliers because their wide grip keeps them from twisting out of your hand. (And, yes, I do have a sign that says Please park on grass.)