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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

HOM: Getting To The Core

I forgot to mention that the 6" & larger core were carried out to a truck and then hauled to the stud mill to be sliced up into two-by-fours. The spinouts and broken-off slabs were stacked outside in the back of the lot and given away as firewood to employees. Technically the employees were supposed to load the firewood themselves when they were off shift, but in practice a company forklift operating on company time often slipped over to do the heavy work. Once in a great while it would be up to the deck hand to go outside, fire up a different Cat, and haul the core outside himself. This was always touchy as the weight on the front, the play in the forks and the always-rutted ground made getting the core out and onto the truck without dropping them a kind of spastic ballet. My personal success rate varied. The core varied in consistency and some were a lot easier to handle than others. Dry pine core were soft and light, but the core from some of the wood we ran was MUCH denser and heavier. Once in a while you'd run into some so pitchy and twisted and hard that you couldn't stick a pic into them. If you noticed how the back of the head of my picaroon was sorta flattened, this shaping came about because of the hard logs. One deck hand would sink his pic in as best he could and the other deck hand would pound it further in with his. This made it possible to skid the core around but prying the pic back out was almost as hard as driving it in. Pics never lasted long. Either the points would break off or the handles would break when they were used to pry logs around. Once in a while when the winter weather was really intense the logs would come out of the vats still frozen solid in the middle. Hitting one of those with a pic was like hitting a piece of rubber -- it'd make a little dent and then bounce right back out of the log. The Cats used inside ran on diesel as the vat area was fairly well ventilated. Besides the Cats in the vat/deck/lathe area, there was a small forklift hauling the veneer from the carts along the green chain away to the dryers. It ran on propane to avoid CO buildup in the mill. The steel banding used to tie the loads of core came in big spools like ribbon. The deck hand would peel off the required amount -- by guesstimate -- then fold the band over sharply and smack it with a hammer to break it off. There was no cutting tool. He'd get two lengths, then drag them over to the bins, bend an end of each strap back and hook them into slots in the deck above the empty bin.
Banding: Clockwise -- crimper, tensioner, banding material, clips & cutting tool.
When the bin was full, the bent ends would be pulled out and flipped over the load. The deck hand doing the banding then grabbed the banding (tensioning) tool, a pair of clips and a crimper, hooked the bent-over end of a band through the base of the tool, fed the other end into the tool and pumped it till the band was tight. Then he'd stick a pair of clips on the band, crimp it solidly, wrestle the banding tool out and repeat for the second band. While he was waiting for Randy to get the load out of the bin, he'd peel off and cut two more bands from the spool of steel ribbon. If he failed to do a good job banding and the load came apart for Randy, he could expect some loud discussion to be headed his way. When the lathe knives peeled the veneer off of the core, a pair of small knives cut the veneer to the proper width by slicing a few inches off of each side. These little strips of peeled-off veneer usually ended up as 4"x4" chips that were perfect for flipping like Frisbees. Nailing someone with one invited instant retaliation and there were some legendary chip-fights. Just for giggles, these links go to Youtube videos of veneer lathes and plywood making. None show any operations as primitive as C&C was running, but they will give you an idea of the complexity involved. TBC (Me) (Blacktail Books)