Gearing up for the wood stove

November 14, 2010

I’d been cruising kijiji.ca for a block splitter, and on a whim I changed the language of my search, typing in “wood” instead of the more American “log.” Fifteen minutes earlier someone had posted a short ad for a 3 pt hitch wood splitter, so I was off on another wild goose chase to Harrowsmith, an hour and a quarter to the west.

Unlike the wreck the day before in Oxford Mills, this one turned out to be a solid, Mennonite-built unit which Gerald Emmons, a former Forfar resident, had bought at an auction only to discover it ran too slowly on his Kubota. Seems the dealer wanted $2000 to install a set of remotes on the new tractor, so he hooked it to the loader.  Small hoses impeded the splitter’s performance, so Gerald decided to go with a gas-powered model.

I didn’t know if my TAFE’s rear remotes would do any better, but I decided to try. It has a three-way diverter valve for hydraulics which has quite a learning curve, but Peter’s testing gauge said the pressure was fine once we found the correct settings. To produce a continuous flow to the splitter he locked the “tipping lever” open with a chunk of scrap metal and I tore into a pile of elm rounds with my new toy.

Peter has the same model of splitter and he thinks it runs pretty slowly on the TAFE but it works for me, and without breaking a sweat I split my way through a significant pile of firewood in an hour.

The next day the thing wouldn’t work.  I racked my brain in an effort to puzzle out the hydraulic settings, but I couldn’t get pressure to the back of the tractor.  Peter came back with his gauge and solved it in an instant.  Turns out the three-way diverter valve is really a two-way with an OFF setting.  The same setting provides pressure to both the loader and the splitter, and I’d been trying to use OFF to run the splitter.  Sometimes the manual isn’t right.  Oh.  Feeling stupid but relieved, I got back to work on the pile of soggy elm blocks.

As the wood made its way to the stove in the garage, I came to realize that wet elm doesn’t burn very well.  In fact it was all I could do to incinerate the first two trailer-loads, so I turned my attention to a pile of maple chunks left over from the removal of the huge tree which overhung the parking lot in front of the house until last winter.  It had taken me three days with the loader to haul the stuff away.

Much of the wood was too large for Dad’s little Husquvarna 51 to cut, but it chewed away at anything up to about two feet in diameter.  The splitter got a workout on the gnarlier blocks, and one hose sprung a leak, but in general it worked very well.  The visit to Princess Auto for a replacement was a revelation in how hydraulic hoses are assembled, as well.

In the meantime Alahan Kandasamy had arrived to inspect the chimney installation.  He took one look at Mom’s little box stove sitting on a stand above the garage floor, and uttered, “What the….? Who installed this?”

Alahan seemed a bit worried about the steel structure underneath the patio stone on which I had set the stove prior to hooking up the pipes and chimney.  “What if I gave this a good kick?”  Apparently he thought that the 16” wheel I had bought at the junk yard was unstable.  It wasn’t, just a bit narrow-waisted. The wide wheel provided the lift needed to get the firebox above potential fumes on the garage floor and I drove in little wedges to keep it stable.  The stove looked top-heavy, though, so I promised to mortar something in place to enclose the steel “foundation.”  I had left room for brick around the perimeter of the slab.

An hour’s work with mortar and a pile of bricks from Grandpa Charlie’s furnace and the stove looks a lot more stable with its red skirt.  The wheel still does its work supporting the slab, but there’s no further risk of kicks from passers-by.

Running out of maple small enough to cut, I hooked the timber winch to the little Bolens on a whim.  It could in fact lift the thing, and though skidding logs with the unit would be impossible, it could certainly pull the cable with the power take off and the winch has the weight and geometry to anchor itself.   Apart from a clean-burning engine and exhaust which vents forward, the short tractor can get into places the old Massey Ferguson can’t.  For example I have repeatedly parked it across the logging road to pull out previously inaccessible timber left over from the improvement cut in the woodlot in 2006.

Most of the ironwood is still sound enough to burn,  so I have spent mornings this week tidying the woodlot, dragging cordwood out to the edge of the road with the winch, cutting it into blocks and splitting it into firewood with my new toy.  It’s heavy work, but a wonderful time of year to be out in the woods.

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