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Splitting wood

In the winter there was a storm which fell down some trees in a nearby forest. I thought to myself that those trees would be a valuable resource for me - they would make good logs for building a proper shelter for storing firewood. But maybe the neighbours who own the forest will use the trees themselves. And it is likely that I won't have enough time to work with the trees. Using a chain-saw it is not a big task to cut the branches and then cut the trunks to 3.7 metres logs. But those logs are still going to be heavy, and I don't know for sure how would I haul them from the forest to my yard. So maybe it is just too much work for me, as I anyway have so many things I'd like to do in the summer, and I often feel so exhausted that I don't get anything big done... Uh oh. But later on in the spring I asked the neighbours if I can have the logs if I cut and haul them. They agreed, as they had no use for the timber. My plan was to start working with the trees in the beginning of June - the long waited time with no customers.

And then what happened? In the early June I went to Tampere to celebrate a 40's birthday of my friend. Then I spent nearly a week, working together with a friend - we were replacing bad parts in a old house built of logs. It was extremely good session for me - unhurried days just doing practical work with a friend who is more skilled than I am. Again I learned a lot about woodworks, I felt my chronic stress fading away as the work was kind of a meditation - spending hours just working to get one detail right. Friendly chatting as the work went on, and finally we got everything done. Then I rested for a day or two, and started to prepare for my own 40's celebration. And after my "birthday tour" I felt just tired, I slept for a day, was lazy for an another day, and realized that June is about to end and I have hardly touched the trees in the nearby forest. Well, but once again I told myself that I can't get anything done if I feel exhausted, so the top priority always is to sleep first, to recover, to respect my inner energy level, instead of trying to force myself to do more and more.

Well, it was one such a lazy day, I was trimming the hooves of my horses. And after that I just felt alive with good energies. I took the chain-saw and went to the forest to cut the branches of the fallen trees. I thought to myself that I'll peel and cut the logs so that the timber starts to dry. Then I'll have the rest of the summer to figure out how to haul them out of the forest. While they dry they get lighter and easier to handle. (Options: if my horse training goes well, I could haul the logs together with Raiku who is strong enough to pull them. Or I can ask friends to help me, with two or three persons it should be possible to drag the logs manually. Or I can borrow an ATV. Or buy a portable winch. Let's see - the main things is that I didn't feel it as a too big a problem, but like a nice challenge I want to tackle.)

Nearest to my home there was a fallen pine tree, with about 40 cm diameter. I had hauled some thinner upper pieces of the pine trunk already in May, thinking that I'll use this tree for firewood. Well, since the thicker blocks are rather heavy, it came to my mind that I can split the blocks in the forest, and then haul the smaller pieces. Then I realized that actually this is the traditional way to get raw material for arrow shafts - first cutting a block of one metre, then splitting the log down to square pieces bit bigger than an arrow shaft. I decided to try that, thinking that I can just test it and to store some of the raw shafts, wishing that I can work with them in the wintertime. Splitting those raw pieces I got inspired - next I cut a block as tall as myself, and started to split that. First to two halves, then to quarters, and quarters again to two halves. Out of those 1/8 pieces I started to split long pieces like thin boards. Such pieces are good for a shaman drum frame. While doing that I accidentally realized that it is rather easy to split also thin pieces like two or three millimetres thick - heck, those would be good for making a basket!

The next day I took two of those 1/8 pieces. I placed a knife to the head of the piece, gave the knife a careful hit with a wooden club, and made the initial cut. From that on I gently used the knife-blade as a wedge to tear apart a thin layer of timber, helping with my other hand. Soon I could drop the knife and just tear the wood with my bare hands - following the natural structure of the timber I managed to harvest pretty good long thin pieces. And when if broke too much of the natural structure, the piece got easily ruined. As the knife blade is straight, but the natural structure of the wood is curved, I started to wonder if it would be possible to craft a special tool for this purpose - kind of a curved blade. At some point I went to check a book I have - it said that it is better to always cut the piece in two equal halves, and then just keep splitting those halves to smaller and smaller halves until you get as thin pieces you desire. Sounds like a good idea, I tried that, but realized that my knife is not strong enough for that. So I just kept on peeling a thin layer out of a thicker piece.

The book also said that it is easier to split timber right after felling the tree. As the wood dries it becomes harder to split. In the old times people could store blocks of wood in a pool of water to keep them from drying, and then taking one block at a time to be split. Very thin splits were used a source of light - the book said that one such split burns for 15 minutes. Also, such splits were used to construct a roof. And longer splits are still used to weave traditional baskets. But my book didn't have detailed instructions about making a basket.

Today in the morning I was having my morning coffee outdoors, leaning my back to the oak. And I felt like trying to weave a basket out of those thin splints I made yesterday. That way I'll learn how they behave - and then later on if I split more thin pieces, I'll have a better idea what kind of pieces I should try to make. And also, if I just try to make a basket, I'll learn by doing, seeing the problems and questions. Then I can go find a book about weaving baskets, looking for answers I already have in my mind. I have always liked this way of learning things. So, I took a basket I once got from an old man in Russian Carelia. The old man had made the basket himself. Examining his basket I tried to figure out how to make one. Well, pretty soon I realized that the thinner the pieces the better. Making the bottom was relatively easy, but then starting the walls wasn't exactly simple. I found a way to do it, but only a bit too late I realized that it would be very important to keep the corners sharp and exact... Failing that the basket becomes irregular in shape. So let it be, as anyhow this is the first wooden basket I ever tried to make myself.

All of this made me to think about how time feels. In the winter it was always the calendar - booked times for customers, and then some free time every here and there. But now, towards the end of June I have found back to way of being where I'm not quite sure if it is thursday or saturday (I have to check the date every time when posting a daily picture - in the spring when I was working actively I always knew which day number it is, but now I forget that every night.) Instead of just following a timetable written in a calendar I'm more free to work according to the weather, listening my inner energy level, picking up sudden inspiration and following that. In the winter it felt more like I-have-tons-of-ideas-it-would-be-nice-to-do-if-I-only-had-free-time. And now it feel that I have free time, so that I can just see what each day brings with it. I'm not so worried if hauling those logs will take one, two or five days of work - I forget about counting the days as anyhow today is today. I think it was that renovating with my friend, which greatly helped me to get back to this unhurried state of mind.

So now the question is how to continue working for money without too much ruining this peaceful mood. To avoid chronical stress, not to become a slave of a calendar. In the spring I had planned my timetables to the end of June. Soon it will be July, so now I have to make general plans the rest of my summer. Renovating my own house. Doing a computer project for a friend. Programming for URW. Hauling those logs. Seeing friends, fishing and gardening and working with the horses. Maybe having some customers for massage. And then to balance all these in such a way that I could maintain an unhurried mood. Let's see how it will go =)

the initial cut
the initial cut
working slowly with a knife
working slowly with a knife
now it splits with just bare hands
now it splits with just bare hands
a basket made by an old man, and my first basket
a basket made by an old man, and my first basket
584 users have voted.


I appreciate this a lot. Thank you for sharing. Beautiful writing and investigation in your method of learning.

I'll post more pictures if I get to practice more of making baskets =)

Yes, if you ever get around to it. I'd like to see more. :)

It sounds so awesome living in finland.... Dont ask me why but i love the idea of making my own things rather than popping down to the nearest tesco.
I do have a question is it really as good as i think it is? Or is it super super hard work?

Then again I know a lot of things about survival in the wild so thats really what bought me here and to the unreal world...

Well, it is hard to say how good you think this kind of living to be =)

Also, at the moment I'm using a lot of things I bought, so I really can't say how much work it would be to go almost totally self-sufficient. I'd guess there would be some surprises - like water containers; a plastic bucket costs 1.5 euros, but to make a wooden bucket would take a day of work (not to mention all the learning required, and this is still assuming that one has good and sharp tools available - if we go on counting work required to make those tools, a simple water container becomes a highly expensive item... and we modern people are spoiled with cheap plastic stuff we use once and throw away.)

At the age of 40 I'm still learning, going step by step. Buying this place cost me money, and I need electricity and stuff, so I have to work for money. One of the biggest challenges seems to be balancing "working for self-sufficiency" and "working for money".

But, yes, fun it is. Fishing or cooking food by fire takes some time, but it doesn't feel like work - it is life =)

Well im just some weird guy who likes survival games and foraging and making my own things.

Yea the tools and everything used would make it rather expensive.
Sorry if i did make a rather stupid question! XD

Is it cold there? I bet it would be!

I didn't know you bought a lot of your things by the way your blogs go haha. Silly me for thinking wrong.

I wish i could make my own stuff but sadly over here in england finding shops with the tools and right wood is very very hard. Also in england everything is protected and you need licences and everything to cut trees down etc. I mean you cant just go and start chopping at the nearest fallen tree without people thinking you are weird.

Dont worry im just some crazy gun wondering what its like haha.

Winters used to be cold, but in these times of global climate change you never know: winter can be anything from +5 celcius raining water to -30 celcius with waist deep of snow... I admit I liked the winters of my childhood - snow and coldness is easier to deal with than damp darkness of no-snow winters.

Yup, I guess browsing my blog can easily create an optical illusion - it might seem like my days are full of roaming free in the woods, riding, fishing, foraging and woodworking. Oh well, if I post about that kind of things once in ten days, it usually means that the other nine days have been like "I had my morning coffee, fed the animals, went to work, came back late in the evening, fed the animals, checked social media and went to sleep". Always posting that would make a repetitive and boring blog, so I mostly post about this "downshifting stuff" =)

Also, all the regulations are getting tighter and tighter here in Finland, too. But luckily enough in our sparsely populated countryside we can do a lot of small things in unofficial way. If it is question of just a few fallen trees, I can arrange it with my neighbour and no-one else knows.

And, I think it is OK to be weird and crazy. And sometimes it helps a lot =)

In your free time, you are playing urw without a computer! :D

I seriously need to improve my hideworking skill =)


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