Steve Madewell

Pedestrian Ramblings

Flood Wood This week I hired a sawyer to bring up his portable saw mill and cut up about 2,000 board foot of lumber. These were logs that were the result of the flood. I had several trees that were damaged or washed down from up stream. In the initial clean up we hauled away 6 large dump trucks full of wood that I couldn’t use or salvage, but the big clear logs I saved. I also had to take a few trees down when we went to rebuild the house, which resulted in some additional logs as well. So for nearly two years two piles of logs have been out by the barn, one a pile for either fence posts or firewood, and the other for milling into lumber. The largest tree that we cut down was a big sycamore. The butt log is close to three feet across. I couldn’t move it much farther than from where fell, so it is still up by the house. There were however several ten foot logs that came out of that tree. I have always loved sycamore trees. Their distinctive white, green and brown bark, huge size and tendency to have hollow cavities just give them a great deal of character. Some times children mirror our value and behavior, and when Philip was just a toddler, he was always asking if this or that tree was a big old sycamore. So I guess my fascination for these big riverside plants was passed on to him. There was one large sycamore at the Narrows Reserve on the Little Miami River that I walked by hundreds of times. It’s giant root system hung out over and extended down into the water making wonderful habitat for the fish and animals in the stream. The portion of the root system that was out of the water was utilized by other animals for hiding places and homes. This was a giant tree, maybe 10-foot around. They get really big. Supposedly a fellow had a black smith shop set up in a hollow one along the Ohio River, and during the civil war there is a story of four confederate spies hiding inside a hollow sycamore… with their horses. There are no giants like this in Ohio any more but maybe some day there will be again. Anyway I used to wonder what all the big tree on the Little Miami had seen. Daniel Boone and Simon Kenton surely walked underneath it as well as Tecumseh and Blue Jacket on their way to and from Kentucky into the heartland of Ohio. If trees could talk, what stories they could tell? Once I was leading a guided hike with a group of second graders down the river and noticed a black rat snake’s head looking out from one of the root hollows. I thought the kids might like to take a look at it, so I got down on my stomach and gently pulled him out. The snake kept coming and coming until all of his nearly six foot body was wrapped around my arms. So I guess you could say that sycamores can have lovely little surprises! That is what I found when researching what I could do with the wood from this beautiful tree I had to cut down. I have heating my house with wood in years past, and have cut split and burned a lot of wood. I have come to realize that there is a lot of scrap and wasted wood available for burning and to me it seems a shame to simply burn up a tree that could be used for so much more. I didn’t know much about sycamore wood other that it has a high water content when it is green. In doing a little looking on the internet, I discovered that when it is quarter sawn it has a spectacular grain and used to be called American lace wood. I also found out that years ago it was commonly used for guitars and instruments. Now I was on to something. I could get one of my guitar building buddies to make me a guitar from some quarter sawn sycamore. That seemed like a great idea. So that was what I was thinking when I asked my new friend Alan to bring his portable saw mill down and saw up my logs. I also thought I might be able to panel the inside of the barn and maybe make some furniture with some of the wood as well. After we got the mill set up we started cutting, first slabbing off the bark and squaring up the log. And then we began cutting off boards. It is remarkable how exciting it can be as the grain patterns in the boards are revealed with each cut. The quarter-sawed material was spectacular. In addition to the sycamore we also cut some ash and elm logs. Which is partially stacked on my trailer waiting to be moved into the barn. Where it will air dry for several months before being used for whatever it ultimately will be. The last time I did this sort of thing was when we remodeled the house and will milled an ash tree into flooring. Here are the lyrics to a song I wrote about that experience and I hope to record soon: This Old Wooden Floor SWM 2008 I remember very well the fall day we cut it down The ash tree standing by the barn We laid it on the ground Matty came to help me out just to settle up a score We cut the her into 8 foot logs to make this old wood floor **** Charles brought his sawmill the logs we cut to boards I stacked them up inside the barn and stored it all indoors In the spring I went to Hartsgrove to old Joe's drying kiln He dried the planks we hauled them off to an Amish Mill **** I picked em up and brought them home Boards planned down so true The clearest ash you'd ever seen was milled to tongue and groove David cut and nailed em down and we sanded them so smooth Coated them with Waterlox when this old floor was new It looked so fine when we were done My God it looked so good It was the pride of MJ's home this old floor of wood In the summer of 2006 there came a great big flood The water rose and when it fell left a foot of silt and mud Friends they came from all around to see what we might need We had to gut the our whole house right down to studs and beams **** Al and Andrew cut the nails from each and every board I stacked it up and once again I hauled this old wood floor Off to Ricky's Warehouse, on the other end of town And there is sat for 6 long months until we could put it down No one would believe it but every word I say is true When we nailed it down a second time it looked mighty good Now the children sitting at my feet ask me to once more Tell them all the story of this old wooded floor If the dogs may scratch I don’t care As they run out the door So many things I’ve been through with old wooden floor I say a prayer for every hand that touched this old wood floor.