Logging

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sally
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Logging

Postby sally » Fri Jan 06, 2012 2:22 pm

Just a random train of thought brought on as I dealt with the neglected coppiced hazel in the back garden, back in the centuries when pretty much everyone relied on wood for the fire, but where axes were fairly common but maybe saws arent as widely represented in the household tools list as they are today, how did people tackle reducing the firewood into logs?

We're all fairly familiar with splitting sawn off sections of logs down into chunks for the fire with an axe, but is that general representation of square ended log a relatively recent thing? If a tree has to be chopped up into smaller logs with an axe first, the general appearance of the logpile is going to be different isnt it? Or am I wrong and almost everyone had a way of sawing up logs?

Have there been any studies done on firewood through the ages and how average people managed it? We hear a fair bit about the 'by hook or by crook' gleaning of sticks, but I'm thinking more of the heavier logs that result when a tree or coppice is deliberately cut for firewood. I've seen the big saws from sawpits too, but those are more for planks arent they?



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Re: Logging

Postby steven pole » Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:12 pm

Hi Sally. I hope you get plenty of volunteers to cut your logs for you and save your wrists :-)
I've seen a few bow saws used by groups to cut logs into more manageable sizes and I've seen various sizes of these saws used by carpenters too.



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Re: Logging

Postby sally » Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:55 pm

steven pole wrote:Hi Sally. I hope you get plenty of volunteers to cut your logs for you and save your wrists :-)
I've seen a few bow saws used by groups to cut logs into more manageable sizes and I've seen various sizes of these saws used by carpenters too.



Yep indeed, but is that a modernism, or is that what the average not too wealthy household had easy access to in lets say the medieval period?



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Re: Logging

Postby Merlon. » Fri Jan 06, 2012 3:56 pm

The large chunks of wood we tend to put on fires are fairly modern in origin.
In historical times all large logs would probably have use as timber first and firewood second, the waste from other processes would the firewood. As an example see Robin Wood's thread:-http://livinghistory.co.uk/forums/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=27489.
The only large pieces of firewood would be the pieces too knotty or rotten to have any other use.
The frame saws that most groups use for cutting firewood may be accurate to a degree, but they are joinery tools not a subsidiary to the kitchen.
So in answer to you question in the main firewood would be cut with blades (axes) rather than saws



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Re: Logging

Postby Alan E » Fri Jan 06, 2012 6:11 pm

Somewhere, back in the dim recesses of my memory, is a reference (?possibly in an Oakeshott book?) of a respectable dame during the muddy evil period, owning several saws with which she used to saw firewood - to keep her warm(! by sawing was the implication). Not that this necessarily translates further down the social scale of course (if I'm even remembering correctly and if the sourcing was impeccable). Large households where conspicuous consumption (and large fireplaces when they came in) would (I guess) both have saws and several forests to obtain the larger logs from. I agree with Merlon though that lower down the scale, firewood would be more likely to be waste and small pieces.

But how far down the scale the 'conspicuous consumption' of large logs would take place is a possible supplementary question?


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Re: Logging

Postby ForTheMarshal » Sat Jan 07, 2012 9:18 pm

Unrelated - but this did make me think of how you can tell a pretty lady is coming by at shows, as you hear the men all start frantically chopping wood to look all manly and stuff! :P


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Re: Logging

Postby James The Archer » Sun Jan 08, 2012 12:14 am

ForTheMarshal wrote:Unrelated - but this did make me think of how you can tell a pretty lady is coming by at shows, as you hear the men all start frantically chopping wood to look all manly and stuff! :P

Then the 1st aiders have a busily time treating all the cuts and bruises :D


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Re: Logging

Postby Chris T » Sun Jan 08, 2012 1:50 pm

Much use was made of cleaving for reducing the size of timber. Cleft timber was used for uses as diverse as house building (cruck frames are normally a single trunk cleft into a pair.), planks for shipbuilding, bow making and so on.

Cleft timber is not normally as regular as sawn timber, but it can be both stronger and less wasteful, as well as being less labour intensive than hand sawing.

Indeed, most small firewood is still produced in this way!



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Re: Logging

Postby Chris T » Sun Jan 08, 2012 1:59 pm

It is also the case that fires were often different in nature: in pre fireplace days a ring of long logs could be pushed inwards as they burnt, in the meantime providing handy fireside seats / work benches.

As said above, however, burning good timber would probablybe the preserve of the wealthy: the Yule log would not be special if it was the sort of thing put on the fire everyday. It is also an interesting aside that the frequent representations in textbooks and the like of 'peasant huts' surrounded by grass, bushes and trees is most unlikely. I would guess that the construction of the hut would distroy the trees and bushes for dozens of yards around, and the constant demands for fuel, and the keeping of chickens, pigs etc would result in a scorched earth effect in summer and a sea of mud in winter for a considerable distance, except for deliberate cultivation.



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Re: Logging

Postby Brother Ranulf » Mon Jan 09, 2012 8:36 am

In the list of tools to be provided by the village reeve (11th century) are axes, adzes, bills, awls, planes, saws, spoke shaves and many more.
During the late 12th century Alexander Neckham listed the tools required by a peasant farm labourer: axes and pruning knives are mentioned, but saws are not.

One interpretation could be that saws for timber were held centrally and issued by the reeve as required, rather than being individually owned. This may perhaps be because they were large, cumbersome and expensive. All the images from the time seem to imply large saws rather than small utility versions.


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Re: Logging

Postby Langley » Mon Jan 09, 2012 12:26 pm

Not sure of the details of this train of thought - would have to go look stuff up but are not the rights to collect firewood restricted to size and to fallen wood? the need for a saw may never come up if you are only allowed to take stuff which is easily broken into small enough pieces. Old scouting adage is that apart from felling axe, axe is for splitting, saw is for cutting to length.



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Re: Logging

Postby Alan E » Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:01 pm

I've been clearing some of the hedges this week. Whilst 'limbing' the removed branches and saplings, sorting wrist-thick wood from fire-lighter sticks and material suitable for faggots I thought of this thread, and the origin of the term 'bundle of firewood'. I think most fires would have been of fallen branches or faggots resulting from organised clearing (e.g. of hedges)? For most people, simply cutting wood for their own use would have been breaking the law?


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Re: Logging

Postby Langley » Tue Jan 31, 2012 12:44 pm

You got me going based on my comments about rights.Did a little digging... Wood gathering rights come under the general definition of estover:

necessity allowed by law, especially wood which a tenant may take from the King or landlord for repairs of his property (P 205); tenants’ right to take wood for repair of buildings, hedges, carts, etc. (L 237); right to take wood from common land for fuel and other purposes (‘botes’), e.g. repairs to houses, implements, etc. (R 166); common right to gather fern and brushwood for commoner’s own use (M, 247 (r)). See also ‘bote’, ‘common of estover’

The individaul botes mentioned include firebote and one of the original references (lost track of where I saw it) refers to firebote as fallen wood up to the diameter of a man's forearm (I guess you shold take the local blacksmith with you for comparison purposes if arguing the size wiht the reeve). There is also tynsel - common right to take wood, especially for fuel (see also ‘firebote’ and ‘estover’) (R 170) and there is a definition of tynsel wood as being small firewood suitable for use in ovens

So, in short, I think I was probably on the right lines when saying it was small stuff you were allowed to burn and even up to thickness of man's arm you could cut without a saw. Personally, I use a bill for that sort of size. An axe is intended for splitting because of it's wedge shape but a bill is much thinner and does a better job in my experience.

As an aside Sally - my thrum cap got a good outing over the weekend at school of the sailor on board Golden Hind in Brixham and when the drizzle started it did the job brilliantly. Head as dry as a bone... Thanks for that!



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Re: Logging

Postby Grymm » Tue Jan 31, 2012 6:26 pm

sally wrote:Just a random train of thought brought on as I dealt with the neglected coppiced hazel in the back garden, back in the centuries when pretty much everyone relied on wood for the fire, but where axes were fairly common but maybe saws arent as widely represented in the household tools list as they are today, how did people tackle reducing the firewood into logs?

We're all fairly familiar with splitting sawn off sections of logs down into chunks for the fire with an axe, but is that general representation of square ended log a relatively recent thing? If a tree has to be chopped up into smaller logs with an axe first, the general appearance of the logpile is going to be different isnt it? Or am I wrong and almost everyone had a way of sawing up logs?

Have there been any studies done on firewood through the ages and how average people managed it? We hear a fair bit about the 'by hook or by crook' gleaning of sticks, but I'm thinking more of the heavier logs that result when a tree or coppice is deliberately cut for firewood. I've seen the big saws from sawpits too, but those are more for planks arent they?



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Re: Logging

Postby Langley » Wed Feb 01, 2012 2:04 pm

A froe is best for splitting along the length rather than across but you could do it. Saws are better for across normally but since there is little evidence for their use commonly by the non-workman I think I stick with my guess a bill used on the relatively thin stuff you were permitted for firewood was most likely. As always - documentary evidence is hard to come by but prepared to be proved wrong. In fact, would be delighted. That is how research works - somethign sparks you to ask a question, you come up with a theory then look for evidence one way or the other.




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