Made more progress last weekend with help from Scott Bridges. Here’s a picture of Scott and me beginning the hike to the campsite.
It was a lovely early-spring weekend — warm enough to sleep under the stars, and with no biting insects. The featured image for this post is a photo I took first thing after waking up on Saturday morning. The sunrise is foregrounded by the bare branches of trees not yet awake from their winter naps.
A challenge of the Hiawassee Project has been the need to improvise tools and equipment that cannot be efficiently brought to the site. A problem that I’ve been noodling over since my last visit is the challenge of safely moving logs onto the mill. As you can see in pictures of the mill, there are two short ramps to roll logs up to the mill. When the logs are small, it’s not too difficult to do this with two people using peavey hooks. But when the logs are large, as many will be, this approach puts the peavey hook users in a precarious position when the hooks need to be repositioned and the log is only partway up the ramp. A rolling log could easily break a leg or worse.
My proposed solution, which Scott and I tested for the first time on this trip, is to rig an overhead hoist to provide assistance moving the log off the ground and, especially, to increase the level of safety by securing the log so the workers can take a break or reposition peavey hooks.
To make the hoist, I first hung a strap from a sourwood tree, as high as I could reach, that slightly leans over the mill area. Using a steel carabiner I attached a snatch block to the strap. I then lag screwed a two-way hand-cranked boat winch to the tree. By using a two-way winch I can both take in slack as the log is rolled up and release the log slowly onto the mill. The photos show the setup. The purpose of the hoist isn’t to lift the log overhead, but rather to help guide the log into place. We found it extremely helpful for loading a heavy log onto the mill. One worker (me) used the peavey hook to roll the log and the second (Scott) turned the winch. With the hoist, the log can be released from the hook, which made repositioning the peavey hook an inconsequential task. With this technique, we had no difficulty positioning a twenty-five-foot white oak log weighing approximately 2500 pounds. By using a strap that was not cinched, the log could spin and be safely positioned without having to reattach the strap. One lesson learned is that a small strap has to be used for this purpose as otherwise the strap reaches the snatch block before the log is in position. (Note the too-large strap in the photo.)
From this twenty-five-foot log, we made a number of boards and the first timber to be used on the long wall of the cabin. Isn’t that a nice-looking board!