Home Made Chainsaw Saw Mill

Over the past few weeks I have had over 500 hits on my article on self reliance including a little bit about milling my own timber. So I thought that seeing there is so much interest in building a home made saw mill attachment for a chain saw, I ought to put up a post with some more detailed explanation, including a few dimensions and some images to help explain what I did.

It’s pretty basic unit made out of scrap steel sections that I just happened to have laying about on the day, but it works really well for what I need it to do and that is to turn logs that are too good to burn, into usable milled planks. I haven’t studied this kind of gadget at all. This is my first attempt at building one. It seems to work OK, so i haven’t got around to making another one or changing it. If I was to, I would perhaps add a bit of rubber tube over the upright centre handle, just for comfort.

Since I moved here, I have built my own house and pottery building. We made all our own floor boards and made all the windows and french doors. I also made all of the kitchen furniture to go into it, chairs, tables stools etc.

All you seem to need is a few basic tools, an inquisitive mind, some perseverance and a bit of spare time to figure things out. The saw is an old (15 years) Husqvarna  371 60 cc. and the milling bar is about 900 mm. long. The effective cut is about 600 mm.

So here are a few pictures with measurements chalked onto the bench.










A Sudden Outbreak of Normality

We are just back from Canberra, it’s late afternoon and it’s straight into the garden to see what there is to pick. We’ve been away for 5 days. It has been raining a lot of the time we have been away. The rain gauge has 32 mm in it and there are puddles on the road coming in. It’s the end of the warm weather now and I manage to pick a full basket full of small red and yellow tomatoes. This will be the last picking large enough to fill a boiler and make tomato passata. From now on we will only be able to get a few each day, enough for one meal at a time.

There is a sudden outbreak of normality, and we find ourselves back at work and play simultaneously.
Nina lights the wood stove to make some hot water and I start to wash and prepare the tomatoes for sauce. There is still some sweet basil lingering on in the garden. I have been keeping it well tip pruned to keep it from flowering. this seems to prolong its productive life right up until it gets so cold that it just drops all its leaves and dies. A huge bunch of sweet basil goes in with a bit of thyme and a chilli, olive oil and onions. In a few months time we will be opening these jars of passata and remembering the summer as we savour the sweet, acid, piquant flavour of the tomatoes in the passata. Each 10 litre boiler reduces down to about 3 or 4 jars of passata after boiling, sieving through the moulii and re-heating and reducing the volume to concentrate the flavours.
We have to get cracking, we have a kiln ordered and several weekend woodfiring workshops coming up. We unpack the kiln that we fired before we left and get out all our new hand made kiln door bricks, which have fired very well. As the whole side of this kiln is the door, it makes it all a lot easier on my back, knees and neck, to be able to pack most of the pots without having to get inside the kiln, now that I’m starting to feel my age.

I clean out the firebox and check all the new brickwork and bracing for cracks and then clean all the props and shelves, ready for the re-packing for the workshop.

All our wood firing enthusiasts arrive and we pack the kiln and get it on in the early afternoon. With lots of helpers rolling out the little balls of wadding, it all goes smoothly and quickly.
We light up and fire the kiln over-night and into Sunday. There seems to be a ritual developing of cooking marshmallows over the hot firebox on Sunday morning to cap off breakfast. I don’t know where it started, but it seems to be becoming a regular event.
On the Monday, as the kiln cools, I start welding up the metal work for the kiln that I have ordered, now that I have the pottery kiln shed to myself again.
In the evening I start to make a big batch of roasted marrowbone stock. I fill 2 of our 10 litre boilers with the roasted bones and a mirepoix of garden vegetables and herbs. Over the next two evenings,
I end up reducing the 20 litres of initial stock down to just 500 mls of luscious concentrated jelly. The addition of a bottle of red wine helps fill out the flavours. It goes into the fridge and I take a spoonful of it when I need it instead of buying stock cubes.
Firm, jelly-like consistency, intense flavour.
One night we have a dinner of pan fried capsicums with garlic, olive oil, tomato and basil. The next night it is a lot cooler, so the Mademoiselle makes the first minestrone of the season, using our kohlrabi, cabbage and leeks from the garden and our dried beens that we shelled a few nights earlier, with our friend Elizabeth, sitting on the lounge watching the idiot box.
Carrots, celery, leeks. A great base for the minestrone and also for the stock mirepoix.
I use the other half of the cabbage to make a kiln builders lunch of okonomiyaki, Japanese style cabbage pan cakes. But on this occasion, without any flour, just held together with a few local organic eggs that we got from our friend Marg, who runs a certified organic garden. I add some saffron milk-cap mushroom from the garden. The first of the season for these mushrooms. I also add some of our pickled ginger and a few of our sun-dried tomatoes in oil. It’s not Kosher Japanese. Just the idea and influence of Japan. We use what we have at hand from the garden and our preserves from the pantry. It reminds us of our Japanese friends and the good times we’ve had together..
Best wishes
from the Oka Nomiyaki and his Mini Strone

The Axeman Cometh, but Lucie Takes the Cake

It’s the season for music festivals. Starting with the Goulburn Blues fest, then the Illawarra folk fest. then comes Womad and Port Fairy, which are followed the next weekend with the Blue Mountains Blues and Roots Fest and culminates with the National Folk Fest over the long Easter Weekend for 5 days. It’s a tough life, but someone has to live it. We drove the 2 hours down to Canberra and camped in the back of our van for the 5 days. This year we caught a few interesting performers. There were many, but I can only write about a few.
I particularly liked Lucie Thorne.
I didn’t know what to expect, but straight off. It’s not what I’m not expecting. If I have any preconceptions at all, this isn’t it. Just going on her bio in the program and what I see on stage before she begins. She starts off slow and quiet, and then continues like that. She beguiles us, she lulls us, she woos us and cajoles us, she casts her magic, slowly, we are enveloped in her spell. She coaxes us along with her, we share a small part of her life. The part that she’ll let us see and will sing about. She presents us with her vulnerabilities, her angst, her wishes and dreams. What more could you want? This is both tender, intimate and brutally honest. I’m in.
She plays an electric guitar, hollow body with an  arch top. But I don’t know anything about guitars. She plays without a pick, with just her fingers, but not folk pattern style, just her own idiosyncratic, sort of erratic, but not, style, guided by the narrative, she emotes through her fingers and the amplified guitar, but Oh! So gently. She has a soft, breathy, low, almost spoken lyric style. Her own voice, her own style. An absolute original talent.
She is backed by a very sensitive drummer, Hamish Stuart, who plays to her strengths and is so minimal that he just fills in the gaps in the music enhancing, and supporting, but never over shadowing her. A great combo. <http://www.luciethorne.com>
This union of low-key elements and understated passion reminds me of the later music of Chris Whitely,
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Whitley> The ‘Hotel Vast Horizon’ period. The same breathy vocal style, the minimal guitar, the restrained in-fill drumming. But where-as Chris Whitely was the guitar ‘AxeMan’ in his younger days, she is, in comparison, the young female guitar ‘cake-splade’, softer, gentler, less damaged, more refined, but just as emotive. I say less damaged, but when we caught her performance, it was first thing in the morning. It must have been a very late night for her previously. She looked a bit ragged. I’d never heard of her previously, but now I will keep a look our for her.
After I saw Chris Whitely burst onto the scene doing his ‘Living with the Law‘ tour early on. I kept an eye out for his tours. He could make his old 1940’s timber resonator guitar talk. Lightning fingers, but as the heroin took its toll over the years, he developed a more abridged and concentrated minimal style. Moving from Robert Johnson to minimalist jazz influences. I saw him half a dozen times and bought 12 albums, before he died, tragically young. I hope she does a lot better.
A Thoroughly enjoyable hour of my life, well spent. I buy 2 of her CD’s direct from her. After the show, we chat. Up close, she is just as I imagined and described. Gentle and vulnerable, but tough. Quite direct and honest when we ask questions. Very genuinely appreciative when we buy the CD’s.
The very last show of the night for us oldies, is the 11.00 to 12.00 slot. It all continues on till after 3 in the morning, but we aren’t up for that. We need our sleep. We are staying up for a couple of old blues men. I haven’t heard of these two blokes either. They are in Canberra at this time because they have just spent 3 days in the National Sound Archive, having their repertoire recorded for the National Estate, so they must be interesting. They are Frank Povah and Chris Cruise. They grew in the country but moved into Darlinghurst/Kings Cross in Sydney in their youth to play in jug bands, then blues bands. They look to be in their late 70’s now and have a few miles on the clock. They were exceptionally good. These guys really knew their stuff. Not always my stuff, but so well done. A repertoire from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s, acoustic country blues. Wooden music. I’m really glad that I stayed up for it.
It’s a great pity that they didn’t have a CD for sale. Exceptional musicians.
Another musician that we saw at ‘The National’ was Tift Merritt. She sings her soft rock songs with a slight hint of Country and Western. I think that it’s the lap, or peddle steel guitar backing that gives it that feel. I’ve never been particularly taken by either style, country or western, but she carries it off very well. Beautifully musical and easy listening with some very hummable melodies and memorable riffs. Most enjoyable.
Best wishes
from DJ Nina and her base accompaniment

The April Fools New Firing

I’m awake before dawn. There isn’t even a hint of light through the place where I know the window is. It’s drizzling or raining lightly, because I can hear the drip of the rain on our bedrooms’ tin roof. I reach for my phone in the dark, it’s just 6 minutes before the alarm is due to go off. How do we do this? What sort of clock do we have in our heads that can measure by dead reckoning to within 6 minutes over 8 hours. If I tell myself to wake up at a certain early hour, I usually do it. I just don’t know how. I trained my self when I was a teenager, to wake up every two hours through the night, when I was firing my first gas fired kilns, so that I could turn the gas up, to get a steady temperature rise. That knack has stayed with me it seems.

I walk down to the pottery shed in the pitch dark. No stars tonight. Total cloud cover with some light drizzle. No need for a torch. I’ve walked this path so many times in my life. I know the way by heart. I turn at the corner of the orchard fence. I can’t see it, but I know that it’s there. I know that I’m in the shed now and reach for the light switch and suddenly, It’s all real instead of imagined.


The kiln is packed and was preheated last night. The wood is all split and stacked neatly along the far wall. Everything is ready. I light the match and the kindling crackles into life. I love the smell of the fresh cut and split wood, the smell of the smoke as the fire is slow to catch. I’ve learnt to light a small fire in the base of the chimney to get the chimney hotter quickly to establish the draught. It’s been a few months since I last fired this kiln and the chimney is cold and damp. It has sat idle over the hottest months of the summer, waiting for this day. The first day of Autumn and the official end to the fire bans. We waste no time in getting going. This is the start of the kiln firing season.


I have spent the last few days cutting, splitting and stacking the wood for these firings. Then carting and re-stacking the logs in the kiln shed. We have had a very wet summer, so we could probably have done a few firings on the wettest days, but I was fully busy making and installing kilns for other potters over the summer. I had plenty of orders, so I sold my soul for the mighty dollar. Paid work has been a bit thin on the ground these last few years, because of the closure of the art schools.


Because of all this wet weather, the wood is still pretty wet inside. It hasn’t dried out much over the summer. So now I have a shed full of wood that won’t get any wetter and will start to dry out a lot faster now that it is under cover. I really need an open walled wood shed over near the wood pile site, where I can safely store the split wood to allow it to season without risk of fire danger to the house or pottery. I was given about 60 or 70 tonnes of logs last year, 8 or 9 tip-truck loads. Enough wood for quite a few years. It all came from a building site in a near-by village.

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Splitting wood can become quite boring over several hours. I manage to roll a few logs onto my shins during the day. I’m already wearing hard boots, ear muffs, face shield and gloves. It seems that I’ll now have to go out and get some shin-pads as well.

During the dull moments, I worked out that I had cut and split over 500 pieces of wood by the end of the day, then picked them up and stacked them onto the trailer, then unloaded them and re-stacked them in the kiln shed. That’s 1500 wood movements. No wonder that I’m feeling old.



We have spent a few days in the pottery throwing some of the fresh new porcelain stone bodies that I made over the summer months. It’s throwing quite well for something that is principally ground rock paste, with an addition of around 15% of plastic clay. It really has made a big difference to the workability. Now it throws more like fresh ricotta rather than wet putty.



We have a few tests of these new bodies in this firing. We also have the back of the kiln filled with our latest batch of home-made firebricks. These are all larger size blocks 230mm x 150mm x 150mm.

I will use them as door blocks. As the door of this current kiln is quite wide. Using larger blocks will make for faster door bricking-up. I am already using quite a few of these large blocks in the door, but not enough to fill the entire door. After this firing I will have enough and a few spares.

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As the firing progresses into high temperatures, There isn’t a lot to do. While I wait between stokes. I sit and shell dried radish seeds. liberating them from their sticky pods. It takes an inordinately long time to do. It is so very fiddly and tedious. I’m a fool. I don’t know why I don’t just go to the shop and buy a packet of seeds. Well, actually I do know. I want to be a self reliant fool. These are seeds that I have grown and dried myself. They are mine and true to type. They are not hybridised or treated with poisonous anti-fungal treatments. Home-grown, organic and clean. The stuff of real life.


It’s a great big new experiment. A new firebox, new wood, new fire brick load, new porcelain bodies and new-season radish seeds.

Best wishes from A Pair April Fools