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Advice on how to split large sycamore rounds

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  • Advice on how to split large sycamore rounds

    Hi folks, I have some large sycamore rounds, 36" diameter, 24" thick. I have tried a splitting maul when they were freshly cut, split one or two, the others no way.

    Tried wood splitting grenades, broke my sledge hammer.

    I have a Husky xp254 chainsaw, but it only has a 13" bar, I guess I could cut it with the grain (vertical) a few times. Any other magical suggestions from you guys that handle some big timber?

  • #2
    If those rounds have not shown any natural splits then start some radial ones with the chain saw.
    You will have to go all the way across the log as any uncut side will resist your splitting activity.
    Go down an inch. Enough to set some serious splitting wedges. I have some Delrin faller's wedges which I use to split big pieces of western red cedar with an 8 lb hammer. Mind you, cedar splits easily.

    I think a splitting mall is the wrong tool.
    You need to tap in a row of 3-4 wedges and work them down.

    For smaller pieces like shake blocks, I cut some cedar wedges. They are much more bashworthy than I expected. They can be replaced and they don't marr the wood. I'll work those with a 2 lb hammer.

    First Nations here have used wooden wedges to split a board sheet off a log. Walk the wedges down both sides of the split to ease the plank free.

    For fine skinny stuff, I use a log mallet and a froe which can take as little as 1/8".
    Brian T

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    • #3
      I was given a sycamore log of similar dimensions. I made slabs (with the grain) using a chainsaw with 16" bar. The slabs dried nicely, with no splitting. My objective was blanks for large plate turnings which were chip carved. What's your objective?

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      • #4
        Thanks both for the quick response.

        Brian, I hoped you would see this and respond, from your avatar I guessed you worked or had experience with big timber lol. I will make up some wedges and follow your suggestions. Though I will wait a few days, we are experiencing a severe heatwave here at the moment, in the mid to high 90's°f. Using a chainsaw with full safety gear is bad enough in cool weather much less this heat.

        Pallin, it has had about a year of drying out so far, I want slabs for breaking down into carving pieces and blanks for bowl turning. I have used a lot of sycamore and cherry from trees cut on my garden and the neighbours and the price has been very reasonable .

        Since I have so much of it on hand. It seems a shame just to use it all for firewood. In the uk it is not cheap to buy in the size pieces I want, seems crazy to miss out on a free

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        • #5
          A thought...If you are anywhere near an equipment rental shop, check to see if they have a larger chainsaw for rent...

          Claude
          My FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/ClaudesWoodCarving/
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          My Instagram Page: https://www.instagram.com/claudeswoodcarving/
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          • #6
            If you need to rent a power saw with a bigger bar (24" - 36",) I strongly suggest that you rent an operator together with the saw. Big saws are not like a home&garden 16" bar.
            That rotten Douglas fir log was bucked up by a pro with a 36" Stihl.
            A gas engine hydraulic splitter did all the dirty work.
            The basic principle is to work with existing cracks of there are any.

            I have a 16" electric and a 16" gasser, those are as much as I feel comfortable with for occasional use.

            I really like wooden wedges, particularly because they don't dent the carving blocks.
            Brian T

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            • #7
              Back when I was a youth, my father worked at a plywood mill. He would bring home some of the lilypads (ends cut off the logs to get them the correct length for the big lathes) for firewood. Since these had been soaking for weeks/months in the mill pond, they were quite wet and resistant to splitting. They varied in thickness from 3 - 24 inches and were all Douglas Fir up to 3 feet in diameter. The millpond had lots of larger ones, but they were too heavy to get out of the pond and into the truck - the company made chip board out of these. Can you imagine a wood chipper that would take a 6 foot diameter lilypad?

              We had a big metal wedge and a 10-15 (?) pound maul. I'd start the metal wedge and pound it down a couple of inches, then knock it sideways so I could get it out. In the hole, I'd put an oak wedge my father had made. Then start a new hole with the metal one, until I had worked my way across the wood, then tapping on each of the wood wedges in turn, I'd split the wood. Once it was split to the proper size for our stove, it'd go in the stacked wood to dry out for a while. Growing up on a farm, this was just one of those chores that needed to be done.

              Claude
              My FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/ClaudesWoodCarving/
              My Pinterest Page: https://www.pinterest.com/cfreaner/
              My Instagram Page: https://www.instagram.com/claudeswoodcarving/
              My ETSY Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ClaudesWoodcarving

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              • #8
                Wow, Claude that sounds like a chore that would work up an appetite!

                in respect to chainsaw use, my little Husky is as big as I would go without some considerable training. I made sure I did a course on safe and proper use of a chainsaw, then got the PPE.

                A look at a few pics of "slip injuries" with a chainsaw, sure hammers home the importance of this. My trainer told me the average number of stitches required to close a leg injury from a chainsaw is just over a hundred or so!! I have no desire to bleed out at the bottom of my garden.

                I would not be able to hire one that size in Wales now either. Due to poor training and general idiotic behaviour resulting in terrible injuries to members of the public, chainsaws can no longer be aquired from tool hire shops. You now have to buy one if you fancy performing some home style surgery or amputation.

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                • #9
                  Haida, Tsimshian and Tlingit First Nations used to live in very large post & beam houses, sheeted with cedar planks. A really big house was 30' x 100'. The biggest split cedar house board measured was 14' tall x 36" wide x 3/4 inch thick (Franz Boas). Imagine what they must have thought of glass windows!

                  Just as Claude describes for his own people, these people would get a split started and walk their wooden wedges down the log to pop off the board.
                  Brian T

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                  • #10
                    I have never tride to splite sycamore but I have carved a few things in it. It workable able but it has a inter locking grain that can be difficult to carve. That may be part of why it is not easy to split.
                    We live in the land of the free because of the brave!

                    https://www.pinterest.com/carvingbarn0363/

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Randy View Post
                      I have never tride to splite sycamore but I have carved a few things in it. It workable able but it has a inter locking grain that can be difficult to carve. That may be part of why it is not easy to split.
                      Hey, you learn something everyday, never new that about sycamore. I have used it so much because its what I have at hand and its free. I don't know what it's like for you across the pond, but the supply of timber across the UK and Europe has been severely impacted by Covid. Getting timber blanks has been almost impossible here.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Mobieus View Post

                        Hey, you learn something everyday, never new that about sycamore. I have used it so much because its what I have at hand and its free. I don't know what it's like for you across the pond, but the supply of timber across the UK and Europe has been severely impacted by Covid. Getting timber blanks has been almost impossible here.
                        The European sycamore is diferent than the us and as Iunderstand better than our sycamore for carving.
                        https://www.wood-database.com/sycamore/
                        We live in the land of the free because of the brave!

                        https://www.pinterest.com/carvingbarn0363/

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