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becoming a lumberjack

May 27, 2016

Following up on the post Lori did a few weeks ago on village work days, I recently went to the jungle with other men from the village to go saw timber. The timber is for the new church building. Here’s part of the process to get timber here on Kolombangara. It’s a bit different than going to your local lumberyard!

When a large tree of a certain variety is found, it is often then marked to be used for a certain project. This tree was about a mile hike from the village. The path there is pretty good, but it’s steep and muddy in some locations, and it crosses two streams.

Here’s the stump that remained after the tree was felled. The base isn’t round; it has buttresses.

The first step was to cut off the bottom of the trunk where it wasn’t round. This piece was cut off and is shown below.

The men then used chainsaws to cut the main section of the trunk into three sections that are each about 12 feet long. These sections were then cut in half lengthwise, so the trunk could be split and laid open like a hot dog bun, as shown in the picture below.

The next step is to cut a strip along the length of the trunk (the very top of the semicircle In the picture above). This creates a square corner running the length of the trunk upon which to base the cuts for all the rest of the pieces of timber.

They mark the line with a chalk line, and then one man cuts that straight along the 12-foot length. It’s impressive to watch them cut a perfectly straight line, especially since I know how heavy their large chainsaws are! This cut is done freehand with a chainsaw, as shown below.

Then they attach a frame to the chainsaw to cut this piece into 4 inch “slabs.”

The next picture shows the next step, where they lift the slab up onto a short post in order to cut it into boards.

At this site there were sometimes three chainsaws all being used at the same time in close proximity. Below, one man is cutting the slab into boards with the chainsaw and frame while another man cuts the edge off of one of the trunk sections.

Here is a picture of the cross section of the tree, approximately 45 feet up from the base of the tree. I counted about 70 rings. Do trees make annual rings in tropical climates? I learned that bit of biology in a place that has a growing season and winter and don’t know if it applies here, where the growing season never stops.

We worked until the chainsaw fuel ran out and then ate lunch. Ladies cooked food that morning and then carried it for a mile out to the work site. Out in the jungle a large leaf serves as a plate, and a piece of bark or coconut husk is the spoon.

The boards are then stacked up against a log (tied up to two posts with vines) to begin to dry.

A few days later, the men carry the boards back to the village. The wood is dense and still wet, so each man just carries one or two boards at a time. A certain variety of small red ant lives in these trees and has a very painful bite. I had a lot of bites on my upper arms and neck from these ants after I carried boards back to the village. The red marks last almost a week.

I noticed a group of bees attracted to the sap from a small tree that had been cut down. Unlike the ants they were thankfully more interested in the sap then us.

-John

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. coleencr permalink
    May 27, 2016 10:10 am

    Wow, that is amazing—thank you for sharing!

    >

  2. Mom C permalink
    May 28, 2016 6:45 am

    That is some display of skill! On our visit I saw a large pile of boards waiting in the new church building, and now I know how they came. Carrying them back must be a job no one looks forward to, expecting the ants! Life on the island must have been changed by attaining chainsaws, (and the plastic food containers help too!)

  3. Amy Devanney permalink
    May 31, 2016 1:24 pm

    This was so interesting to read. Thanks for documenting the process. The wood looks beautiful. What kind of tree is it?

  4. Ben S permalink
    June 2, 2016 4:43 pm

    Thanks for sharing the process! That must have been a pretty tall tree. Blessings.

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