After we deposited the huge American Elm (Ulmus americana) at the PCEI Nature Center, we got to work cutting it into a manageable size. Peter used a chainsaw and cut some irregular chunks off the larger diameter end to make the log more cylindrical. This made the log easier to rotate and apply a chainsaw mill.
We spent some quality time determining the optimal depths and orientation to cut our slabs. We opted to cut ~9" slabs on either side of the pith.
We borrowed a Sperber chainsaw mill from local timber framer Nils Peterson. To guide the chainsaw mill's first cut, we placed an extension ladder on top of the log. The rollers on the chainsaw mill slide across the smooth surface of the chainsaw mill. We placed spacers under the extension ladder to compensate for the taper in the log and keep the cut relatively level with the height of the pith.
Each pass of the chainsaw mill takes about 20-30 minutes. It is definitely slow going, but sometimes a chainsaw mill is the only way to cut massive, inconvenient, remote, or curved timbers. (Thanks Nils!)
After cutting our slabs, we found that there were two veins of rotting wood inside the tree. These defects were located on opposite sides of the slab, and will make laying out and carving the curved beam more difficult and perhaps impossible.
We left discouraged, but not defeated.
Days later, Jacob Dolence, an Americorp volunteer from PCEI's Environmental Education program, helped me mill the second 9" slab from the log using the chainsaw mill.
I moved the more defective slab to my mill, and the least defective slab to my workshop.
Time to layout and perhaps carve the slab into the curved beam that we want. My fingers are crossed!