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After semi-retiring from thirty years of building custom cabinets and millwork, I was in the "need a sawmill" phase of a woodworkers natural ageing and development. I wanted to cut my own lumber to build finished product as opposed to providing a service(cabinetmaking). I looked at TIMBERKING and WOODMIZER bandsaw mills, but that was way more than I could afford to spend on a hobby. I didn't want to be in the lumber business, I just wanted to cut my own lumber. I was aware of chainsaw lumbermaking, so I said to myself- "self, you can do that". I looked at some of the rigs on the market and how they worked, and said to myself "self, you could build one of those". I welded one up out of steel that I salvaged and bought an 8.5 hp Sthil chainsaw with a sixty inch bar. The whole thing weighed about 175 lbs and would wear a man smooth out, but it would slice a 46" diameter log into slabs. I soon found out that trying to cut and dry your own lumber with a chainsaw was like shaving a pig- lots of squealing, not much hair. While I was waiting for my slabs to dry (years, I have some I cut 3 years ago that still isn't dry), I started to make benches and tables out of the offcuts. I did it just for fun at first. When I found out I could sell them for more money than anything I could make out of the boards, I started looking for ways to speed up the process. Having built cabinets for over thirty years I was familiar with reading and drawing blueprints, CAD and CNC, production jigs and pattern making, but none of that really applies to building log furniture. I have a 48" RECORD lathe, that if you spin an unbalanced log at anything more than about 40 rpms, you could count yourself lucky if it just yanks the chisel out of your hand and hurls it into the nearest wall(trust me on this). Plus you are limited to 48" length. I was familiar with machine tools and CNC routers, but if a sawmill was out of my price range, that kind of gear was pie in the sky. I decided I needed to build some jigs to account for the inherent variations in logs. While I was experimenting with different sliding mechanisms to make a crude, 8' capacity lathe using a router to cut the tenons instead of a chisel I realized I needed a jig that would operate like like a cross-slide vise. I'm old enough to remember the SHOPSMITH, so I was thinking along those lines. I built several "articulated jigs" from plywood, teflon, allthread, angle iron and nuts and bolts for the different functions needed to build the furniture. At the time I wasn't thinking of selling "log furniture making machines", or even blueprints for a "log furniture making machine". I just wanted to build more log furniture in a reasonable amount of time. Before I combined the different jigs into one, I had 120-150 hrs building a bed like those I show, that I could get $1200 dollars for on a good day. Not really worth building unless I was going to give them away. By building a sturdy robust frame of standard size steel angle and tubing I could combine all of the functions in one jig, taking up much less space in my tiny shop, and brought the hours necessary to build a bed down to 20-25 hrs. That is a much better rate of return.(more than I could make building cabinets). The machine was designed with two principles that had to override all other considerations- it had increase my production of log furniture, and be simple enough, and cheap enough to build in my backyard shop on a shoestring budget(just one string, no spare).
The most frequent remark from people who have seen the machine in action has been "You need to patent this". Well, as my Granddad used to tell me all the time, "If it was easy, everyone would be doing it". Despite sound archeological evidence that there was a lathe in use around the time the pyramids were built, and that there was a metal cutting milling machine milling in Augsburg, Germany in 1532 that looks suspiciously like my machine, I gave it a think.(as we say here in Texas).I don't own a factory in the third world and it seemed to me that I would have to associate with some extremely detestable people in order to patent and produce the machine.(lawyers, bankers, low-level government functionaries, not the third world, I can relate to the third world after living in America fifty some years.).That doesn't sound like much fun to me.(I'd rather scrub the latrines after an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, thanks). Let those aforementioned detestable people get their slimy mitts out for a piece of pie, and it would drive the cost of said machine beyond the reach of the fellow (or fellowess) who just wants to build log furniture. And who else would be the market for it? To save all that unpleasantness I just copyrighted my blueprints. I am much better protected legally from either liability or infringement, and none of those aforementioned people had to be involved. I offer a lease of my prints and plans to prospective builders. The machine just represents a new and creative way to use traditional wood and metal working tools to produce an even older, more traditional form of furniture. The fact that I designed the machine using 3-D solid modeling software just adds to the multi-generational aspect of building the furniture. I don't care if I don't lease a single copy of my blueprints. In fact, any target market would mostly be people who could look at the pics I have posted and build their own working copy anyway. I say to myself- "self, more power to them." I would donate the plans to appropriate institutions that would teach youngsters wood and metal working skills. I think it takes a special kind of passion for woodworking to even want to build log furniture in the twenty first century, and I am sure that a person who wants to, probably has the skill sets and motivation to build from my plans.
All that being said, I have had offers into five figures to buy the machine. It would take some more figures than that before I would expose myself to that kind of potential liability and litigation(my mama raised a fool, but it was my brother, not me.) I always ask them why don't they just make me an offer to buy the copyright itself, and the machine, that it could be less than they might think. No one has made a serious offer as of now, and I'm not holding my breath. Myself, I almost think I'd rather see us all living in homes that we built our self, filled with fine handcrafted wooden furniture, and we could teach our children to hunt those aforementioned people with slingshots, then poke them repeatedly with sharp sticks.
The machine functions as a sawmill(24" dia. x 98" length), a large capacity lathe(10" dia. x 108" length), a large capacity mortise machine(24" x 96" bed, 14" vertical stroke), and a large capacity drill press(24" x 96" bed, 14" vertical stroke. Go to the dropbox link below for a detailed slideshow of the machine and how it is built. Go to link, select download , then open in your computers viewer rather than use dropbox's viewer(it sux).


furniture it makes:

I would love to hear your comments or opinions(even the negative ones).

Hands, Head and Heart(mostly hands)


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