Friday, February 2, 2018

Sometimes you work alone

 The set up...

My wife had to run some errands yesterday. I had already lifted log #40 to the top of the wall the day before, but I hadn't done any final positioning. Today, I went in the afternoon by myself. I knew the log needed to be rotated about 180 degrees, so I set to work. The main issue when rotating a log is that you are trying to rotate it with the strap that is also preventing it from falling to the ground- which is now about 16 feet below. I also found out early on that you can only rotate the log by the strap on the butt end- you can't turn it at the tip. If you have two vehicles- a tractor and your wife's Landcruiser, you can use the tractor to lift the log, while the Landcruiser pulls on a chain connected to the log to keep it balanced. She can pull forward or back, depending on where the log wants to balance, while I lift it up and down or let it be loose so I can rotate the strap.

The trap....

Working alone, with just one tractor, meant I had no way to hold the log in position while I rotated the strap. The log kept wanting to roll off the wall. I tried to chain bind it to the logs below, but the chain binder can only hold the log down, and when the log wants to go down anyway (meaning, way down- like- to the ground), it's just not effective.

I tried three times to use the chain binder, but finally gave up and went and got gas. When I got back, I tried something new.  I chain binded the log loosely- tight enough to keep it from falling down to the ground below, but loose enough that I could move it a few inches with the tractor.  I used another couple of chains around the log, and attached to the tractor, to replace what would normally be my wife's Landcruiser. I backed the tractor until the log was held tight and couldn't roll off. Then I moved the chain binder to the new position afforded by backing up the tractor.


The solution...

With the log now held tight by the chain binder, I pulled forward with the tractor to release tension on the chain attached to the tractor and disconnected the chain.  Then I loosened the rope, letting the log settle again into a new position that let it roll back a little, but not all the way off the wall. I then loosened the rope a bit more to give the rope about 3 feet of slack, but kept it tied to the tractor as an anchor just in case.  I could now remove the chain binder completely.

With the rope now slack, and the log balanced somewhat on the wall, I climbed up to rotate the strap so the lift point was now at the bottom of the log. With the pinch point of the strap now at the bottom of the log, lifting the log would lift at the pinch point, causing the log to rotate until the bottom of the log was now on top. The other strap on the tip end of the log was tied off to the house, but the strap was kept open to allow the tip to rotate within the strap, but not fall.



It was now a few minutes past sunset. I had about 45 minutes of daylight left to get this thing positioned. From the top of this log, I'm now high enough that I can almost reach the top pulley, which is about 6 feet from the top of the lifting pole- about 26 feet to the top.  Standing safely (ok, as safely as possible, but still able to build my house) near the log, I pulled on the rope to tighten things up, and the log started to roll! In fact, it rolled right off the wall! I had enough sense to hang onto the rope to slow things down at least (with gloves on, of course) as it slipped through my fingers, pulled by over 800 pounds of log (using pulleys reduces the log from 5,000 lbs down to a "still not manageable" 800 pounds- now you know what they mean when they say "an 800 pound gorilla"). The #8 heavy-duty triple blocks clanged as the full weight of the log hit them, and I heard the gears inside the tractor go "clunk" and it jumped forward an inch when the rope went taught. Dust sprang from the rope, and the lifting poles swayed gently, along with the safety lines.

Luckily (not really- I kept it tied to the tractor for this very reason), the rope was still tied to the tractor, and the log settled about a foot down from where it was, rotated nicely  at the pinch point, and 180 degrees from where it was before I started defying Nature.

When the adrenaline subsided, I climbed down until I felt wonderfully soft earth under my boots and fired up the tractor. I called my wife who was on her way and let her know it was rotated, and all she needed to do was give the final ok. I backed up the tractor, lifting the log back up on top of the wall, eye-balling it for the correct position. It was now starting to get dark.


 Ah....all is well....

Keeping it in the air above the log below, I got the ladder and my chainsaw and started cutting knots just as my wife pulled in the driveway. She nodded her approval, and set to work identifying log #'s 41, 42, 43, 44. I finished cutting knots, and trimming up the log, and then lowered it into its final resting place. I eyeballed it- it was as perfectly centered as it could be over the log below. She checked it from the inside of the house, and also the outside, and said, "pin it".
And that is what a one-man operation looks like.


  1. glad that "all is well" and you aren't under that log waiting for your wife to find you the next morning.

  2. Thank you. As a rule, I never, ever climb under a log that is suspended by rope. I never even put my hands or anything in between a log and anything else. I'll walk all the way around a log rather than go under it. They are massive pieces. But as with anything with a huge reward potential, there is risk. I just try to minimize it as much as I can, and don't be stupid.