There was a lot of left over beaver chewed remnants in one of the areas I went to for firewood this fall. Looking at their busy work I had an inspiration for making an award of sorts. Granted it is a bit punny but I thought I would give it a try and everyone who has seen it has really liked it. Basically I processed one of the beaver chewed stumps into an Ash chewing award.
I find Beaver to be amazing. They really like Ash trees, apparently they taste good, but ash is a really hard dense wood. I have trouble cutting it so I can't help wonder if they don't also have trouble with it.
To think about these little guys looking up at one of these giant cottonwood trees and just going to work to chew it down, that takes ambition. The chain saw in the picture has an 18 inch guide bar. With the bar the saw measures 35 inches so its just short of 3 feet. The tree in the picture then is more than 3 feet across. And it was just one of many that they had chewed down. Amazing.
Step 1: Making a Flat Spot
The first step in making this log is to peel off some of the bark to clear away the dirt and other junk. To much dirt can dull the planer blades so making a clean spot is a good place to start.
I started up the planer and shaved off a little bit at a time until I got a nice flat area to work on. It is possible to use a tool like a band saw for this but I have had really good success in just using the planer.
After getting it flat the next thing is to sand it.
Step 2: Cleaning It Up
After the initial work I discovered that I should have picked a different side to flatten since this one had a large crack in it.
That's alright, it can be fixed.
First I cut the edges to open up the crack. This is not unlike dental work. You have to get at the problem. Clean out any other problems too, like places where bugs have chewed.
Speaking of bugs, there is a remote possibility that there might be some larva or eggs in the wood especially since I am leaving most of the bark on. To make sure there is nothing living left inside I put the Ash in the microwave and cooked it for 5 minutes. This did not heat the log up that much because its pretty dry wood. I actually thought it would be hotter. But it should have cooked any bugs that are left inside so it should be sterile.
Once it has cooled down I ran a bead of wood glue down the cracks. This will stabilize them so they shouldn't get bigger. I let the glue dry overnight and then after trimming it a little, I filled the crack in with wood putty. I needed a nice flat surface for writing so this helps to achieve that.
Another session with the belt sander followed up with some 500 grit sandpaper left a very nice surface.
Step 3: Adding the Graphic
I searched for and found a graphic that I really liked. This one is from the Alaska Fish and Game. I printed it out with a laser printer. Laser printers use heat to transfer and bond the toner to the paper and you can reverse the process and transfer the image to something else using heat. My wood burner has a tip just for that purpose.
Cut the image out and place it on the wood. Remember that it will now be reversed, a mirror image. Rub the hot tool over the image and press lightly. You should practice doing this first on a scrap piece of wood. Although you can't erase the transferred image if you make a mistake you can just sand it off and start over if you need to. The heat should cause the paper with the toner to stick to the wood. You can peel it up a little and look to see if its dark enough. The paper should stay in the same place since its stuck down. If it looks the way you want it to, then slowly peel the paper off. Use the heat tool again if it's stuck too tight. Just get it warm and pull the paper off. You should be left with a very nice image. If you get a little bit of paper stuck, don't worry about it. After the wood is cool you can scratch that off with a finger nail.
Step 4: Lettering
I made my lettering using a desktop publishing program. Once again I printed it with a laser printer. There was a lot of trial and error here as I adjusted the letters sizes and positions to fit the log and the graphic.
Cut everything up and lay it out on your wood to make sure you get it where you want it. In the publishing industry they used to call this process "paste up". It's where you place everything where you want it to be and then arrange it to look good.
After you get everything set up, you're going to have to take the extra step of reversing it. It has to be the mirror image in order for it to come out correctly onto the wood.
Use the heat tool and once again stick the toner to the wood. If it's not that way you like it, sand it off and do it again.
Step 5: Start Burning
Wood burning takes time to do. Work at it slowly and carefully. The tip I used for this project was a pinpoint since my letters were a little small. How good your work turns out will depend on a lot of things, including the type of wood you use. Ash works pretty good for this although it has some spots that char a lot faster than others.
I did not plan on going over the graphic with the wood burner. It's much to fine a design for me to do that. I suppose a much better wood burner might be able to do it but I thought the graphic looked just fine the way it was.
You probably notice that the wood putty that was in the crack did not show any charring from the burner. I wasn't sure it would until I tried it. I got around that by using a brown magic marker to tone in the wood putty. It's not cheating, its finding creative solutions to unusual problems.
Step 6: Lots of Possibilities
I put several coats of finish on the face to preserve it and also on the stump side. I am debating on whether to put a finish coat on the bark and the chewed side. Putting a finish seal on the bark would help seal it up and preserve it from damage but it also alters the way it looks.
I have also thought about making a mounting board for it. I kind of like it without one but it would be really easy to screw the ash to a display board.
The tree rings show that this relatively little tree was between 70 and 80 years old. These are very slow growing trees here because of the harsh winters and the lack of rain in the summer. It survived all that time struggling against the elements just to end up as lunch for the beaver. But at least its now preserved due in part to the humorous manner of it's death.
I have a lot more ash stumps that I have been saving, little ones, big ones (Yes, I have some BIG Ash logs) and even one that was not finished, an interrupted unsuccessful chew. I have been thinking of all the fun puns I could use for them.
For instance, this one could be changed from the chew-e to the chewer,
"Sorry I chewed your Ash".
And there is:
I am a professional Ash chewer, I do this to live. (or, its my life)
Caution, professional Ash chewer!
And then there is a different vein altogether
"I love a tasty piece of Ash to start my day"
Skinny Ash, big Ash, it all tastes the same to me.
Without my daily Ash I would die of starvation.
I have thought of so many I can't even remember them anymore.
SO here is the deal I have for you :
Step 7: Readers Pun Page and Contributions
I am going to make this a special page for any fun puns you readers come up with.
Remember to keep them reasonably clean.
Put them in your comments and I will then copy and paste them into this page, provided of course I am amused. Who knows, maybe I will put them on my next piece of Ash.
I wonder how many we can get.
It's up to you all.
Oh, one of my future projects "No chewing Ash at the table".