hand-sharpening a chainsaw
Saturday, February 1 2020
Shortly after drinking the last coffee my system could handle, I set off down the Stick Trail with my Kobalt battery-powered chainsaw to salvage some firewood. I only got as far as the Chamomile crossing before seeing something to cut up: a large borer-killed white ash that had snapped off far up the slope and fallen into the Chamomile gorge. White ash is more typical of lowland forests in this climate, though it (and other lowland trees like basswood, sugar maple, hemlock, beech, and tulip tree) can be found in the gullies and ravines cut into the sides of mountains, where the environment is more mesic than the more typical highland xeric.
This fallen ash had lain where I found it for some time, but this was the first time I'd really considered it for processing. It was nice and dry and nearly all the bark had fallen off the trunk. Ash is different from oak in that it doesn't have a clear demarkation between heartwood and sapwood, so it doesn't skeletonize in the same way. When I use the term "skeletonized" regarding oak, I usually mean that most or all of the bark and sapwood has rotted away, leaving the hard rot-resistant heartwood. Ash is much less rot-resistant and there's no outer layer that rots away faster. As I tried to cut through the trunk, I realized my saw blade was too dull to get much cutting before either exhausting the battery or causing it to overheat (and shut off for that reason). I've had experience with two different battery-powered saws and learned that repeated overheating eventually destroys the motor, and I didn't want that happening. So I cobbled together what load I could (from bits and pieces from other nearby salvaging locations) and returned home.
I have an electric-powered chainsaw sharpener bolted to my workbench out in the garage, and I've used it with some success in the past. But using that requires removing (and then re-installing) the blade chain from the saw, which adds two unpleasant steps to the process. It's also cold out in the garage, and I'd rather do my saw sharpening in a comfortable place, such as in the living room near the stove. So today I decided to try out my manual saw-sharpening kit, which consists of three different round files, a file guide, and a few other items. The instructions weren't of much use, but I soon figured out the basics of using this set. You put the guide on the file and then use it the sharpen the under-surface of each blade parallel to its existing chamfer, using the clipped-on guide to hold the file at the correct depth. I didn't really think I was doing a particularly good job, especially considering I was just kind of winging it. It would've been better to have some old timer show me the ropes, but I wouldn't even know where to go to find such a person. I suppose I could've also found a YouTube video, but this sort of operation felt like one where a tactile sense was nearly as important as a visual one. In any case, when I eventually went out with the saw and its newly-sharpened blade, its performance was amazing. It wasn't quite as good as a saw with a brand new blade, but my sharpening had only been half-assed at best (and had taken less than ten minutes). The demonstrated fact that sharpening a saw chain on a chainsaw without ever even having to remove it gave me an exhilerating jolt of empowerment. Coupled with yesterday's success at getting Jenkins to work, I was beginning to feel a little like I might be, as the kids say these days, crushing it.
I managed to bring home a second load of that nice dry white ash wood as well as that cobbled-together first load of the day for a total of three loads, with a likely weight of nearly 400 pounds. This nearly maxed-out the possibilities for firewood stackage in the living room.
This evening Gretchen and I drove off to Woodstock to meet our friends Justin and Erica at Woodstock Pizza Theatre, where we'd be having a double date. I'd eaten a large lump of marijuana an hour or so before we left, and it started kicking in just as we were leaving. As is the usual pattern, I was the one doing the driving to the evening's destination (because sometimes I'm too drunk to drive us back home). But at some point on Dug Hill Road, I realized I was too stoned to be driving. So I asked Gretchen to take over. She asked what the problem was. Had I been drinking? So I explained how I'd eaten some marijuana earlier and that it was just kicking in. This was not the sort of conversation I wanted to be having, and had I thought I could safely drive us all the way to Woodstock, I would've powered through and gotten us there. But in this case I was really concerned for our safety if I were to have kept driving.
Justin and Erica hadn't been to the Pizza Theatre before, so Gretchen did all the ordering, and we shared everything family style. In recent weeks, the Pizza Theatre has gone out of its way to make itself more vegan-friendly, and this now includes not charging extra for vegan variants on non-vegan dishes. Gretchen ordered us a cæsar salad, fried brussel sprout shavings (which were unexpectedly amazing), deep-fried cauliflower "wings" (they were kind of meh), a plate of fettuccine, and a pesto pizza. I could tell from the things being ordered that my preferences (which Gretchen knows pretty well) were not factoring much into her decisonmaking. Still, that pesto pizza was amazing, and if weren't for the damn boiling-hot cherry tomatoes (one of which sprayed my tongue with super-heated tomato juice, causing it to feel cottony for the rest of the evening), I wouldn't have a reason to complain. After we'd eaten all that, we realized Gretchen hadn't ordered enough food. So we got another pizza, but those pizzas are small and I was hungry even after eating my portion of that. Normally Justin loves his alcohol and orders at least two beers, but he must be going through some sort of self-imposed dry spell because he didn't order even one. And neither Erica nor Gretchen order alcohol either. I ended up being the one person at our table with a beer, though I've decided I am of an age now where I will order a beer whenever I fucking want one. I needed something to counteract the effects of that marijuana bud I'd eaten earlier.
Conversation at the Pizza Theatre consisted mostly of Gretchen and me telling stories from our recent trip to India, though at some point Erica told us something amusing about her nephew. He's been living in such a secular bubble in New York City that when he went to Italy on a class trip, he was perplexed about the obsession in the cathedrals with someone named "Jesus." Who, he wanted to know, was that? I was envious; he'd never had to spend a single calorie pondering the absurdity at the root of the biggest religion in the world.
Next the four of us went to the Garden Café just for dessert, my least-favorite phase of any meal. Usually I'm totally uninterested in food by the time dessert happens, because I've just finished stuffing my face with the kind of food I prefer to eat (the kind without sugar and sinful amounts of chocolate in it). But tonight I was still hungry. Had the Garden had a bean soup, I would've been in heaven, but tonight I had to settle for a corn chowder. It was pretty good, thought I probably should've ordered something more substantial, like a Beyond Burger. Because tonight I would actually go to sleep somewhat hungry.
At the Garden, Justin told us about a huge office space he is in the process of converting into his own veterinary clinic, though the monumental size of the task ahead of him was clearly overwhelming him (and possibly aggravating the pain in his mouth from a tooth that a dentist had had to remove). I asked if he was feeling impostor syndrome, and he agreed that he was. "I feel impostor syndrome every day," I sympathized.
When Justin was off in the bathroom, our waitress came by to tell us that mint chocolate chip was an unexpected additional icecream option we could choose. Erica was sure that Justin wouldn't want that, and that, if asked about it, he would compare eating such icecream to brushing one's teeth. So when Justin appeared, Gretchen mentioned that mint chocolate chip was now an icecream possibility. Justin didn't say much at first, but when Gretchen kept talking about it, he said something about it reminding him of brushing his teeth. We all burst into laughter that this had been so perfectly predicted.
Gretchen had wanted to swing by the Colony Café to see part of the Rock Academy's "Best Of" show. But it was all over by the time we got there due to all our yakin' and restaurant hoppin'.
Ramona and Neville on the couch this morning. Gretchen is attempting to take a picture while Charles the Cat looks on.
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