March 28, 2011

Beauty Under the Bark

My previous post showed four mesquite beams cut and ready to be debarked.  Removing the bark off a fresh log is tedious work.  I thought of just leaving the bark and raise the beams-up as they were: However, a few considerations changed my mind...


My first thought was for a more practical reason.  The softer outer bark on the mesquite wood is attractive to 'powder-post' beatles.  By removing the outer bark the inner hardwood becomes a less practical habitat for the beatle.

My other consideration was more philosophical.......I know Mesquite wood has a beautiful finished grain texture - thus an impressive visual appeal.  Despite the daunting-task of debarking four logs, I figured I would be 'short-changing' the aesthetics of the building by keeping the bark intact.  In order to bring this hardwood to its full artistic potential, I made the decision to remove the bark.

Using a draw-knife as shown in the photo above, I worked off the soft layer which was in some places 3/8"-thick.  At first I thought I would need to only strip about 180-degrees of bark (halfway around the log) - since the top half would have cob piled on it and thus not seen anyway.  However, I had to drop that idea, because I wasn't sure how the logs would have to be rotated once lying next to each other in order to achieve a tight fit above the span.  Each log has a unique curve to it.  If I couldn't get them to fit-tight, then the gaps between each beam lying side-by-side each other would be almost too large.  

A tighter fit is preferred especially when additional 'cob' will be placed on top of these beams (spanning the room divide), in order to continue the wall up to roof height.

As I continued peeling, I started realizing that I was doing the right thing.  The debarked log  looked spectacular. I coated it with 'Tongue Oil' to help preserve the wood and protect it from the elements.

The log shown took me about a day to accomplish by hand. Presently - one down - three to go.

Tedious for sure. But now at least I'm assured at what to look forward to, artistically, once the building is complete.

No comments: