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Author Topic: Slabs & slab racks -- again.  (Read 5608 times)

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Offline Brucer

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Slabs & slab racks -- again.
« on: December 10, 2012, 02:32:52 AM »
EDIT: I've added a section to the end of this topic about a method one of my customers came up with for handling the slabs.



From time to time the question of what people do with their slabs comes up. Over the past half year I've been recording the evolution of my slab disposal system.

When I was contract sawing for a timber-framer, the plan was to convert his shop from natural gas to wood heat supplied by an outdoor boiler. We planned to make 4' long bundles of about 1/4 cord each. These would be collected in wooden racks, strapped with metal strapping, and piled for later use with his shop forklift.

I don't have any pictures of the original racks, but they were basically 8' long, 40" wide inside the stakes, and 30" high. There were central supports so we could strap up a bundle with four straps and then cut it in half with a chainsaw/30" bar combination. The bases and cut-down uprights can be seen in version 2 (below).

The boiler idea fell through when the bookkeeper pointed out that the owner had neglected to consider the cost of the forklift and the employees who would be feeding the boiler. In the end we made 8' long half-cord bundles and tried to sell them. The longer bundles required half the strapping, half as much chain-sawing, and half as much forklift time.

The main problems with this system were: 1) the strapping came loose as soon as the bundle shifted; and 2) most potential customers didn't have saws with long enough bars.

When I started my own independent operation I salvaged the old racks and came up with version 2, shown below. Basically I moved one set of uprights inward so the bundles were only 2' wide, and I added some 45 degree braces at the bottom. By stacking the top in a flattened pyramid, I was able to make an approximately round bundle. This worked very well -- the bundles didn't get too loose and the customers could buck them up with only a 16" bar.



While version 2 was an improvement, it still had problems. Each time I had to empty a rack, I would have to stop sawing and fire up the loader. And the wooden design didn't stand up well over the course of a season.

Version 3 is shown below. It's made of steel and I can roll it onto its side (after strapping the bundle), dumping it onto some 4x6's. With this system I could empty a rack twice before having to fetch the loader.



I had also begun using polyester strapping (purchased from Bailey's). It will stretch more than the steel strapping and will keep a bundle tighter. This makes it much easier to roll the bundle out of a rack. Below is an unloaded, strapped bundle, with the rack ready to fill again.



One concern was that a bundle might get wedged in the rack so I hinged one side and pinned it in place. If a bundle gets stuck I can pop two pins and open the rack up enough to release the bundle. As it turns out this hardly ever happens. The couple of times it has, though, makes me glad I added this feature. I also painted the racks flat black so that people who can actually weld won't be able to see just how bad the welding is ;D.



If the racks look a little unstable, they are! I didn't want to be wrestling a rack over on its side with 1000 pounds of wood in it. After all, the idea is not to have to fetch the FEL to empty a rack. To keep the racks from dumping when they aren't supposed to, I made a couple of simple latches that are fastened to the 4x6's with lag bolts. Once a bundle is strapped up, I just step on the side rail and kick out the latch at either end. Step off the rail and grab it as it comes up off the ground.



At first glance you might wonder how well one of these racks will roll onto its side. But if you look closely at the picture of the empty rack a couple of pictures back, you'll see a short piece of 1x3 hollow tubing welded to the diagonal member on the left. In effect I've approximated a circle by providing a series of tipping points that the rack can roll on.

I'm please with the way these have worked out. They can take abuse, one person can empty them easily by hand (sometimes with the help of my Logrite mill special), and the customers really like the smaller diameter, round bundles.

I've never had to specifically fetch the loader to move slab bundles with this system. It's become a matter of course to move any empty bundles whenever the loader is being used for something else.
Bruce    LT40HDG28 bandsaw with two 6' extensions.
"Complex problems have simple, easy to understand wrong answers."

Offline TGS

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Re: Slabs & slab racks -- again.
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2012, 02:59:41 AM »
I like it a lot. Great job.

Offline stavebuyer

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Re: Slabs & slab racks -- again.
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2012, 03:34:03 AM »
Very practical and well documented solution. Another benefit I can see is that it reduces the size loader needed to handle them. They could probably even be rolled off a flat bed trailer by hand making them attractive to a firewood buyer that didn't have a loader.

Online Larry

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Re: Slabs & slab racks -- again.
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2012, 06:24:39 AM »
That's slick.  I'm on slab rack version 3.1 and now I have an idea that works. :D  Thanks for taking the time to post.
Larry, making useful and beautiful things out of the most environmental friendly material on the planet.

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Offline WoodenHead

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Re: Slabs & slab racks -- again.
« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2012, 08:12:34 AM »
Very good job.  I like it.

Do you feed the bundle straps between the square tube and the bundle and then tighten?

Offline thecfarm

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Re: Slabs & slab racks -- again.
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2012, 08:36:29 AM »
Took a few times to get it just right. A very good idea.
Model 6020-20hp Manual Thomas bandsaw,TC40A 4wd 40 hp New Holland tractor, 450 Norse Winch, Heatmor 400 OWB,YCC 1978-79

Offline drobertson

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Re: Slabs & slab racks -- again.
« Reply #6 on: December 10, 2012, 08:56:46 AM »
brucer, nice work man. Great idea, lot of folks have front loaders with a lift limit around 1500lbs, looks like you have solved this problem for them.
only have a few chain saws I'm not suppose to use, but will at times, one dog Dolly, pretty good dog, just not sure what for yet,  working on getting the gardening back in order, and kinda thinking on maybe a small bbq bizz,  thinking about it,

Offline haywire woodlot

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Re: Slabs & slab racks -- again.
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2012, 10:41:13 AM »
Nice system. I like it. How much do you sell those bundles for?
Dave

Offline Tree Feller

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Re: Slabs & slab racks -- again.
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2012, 12:28:18 PM »
Do you mind if I copy your design? Those bundles would be perfect for my little 30hp Kioti.
Cody

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Offline stanwelch

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Re: Slabs & slab racks -- again.
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2012, 02:56:58 PM »
Very nice design on the slab rack. Do you have any pictures or drawings of your sawmill layout?
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Offline Charles135

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Re: Slabs & slab racks -- again.
« Reply #10 on: December 10, 2012, 04:43:15 PM »
That is slick, I have been trying to figure something out myself.  At present I have 3 daughters that makes up my slab removal system.  They would be very happy to be relieved of their duties. 
Charlie
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Offline Brucer

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Re: Slabs & slab racks -- again.
« Reply #11 on: December 10, 2012, 07:18:06 PM »
Some answers to your questions and comments.

I have customers who roll them off a trailer; tie them to a tree and pull them off a trailer or pickup; and even back the truck down a hill and hit the brakes :o. Some people break the bundles apart in my yard and hand load them into their trucks. And some people buck them up in my yard and load them into trucks, trailers, and even station wagons.

We tried feeding the straps between the bundle and the rails because it worked well on version 2.  It doesn’t work very well on version 3 because there is only a 1-1/2” gap between the bottom of the bundle and the centre rail. In the early trials we both strapped a bundle to the rack now and then >:(. Now we lay a couple of straps across the empty rack beforehand. When possible we recycle used straps; we also have 6 rolls of strapping that we can leave beside the racks when necessary.

I don’t try to make money on the slabs, just recover the handling costs and get them off the site. I charged $1.50 per linear foot of bundle my first year ($60 per cord). I raised that to $64/ cord the following year ago and then to $80/cord this year. These prices include taxes to keep things simple. A low maintenance customer who doesn’t take a lot of my time and self-loads the bundles still gets last years price.

I have three racks. They’re all the same size but I space them out so there is one for 8’ slabs, one for 10’ slabs, and one for 12-15’ slabs. Longer slabs get bucked up before I put them in the racks. There’s a set of roller tables beside the racks which you can see in photos 2 & 3 above. I took these pictures last spring when I was just getting set up again, so you only see the one rack.

I designed version 3 as soon as it became obvious that the original wooden racks were taking a beating. Just to be sure (before welding up a bunch of steel) I converted some of the original racks to version 2, which has the same interior dimensions as the metal version. When I found out how popular the smaller bundles were, I started building the steel racks.

Anyone who wants to copy this design is welcome to do so. I make no claims about its strength or suitability for your particular operation. Used as shown, with Douglas-Fir they stand up well. I would not want to lift a fully loaded rack with a forklift of loader – I’m pretty sure the rails would bend.

Some design information:
  • most of the material is 1-12” x 1/8” square tubing.
  • the diagonal braces on the right are 1-1/2” x 1/8” angle.
  • I capped the uprights with some 1/8” plate to keep rain and debris out.
  • there are drain holes at the bottom of the right hand uprights.
  • we stack the bundles up to the white marks on the uprights and then round the top so it is level with the left hand uprights. I kept the right hand uprights shorter to avoid the temptation to keep on piling. Oval bundles get loose in a hurry. :(

Here are the approximate dimensions. Some of them will be off by 1/16” or so. Keep the sides parallel, or slightly wider at the top. Make the bottom as close to an octagon shape as you can.



Dimensions shown are in inches. Multiply by 25 to get them in millimetres (close enough).
Bruce    LT40HDG28 bandsaw with two 6' extensions.
"Complex problems have simple, easy to understand wrong answers."

Offline Brucer

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Re: Slabs & slab racks -- again.
« Reply #12 on: December 10, 2012, 07:34:09 PM »
Do you have any pictures or drawings of your sawmill layout?

I have a layout diagram that's badly out of date. I'll try to get it updated this week. In the meantime ...

Picture #2 in my first post shows the first rack with the roller tables behind it. Beyond the roller tables you can just see the infeed end of the edger. The sawmill is out of the picture to the left.

Picture #3 shows where the other two racks go, beyond the first one. The sawmill is directly behind me in this picture. I saw away from the roller tables and drag the slabs and flitches back onto them. Flitches get levered off and stack next to the edger infeed. Slabs get pushed down the roller table to the appropriate slab rack. Edgings come out the far end of the edger and get piled on the far end of the roller table. When we get an small stack, we roll them toward the sawmill and lift them into the proper rack.

Anything that gets edged on the mill gets pulled onto the roller tables and pushed right to the end, where we have a pile for boards coming off the edger. Beyond that is a small chopsaw shed.
Bruce    LT40HDG28 bandsaw with two 6' extensions.
"Complex problems have simple, easy to understand wrong answers."

Offline Leigh Family Farm

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Re: Slabs & slab racks -- again.
« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2012, 07:44:52 PM »
Well done. I will remember this idea when it comes time for me to get my mill. Thanks for the well documented post.
There are no problems; only solutions we haven't found yet.

Offline Jim_Rogers

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Re: Slabs & slab racks -- again.
« Reply #14 on: December 15, 2012, 06:35:05 PM »
Well, my logger decided I needed a "slab rack".

He wanted to have one made up that he could pick up with his log truck and haul back to the end of his driveway where he could set it and sell off the slabs.

I told him I really didn't want anything to do with trying to sell slabs off a rack at the end of a driveway.

That was months ago.

Thursday he showed up with a "slab rack".

I guess he was doing this tree job for a fellow who had a boat under a cover thing. And the tree branches fell on the cover thing and damage it, and the boat I believe.

I think he either sold the boat or it's out being fixed.
But anyway the cover thing was all ripped and all the metal tubing was bent up.

The logger offered to "haul it out" for him for free. His customer told him to "just take it"....

So he did, and he hauled it over to his welder friend and made up this rack:



It was not anything that I was expecting.
But anyhow, I figured what the hay, why not.

So as you can see, I filled it with some oak slab and edgings I got off of one oak log, yesterday. And trimmed the pieces so that they were between 4' and 6' long.

I hung a can on the side of the rack, and a home made "for sale" sign, which said: For Sale
oak slabwood, $20. "put the money in the can"....
I hooked up the can and sign this morning.

After I got back from a lumber delivery, I carried the "slab rack" down to the end of "my driveway" and put it where people could see it while driving by.

This afternoon, while I was outside working on (new to me) my pick-up I heard this loud banging noise.

I looked up and three guys were tossing all the slabwood into the back of a pickup truck.

The rack hadn't been at the end of my driveway 4 hours yet.

As soon as they left, I drove down my driveway.
And low and behold there was a 20 dollar bill in the can.

I drove straight to the gas station and put that 20 into the fuel tank of the pickup truck.

Tomorrow, I think I'll refill this slab rack and put it back out there again.....

Jim Rogers

PS. I suppose I'll share some of the money with the logger.
He's suppose to have enough stock left over to make a second one. He though I could fill one and move it out. And while it was out there, fill the second one.
I may ask him to do it and see what happens.

Whatever you do, have fun doing it!
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Offline r.man

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Re: Slabs & slab racks -- again.
« Reply #15 on: December 16, 2012, 09:37:36 AM »
That is a nice system. I was one of the guys buying slabwood from a local small circular mill that cut mostly hardwood. Each bundle was heavy enough to kill an average trailer if you used it more than a few times. They would load for you if you didn't mind waiting on the loader guy but frequently one or more of the bands broke and the bundle was always too wide for anything but a 24 inch bar cutting from both sides. I got good at cutting up bundles and would still be doing it if the mill was still there. I would have preferred your smaller round bundles though for both transport and cutting.
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Offline Brucer

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Re: Slabs & slab racks -- again.
« Reply #16 on: July 11, 2014, 12:19:10 AM »
I thought it would be useful to show the system one of my customers came up with to deal with my slab bundles. I tried it out myself before recommending it to anyone else ... it works great.

This is a slab bundle that I pulled out of my truck (tied it to a tree, then drove away).



That wasn't the first bundle I processed, by the way. It took me a couple of tries to figure that I should unload the bundles onto some dunnage ::).

The next picture shows ratchet straps around the bundle spaced 16" apart. I tightened them up, then went back and tightened them again.



Once I got everything tightly strapped, I marked the bundle at 16" intervals, then sawed half way through at each mark. Then I went back and tightened all the straps again. With everything tight once more, I rolled the bundle a quarter turn and cut half way through what was left. Tightened the straps, turned a final time, and made a last cut at each mark. Here's the result.



The ratchet straps have to be cinched up one more time, then the mini-bundles can be rolled around. I rolled them up a ramp into my truck, then drove down to my woodshed and rolled them off the truck. You can roll them up a short step like this ...



... but it's a pain. If you've got any scrap wood or offcuts lying around, better to make a ramp ;D.



Finally, I unstrapped the bundles and piled the contents. These particular bundles contain mostly edgings because my customers prefer a higher proportion of slabs. It doesn't matter to me because my stove burns everything with equal efficiency.



In case you haven't caught on yet, the secret to making this system work is to keep the ratchet straps tight  :D :D.

If you have relatively flat slabs and keep the straps centered and tight, you can roll these mini bundles, drop them on the ground off a truck, even tip them on their sides. The customers who first showed me this method could lift a 16" long bundle into their truck with one person on either side.

One thing to keep in mind -- a tight, round bundle can roll a considerable distance down hill :o :o.  Don't ask >:(.

Bruce    LT40HDG28 bandsaw with two 6' extensions.
"Complex problems have simple, easy to understand wrong answers."


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