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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Old men and old machines

"I've got a log splitter that'll split 'em sideways."

Childhood friend and co-codger Paul was waxing bragadocious about his Lickity-Log-Splitter -- the first of its kind and according to Paul, the Cadillac of log splitters.

Clayton Brukner patented the Lickity Log Splitter, with its stationary wedge and hydraulic platen, in 1959 when he was head of the Waco Aircraft Company of Troy, Ohio.

Brukner's mechanical inclination and production smarts came from a childhood of wandering around his daddy's workplace -- farm equipment factories in the midwest.

A self taught mechanical engineer, he drifted from thresher construction to aircraft assembly, and after WWI founded the Advance Aircraft Company with his friend Elwood James Junkin.

Brukner wrote that "My aircraft engineering background taught me to employ properly heat treated steels in the design of the machine (i.e., the Lickity Log Splitter), with the result that a machine weighing slightly over 500 lbs. is capable of a 36,000 lb. force if you can log that will require it."

Last Thursday Paul came rolling in with the Lickity Log Splitter on his flat bed trailer, and it looked more like a piece of wreckage with paint-eczema than a Cadillac.

The old dinosaur needed a snort of ether to fire up, but my how it worked!

It was soon splitting stumps with a terrible roaring vengeance.

"Don't put your hands on the ends." cautioned Paul as I dropped a stump onto the rail.

"A laborer lost his hand between the wedge and a log."

The din of machinery sounds like boots and saddles to tinkerers, and in no time neighbor Richard came putting down the driveway on his own antique, a vintage Honda 90 trail bike.

It was good timing, because we soon discovered that most of the stumps were 3 inches longer than Lickity Splitter's throat.

No amount of sledging made them fit.

Paul removed the steel stop that backed the wedge.

"It needs to be 3 and a quarter inches shorter."

Richard carried it off on his motorbike with Fred in tow.

So where did Paul find his yellow relic?

It was in a weedy lot in Carmel, California, an eyesore to some but a clear statement about Yankee thrift.

It wasn't for sale, and it didn't work, but the owner didn't mind chatting.

The splitter had seen many good years, and when the state widened Route 1 ("the coast highway") in the 70s, they felled the old eucalyptus aisle, and the Likity Splitter reduced a lot of very big stumps to firewood.

Paul finally talked the owner into parting with the machine, hauled it to Scotts Valley, and got it working, though he still laments the $100 dollars he paid for a new gas tank.

"I just didn't want to fool around making one out of parts."

When Richard came down the driveway he delivered the original part intact and a new and shorter wedge stop he had just welded from his own scrap.

"I didn't want to cut the original piece, so now you have two."

We were back in business.

Twenty-four hours later we had split and stacked a cord and a half of black oak.

Codgers can be pretty helpful when the work is done with big old machines.


PBurns said...

As I recall, "Lickety Split" is the name of a lesbian bar somewhere on the west coast.

Not sure if it's really true, but it *sounds* right!


Camera Trap Codger said...

Yessss. . . . .uh huhhhhhh . . . . I can believe that . . . .

John Carlson said...

I was going to return your "feels good doesn't it" comment, but Patrick's comment kind of changed the context a bit.
Still, it does feel nice to have direct results of your labor rather than sitting at a desk for 8 (or more) hours with nothing tangible to show except a fatter butt.

randomtruth said...

Ah yes - "Men Who Stare At Logs" - I think I saw that movie. Gary Cooper right?

A cord and a 1/2 of black oak is some solid work even with the Lickity. Nicely done.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Ken, I googled up "Men who stare at goats", but found no movie about log starers. You can tell me about it on the way to Chimineas.

John, I disassembled a redwood deck this summer -- took six weeks and learned a lot -- and now have two stacks of fine boards and several buckets of hardware. Have to cook up some projects to use the wood. There's something to be said for sore muscles and a job well done.