Tag Archive | screws

Once You Go Impact, You’ll Never Go Back

A friend of mine is a tool junkie. He has at least one tool for every job. Often he has more than one. This is especially true for cordless drills. He has about fifteen of them and most of them are DeWalt. Many times I would have my drill out, within easy reach, with the right bit in it, and he would still go get his. He never used my drill, or at least never wanted too. He called himself a drill snob and I agreed. My Porter Cable was a fine drill, worked with no problems, and only had recently become weak in the battery department. Why wouldn’t he use my drill? Turns out it wasn’t my drill that he had problems with, he had become used to using his drill and impact driver combo. Apparently, the two together were a deadly combination. His said his drill was good, but the lethal blow was handed out by the impact driver. I blew him off at first. It was just another tool. It was just more money to spend. It was just another trophy for his case.

Then I used it. It was fast, strong and light. I couldn’t believe how well it worked. Here’s the thing – the impact driver doesn’t just drive screws. It kicks their butts and asks for more. It starts out fast, driving the screws at maximum speed until it hits enough resistance. Then the impact kicks in and it beats it home. It does all of this without stripping the head or breaking the screws. The best part is that when you are driving screws from odd angles, especially above your head, it takes about half the force to hold it in place. And did I mention, it doesn’t strip the head. It is unbelievable!

Now, if I don’t have an impact driver with me I find myself thinking, “This is how they used to do it in the olden days.” Sure, it works. You can drive screws with a drill. But once you go impact, you’ll never go back.

Note: I have since used a Bosch, Makita and Hitachi, as well as the DeWalt, and all have worked great. The key seems not to be in the make, but just in the fact that it is an impact driver. If you were to purchase one, I would only recommend to get one that matches the batteries you already have.

Metal: It’s Like It Grows On Trees

Often, when talking about milling a log, I talk about the potential for it to have metal in it. I take for granted that everyone knows what I am talking about, but I was reminded recently that it is not always the case. I mentioned in an earlier post that a log had metal in it, and a friend of mine didn’t know what I was talking about. He asked, “How does metal get in trees?” Well, I am here to tell you how – any way imaginable. You name it, if it is made of metal, it is probably in a tree somewhere.

This horseshoe is on display at Mueller Brothers Timber.

You see, trees are magnets for pieces of metal. Young boys put them in trees for fun. They might be in the form of one small nail to hold a target or a series of large nails every 12″ to anchor tree house steps. Single trees in a fenced-in back yard are especially susceptible because they are sitting ducks and the focus of much attention. Even adults get in on the action with big hooks to hold hammocks, clothes lines, and bird feeders. Not to mention the trees close to the street that get nails from everyone’s signs.

The beauty of the nail is that there is usually more than one. I always say, “Why put in one nail, when you can put in twenty?” I have often thought that if I find one nail, I should just ditch the entire tree, but that is usually only on hot days, and when I am cutting low-grade logs. Otherwise, I suffer through it, dulling blades and cutting at a slower pace, while I check the log with a metal detector before each cut. On those same days, I often think about a new program that I will start for school-aged children called “Save The Lumber,” where I will teach the importance of hammer restraint.

Nails are removed by cutting around with a chainsaw and then popping out the chunk with a hammer.

The secret to the metal situation is that the trees grow over the metal. Nails that were driven 70 years ago are deep within a log, with no sign on the outside. Certain trees, like oaks especially, will show stains on the end of the logs from the metal reacting with the tannin in the wood, but that doesn’t tell you exactly where the metal is, just that there is metal close. So these things just sit in there, waiting to tear up the saw blade. They usually don’t ruin the blades we use on the portable mills, but they make them very dull and mess up the set (which is the amount the teeth are bent out to provide clearance for the blade). Larger pieces of metal can wreak havoc on bigger equipment though, and be very dangerous. In fact, putting large pieces of metal, like railroad spikes, in trees was a tactic used by activists to try to deter logs from being harvested. These days, all mills have metal detectors, so this is less of a problem at the mill.

A nice wide elm board ruined with nail holes.

I get most of my logs from an urban environment and know that the bottom log is prone to have metal in it (usually between 4′-5′ from the ground, where people can easily reach). For me, it is part of the deal and I work with it. There are, however, plenty of logs that are better not to cut, but I usually suffer through them anyway. I had one recently that prompted this post, and I have put up a photo of the carnage to drive home the point. It was a beautiful 14′ long super-straight elm log that would have produced wide and perfect boards, except for the nails, nails, and more nails. It also happened to be the one that bent up my mill, causing me to make a new part, which I decided to grind on, which created sparks, that, in turn, burned down my shop. That was a log that I should have never messed with!

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