Blog

Jan 03 2017

Chainsaw Milling a Giant Myrtlewood: The Story of Epilogue Urban Lumber

By KC Eisenberg

As told to Sustainable Northwest Wood by David Barmon and Mark Parisien.

We began our urban log wrangling adventures in the fall of 2013, standing before a monster myrtlewood measuring four feet at the base, planning our attack. 

Intrigued by the idea of urban forestry, my friend and now business partner Daniel Baca and I had recently purchased an Alaskan Mill.  With only a few cuts under our belt and an under-powered electric winch, we were as green as the first crooked slab we’d cut that day.  

Fast forward to the fall of 2016 and our business has matured alongside our stacks of air-dried lumber.  Daniel and I joined forces with Mark Parisien to start urban lumber company ​Epilogue LLC.​  Now equipped with a Lucas Mill we have slabbed out several hundred such monster logs to date.  

But back our our first adventure…  

The myrtlewood was a beast, its lumber promising.  Its challenge?  No access. The tree’s owner had called some other companies who had passed for this reason. 

After an hour of set-up we were ready to make our first cut. Our new Logosol chainsaw mill, outfitted with a double-ended bar and two chainsaw powerheads, had walked a bit on our trial run a few days back.  Dials now tweaked and fingers crossed, we proceeded full throttle into the belly of the beast.  “Double Cobra” we hollered as we plunged into the log.  ​

Double Cobra​ would thenceforth be our name and battle cry;  a place-holder until we would refine our approach and become the strictly professional urban lumber troupe now known as ​Epilogue LLC. 

Five loud and stinky minutes later we had our first cock-eyed slab. Nuts!  The bar was walking again.  What started as a three inch cut became four inches by the end.  A mile outside the margin of error for many a skilled craftsmen known to round to the nearest 32nd of an inch.  I could hear my Dad, a contactor for 40 years, weigh in.  “Did a beaver make that cut?” 

We argued as to the cause.  Was it two powerheads with different amounts of power? Too much flex in the bar?  Who knows. We just kept going.  “Double Cobra!” 

Several hours later we had seven slabs from the main log and managed to wrestle around one of the leaders and cut three more.  By sundown we somehow managed to move and flat stack all the slabs, the largest weighing about 250 pounds (​photo at left​). Moving them just a few feet was difficult if not impossible but getting the slabs out of the backyard was a job for a few more hired guns.  

We now had a dozen or so spalted myrtlewood slabs, numb arms, aching backs, and a hunger for more!  

Three years have passed and the adventures continue.  And so have the challenges, whether it’s a wild goose chase leading to worthless wood, a perfect log full of nails, or a test of patience as we wait for our lumber to properly dry for yet another year.  

But every time we open up a log to reveal its distinct beauty, it’s worth it.  It also feels good to save a few of these giants from the firewood pile. 

Epilogue LLC’s new ​showroom at Sustainable Northwest Wood​ has those beautiful myrtlewood slabs ready for sale along with a variety of hard and softwood pieces ready for your crafty hands! Slabs have been patiently air-dried for one to three years depending on species and thickness, kiln-dried to below 10% moisture content, and surfaced on both faces to 120 grit.  

*Crooked slabs courtesy of Double Cobra Milling. 



Do you have an urban hazard tree that you'd like see turned into lumber rather than chips? If so, here are a few things to consider: 

1. We don’t buy logs, other than an occasional black walnut log. Why don’t we pay money? A load of logs bucked to saw log lengths free of metal is worth money. A log or two coming from a yard of variable quality is time consuming and expensive to pick up. A standing tree may be filled with metal, concrete, and have defects that can’t be oberved until the tree has been removed.  

2. A few photos showing the whole tree including the trunk and where it branches out is very helpful. The limbs and leaders generally don’t make good lumber. The trunk is what we are primarily interested in. If the trunk has a lot of branches or it is growing at an angle, we will probably pass.  

3. It’s easier to coordinate directly with the tree company doing the removal. We need to know the removal date, and the address of the property. Also, crane removals are much easier to execute.  

4. In general we are looking for hardwood species such as Black Walnut, Elm, Maple, Sycamore, Cherry, Oak, and Black Locust. There are some more unusual species such as Catalpa and Silk tree just to name a few. We also mill Deodar Cedar. At this time we don’t take Doug Fir or other native softwoods. We are looking for trees at least 24” in diameter.

5. You can contact us at davebarmon@gmail.com. Our apologies up front if you contact us and we are unable to respond. We do our best to get back to people but sometimes we are just overwhelmed with calls.