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Thread: Quest for Mountain Mahogany

  1. #1

    Quest for Mountain Mahogany

    Well, my name is Reed, and I am a woodaholic. The post about the Mountain Mahogany was too much for me. I have been wanting to get some of that for a long while, and I had to take advantage of the situation.

    Last Monday, I loaded up the van, my friend Scott (who knows how to drop trees), all necessary tools for processing the wood, and headed to Lost Wages. We took off about 8 am, and planned to get there about 11 pm. Had one little delay in Beatty, Nevada, some where between Reno, and Las Vegas. I was doing 32 in a 25 zone, at 10 pm, and of course there were 2 highway patrol officers who saw me. Well they pulled us over, and thought we looked suspicious. When we told them we were from Oregon and were coming to Las Vegas to get turning wood, they really thought we were suspicious. "You guys have any weapons in there?" "Only 2 chainsaws." They searched us (I even got a pat down), and the van, just to make sure we weren't smuggling drugs, then sent us on our way with a warning. Maybe they knew my handle was robo hippy, I don't know.

    We got down to the Forest Service Office at 8 the next morning and met Dave Donahue, the guy I had talked to, coming out the door. We chatted while they tried to figure out how to write up a firewood cutting permit. This was preferable to a lumber sales contract. They don't write up many firewood permits there, couldn't figure out how to do it on the computer. Fortunatly they found some paper forms. We had figured that 2 cords would max out the weight in my van and a U-Haul. Cost for the permit, $20 per cord.

    After getting that figured out, we set off for the site. It was near the Carlton Ski area, northwest of Las Vegas. It was paved almost all the way, then a short trip (half mile) on a fairly flat gravel road. We were up at 8500 feet, and there was still some snow in places but most of it was melted off. The Forest Service sent 2 guys along to show what we could cut. The project was to thin for fire safety. There were a couple of 'gazillionaire' houses at the end of the road, and it was the only access. This thinning is common there, and a yearly occurance. They marked the boundary for us which was 50 feet on either side of the road. We had to cut so there wasn't more than 10 feet spacing in the canopy. The Mountain Mahogany is the dominant species at that altitude, with some Juniper. We proceeded to cut away on trees they said we could have. Most of the pieces that I had seen before were maybe 6 inches. There were a lot of trees 10 to 12 inches, and we got 2 monsters 18 inches in diameter. This is huge for a tree that gets 4 inches of rain a year, and grows in such extremes (no camp fires or charcoal fires after April 15). None were over 20 feet high. We dropped a bunch of them, brushed them out (cut branches into sizes that work crews could easily move) sealed the ends and stacked them.

    I did find out that any small twig that was still on the tree was very hard and sharp. I donated a significant amount of blood to the tree gods. That stuff is tough. The Indians would use it for digging sticks. Of course, if I had been wearing long pants and a long sleeve shirt, the damage would have been less, but I would over heat if I did that. We were lucky that the weather was mild. About 60 or so, and actually cloudy for one day. We both went through a lot of water.

    One thing that surprised us about the trees was that any broken branch or scarred area, that here would lead to rot all the way down, had checking only a small way in. The dry air doesn't let it degrade the way it does in the great Northwet.

    Another funny thing was that Scott's Stihl needed to be set to run a little leaner at the altitude, while my Husky didn't. It was a real pleasure to watch him fall the trees. I have never watched some one work like that and reallyh knew what he was doing; figuring where to fall it, the cuts, brushing, etc. I learned a lot, and may even attempt it some time myself. Most of what I get is already down.

    The next day we rented a 17 foot, 5700 lb load, U-Haul truck and headed back up. Met the Forrest Service guys and cut down 2 more trees. The Forrest Service guys actually helped us load up, they were bored. Of course, they will be getting some nice bowls. We only filled the U-Haul up about 1/3 of the total volume before it was maxed for load. This wood is very heavy. We got out of there around noon. Heading down the hill was fun, in 2nd gear most of the time. 5500 feet in 14 miles. I knew we were going to use a lot of gas, but was surprised on the first tank. Only got about 250 miles. Of course, a lot of climbing, and a 30 to 40 mile headwind didn't help. It was better after that. Nothing much else eventful happened on the way back, except Scott was driving my van, and had to battle all sorts of bugs. The bark is very coarse, and had lots of hiding spots for spiders and such.

    Got back to Eugene Thursday pm in time to head to the local community center to soak in the hot tub. This was much needed because neither of us are used to working with wood this heavy. Friday was spend getting it off the truck, cut into managable pieces, and stacked behind my shop, and covered with tarps on all 6 sides. We guessed the total weight to be around 8000 lbs. for 2 cords of wood.

    I did get to turn some on Sunday. This wood is very hard, at least as hard as Osage, and more dense. Even when dry, it will sink in water. It does have a reddish brown color, similar to mahogahy, hense the name. I had a real tough time using gouges on it. I got a much better finish with shear scraping, and finished with a negative rake shear scrape. This is the first time that I have ever turned wood when the spring sap was running, and was getting a lot of dust. I will have to weigh a piece to see how much weight it loses as it drys. Not much for sure.

    I might have to go again next year.

    I have contacted SMC about putting 2 UPS flat rate boxes into the Free Stuff drawing. If there is interest, send me a PM, or e-mail.

    robo hippy

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Raised in the US (elementary in Lawrence, graduated in Boulder). Now in Israel.
    Well done! Sounds like a great outdoors adventure. I truly hope you have some pictures of you guys cutting on site, a pic of the loaded truck and one of the wood grain. The "bust" with the cops reminded me of a favour for a friend a while back. He brought me a great cow bone to cut into 1.5 inch rings for his soup experiments. It was a rainy night and he held an umbrella and a torch while I operated a miter saw. I was sure any neighbor seeing this would wonder who just got murdered. Still trying to remove some fat from the saw...
    Again, well done on the wood. I like the ending even more: "might have to go next year". A true woodaholic!
    Last edited by Norm Zax; 04-15-2008 at 6:08 AM. Reason: spelling

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Harvey, Michigan
    Congrats on the wood score Reed! Sounds like you had to work hard for it but should be worth all the effort! Looking forward to seeing some photos!

    “You never know what you got til it's gone!”
    Please don’t let that happen!
    Become a financial Contributor today!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Western Michigan


    Great story, Reed!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Grand Rapids, MI

    Jealousy is mounting....

    Yessiree......I wish I had access to an opportunity like that. Consider me green with envy!! Awesome haul, and what a fun adventure. Can't wait to se what turns out!


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2007

    "There I was!!!!"

    What a great story. That kind of adventure could definately become addictive. Congrats

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Goodland, Kansas
    Congrats on the wood score Reed and thanks for a great story.

    Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.

    To succeed in life, you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone and a funnybone.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Mason Michigan
    Great haul Robo!

    I can't wait to see the results!
    A few hours south of Steve Schlumpf

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Schenectady, NY

    Sounds Like Fun to Me !

    I'll bet you had a great time on your wood rescue trip. Great story. I'm also looking forward to seeing what you make from it.

    And very generous to think of SMC Free Stuff too.
    Happy and Safe Turning, Don

    Woodturners make the world go ROUND!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Aurora, Co.
    Several years ago I purchased a piece of Mtn. Mahogany at the Utah Symposium and turned it as soon as I got home. I found it to turn like butter and finish as easy as any wood that I have ever worked with. I wish I could make it to Nevada to take advantage of that give away. I will be in Provo again this year and I hope somone there has more of it for my turning pleasure. The bowl I turned out of the first piece is still looking like it was turned yesterday and we use it almost every day. Great Gloat....

  11. #11

    great gloat

    thanks for sharing, it must have been a blast, those officers are still probably trying to figure out your angle

  12. I'm really glad you could take advantage of the opportunity, Reed. And I'm sure the cops in Beatty will be talking about you for the next year. Not much to do in that town.

    Mt. mahogany is really remarkable wood, from a number of standpoints. What pieces I couldn't turn I used for the best firewood I've ever put in my stove. I did have a friend in Utah who claimed to have melted the grate in his fireplace with it, however.

    Happy turning! I'm living vicariously through you.


  13. #13
    That was a heck of a jaunt! I've eyed some mountain mahogany around here when I've been hiking but never anything close to the size you're talking about. I'm looking forward to seeing something turned from it.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Penryn, Ca
    Have chainsaws, truck and trailer. When's the next trip?


    Stupid Hurts.............

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