random #18: Progress on those Hollywood Juniper limbs

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Blog entry by Gary Fixler posted 05-27-2009 02:52 PM 2823 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 17: I finally have a proper wood lathe! Part 18 of random series Part 19: Most elaborate dollhouse ever: Moscow? »

22 days ago I posted about the decimation of my Hollywood Junipers (Juniperus chinensis). My plan was to go through and ‘limb’ them, or at this scale, to ‘twig’ them. Little by little, I’ve been going out there for 15 minutes or so at a time, sawing each little twig off with a stroke of the Irwin carpenter’s saw, then scrubbing the sap off my hands. What a giant pain, but I admit it was fun. I love the feel and sound of the saw, the smell of the junipers, getting dirty, and watching the pile of humorously narrow branches grow.

This was the pile left me after the tree trimmers had their field day:

limb pile

The tarp was to keep out the gardeners. After about 15 minutes of sawing twigs the first day, I had this, and realized I had a long road ahead:

meager beginnings on detwigging the limbs

I got a lathe – care of mom on her visit (detailed in this blog post) – and had to try out a tiny piece of the juniper to see what was hidden inside. I made a randomly-shaped thing to test out angles and curves:

small test juniper turning

I really liked the marble-like translucence:

translucent juniper test turning

A few weeks later, and maybe 5 20-minute-average sessions, with a power-session of a couple hours on Memorial Day, I had a pretty sizable pile of detwigged limbs. The greenery in the background is composed of twigs trimmed off by the 15” Irwin carpenter saw and limbs that were already too tiny to be useful. I’m the idiot covered in sap.

detwigged pile of juniper limbs

detwigged juniper limb pile

Here are the two largest limbs – not much, but a nice size for smaller turnings. Maybe I’ll try a juniper vase or two. The translucence could be pretty neat. They have very red heartwood.

me and the two largest juniper limbs in my pile

Lots of knotty, burly regions on this one. I’m eager to see what’s inside.

knotty juniper limb

And the worst part: the sap. It takes about 5 hard hand-washings, using fingernails to power through the dirt-covered sap on my hands. There’s a line that forms just behind the saw’s teeth, in a line across their gullet tops, which has a thickness – maybe 1/32” sticking off the saw – and nothing can pick it off. I’ve tried fingernails, carpenter nails, wire bristle brushes… they all just slide right over it. It’s like hardened glass. The only thing that works is gum and pitch remover, sprayed on, left to sit for a few minutes, wiped away hard with a rag, and then I repeat that, agitating the puddles of remover for a few minutes each time, with about 8 repeats to get back to clean. It’s impressive stuff, this juniper resin. At least it smells great.

sap-covered hand and saw

That’s all for this update. Now there’s a ton of work in cutting them up into little vase, bottle stopper, pen, and miscellaneous blanks. I probably don’t need to seal them. I cut up a branch a year ago, and none of the pieces have checked yet. It doesn’t seem to want to.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

7 comments so far

View Jimthecarver's profile


1124 posts in 5117 days

#1 posted 05-27-2009 03:05 PM

Nice score!
Thats gonna make a tun of pen blank/bottle stoppers.

-- Can't never could do anything, to try is to advance.

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 5059 days

#2 posted 05-27-2009 03:24 PM

you found beauty in something that even most woodworkers would have considered trash. I agree with your assessment of it’s marble-like characteristics. cool blog.

View jlsmith5963's profile


297 posts in 4679 days

#3 posted 05-27-2009 10:18 PM

late as it might be, two words: work gloves….

-- criticism: the art of analyzing and evaluating the quality of an artistic work...

View a1Jim's profile


118308 posts in 4908 days

#4 posted 05-27-2009 10:48 PM

you have a lot more energy than I do Gary.Now with all that juniper you have lots of projects to come


View Gary's profile


9425 posts in 4764 days

#5 posted 05-28-2009 02:59 AM

Maybe you could build a small log cabin for a homeless racoon

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 4713 days

#6 posted 05-28-2009 04:55 AM

Jim – I know! I can’t wait, though I don’t particularly relish the thought of having to now cut all of these up into blanks. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it once I get going.

Hokie – why thank you!

jlsmith – HAHA! I thought of that afterwards, too. It’s ridiculous that it never occurred to me during those few weeks. I guess I secretly love to get my hands dirty. It makes me feel part of the earth.

Jim – I wish I had so much more energy. I drown it away in fast food and internet surfing. I’m hoping to make at least one, if not more chess sets with some of these found branches of mine.

Gary – Funny you should say that. Just last night while driving home late at night, I saw a raccoon just moseying down the street, like it was normal. He went right by my car, and as I slowed down to look at him, he just ignored me. I do have possums that enjoy my yard, too. I love the idea of a little log cabin. It would be occupied immediately. Stray cats, too. This place is a zoo.

Rob – Are you telling me you’ve only been doing this sawmill activity for less than three years!? I can’t imagine that. I will most definitely keep pushing. This whole world is just too fascinating to give up at this point.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View Gary's profile


9425 posts in 4764 days

#7 posted 05-30-2009 04:32 AM

It was a possum you had last time in the video…now I remember. I’m sure he’d love it

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

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