Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Steam-powered log cutting

click photo to enlarge
On Saturday and Sunday it was Bicker Steam Threshing weekend. This is a small, Lincolnshire country fair featuring traction engines, the operation of an old threshing machine, vintage vehicles of many kinds, stalls, and more. The purpose of the event is to raise funds for the village's medieval parish church, St Swithun's.

Events of this sort are ripe with photographic opportunities and I'll be posting a few shots that I took there over the coming days. Today's image shows log cutting on a bench circular saw. The common methods of making logs for the fire is to saw them to size then split them with an axe, or use a hammer and a purpose-made metal log "grenade" to make the fire-sized pieces. However, a gathering of traction engines (I wonder what the collective noun for that is?) is a gathering of sources of power. One was towing a trailer giving rides round the village, another was harnessed to the threshing machine, and another was powering the wood-cutting saw with a long belt drive. That left other engines quietly sulking, puffing and whistling, hoping that they too would be selected for gainful employment.

I spent a good few minutes watching as the logs were trimmed to size and thrown into the trailer, and found myself mentally transported back to the time when this sort of power was the norm. In those days traction engines would move from village to village, from farm to farm, working a few days here on the harvest, a few days there powering a saw. A simpler time. But then I was struck by the slight absurdity of what I was actually seeing - a machine that gets its energy by burning large amounts of coal being used to cut up woood that will be burned over the coming winter to provide heat energy. I started to do mental calculations about the energy used in the cutting process compared with the energy available in the wood, but the complexity and futility of that gave me a headache, and I soon stopped and simply enjoyed the spectacle!

For anyone who was wondering, yes, the two photographs are shots of the same scene taken from different angles.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Photo 1 (Photo2)
Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 114mm (228mm/35mm equiv.) (14mm (28mm/35mm equiv.))
F No: f6.3 (f6.3)
Shutter Speed: 1/250 (1/500)
ISO: 100 (100)
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 (-0.7) EV
Image Stabilisation: On (On)