Thursday, 8 November 2012

Milling Larch for Garden Retaining Wall

My brother, Jim, wanted to replace a collapsed retaining wall along one of his garden flower beds.  It needs to be 32' long and about 1' high (that 10 metres x 25cm for modern people!).  He thought of buying old railway sleepers, but @ around £20 plus delivery each that was going to cost almost £200.

So, I offered to make some up from larch, cheaper and more attractive.

First of all I have to find a larch tree.
Not too difficult as I've got about a thousand.

I chose the one in the middle, straight, long and about the right diameter.

So, first job - fell it.

Its almost ready to go - just secure enough for me to put down the chainsaw and pick up the camera.

I did manage to fell it more or less where it was meant to go, just a few degrees out.  If it had been a foot or two to the left it wouldn't have got caught up at the end.  However it did mean that it was off the ground for cutting up into lengths.

Next job was cutting the trunk into 8' lengths.

A freshly cut 8' log, about 9" in diameter is pretty heavy so it was off to get the logging arch to take them up to the milling table.
This logging arch has featured in a previous post; built by me and my eldest son, James.

The arch is backed over the log.  The sliding chain is secured to the log and, as the arch moves forward, the chain slides up the steel pipe and lifts the log off the ground.  When the chain reaches the top the log is pulled along.

Log No 1 is dropped off at its destination where it joins other logs lined up for milling.  The others aren't the right size for this project.

Here are the five logs I cut, I only need four but I brought the last one up too, for another time and another project.  Its dusk now so I went off home and returned a couple of days later.

The first log is lifted onto the milling table and the guide plank screwed to the top so I can remove an inch of wood from the top to get a flat surface.

If I wanted to make planks, I would just keep cutting them off one at a time using the now flat surface of the wood as a guide for my Alaskan Mill - featured in a previous post.

On this occasion though, I don't want planks but I do want to cut the log in half so its not so heavy to manoeuvre.

The log is turned through 90 degrees and the guide plank screwed back on again.  The Alaskan Mill is adjusted so that the log can be cut into two equal pieces.

The finished article.

When they are installed the first row will be laid with the narrow, flat side up and with the broad cut surface inside, the curved side showing on the outside. Then the second row will go on top with it's flat side down to mate up with the first row.  Then to hold them in place they will either be retained with T section steel driven into the ground or drilled and spiked in.

Loaded up and ready to go.


  1. Good quality of wood and also very useful.

    1. Hi "Railway Sleepers". Haven't I just taken business away from you!!!

  2. Great read Nick, I really want to do projects like this as soon as the sale has gone through and I have done my chainsaw course! cheers Tom

  3. Thanks Tom, there's lots of things you can do with wood!! The Alaskan Mill is very good, I don't buy wood anymore, I just mill it up myself.

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