Milling machine - Part I

Getting timber from home depot is very expensive, cumbersome, and lengthy even when the store is just a few nautical miles away. So start harvesting dead Kiawe tree for making stuff. It's a lot of work and a machine to prep the wood was needed. Here's the story.

Latest Post 30 years and counting by Victoria Esposito public

When we bought the land there was so much mother nature leftovers and other debris that it took over a month to collect and dump to get to a point where clean-up could stop and maintenance would begin.

During this process, we took on cutting dead branches from healthy trees and while performing this not-so-glamorous activity we couldn't help to notice that those branches although clearly and unequivocally dead, had a beautiful wood inside.

Kiawe Trees

There are two types of Kiawe trees. Long and regular thorn type. Yep, the difference is in the stubbing power not in any optional feature of that nature's gift.

Long-thorn kiawe can grow as a rambling shrub or tree ranging from 6' to 30' tall. The thorns are up to 4" long. Its pale yellow flowers are numerous and grow in cylinder-shaped spikes up to 4" long. Mature seed pods are flat, curved, yellowish-brown and 3-8 inches long.

We have the "short" version where the thorns, on the higher side reach to the maximum 1" inch which is a winning point given that I painfully discovered that Crocs shoes should not be used in Hawaii because between the soft material and heat those thorns they pierce through easier than a hot knife into butter.

The leaf's shape make the matching of the type and the kind of tree pretty easy

This kind of tree was introduced in 1828 and spread via cattle and goats’ digestive tracks, kiawe trees also produce bean pods that island ranchers used to harvest for cattle feed.

When they get older they change to dark brown

If you are curious about all other types of nature's gifts in Hawaii, this source has proven to be pretty handy although written using annoying spacing and font. Those pods are used for various things, beyond feeding livestock. For example to make a drink!

Kiawe Cooler Recipe

You can change, proportionally, the quantities at your likeness, with these quantities we made plenty for 5+ people.


In a bowl of water, soak pods, lemon rind, give or take eight hours, in the fridge. Place the mixture in a pot and cook on the lowest heat setting, adding allspice and cinnamon. Do not allow liquid to boil. Simmer for an hour and a half and strain. We have a greenhouse we compost, if you don't, that trashcan your own will be your friend. Add coconut sugar to taste. Cool in the refrigerator before serving. Garnish with a twist of watermelon rind or whatever floats your boat as garnish. I am planning to make a video clip of this process and we will be sharing it on our YouTube channel when that is ready.


if well-seasoned works great as firewood too!

As I mentioned in other posts, getting lumber to the island is expensive, cumbersome, and lengthy in process. The pricing of the actual wood isn't that much (if at all) more expensive than what you would normally pay on the mainland.

What makes it more expensive and cumbersome is the fact that you have to place an order over the phone, pay $90 Home Depot to deliver the order to their local port, then pay Young Brothers (fright forward) to bring it to the island and then finally pay $215 per hour a local service to bring it to your home. It adds up in a costly way. Of course, the clerk at the store decides what would you get, therefore, that all-process of picking and choosing the better quality when you physically go to the store isn't happening – You should see our expression when some very large timber has cracks and you can't return or complain because you just have no other options. 🥺

The wood has a yellowish soft outer layer, when the log isn't debarked ants feast into that layer, undisturbed. The darker core is extremely hard, even for termites! So much that when they manage to carve some they go mostly straight rather than their traditional worm-shaped tunnels.

If it is debarked can easily making you go "awww" mode because it is very charismatic looking. Sean Connery good looking type of hotness. However, if left exposed to the sun when barkless it quickly goes gray color which is more like this


Not bad but you have to like that type of hotness. Not judging ladies that are in the mustaches business, I am just pointing out where my needle aims to, for the Kiawe... trees.


Hours of chainsaw time

We have plenty of those trees on the land and even more of dead ones, so in an effort to clean up the place and save bucks on the much-needed construction materials, we started harvesting those branches and learning everything I have shared thus far.

My multi-talent honey busy bee has been making plenty of things using those trees. I use his leftovers when I kick off the BBQ and btw its smoke flavor is awesome for fish meat too!

As the Italians would say "It's like the pig, nothing goes wasted, not even the ears"
Once harvested we cut the most straight parts of a branch, since the body is naturally very curly. And when I say curly, I really mean twisted as hell! Beautiful but nonetheless very difficult to handle with tools.

Debark it using this ax, which is small to fit all creases and easy to handle for a longer period of time.

Then we store it, raised from the ground and covered with a light blocker tarp.

Making timber

This is when it gets really time-consuming and the reason why this post is going to be a series and not a touch-and-run type of post.  The shape of the log is irregular which means you have two options place a flat board on the top of the log and using an Alaskan mill harness if the log is wide enough

my handsome chainsaw gladiator!

or using a table saw with a custom-made jig.

this simple jig allows the uneven wood to slide easily over the table while staying blocked by trim screws on the base

This trick allows to square the log so that it can be milled to make slabs.

The wast majority of logs are not wide enough for an Alaskan mill and that process requires to use of locking (screws) which can ruin the first two slabs of wood. And milling with a table saw although it is possible it has the same speed of using a bucket to take water out of your bout while having two holes at the bottom.

So my inventor fellow took on the task of figuring out how we are going to tackle this problem. We're not the type of people that sit and wait for the solution to come or throw money at a problem until is solved. We worked very hard and made lots of sacrifices to get where we are today. And much of that mentality is rooted in the principle:

no whining allowed, figure it out. If you really have to whine, do it quietly and without taking others down.

Yeah, we're hardcore like that. Mario definitely is, I am more like: I live with him and I like the dude 😎 so I adapt to stay alive 😁.

Years ago, I gifted him a crafty blank notebook wrapped into a very Leonardo's type of note taker. He uses it only when he's dealing with something that he doesn't know from where to start.

Until last night he sketched on an iPad (he's go-to option), then on a piece of paper, and that is a bad sign since the only pen I have seen in his hands is the one from home depot for the makings to cut wood. Last night he had the book on the nightstand!

That led me to think:

I better start document this because it is guaranteed to fun and topics of chattery with my gals.

If after some time in sketching, usually take about 10 days or so, he starts pacing around the house patting his belly like a small drum or percussion device and asking me to repeat what I just (literally) said, then I know that in another few days he will go weirdly quiet, firing up Fusion 360 and looking at his notebook will start drawing to test his ideas.

This is the time where I get popcorns and watch it unfolding because inevitably some software will misbehave, some challenge will be met and fought and my handsome Italian will start speaking in English to himself like he's having a conversation with his brother (back and forth at speed of light). With an occasional swearing word when the problem gets tougher and in Italian dialect when he finally overcomes the problem.

My coding skills are very rudimental when compared to his but I can relate to this meme very dearly when he acts like that at the computer.

until he taught me how to code that was gibberish

Victoria Esposito

Published a year ago