Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wooden Yew Know It

One of the things I have missed in Ukraine is wood working.  I am not good but I can "make a board".  When the kids were young I made lots of wooden toys, then got into house remodeling (our own) and now in my old age I would like nothing more than to make stuff again.  A garden bench for Tanya and a dog house for the mutts for example.  I left all my power tools in Canada as they are 110v and Europe is 220v but brought some of my hand tools.  Like my Estwing hammers with the leather handles.

Unless you live in western Ukraine, wood is a premium item.  this is surprising when you consider that Russia has the largest area of softwood trees in the world but no lumber industry as we know it in Canada.  Wooden houses are built of solid log timbers, not framed as we do in North America, so use a huge amount of wood per house.  But no one will ever drive their out-of-control car through the side of it.

In most of Ukraine, houses are built of concrete and brick.  The FSU, in its quest for scientific socialist efficiency, decreed steel and concrete to be THE building materials as they would last for a long time where as wood was considered impermanent.  So here in Zhovti Vody individual houses and cottages are built of cement blocks and bricks while wood is used sparingly, mainly for framing the roof.

Dimension lumber, (where you can buy it in town) is as it came off the saw, in exact dimensions 1"x1" or 25mmx25mm, 2x4 or 50x100, etc.  Lengths are random around 2 to 3 meters.  If you want it planed you need to own a planer. Which I do not. And every board MUST be hand picked or it will be crap.

One can buy OSB and plywood and the plywood is like we got in the old days - many thin layers.  It is awesome.  But expensive.

And this is not to say there are not mill works in town that turn out fine quality windows and doors and other wood products.  It is just to say that everyone is an amateur brick and tile layer not amateur wood butcher as I am used to. And the "Home Depots" and "Ronas" and the mom and pop stores are all geared to masonry.

Close up of dimension lumber (badly picked over)
Local construction materials store lumber piles badly picked over.
Saw mill about 1 block from our home.
 There is a saw mill about 1 block from our place, built a couple of years ago.  In Soviet times, mills like this would have been on every collective farm.  Loads of logs arrive periodically and are dumped at the left of the big door.  You can see a large log there. The logs are man-handled up on the drive and onto the saw frame.  Sawn lumber is piled to the left under the windows and scraps to the right of the drive way.  Scrap will be hauled away for fuel someplace.  They cut some dimension but a lot of random width unedged 25 mm boards which will be used for roofing.

Stack of unedged 25 mm boards for roofing
House and garage under construction
Roof sheath with random width unedged lumber
Finished roof on another building
Roof are then covered with plastic or metal sheets of various colours and styles.  Roofing tiles are also used but mostly by folks with money.  Plain grey asbestos sheets are used mostly by folks without money as they are cheap. Asbestos shingles are now available and I expect that those roofs would be sheathed in OSB to provide a solid surface.

When I can afford to buy a good planer and can find a source of half decent dimension lumber, I have a room in our outbuilding that someday will be a wood working shop.  Someday.


  1. Funny to see that coming from the northwest. Here even the smallest mills are computerized and require very few people to operate. It's down to a science with laser measuring devices extracting every usable inch out of every log.
    The roofing techniques look like buildings I've demoed that were over 100 years old.

    1. Housing construction here has not changed in the last 100 years because of isolation during Soviet times. New technologies are creeping in. The use of gyproc (I am sure it has a generic name) is an example, along with fibre glass insulation. But is all comes at an initial cost, compared with the labour intensive old way of doing things. Keeping cash cost to an absolute minimum is critical as no one has any money. Catch 22. Workers are paid little because they are not productive. Work is organized to ensure they cannot be productive.

  2. A fascinating glimpse of life there. I enjoy your posts very much. Don't know how I came across your blog - probably saw you on some mutual blogging friend's list. A shame you're needing tools when here in Oz my husband's 220v tools are all sitting there, mainly unused. He has a form of dementia now and couldn't bang in a nail to save his life! But I'm learning to drill and saw - out of necessity. Just as you're learning how to live your life without some things you once probably took for granted.

  3. they are still using asbestos?
    the Ol'Buzzard

  4. Hi, C. Thanks for being a follower and this time leaving a comment. I visited your blog site and signed up. Lovely pictures. Learning to use tools of necessity is harder but can still be fun.

    Ol'B, Corrugated asbestos sheets 1x1.5 meters were used on most roofs including ours built in Soviet times and flat sheets are used for fencing. They are cheap and durable and ugly. Not sure about WHERE asbestos is most deadly. I expect mining and manufacturing but will ask Demeur.


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