When winter rolls through the Gatineau, a rumbling can be heard in the darkest corners of the cottage woodstove. It’s a hunger that grows in the bellies of those wood-burning beasts, a hunger that yearns to be fed with log after log of dry, ready-to-flame-on firewood. And when you’ve got two mouths to feed, as Mike Bell does at his Dodds Lake cottage, you’d better have a hearty wood supply within easy reach.
Like many cottagers, Bell keeps his woodpile dry by stacking it under a screened porch. But instead of making trip after trip up the stairs, he devised an easier way to haul his logs to woodstove number one, which sits up on the cottage’s main floor.
“We’d just added on the screened porch,” he says. “I figured that if I could knock a hole through its floor, I could move the wood up with a dumb waiter and avoid tracking it all through the cottage.”
Rather than relying on weights and pulleys to move the load, Bell opted for the Cadillac of cottage wood waiters: an electric hoist, commonly used by contractors to move shingles from the ground to the rooftop. The ladder section, which acts as a track for the moving platform, is fixed to the cottage wall, and the controls for the electric winch are mounted in the screened porch. Using 1″ plywood, Bell constructed a 24″ x 24″ box that stands three-and-a-half feet high to hold the logs he loads from below. With the push of a button, the logs rise into the porch area, where Bell simply moves them through a door and piles them next to the nearby woodstove.
His second stove, which waits for its wood feast on the lower floor of the cottage, through a door near the woodpile, inspired another, much simpler log‑lugging device fashioned from an old dolly he found at a local flea market. Once used for moving oxyacetylene cylinders, the dolly’s narrow frame is easy to manoeuvre around couches and tight cottage doorways, and holds a canvas log tote perfectly between its extended arms. Bell added slightly larger pneumatic tires, making it easier to roll, fastened a thin sheet of galvanized steel to the inside of the carrying frame, to act as side walls, and welded short handles onto the extending rails, from which he hangs his log tote. Now, whenever those winter winds make his woodstoves moan, he simply loads up the dolly or the dumb waiter and has wood at the ready. “We go through a lot of it,” says Bell. “In winter the Gatineau is a cold, cold place.”