Tool that acts as an expandable wedge?

mcpesq817

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I recently received a collected douglas fir at a workshop - it's naturally in the candelabra style, with a dead original apex and one single branch coming off the side that has now turned into the new apex. The way that branch comes off the trunk, it goes out horizontally an inch or two, and then up vertically, sorta forming a "U" shape with the dead original apex.

What I'm looking to do is to expand the distance between the dead original apex and the part where that branch goes vertical. The branch is a bit flexible (I can bend it a good 1/4" out), but too thick to effectively use wire on it. Also, I don't think guy wires will be of much help given the lack of good anchor points - I'm not necessarily looking to move that branch down, but move the vertical part of the branch out laterally if that makes sense.

What I was thinking I could do is cut a block of wood as a wedge to fill that distance plus a little extra to push the branch out. In the alternative, I was wondering if there was some tool out there that could slowly open up that gap - sort of like the opposite of a vice or clamp or turnbuckle, where you can turn a handle to make the tool expand outwards.

Has anyone seen such a tool or found some other way to effectively expand a gap like that?
 

Attila Soos

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How about this tool. I use it all the time for gradually bending thick trunks and branches. You may need the smallest size available. You can place the middle part right at the bend of the U shape. As you slowly twist the screw, the U shaped branch starts straightening out. The great thing abut this is that you can do it little by little, one twist at a time, so there is no stress to the branch, whatsoever. Just use some good padding, so the bark doesn't get damaged.
If you have a hard time placing the tool, due to shifting left or right, you can drive a couple of small nails into the branch. This will prevent any shifting.
 

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Rick Moquin

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What I was thinking I could do is cut a block of wood as a wedge to fill that distance plus a little extra to push the branch out.

... that is exactly what needs to be done, increasing the length of the pice of wood when no pressure is felt upon it.
 

Smoke

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If you have a gynecoligist buddy maybe you could get an old speculum

...or maybe a surgeon could loan you his rib spreader for a couple months.


or take the simple method and just use two opposing wood wedges and push them together every couple weeks. Use a zip tie to keep them in place and replace the zip tie each time you push them together or just tighten it if it will.

al
 

mcpesq817

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Hey guys, thanks for the suggestions. Attila, I don't think the branch bender would do much good in this situation (probably would help if I could figure out how to attach pictures here).

Rick and Al - that makes a lot of sense, thanks. I'll probably pass on the "old speculum" and rib spreader though :D
 
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mcpesq817

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Here is a picture of the Douglas Fir...
 

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Attila Soos

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Looking at that Douglas Fir, that branch has the perfect angle for the new leader.Why do you want to change it? It has great movement and everything you want to have in a new leader.
 

mcpesq817

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Hi Attila,

You're right that the angle is perfect - the issue is that from what I think the front of the tree will be (which actually is the opposite side from that picture because the nebari is much better from that side), the dead original apex will be slightly behind the branch, such that there will be no separation/white space between the two. All I need to do is push that branch out about 1/4" and I think the image will look a lot better.
 
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Attila Soos

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.. the issue is that from what I think the front of the tree will be (which actually is the opposite side from that picture because the nebari is much better from that side), the dead original apex will be slightly behind the branch, such that there will be no separation/white space between the two. All I need to do is push that branch out about 1/4" and I think the image will look a lot better.

I see what you mean.
 

plant_dr

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Bar clamps like this one are made to so the clamping parts can be removed and flipped around so it can have a separating action intead of a squeezing one. They come in various sizes and are quite handy for various tasks.
 

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mcpesq817

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Hey Plant Dr, that's an interesting idea. I've got a few of those clamps at home. I don't know how strong they are, but that just might do the trick.
 

mcpesq817

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Thanks again for the suggestion Plant Dr - I reversed the clamp to turn it into a spreader, and it worked wonders. With its slow ratcheting, I should be able to slowly work that gap over time - I was actually able to get a good inch on the gap last night without hearing the feared cracking sounds :D
 

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Bar clamps like this one are made to so the clamping parts can be removed and flipped around so it can have a separating action intead of a squeezing one. They come in various sizes and are quite handy for various tasks.

Man, I'm an idiot. I have a ton of bar clamps sitting around and I've never used them as spreaders before. Thank you for sharing! I don't know how many times I've needed this function and couldn't figure it out.
 

Bonsai Nut

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I also found this tool which provides a similar function but might fit where a bar spreader would not:

 

mcpesq817

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Man, I'm an idiot. I have a ton of bar clamps sitting around and I've never used them as spreaders before. Thank you for sharing! I don't know how many times I've needed this function and couldn't figure it out.

It was surprisingly easy to convert the clamp and use it as a spreader - worked very well. The pads on the one I used were rubber, which I thought was very good. I still wrapped the live branch contact point before using the clamp/spreader. It also worked very well to slowly ratchet the distance in like 1/8" or so which was perfect.

The one issue I had was that depending on the surface and angle, the spreader had a tendency to slide off. So, make sure you have good contact points - the wrap seemed to help.

Now that the branch is in place, I think I'm going to try and see if I can effectively guy wire the bend in place and remove the clamp - though, I think I might need to also wire the dead apex the opposite direction because I'm not sure how secure the tree is in the container.
 

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