BREMERTON, Wash. –
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility is home to an assortment of historic buildings, landmarks and memorabilia. One longstanding piece of historical significance is the shipyard’s recently refurbished bicentennial log, which has been on display since April 29, 1976.
The log is a section of a 165-foot Douglas fir tree that was removed from the Jackson Park housing area due to disease and the endangerment of two homes. Once the tree was cut down, the rings revealed that the impressive tree dated back to 1769, seven years before the nation’s founding. In an effort to preserve a portion of the stately evergreen, the shipyard’s Sherwood Bicentennial Project was established. The Sherwood Bicentennial Project volunteers put markers on the log corresponding with significant dates in U.S. history, including the 1891 founding of Naval Station Puget Sound.
Although the bicentennial log has undergone restoration several times over the years, each project has been unique depending on the log’s condition and current restoration technology. The 2021-2022 restoration project is the latest in a series of restorations, the first of which happened just five years after the log was homed. Years later, in preparation for one of the shipyard’s family days, the 2007 restoration project revealed the log could fall apart if moved so Shop 17, sheet metal mechanics, Shop 64, woodcrafters and plastic fabricators, and Shop 71, tile setters, partnered with Code 740, riggers and operators, to design and build a cradle to hold the log when removed and transported. In preparation for the 2011 family day, a major overhaul was done to remove the surface and termite infestation, fill decayed cavities, redo the timeline in brass and apply UV-resistant coating. That undertaking was a partnership among Code 740, Shops 64 and 71, as well as the Assistant Production Superintendents.
During the last several months, passersby may have noticed the absence of the bicentennial log, which was formerly displayed on Farragut Avenue near Building 940. Due to direct sunlight and exposure to the elements year-round, extensive restoration was once again needed. The 2021-2022 restoration project required more planning and delicate work due to the age of the log and its condition.
Ken Schaffer, lead mechanic, Shop 64, worked on the log during a previous restoration project.
“This is my second time involved in the preservation effort,” said Schaffer. “I was extremely excited and honored to be tasked with designing and building a permanent display for it, which will showcase different trades’ abilities and skills.”
Once the log was successfully removed from its place on Farragut Avenue, Shop 64’s Technology Division prepped it for milling prior to lacquering. However, repairing the log came with plenty of challenges due to its condition.
“Our crew removed the existing letters and markers then shaved the surface down to make it perfectly flat, and remove the sun bleaching,” said Ryan Dicken, composite plastic fabricator, Shop 64. “The impact from the sun had left outlines of the markers on the wood.”
The final steps utilized Shop 64's waterjet to cut new markers and letters from a sheet of 1/8" brass. The pieces were then hand-finished using an air-powered random orbital sander, and numbers were laser burned onto the markers. The back of the log was then lacquered and the front received several coats of epoxy resin to ensure long-term preservation.
Those involved in the project understood and appreciated the delicate nature of the work done on the historic piece. Kevin Volz, woodshop supervisor, offered high praise to his team, transportation and Shop 11 for their significant efforts, noting that transportation allowed Shop 64 to hand pick a driver to ensure the log’s smooth transit along Farragut Avenue.
“I’m glad I got to be a part of this process,” said Voltz. “I feel a sense of pride in enabling my crew to create something that will be around for a long time and will add to the historical value of the shipyard.”
The bicentennial log was placed in its permanent home in the lobby of Building 850 during an unveiling ceremony with Capt. Jip Mosman, commander, PSNS & IMF on Sept. 13. Employees are encouraged to visit and view the bicentennial log as they transit through the yard.
“Everyone who worked on it understood that this was a piece of history we were restoring,” said Jason Beller, trade superintendent, Shop 64. “I am excited to have a permanent home for an important part of our history, and I am proud of those that worked on it so it can be preserved for generations to come.”