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Hey everyone I just started working with a Tree care service and the guys don't care if I keep wood I like so not knowing much at all about it I was hoping for some advice on where to get woods that have interesting grain out of trees that are coming down. I know to save burls that stick out of the tree but on trees that don't have them where else is a good place to get good usable woods? I hope to save any and all I can so come fall and winter when I have time to dust off the anvil I might have a few chunks of usable handle material! or at least in a couple seasons whenever the wood is cured properly.

 

we don't remove stumps so that's off the table

 

do people save the crotches of where branches meet the trunk?

 

so far in the past two work days I've taken out Russian olive, silver maple, aspen, cottonwood and cherry. but who knows what will show up here in Colorado.

 

I do plan on building a vacuum setup and stabilizing the wood for handles that need it, as well as some that don't just for peace of mind.

 

once again thank you all for the advice!!!

 

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If you're looking just for figure; burls (of course), crotch (in a main trunk more so then bole to limb), twists (hard to see without slabbing out), unusual curves.

Anything that's grown slowly will have close rings and thus more grain, but it may be straight grain (doesn't have the "wow" of figure).

Of what you mentioned, I'd take a close look at the olive and cherry. Maple can look great or plain, it can have flame or quilt or curl but that is really hard to see without slabbing. Aspen and cottonwood expect to need stabilization and it is generally plain.

If you run across box elder it can have dramatic flame.

Any fruit wood is worth something generally.

Walnut crotch or burl can be fantastic but the vibrant colors fade.

If there is hickory or pecan, that can look good but if you get straight grain sections, that makes excellent hammer handles.

 

I don't know about softwoods, I don't generally work them.

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thanks for the quick reply!

unfortunately all of the cherry got piled away before really had a chance to look through it which is a shame it looked like it had some beautiful parts to it. sounds like the neighborhood we are in has a bunch of olive and cherry though so I am sure I will get another chance at some.

the maple sounds pretty neat it will be fun to see what comes of the piece I've got that's already bone dry

 

is there a good width to be looking for? or can a branch that's all twisted be as thin as your arm and still be fine to work?

 

 

so then to get this right again so I'm not annoying the guys to much by saving tons of random wood

burls are good, crotches in the main trunk are good better than bole to limb, and twists are good but hard to spot.

 

 

thanks again! next step is looking up how to seal the wood so it doesn't just split in the shed.

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I am a tree guy in Minnesota, have several thousand feet of black walnut being kiln dried as we speak.....I would suggest you stick with the big trunks/crotches, find someone with wide throat band saw or a small sawmill / kiln operation that can slab it up for you and dry it......this is a really really hard process btw...wood is extremely tricky to get to dry flat, without later blowing up on you........I would suggest very minimal up front investment into the whole process as you can put a lot of effort and money into getting quality slab wood only to have it spit on the people that buy it from your later causing all kinds of problems with their relationship with you... that being said, the outer wood is the sap wood, inner wood, were say on black walnut its very dark, that is the wood you are after, so in a spindly little 2" branch you mite be lucky to have a 1" dia. piece of dark wood........unless your a carver or something, that's not what your looking for.....your looking for a crotch or something you can make 2'x2x1 1/16th boards out of and when they dry and twist still plane down to a 3/4 thick piece of wood or something along that line...........and as was mentioned above, MANY figures formed by grains and birds eyes have to be treated just rite to even expose them, let alone maximize their beauty....just as an example, and this is a one in a million, I have a guy that will slab up any 30" trunk by 20' long for 60 bucks and kiln dry it, but I have never met anyone else like that.......just gotta find a guy that's happy to have a fresh fridge pack of his favorite suds in the fridge shrug.

 

happy wood hunting

 

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You've gotten some great advice, the only thing I can add was learned from scouring piles of firewood... the harder the piece is to split, the more likely is is to have interesting figure... oak crotch-wood is absolutely lovely unless you are trying to split it for firewood!

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One thing I forgot to mention is with maple, it is easy to spalt if you like that look.

Given the forum we're on, and assuming you are looking mostly for knife handle material, go for logs that are 6 inches and larger in diameter, that should give enough heartwood for handles. If you are looking for other uses then bigger or smaller.

 

To minimize splitting, as soon possible after cutting, seal the ends. This can be done with commercial concoctions (generally wax emulsions), wood glue, wax, paint etc. I've used paint and wood glue (standard pva) and find the glue works better than paint.

 

ron

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Thanks for the advise everyone! I tried to reply today on lunch break but it didn't work I see so here we go again. this time with pictures of the stuff I've collected so far in the last week. I don't know how much if any of the wood will be good but hey if it isn't then to the firewood pile it goes. Since I drive an old '73 Camaro I definitely don't plan on saving enough wood to sell planks from, only small stuff for turning into handles and such.

 

A lot of the wood I am getting is dead wood does that still need to be sealed on the ends for a while? I have a gallon of wood glue so that's the method to try first I think.

 

 

Silver maple

IMAG0615_zpse6198fe7.jpg

 

 

Box Elder

IMAG0614_zpsd7a9178d.jpg

 

Cottonwood crotch its pretty big about 2'x2'x15"

IMAG0616_zps55b3bf4d.jpg

 

Birch and locust just because

download_zpsed9f128f.jpg

 

Russian olive

IMAG0617_zps6f72ee7c.jpg

 

 

I would like to spalt at least some of the woods that can be, that seems to produce interesting effects and the box elder I grabbed already has some rings of red pink through it but a lot of it also has rot in the center so I took a bunch because once i get to cutting im not sure how much of it will be any good.

 

 

if anyone sees anything I should or shouldn't cut off hand please let me know because all of this stuff is experimental at this point so I was probably going to chain saw most of it into smaller chunks then take it to the band saw and miter saw.

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If the tree is dead there isn't much moisture in the wood so it doesn't need the same sealing or waiting to dry. If you have a scale you can weigh the pieces to determine when they've dried (when the weight doesn't drop it's reached equilibrium).

The silver maple for sure and maybe the box elder will spalt easy enough. It happens naturally if left in ground contact but that is riskier then spalting under more controlled conditions. A search should yield methods. (Since spalting is allowing a fungus to grow in the wood I don't use it myself so I can't give much help on that.)

The pink in the box elder is fugitive (it doesn't last). There may be methods for preserving the color, I haven't worked box elder yet.

 

Now the fun begins, learning how to read the wood to know how to cut each piece to yield the results you want. (That piece of maple is going to be a trick.)

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks for the tip on using a scale son_of_bluegrass I think I am going to try that with some of the chunks I get a hold of.

 

I scored a bunch of black walnut today and painted the ends of the cuts with wood glue. the big one on the end has a diameter of 11 inches on top where the branch and trunk join to give an idea of the size.

IMAG0659_zps3f9feb32.jpg

 

I don't have any idea how to go about cutting these things later though without ruining the grain pattern. I don't have anything but a chainsaw, and haven't looked for a saw mill yet.

 

what would be the best way to get character out of crotches like this and the maple I already posted?

 

 

thanks everyone again, you guys are great

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The base (first foot or so of a tree), think there is a technical term for it but I don't know it, seems to have some interesting figure. Not a whole lot, but I kinda like the look of it.

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Good timing on the tip Greg! turns out today i got a hold of this...

 

IMAG0663_zps40aa18b6.jpg

 

 

the base of a Russian olive thats also a burl!(its upside down in the pic) there are a lot of punky parts and i basically pulled it out of the ground as is, no roots or anything.. its been sitting for quite some time in pretty sandy soil...

 

 

so next question...now what? ive read the posts about sealing the ends of the burls that are cut off and others about boiling them for 2 hours then letting them dry but none about how to remove punky parts and then seal and boil it.

do I just hack away at it till its in 5 or so chunks and scrape away the punk and boil them then after a day or so of drying seal where i cut with the saw?

 

 

as always... thanks for sharing your knowledge!

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Haha I wasn't going to give you a tip on the root ball as digging out a big one is so much work. :lol: I have a buddy who uses a brush fire truck to just blast out the dirt around them. But the actual base (above ground) itself on larger Maples pretty figured. A good rule when you are looking at trees is for figured wood 80% (or more) of the value is below the ground. Like somebody else mentioned compression does seem to make a bit more figure. One of these days I am going to dig out a big root ball from a tree I dropped last week. It was a 2.5 foot Red Maple though. Also, you can dry wood in the microwave pretty easily. I do one minute on high, let it sit for two minutes, open the door to let out the steam and repeat until dry to your satisfaction (I just go until the piece isn't hot anymore to the touch and let it sit for a week or two).

 

EDIT: I just saw it into blocks and dry it. You can pick out the punk wood with a knife you don't care about, or a chisel you don't worry about dulling. Thats how I do it! Also seal the end grain. You will lose more wood than you want to admit if you don't do that.

Edited by Greg Lirot aka Bigfoot
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To help reduce unwanted splitting use a chain saw and make a cut from the outside of your log down into the

pith along the length of the piece of wood. This sacrificial split will reduce the chances of the wood splitting elsewhere.

Of course make this cut in an area you don't want to use.

 

Bill

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If you have a stump grinder slice some big pieces of root and digem out.

OOOPS. Sounds to me like you need to buy yourself a stump grinder. Get an old 630 Vermeer.

Edited by Doug Ward
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The how spalting is formed isnt really spottable from the outside unless theres old storm damage which may be a good indicator. But super figured spalted maple is really nice in my opinion.

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wow, that looks nice, especially the russian olive. That Silver maple like they said will spalt nicely. I just got some from my neighbor and sliced up a bit that looked like yours only smaller. It has lovely curls, burls, knots, and spalts. I just dried mine in the oven on 170F turned every half hour. All the splits will get a little bigger though. I cut it up first too. Good luck. I can't wait to see what handles you make from those.

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wow, that looks nice, especially the russian olive. That Silver maple like they said will spalt nicely. I just got some from my neighbor and sliced up a bit that looked like yours only smaller. It has lovely curls, burls, knots, and spalts. I just dried mine in the oven on 170F turned every half hour. All the splits will get a little bigger though. I cut it up first too. Good luck. I can't wait to see what handles you make from those.

Silver maple (Acer sacharinum, dunno how to spell it lots of I's and U's) is too soft for knives. Sugar Maple (Acer sacharum) will work far better as will Red Maple (Acer rubrum). Sorry, made that mistake already!

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  • 2 months later...

Been a while since Ive checked this thread out.. thanks for the continued tips! oh and look what I got today! dropped 3 box elder trees and brought home a truckload. literally.

 

IMG_20131023_204103_zpseafa9b04.jpg

 

 

so I am going to set about piling the logs out in the back yard under a plum tree so they can dry/spalt on their own terms as well as cutting some up and trying to get it to do it under controlled conditions. definitely going to be reading about the best methods for it. might also try to start some shittake mushrooms on one of the logs.

 

all of the wood that ends up (walnut through maple) surviving the chopping down to block sizes I plan on stabilizing with cactus juice before using just in case.

 

Gregory Lirot, you mentioned that silver maple is to soft to use but thats 95% of the maple we have worked on so far since I started last may, do you think the cactus juice method will work for it? Ive seen spalted silver maple scales being sold online but dont know what they treated the wood with.

 

thanks guys

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Very Nice haul on some very good wood. Yes cactus juice with a vac system will work very good in stabilizing the woods .

 

Sam

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