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Asking the Conventional Wisdom


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So I'm asking the Conventional Wisdom. My neighbor has a tree service and sells fire wood on the side. This is in his "to split" pile. Is this worth salvaging? It looks like it curly. big leaf maple with some burly bits. It's about 3 ft across and 3 ft tall

 

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I don't see any major rot, some spalting maybe. My advice is to take a pointy object like a knife or ice pick and tap it. If it stops with a solid thunk in most spots then you're good to go. Take it, split it, paint the ends to slow drying and stick it in a warm, dry spot. Then revisit it in a year or so.

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Heck yes! There's definitely some handle material there.  Looks like a lot of what I've got.  The burls might be a bit small to get much once you square it into a block, but there's definitely some curly, especially on the right side of the top pic.  Especially if you do sayas

Edited by billyO
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Yes indeed!  Bigleaf usually has the most striking figure of all the maples.  It's also the softest, but that only comes into play if you're carving it.

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Please be quick about it. I used to turn bowls and other things.  Logs check and crack from the ends - especially if untreated on the ends, (paint or stuff made to prevent damage). In firewood lengths it was difficult to get blocks big enough to turn bowls, but you should have an easier time with handle size blocks. I would go for it, but cut into blocks and dip the ends in melted wax or cover with a thick paint asap.

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2 hours ago, Ron Benson said:

I would go for it, but cut into blocks and dip the ends in melted wax or cover with a thick paint asap

If you're lucky enough to think you've got a regular supply, you can avoid worrying about how to maximize the output of each round, and work to get the best pieces.  From what I'm seeing, I'd cut the round into over-sized blocks, (at least 1/2" over on each dimension).  In my experience, this helps to control the splitting, allowing the block to warp instead, and let them dry.  You can (and it's probably safer to) paint the ends, but when I was living on the West slope of the Cascades,  I didn't worry about painting mine, merely kept them out of the sun, and didn't lose many blocks to splitting.  I was also heating with wood, and cutting my own maple so had plenty of material and so losing a few wasn't an issue to me.  

 

The reason I mentioned sayas in my above post is that sometimes the figuring is too broad to show up well on a 5" handle, but would look great on a 10" saya.  

Edited by billyO
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You might have some luck and have a little spalting or speckling in there as it looks like that aged a bit.

 

Drying your own lumber is in my experience a gamble. I've split the lumber I've dried, painted the ends and have hand some success.  However, 2 years after, some of these woods have still warped after being planed as they never totally dried.  Depending on how big you make your chunk of wood, expect to wait years before using it, but it might be worth it.

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The rule of thumb is a year per inch of thickness but it is also dependent on the atmosphere where the drying is taking place. Warmth and a breeze is the best for long slow drying. It really needs to be fully dried before any dressing is done.

Edited by Garry Keown
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Yup, Garry, you are absolutely correct..........it's a year per inch of thickness.  But as you say, even that isn't chiseled in stone.  Humidity has a whole lot to do with it.  One thing a lot of people don't understand about drying wood is the process of "stickering".  For those who might not know what that is, it's stacking the wood with 1"x1"x ??" pieces of wood to put in-between each board being dried so air can circulate around all the wood in the stack.  (and the 1x1 strips have to be absolutely kiln dried so they won't stain the boards being air dried)  I bought some American Black Walnut once that was properly stickered and stacked in the back of a barn.  It had been in the stack for close to 80 years when I bought it and was some of the most beautiful walnut I've every touched.  Believe me, it was dry.  I don't think there is a more beautiful piece of wood than properly air-dried wood.

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when I was doing a joinery apprenticship (started in the late 60's) part of my job was the strip stack the native timer we got in for door and window frames. There would be a stack lifted off the truck of 6x1 1/2 and all (or mostly all) 18 to 20 ft long. I would lay the foundation billets to make a straight and level set of 4x2 to start the strip stacking on and by the time each truck load was done I would have two stacks that were about 6 ft high and 4 ft wide. by the 20 ft long. Usually do two at the end of winter and they would get all the late spring early summer winds  so they would be dry by the end of summer and i would then cart them into the timber racks to be used during the year while the next lot dried. They were exposed to the winds and warmth with a sheet iron cover over them to keep the rain off. being a very dry climate the single season was sufficient to have them ready for joinery use.  I made all the wooden window and door frames as part of my duties so used most of it as well.

Edited by Garry Keown
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