Friday, October 31, 2014

Projects In the Bank

Last week I cut down two dead oak trees and then cut up two dead oak and one dying black cherry tree. How does that work? Well when you cut down dead oak tree number one and a fork of it directly hits a spindly black cherry tree which turned out to be half rotten at the base, I got a two-fer. The second dead oak tree came down without a hitch. Since I still have a five year supply of firewood if I get crazy and burn it at twice the rate I have been, I really didn't need the wood. Because these trees were on a very steep slope, I carried what was easy up near the road and gave it away the next day and what was hard I let roll down to the bottom of the hill. A week later, my wife asked if I would make her some more wood block plant stands like I did last fall and this spring so I went down to the bottom of the hill to cut the logs that I will eventually use for that project.

While I was there and my chainsaw blade was still very sharp, I decided I would cut some of the wood for future projects to be determined. It seems a shame to waste such nice wood though it would eventually decay and fertilize the rest of the trees around it. So I cut a stack of disks from the tree and hauled them back up to my garage. While I was doing that, I noticed a couple logs with excellent colonies of fungus growing on the bark. Up until a year ago, this wouldn't have caught my attention but due to my pen making hobby and learning of the beauty of spalted wood, I went over to check it out.

Spalting is where fungus growing on the outside of a log discolors the inside fibers in unique patterns which when made into projects later on, provide beautiful results. Lighter colored woods like maple work well and though I haven't heard of anyone doing oak, I found that the wood had spalted quite nicely. You can see an example in the picture above. So I cut the spalted part of the log into small sections that I can cut into pen blanks or something else at a future date when it dries.

On my previous attempt to make decorative blocks for plant stands, the wood checked pretty good as it dried over the winter. It still looked fine and added character to them but I wanted to see if there was a way to prevent that. I did some research and found a substance online that is said to do quite well for preventing checking though the examples are mostly smaller boards and such. It looks very much like a white latex paint and you apply it to the end grains of the wood for it to be absorbed. It promotes slower drying out the end grains which is supposed to reduce checking. So I applied it to all the end grains of my future projects and blocked them up on my workbench so they can dry out over winter. The last time I harvested some spalted wood in my ditch, I cut it up right away without useing Anchorseal and tried drying it out just with a fan. It checked badly so that I didn't end up with a single usable piece. I hope this way works better though at this point, I don't have much labor or money into it so I won't really be bummed if it doesn't.

I did the same on my two future plant stands. The directions says not to put it on face grain because it might stain it. Since most of the pictures shows them applying it to small pieces of wood or logs with bark still intact, I'm not sure how it will work with these. If it does, well I've learned something. If it doesn't, well I've still learned something and I've got two more plant stands with character. Its a win win kind of deal.


sage said...

Nice looking wood. Are the logs nice enough you could have them rough sawed at a small lumber mill?

Ed said...

Sage - I could but it is prohibitively expensive for me. I would have to rent something to get the log up to the road and then beg, borrow or steal a vehicle capable of carrying it to the lumber mill. I've thought about getting a bar for my chainsaw to allow me to do small quantities on site and I may one day but before that, I need a shop where I can store the lumber. My overflowing garage just won't cut it and I doubt the wife will let me dry the wood indoors.