How to prepare found limbs for small projects

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Forum topic by BethFraser posted 04-01-2016 03:24 AM 885 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View BethFraser's profile


11 posts in 236 days

04-01-2016 03:24 AM

I have a large stack of limbs and small trees (2 to 6 inch diameter) I have been collecting and storing. I want to cut them for drying to make cutting boards and other small projects. I will be cutting them on my bandsaw but am not sure how to cut them since I may only get a small amount of usable wood. Any ideas on ideal thickness and length?

Thanks so much!!

9 replies so far

View MalcolmLaurel's profile


269 posts in 1043 days

#1 posted 04-01-2016 10:16 AM

There is no “ideal” size, it all depends on what you will need for your projects.

-- Malcolm Laurel -

View Dave Rutan's profile

Dave Rutan

1367 posts in 1608 days

#2 posted 04-01-2016 11:33 AM

Fairly recently I discovered the joy of finding spalt in old fallen limbs. I used my band saw for the first one I prepared. I’d try slicing them to no thinner than 1/2 inch. You’ll want to plane them as well. You’ll probably end up with pieces about 3/8 inch thick. That’s a good thickness for small boxes.

-- Ni faru ion el ligno!

View BethFraser's profile


11 posts in 236 days

#3 posted 04-01-2016 03:32 PM

Great, I will give it a try. Should I plane it before storing for drying or after?

View splintergroup's profile


723 posts in 642 days

#4 posted 04-01-2016 03:53 PM

I salvaged a bunch of Russian Olive last year, the smallest logs (2 foot lengths) being about 6”.

The pith (center of the log) is basically useless. If you cut out a full width slab (with the pith in the center), the slab will warp as it dries.

Best bet is to slice off layers from the log and cut out (rip saw) the piece that contains the pith.
Thickness depends on what you plan on using the wood for, but in my case I cut 3/4” slabs from the smaller logs and 1-1/2” to 2” slabs from the larger logs, After drying, the slabs lost about 33% (3/4 became 1/2) due to shrinkage and final planing to make them flat.
Before I slabbed the logs, I painted the ends with some leftover exterior latex paint, this helps keep the wood from splitting as it dries.

Be sure to stack and sticker the slabs with plenty (1”) of space between them and be sure to keep everything as even and level as possible as you stack. A final addition of some heavy weight at the top of the stack will help keep the boards from twisting and bowing as they dry.

You can try and do a quick rough planing before stickering to even out the thicknesses and flatten them up, but this will usually make no difference in the amount of planing required after everything has dried.

You could also try to quarter saw the logs to get a different grain pattern, but that results in more waste.

View boisdearc's profile


44 posts in 755 days

#5 posted 04-01-2016 03:59 PM

Beth I would make sure the wood is dry before planning. Maybe also weight the stack of wood down if you can.. Ron

View Dave Rutan's profile

Dave Rutan

1367 posts in 1608 days

#6 posted 04-01-2016 04:14 PM

Great, I will give it a try. Should I plane it before storing for drying or after?

- BethFraser

I can’t answer that with any authority, but I’d probably plane them just before using them. The pieces are likely small enough that it won’t matter, but…

-- Ni faru ion el ligno!

View soob's profile


223 posts in 628 days

#7 posted 04-01-2016 08:10 PM

At 2” most limbs will dry just fine whole, and you’ll have a lot less issues with cracking splitting and warping if you wait until they’re dry to cut them. Once they’re dry, in my experience at least, the pith is basically a non-issue.

Larger ones might dry fine, or they might not dry and you’ll get splitting, discoloration from decay, etc. Hard to say for sure. On some kinds a 6” will dry fine in place and the piths will be stable, others not so much.

View jbay's profile


700 posts in 319 days

#8 posted 04-01-2016 09:34 PM

It depends if your large stack of limbs consist of arms or legs, I would think each has to be prepared differently.
To get my limbs ready for a small project I apply lotion and rub my muscles and stretch them a little.
For the small tree branches see the above answers.

-- Many times my “MO” involves Judging others, playing God, acting as LJs law enforcement, and never admitting any of my ideas could possibly wrong or anyone else's idea could possibly be correct.--

View pete724's profile


36 posts in 228 days

#9 posted 04-03-2016 10:50 AM

Build and use this;

It should work on your bandsaw even better than the tablesaw.

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