Downed Wood

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Forum topic by clieb91 posted 12-23-2007 06:32 AM 1506 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3521 posts in 4133 days

12-23-2007 06:32 AM

Topic tags/keywords: milling wood

Ok, so I have a novice’s question about downed trees.. where I work we are almost always cutting down limbs or trees after a storm rolls thru and I think it is a true waste to see us just toss the logs in a pile to rot. My goal is to hopefully, someday talk the someone into buying a milling set up. In the meantime; however, with the lack of tools I have. Using smaller limbs lets say 6-8” around what is the best way for me to be able to use this wood. I would of course love to be able to mill it into boards for small boxes and other stuff, but that will have to wait for decent bandsaw.
My one recent thought has been about sawing off disks from limbs and making coaster sets out of them so as to capture the natural look of the rings.. would this work? how dry should the wood be before I attempt to cut it off?
Now if I had a lathe, I am sure I could come up with some good projects, but agian how dry should the wood be before I would attempt to carve it?

Thanks All. I am sure I will have more questions about this topic in the future.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

9 replies so far

View scott shangraw's profile

scott shangraw

513 posts in 4267 days

#1 posted 12-23-2007 06:38 AM

I don’t do alot of woodturning but with an inexpensive lathe you could do alot with those size pieces and the best part is you can turn them still green most turners prefer it.I would check and see if there is a local woodturning group in you area.

-- Scott NM,

View miles125's profile


2180 posts in 4204 days

#2 posted 12-23-2007 06:42 AM

Sometimes we need to be reminded that boxes grow on trees.

-- "The way to make a small fortune in woodworking- start with a large one"

View Karson's profile


35146 posts in 4599 days

#3 posted 12-23-2007 07:11 AM


It is not recommended that large wood boards be made from branch wood. A tree trunk grows straight and tall, Where as a branch grows out from the tree. The wood in branches have what is called reaction wood. It grows under the forces of gravity which causes the branches to bend. When you cut boards the bends try to come out. And in some cases it comes out as you try to make furniture.

If you are talking about making boxes you should be OK. But I wouldn’t use 1 X 8 – 10’ long from a branch they will surly bend on you and bow and cup. It would almost be imposable to keep them straight.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia †

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 4104 days

#4 posted 12-23-2007 02:11 PM

What Karson said. But short pieces for small work is doable, so is turning stock like was mentioned. If you cut off disks (cookies) soak them with Tung oil as soon as you cut them, that is my trick to keep them from busting when they dry.

View LONGHAIR's profile


94 posts in 4013 days

#5 posted 12-23-2007 04:30 PM

As Karson said, branch wood will almost always give you problems. You also have to be sure to cut the pith out it or it will almost surely split. This drying reaction starts almost immediately, so you have to act fast when the limbs are cut. You will have to experiment with cutting disks and drying them w/o splitting. Thickness, species of wood, time of year all have an effect on this.
Fruit trees, especially apple, are notoriously hard to dry w/o splitting.

Believe it or not, microwaving in short bursts will dry smaller pieces. It helps to have a digital scale to use this method. You never get the pieces hot. You are just cooking the water out, with resting times between to cool. Stop when the piece doesn’t lose weight any more.
You can also try alcohol drying. You simply soak your green wood in “denatured alcohol” for a few days. The alcohol will desplace the water in the wood. Then when you pull the piece out any let it sit to dry, the alcohol evaporates. Since it evaporates much faster than water, you get a piece that is dried much faster. Faster translates to more even….less splitting and hopefully less warping too.

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Daren Nelson

767 posts in 4104 days

#6 posted 12-23-2007 05:49 PM

LONGHAIR is right about the microwave, I do it all the time. Sounds odd, but you can boil wood dry too, in a big pot of water. I have boiled it dry just to prove it works, but prefer the microwave. I have done much with cross sections, for years people said PEG (Polyethylene glycol ) and other expensive/pain in the rear blah,blah. Tung oil has worked best for me, and it can be finished over. I cut cross sections for taxidermists, clockmakers…the best way to cut them is on a slight angle, you have more of an oval than a circle. But you will also have more strength, longer fibers not just all endgrain. Endgrain is hard to dry without checking.
Interesting username by the way LONGHAIR.

View LONGHAIR's profile


94 posts in 4013 days

#7 posted 12-24-2007 08:56 PM

It is a nickname that I picked-up years ago, long before internet. I used to work as the warehouse manager in a packaging plant. Whenever someone, that had never met me, would come looking for me….they would ask the first person they saw, if they knew where I was. The simplest answer was “Look for the guy with the longhair”. Funny thing is, it wasn’t nearly as long back then as it is now. I have used this name in ever since.

I checked out your website, now I understand the question. You have a lot of great stuff there. I take it from what I read that you are in IL? I am in Columbus Oh. I will have to look further into your stock.

View TreeBones's profile


1827 posts in 4221 days

#8 posted 12-31-2007 07:05 PM

I have cut and used a lot of Oak, Maple and Walnut limb wood and found that the amount of warpage and defects are not enough to be detoured from making wide or long boards. You will always find it easier to dry straight saw logs compared to logs with bends or twists. Some of my favorite projects come from limb wood, short logs or were twisted, other sawyers would not even look at a second time at these. Until you have a band saw it may be hard to process the limbs other than with a chain saw (thats where I started). I air dry all my lumber and you will most always have some kind of problems with a percentage of the wood but that is to be expected. It will all need to be hand picked to meet your needs and if there are defects that wont work for you just continue sizing the material smaller to eliminate the defects until you have a piece that suites your needs. I have cut some nice Red and White Fir saw logs that make all nice boards with no drying problems, so it all has to do with each individual piece of wood you have and trial and error.

-- Ron, Twain Harte, Ca. Portable on site Sawmill Service

View clieb91's profile


3521 posts in 4133 days

#9 posted 01-03-2008 03:22 AM

Everyone Thanks for all the good feedback. I am going to give some of these ideas a try and see what I can come up. I am also going to be takinga pen turning class at the local Woodcrafters next week, so who knows I may just get hooked on that and decide to use the downed wood to make pen blanks, I have pushed around the idea of a chainsaw milling attachment before.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

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