Sealed the ends, but still major splitting

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Forum topic by Lee Rudeen posted 03-14-2017 12:34 AM 660 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Lee Rudeen

3 posts in 635 days

03-14-2017 12:34 AM

Topic tags/keywords: redbud red bud splitting knife scales domestic wood drying humidity

Greetings all! I’m new here and must confess it was my search for answers that brought me. I have a redbud tree suffering from some large, inch-long white bore worm. It excretes the little pellets just like termites do. I need to drop the tree anyways as it hangs over our neighbor’s wood fence. In the midwest, trees have a habit of blowing down so I’ve gone ahead and lopped off a couple 4 inch diameter branches and cut it into foot long sections, sealed the ends, and stored pieces in my garage. I love the look of this wood and want to make some knife scales from them someday.

I’ll get right to my question: Why are the footlong, 4 in. diameter logs splitting badly after only two months in my garage on my shelf? When I say badly, I mean like deep cracks where I can put my crafting axe into the space and just finish off the splitting as if it was kindling.

Should I have dried them outside, instead? Too dry inside my garage? (16% humidity, roughly) Should I have not cut the branches into shorter lengths? Should I have waited till the more humid summer to “harvest” the wood?
For sealing the ends, I used “As Seen on TV” Flex-Seal Clear in a spray can. Could that have backfired?

I tried taking one section that had not split too badly yet and went ahead and cut it into 3/4×2 x 6 inch pieces thinking maybe that is best, but cracks appeared in these scales within a day or two, though not as violently.

Sorry for all the questions. If I need to go back and ask them one at a time, I would be happy to do that. To me, this wood is beautiful and (I believe) domestic. I love making things from wood that has a story. My wife has some spoons I hand carved from a red crab-apple tree we had to remove. My daughter has a necklace and a dog-whistle i made from a fallen branch of her favorite climbing tree. My dad and son have knives made from wood found in places we used to live. You get the idea…


-- Love wood. Love knives. Love knives with wood scales.

9 replies so far

View Andre's profile


2195 posts in 2002 days

#1 posted 03-14-2017 01:59 AM

Only thing that works for me is End Seal from Lee Valley, it is wax based and usually takes 2 to 3 coats to seal proper.
And yes usually store outside stickered and lose cover for a year before bringing inside. I know a turner that stores his wet cut blanks in garbage bags and only opens them for a few hours each day to slowly dry them.

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View jerryminer's profile


944 posts in 1638 days

#2 posted 03-14-2017 02:05 AM

Full round logs are tough to dry without splitting, as the outside shrinks a lot more than the core—more “tangential tissue”—it almost HAS to split to accommodate the shrinkage.

Splitting—or better, quartering—the logs first will allow them to dry in a more stable state.

-- Jerry, making sawdust professionally since 1976

View Lee Rudeen's profile

Lee Rudeen

3 posts in 635 days

#3 posted 03-14-2017 02:05 AM

Andre, thanks! I’ll look up that End Seal. And I wondered if bringing them inside right away was a bad idea. Makes sense not to. Thanks for helping out this newbie. – Lee

-- Love wood. Love knives. Love knives with wood scales.

View TheFridge's profile


10688 posts in 1682 days

#4 posted 03-14-2017 02:09 AM

Some species are just prone to checks. Plus what Jerry said

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View avsmusic1's profile


273 posts in 881 days

#5 posted 03-14-2017 02:14 AM

Agree w/ what’s been said and will add that branch wood tends to have more tension in it b/c of growing out under more stressful conditions

View Lee Rudeen's profile

Lee Rudeen

3 posts in 635 days

#6 posted 03-14-2017 02:27 AM

Thank you Jerry, Fridge, and AVS. As your responses come in, it leads me to looking around the internet and I feel like I’m drinking from a fire hydrant. I’m also feeling dumb for not seeking advice sooner. There’s still a lot of the tree left so that’s the good news.

Another quick question, then: If I won’t be milling them anytime soon, is it best to keep the pieces as long as possible when bringing down the tree? Or are shorter sections best? Jerry, quartering the logs makes sense, thank you. Does length matter, too?


-- Love wood. Love knives. Love knives with wood scales.

View TDSpade's profile


104 posts in 2612 days

#7 posted 03-14-2017 05:35 AM

Try drilling out the center or at least the pith. I haven’t tried this yet myself. But my thinking is that doing so will relieve internal stress and also help the wood dry more evenly. Turners rough turn a bowl blank green so it will dry more evenly. Smaller cracks can be turned out at the final turning.

I turned a small apricot bowel green and finished it in one turning. First time I turned a green bowl. It has not cracked at all. But i couldn’t get back to rest of apricot wood and a lot of it has cracked so bad it is unusable.

-- For every expert, there is an equal and opposite expert.

View jerryminer's profile


944 posts in 1638 days

#8 posted 03-14-2017 07:02 AM

Does length matter, too?

I don’t think length matters much at all

-- Jerry, making sawdust professionally since 1976

View tomsteve's profile


869 posts in 1415 days

#9 posted 03-14-2017 01:20 PM

keep your logs as long as possible. always best to get log ends sealed ASAP after the tree has been cut. some people use that mobile home roof coating. some use anchor seal.

length can make a difference. as you saw in your small pieces, moisture was able to leave the pieces too quickly.
4” diameter pieces a foot long- I have wood about that size in my firewood pile from trees cut in my yard. from the time I bucked up the tree to the time the firewood was stacked- a couple hours- quite a few of the smaller pieces had already started to crack from drying.
I couldn’t see much usable lumber coming from pieces that small.

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