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Experience drying Osage Orange?

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Forum topic by HoosierBoy87 posted 06-14-2017 05:41 PM 975 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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HoosierBoy87

32 posts in 184 days


06-14-2017 05:41 PM

Topic tags/keywords: osage orange osage orange drying seasoning moisture content hedge hedge apple bois de arc question tip resource milling

Hello all, I have recently gotten my hands on some osage orange wood that was cut down close by where I live. With my bandsaw I milled out 15 short firewood length boards about 1 1/2 inches in thickness. I’ve got a few ideas of projects to use the wood on, but was unsure as to how long or how much the wood needed to dry first. The log pieces layed out in the sun for about 2 weeks prior to me picking them up, and have been in a cold basement room stacked on spacers for another couple weeks. This is my first time working with Osage, as it is not really common around my area. I read that among hardwoods Osage has a very low green MC even when live- around (31%).
I’m new to lumberjocks, and any experience or advice is much appreciated.

-- Ross, Bloomington Indiana


22 replies so far

View Kirk650's profile

Kirk650

514 posts in 586 days


#1 posted 06-14-2017 08:15 PM

I’ve used a good bit of it. I have live trees, and a nephew has many big Osage Orange trees. The wood splits and checks badly, so paint the ends of the boards and redo the paint as needed (often).

When cut in the springtime, when the sap is running, it’s a wet wood, so I either cut wood from some old dead Bodark trees on our place or wait till the fall to cut limbs from live trees.

I could never run it over my jointer until I got the spiral carbide cutter head. I can use the jointer now. I’ve never been able to use a hand plane on it, though maybe others have. Attempts to run it through a planer didn’t work well at all, though maybe a planer with a spiral carbide head would work.

When you get it dry, that’s some hard and heavy wood. Mostly I turn it and make mallets for use with chisels. It turns well and takes a high gloss. The yellow color is lovely, though exposure to sunlight makes it darken quickly. For a long time I wasn’t sure if the darkening came from exposure to light or to air, so I ran some tests. I made bowls and put them in light and some in the dark. All darkens over time, but the ones in low or no light darkened slowly.

That’s all I can think of right now.

Kirk

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HoosierBoy87

32 posts in 184 days


#2 posted 06-14-2017 09:37 PM

Kirk- thanks for the reply and info, that is helpful. When I first got the logs they had been siiting out unpainted. They all had heart crack from end to end, but I was still able to get some clean boards cut around it and painted the ends on all of them. So far no checking that I can see. I guess my main question is how long do they need to dry before they are usable? I know the general rule of thumb is 1 year per inch of drying on wood. However since osage supposedly has a pretty low moisture content from the start (except during the spring as you said) could it maybe be ready for use sooner?

-- Ross, Bloomington Indiana

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Kirk650

514 posts in 586 days


#3 posted 06-15-2017 02:09 AM

Ross, I just don’t know if the old ‘year per inch’ holds true with Bodark. I mentioned that I had made small bowls. Each one, as they dried further, changed shape and a couple had edge splits. They weren’t as dry as I had thought.

Drive down to Texas and I’ll give you some bigger chunks of Bodark/Osage orange/Bois D’Arc to play with. I’m pretty sure I have a whole dead tree of it in the back of our place, though you’ll be the guy on the chainsaw. I have plenty of chainsaws.

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HoosierBoy87

32 posts in 184 days


#4 posted 06-15-2017 03:03 AM

Sounds like aside from taking less than a year like I was hoping-it could take longer. It seems pretty dry now, but that doesn’t mean much on what I can tell from the surface. I think it may not hurt to invest in a moisture meter. I find myself messing with a lot of green wood lately and it would be nice to be able to accurately measure the dryness of the wood. I have a cousin here that says he has quite a few large ones on his place that he’d like to cut down before long so maybe I’ll get some more to mess around with.

And thanks for the invite, although I bet you’d be getting a kick out of me trying to cut the dang stuff. The last time I went to Texas was around 7 years ago. I have a grandfather and an uncle that both live down there. They normally come up here for holidays and stuff though. I like it there just haven’t had the availability to go back. Maybe one of these days….

-- Ross, Bloomington Indiana

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ColonelTravis

1680 posts in 1731 days


#5 posted 06-15-2017 03:49 AM

I’ve used it a little, not a lot, because I wasn’t a big fan of the yellow color when you make large objects. I think it’s fine with, say, spoons or a small serving board, and like Kirk said, it’s great for tool handles or a mallet. Heck – in stump form it’s great for holding up an entire house off the ground.

But when I saw how it changed color after being exposed to sunlight, I love that color – kind of a rusty brown that’s not uniform, it varies in intensity, which you can’t find with many other dark woods. I know a guy who every now and then will cut big slabs of it, and when the color has turned, I can see a nice table top ready to be made.

Good luck with your stash. It is tough to work.

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TravisH

551 posts in 1772 days


#6 posted 06-15-2017 11:31 AM

I just milled a few logs and found it surprisingly easy based on all the things I have read.

I picked mine up in winter (electric line/tree clean up) and dipped the log ends in wax. They sat for 6 to 7 months with sections of the wax chipping off. I don’t know the moisture content but it was still wet. It did have some checks/cracks on the ends that ran about 3/4 to 1 inch deep.

I resawed a couple logs and stickered them and after two weeks haven’t noticed any issues in regards to more splits or them increasing in length. Need to do the rest.

I also kept some in the shop and turned a few items, ran some across the planer (6 inch bench top Craftsman) and didn’t come across any issues. Several smaller boards have been in the shop and no issues so far. A spoke shave blank lost 10% weight using the microwave heating/cooling method to dry. Just need to break down and get a moisture meter.

The yellow sawdust was its only knock but now I will either dye some wool yarn for my wife , sell it at a craft show, or see if she wants to take it down to the yarn store and trade it for other items.

View Kirk650's profile

Kirk650

514 posts in 586 days


#7 posted 06-15-2017 01:47 PM

The wood is pretty easy to cut or work when it’s green, though I hate the sticky sap it has in the spring. Drying the Bodark and keeping it from splitting is the hard part. Once it’s dry it’s very stable and very hard. The grain is interlocked and subject to tearout on a jointer if the jointer blades aren’t real sharp. I got bad tearout when I tried to use a hand plane on it.

I’ve learned a lot about the wood, but there’s much I haven’t figured out. Like I said, getting it dried without splits and checks is difficult. At times I’ve gotten it dry without problems, but not always. I’ve come to believe that cutting it when it’s drier, like from a dead tree or from a live tree when dormant (fall and winter) makes it easier to dry without problems. These are things I think but don’t positively know.

And how did the Indians make bows from this wood? If I could learn that, it might be valuable info.

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HoosierBoy87

32 posts in 184 days


#8 posted 06-15-2017 02:20 PM

Travis- I also have not found it that difficult to work while green, but I have gotten ahold of some old dead pieces, and like Kirk said it is hard as a Rock once fully seasoned. Sounds like you are best to do all your jointing and planing with it green, but moderately dry.
I don’t know if it was from the wood sitting out in the hot sun for a couple weeks in cut pieces or the fact that maybe the tree was halfway dead already, but these boards I have milled out were seemingly pretty dry from the start. They were still green enough to work without too many issues though. I’ve had success with preventing cracking on other woods that were not fully dry by rubbing a couple light layers of tung oil on the finished piece. It doesn’t seal the wood completely and it still can breathe, but it will dry much slower. I may try that on this stuff and see what happens.

-- Ross, Bloomington Indiana

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HoosierBoy87

32 posts in 184 days


#9 posted 06-15-2017 02:31 PM

Kirk- I don’t know for certain the exact way the indians made their bows, but I know today traditional bow makers will split pieces long pieces around 2×2 in thickness off bow length pieces of osage log. They call these pieces “staves” which are basically just a bow blank. From there all the shaping and forming of the bow is done with draw knives and various types of scrapers.

-- Ross, Bloomington Indiana

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TheFridge

8309 posts in 1323 days


#10 posted 06-15-2017 04:42 PM

I wanna say they try to rive the blank so it’s half heartwood and half sapwood.

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

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HoosierBoy87

32 posts in 184 days


#11 posted 06-15-2017 06:59 PM

Some may, but I don’t really see how they would have enough sapwood to work with. All the osage I have seen only has about 1/4 to a 1/2 an inch of sapwood at the max just inside the bark. I know a guy that makes some nice one piece bows and he uses osage on most. All of his are solid color heartwood. I’ve heard that what makes osage such a good bow wood is that it handles tension and compression both equally well. When a bow is drawn the front is under tension and the back under compression. Most other bow woods are either good at coping with one or the other, but not both.

-- Ross, Bloomington Indiana

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HoosierBoy87

32 posts in 184 days


#12 posted 06-15-2017 07:57 PM

Update-
I ended up buying a moisture meter. I tested the wood and I am getting consistent surface measurements around 6% and core measurements around 10-13%. Would everyone agree that is plenty dry to start using?

-- Ross, Bloomington Indiana

View JayT's profile

JayT

5455 posts in 2048 days


#13 posted 06-15-2017 08:22 PM

Low double digits air drying (10-12%), is usually as dry as it will get without a kiln. You should be good to go to start using.

-- In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. Thomas Jefferson

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HoosierBoy87

32 posts in 184 days


#14 posted 06-15-2017 09:05 PM

That’s what I’ve heard. I tested a wooden bench I have down there and it was in the same range.

-- Ross, Bloomington Indiana

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BobAnderton

239 posts in 2628 days


#15 posted 06-16-2017 01:23 AM

I found some pieces of osage orange in a brush pile and milled it with my chainsaw mill. It had a lot of nails and metal in it. Not a big deal with a chainsaw since you can just resharpen, but I noticed that the hot bits of steel that got cut out were starting smoldering fires in the sawdust I was cutting. This was the only time I’d ever seen the wet sawdust from milling a log be flammable enough to catch on its own. I later read what you did about the wood being quite low moisture content even in log form.

-- Bob Anderton - Austin, TX - Nova 3000 lathe, Alaskan Mark III mill, Husqavarna Saw

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