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Is it really junk lumber?

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Forum topic by AZWoody posted 09-16-2017 03:28 AM 1400 views 1 time favorited 39 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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AZWoody

1138 posts in 1057 days


09-16-2017 03:28 AM

Some of the things I have heard about certain trees have me wondering.

What really makes a tree junk lumber and not worthy for fine furniture?
How much of it is experience and how much is it just hearing from a friend of a friend? When I had the chance to go get a cottonwood tree I did some research and most people said it’s junk, better to just burn it…

After running it through the sawmill it looked ok and smelled really bad but after a year I ran it through the planer and wow. This is one of the most beautiful woods I have seen. It’s not the hardest wood but it is definitely hard enough for making furniture and it’s light as well.

One I have heard of and never got to experience was blackjack oak. I used to live in Missouri and I had a couple in my yard and a friend told me that it wasn’t good for anything. I didn’t do much woodworking then so had no way of knowing whether that was true or not.

So, what are some woods that you have heard of that are junk woods? Be honest, do you know it’s for real or is it just a heard it through the grapevine kind of thing? I think we all get into a rut sometimes and find ourselves using the same woods over and over. I have come to the point I love to experiment and try new things.

I love to learn about new woods and species so, this is another thread where I hope I can learn something :)


39 replies so far

View bigblockyeti's profile

bigblockyeti

4688 posts in 1553 days


#1 posted 09-16-2017 03:36 AM

I’ve heard the same about cottonwood and I have quite a bit of it for burnt in my fire pit. Seeing some on here after being dried and planed prompted me to mill down some that is currently drying and should be ready to mill at the end of the year.

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Monte Pittman

27035 posts in 2171 days


#2 posted 09-16-2017 03:41 AM

I am currently building a table from cottonwood. Works for me. I take all logs people want to dispose of. Haven’t found one yet i can’t work with.

-- Mother Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View Loren's profile

Loren

9602 posts in 3481 days


#3 posted 09-16-2017 03:47 AM

I think it has to do with economies of scale
and market viability.

In much of California for instance Eucalyptus
trees are grown as ornamentals. They get
huge and were used as wind breaks to prevent
topsoil getting blown away. I read somewhere
the intent was to use the trees for framing
lumber but the cut boards were too unstable
the way trees grew in the state. In Australia
it’s considered a more viable timber. Perhaps
the trees grow straighter there.

View Rick_M's profile

Rick_M

10599 posts in 2213 days


#4 posted 09-16-2017 04:00 AM

Plus, some woods are less stable and move a lot as they dry or with moisture changes, or are more prone to checking. You can use them at home but they aren’t worth the effort for commercial furniture.

-- http://thewoodknack.blogspot.com/

View HunterDS's profile

HunterDS

45 posts in 333 days


#5 posted 09-16-2017 04:01 AM

Chinaberry. Ugly tree that makes for boring lumber.

-- Hunter, Houston TX

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josephf

171 posts in 1929 days


#6 posted 09-16-2017 04:06 AM


In Australia
it s considered a more viable timber. Perhaps
the trees grow straighter there.
i heard from a carpenter from australia that it is tuff to get straight lumber there or maybe he saidit more like common to work with twisty cracked material . if i visit i will drop by the lumber yards to see what they build with

- Loren


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AZWoody

1138 posts in 1057 days


#7 posted 09-16-2017 04:20 AM



I think it has to do with economies of scale
and market viability.

In much of California for instance Eucalyptus
trees are grown as ornamentals. They get
huge and were used as wind breaks to prevent
topsoil getting blown away. I read somewhere
the intent was to use the trees for framing
lumber but the cut boards were too unstable
the way trees grew in the state. In Australia
it s considered a more viable timber. Perhaps
the trees grow straighter there.

- Loren

Eucalyptus is a pain to mill and dry. I just was milling some tonight and it is extremely hard and i have to go slow or else the blade will wander bad.
Also, it does tend to crack and can twist with a lot of force. Enough to knock 30 gallon drums of water off at times.

For framing lumber I think it would drive the construction people crazy as it’s hard as a rock. I don’t think nails would go in easy at all.

But, that said…If it’s dried down and once it gets stable, it is a very beautiful wood. Just not very efficient in terms of mass production. I guess it could be considered more of boutique type wood.

View AZWoody's profile

AZWoody

1138 posts in 1057 days


#8 posted 09-16-2017 04:23 AM



Chinaberry. Ugly tree that makes for boring lumber.

- HunterDS

I cut my first chinaberry tree 2 months ago. I planed some down for an ID contest here and i thought it was a nice lumber. It had an almost 3d shimmer in the wood.
I do agree though that the grain pattern in general is pretty generic but it wasn’t what I was expecting.

View Loren's profile

Loren

9602 posts in 3481 days


#9 posted 09-16-2017 04:43 AM


Eucalyptus is a pain to mill and dry. I just was milling some tonight and it is extremely hard and i have to go slow or else the blade will wander bad.
Also, it does tend to crack and can twist with a lot of force. Enough to knock 30 gallon drums of water off at times.

For framing lumber I think it would drive the construction people crazy as it s hard as a rock. I don t think nails would go in easy at all.

But, that said…If it s dried down and once it gets stable, it is a very beautiful wood. Just not very efficient in terms of mass production. I guess it could be considered more of boutique type wood.

- AZWoody

Maybe they were going to use it for railroad ties.
Whatever it was, it didn’t work out.

View Kelly's profile

Kelly

1821 posts in 2777 days


#10 posted 09-16-2017 05:19 AM

One mans trash. . . . .

I had a lot of scraps going off to the neighbor’s fire pit, until I bought a lathe. Even punk wood, once hardened, became valuable.

Early on (decades ago), I listened to and believed “experts” who called out various woods as junk. Then I remembered other experts told me I couldn’t do things I’d already done, so I started playing with “garbage,” such as pallet wood, a tree limb in the yard, poplar and what ever else came my way.

The neighbor cut down a bush which was small but all the wood was bright yellow. If nothing else, it’s making epoxied jewelry for my wife’s jewelry hobby. Others use it for inlay/

In the end, if it can be used for anything, it’s valuable.

View Loren's profile

Loren

9602 posts in 3481 days


#11 posted 09-16-2017 05:28 AM

A lot has to do with what you want to build.
When wide mahogany boards were first imported
to Europe the wood was a revelation. It was
stable, easy to work, dried well, carved well
and had beautiful color. Not many woods can
match it for cabinet making.

Today’s aesthetics allow space in the market
for troublesome, crack-prone woods to be accepted
in furniture.

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splintergroup

1685 posts in 1055 days


#12 posted 09-16-2017 02:51 PM

Local woods I consider “junk” are pine and mulberry. After seeing AZWoody’s cottonwood first hand, I removed that from my list pending further examination of my fire wood pile 8^)

I may give a second thought to the pine, though I generally find the local trees to bland.

View AZWoody's profile

AZWoody

1138 posts in 1057 days


#13 posted 09-16-2017 03:04 PM


Eucalyptus is a pain to mill and dry. I just was milling some tonight and it is extremely hard and i have to go slow or else the blade will wander bad.
Also, it does tend to crack and can twist with a lot of force. Enough to knock 30 gallon drums of water off at times.

For framing lumber I think it would drive the construction people crazy as it s hard as a rock. I don t think nails would go in easy at all.

But, that said…If it s dried down and once it gets stable, it is a very beautiful wood. Just not very efficient in terms of mass production. I guess it could be considered more of boutique type wood.

- AZWoody

Maybe they were going to use it for railroad ties.
Whatever it was, it didn t work out.

- Loren

Wasn’t disagreeing with that. I think I have read they wanted to use it for that also. Just saying that it would be a really poor choice for that. If it’s not dried right, it could really warp a wall, even if it was nailed in place. The Euc I have can easily raise a 1000 pounds of water on top of it no problem.

I do think you’re right that the aesthetics have opened up the market to woods that have been ignored before. More and more, people are making furniture as an artform and are taking advantage of epoxies and other “newer” technologies to experiment and make use of woods that would be culled and otherwise ignored completely. Good point.

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AZWoody

1138 posts in 1057 days


#14 posted 09-16-2017 03:11 PM



Local woods I consider “junk” are pine and mulberry. After seeing AZWoody s cottonwood first hand, I removed that from my list pending further examination of my fire wood pile 8^)

I may give a second thought to the pine, though I generally find the local trees to bland.

- splintergroup

I definitely changed my mind on pine depending on the species though. There are still a lot that I consider too soft and damaged too easily to be used for furniture that receives daily use.

I kind of agree with you on Mulberry though. That was one of the first trees I milled and to me the wood just was bland and not very interesting. It’s decent enough wood though. I could see it being a utility wood as it’s fairly stable as far as I have seen.

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pontic

500 posts in 441 days


#15 posted 09-16-2017 10:08 PM

Box Elder was one of the woods that hit my fireplace. Not anymore.

-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum

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