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How do I keep my logs from cracking as they dry?

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Forum topic by Emma Walker posted 710 days ago 7732 views 1 time favorited 24 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Emma Walker

560 posts in 715 days


710 days ago

A couple of years ago my dad cut down one of our unproductive apple trees. I stashed the logs in the garage to keep them from going in the wood stove. I planned to dry them and cut them into small boards for small projects but most all of them have cracked. I thought that the next time an apple tree pays the ultimate price for being a lazy apple producer I could put some really big hose clamps around the ends as they dry.

Any other ideas?

-- I'm a twisted 2x4 in a pile of straight lumber.


24 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

2448 posts in 956 days


#1 posted 710 days ago

You really can’t stop it from happening. The best bet is mill them green and let them dry as boards rather than logs.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Richard's profile

Richard

799 posts in 1295 days


#2 posted 710 days ago

Not sure what most people use on them but I have heard a lot of people say you need to seal the ends of the logs with some type of paint or sealer to prevent the cracking while they dry.

View Dallas's profile

Dallas

2857 posts in 1092 days


#3 posted 710 days ago

You can’t stop it completely, but you can slow it down by sealing the ends. I use latex exterior paint from our local HDWE store. Stuff that they mixed wrong they sell for $5/gallon.

What you are trying to accomplish is to make the ends and the sides lose moisture at the same time.
The ends of the logs will lose moisture more quickly and that is what makes the cracks as the side grain shrinks from uneven drying.

Then there is the old time method…. split the log along the line of the major crack. The wood you harvest will be stronger because the stress has already been removed.
Old time wood workers always tried to work with the grain rather than fighting it. There was less bowing, crowning and swelling than when slicing down a log without regard to the grain direction.

My step dad built a room on our house with Ponderosa pine that was standing dead beetle kill. Every log was cut at 9’ and put under cover for a year. Then he made boards with his old chainsaw.. a Pro Mac 610 with a 28” bar.
Once the boards were cut he ran them through the planer to smooth them enough to use and made one side so smooth it was shiny. That was the interior of the room.
The exterior He ran through the planer on one side to make them a bit flat and used a board and baton style.
The interesting part is that we had to split every log along the dried split of the wood. If the split turned into a twist, we had to cull that one and use it only for interior molding and non-structural boards.
The straight ones have been there on that house for the last 40+ years and shed water like a duck.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View Emma Walker's profile

Emma Walker

560 posts in 715 days


#4 posted 710 days ago

Thanks everyone! It’s good to know I can still use those logs. We have a splitting wedge around somewhere.

-- I'm a twisted 2x4 in a pile of straight lumber.

View Doss's profile

Doss

779 posts in 869 days


#5 posted 710 days ago

As Dallas said, you can’t stop it completely, but you can reduce or prevent unnecessary splitting.

AnchorSeal (somewhat expensive) and even roofing tar (that stuff that comes in a paint can) can do it as well as the paint mentioned, but the roofing tar will not be fun when milling or on any of your tools… or clothes. There’s even a waxy product you can put on them. I forgot what it’s called though.

I don’t think you can stop it with clamps. You can slow it down or stop it with some joinery (butterflies) but that’s once it’s in board form.

Some wood splits a lot more than others as well.

-- "Well, at least we can still use it as firewood... maybe." - Doss

View WDHLT15's profile

WDHLT15

1079 posts in 1081 days


#6 posted 710 days ago

Anchorseal is best. Use at least two coats. I have found paint to be ineffective.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT15 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln

View tyskkvinna's profile

tyskkvinna

1308 posts in 1591 days


#7 posted 710 days ago

I have found paint to be very effective.. but to each their own.

I would not give up on those apple boards. Instead, I’d start playing around with epoxies.

-- Lis - Michigan - http://www.missmooseart.com - https://www.etsy.com/people/lisbokt

View doordude's profile

doordude

1085 posts in 1587 days


#8 posted 709 days ago

i use paint and works very well. if you are a turner, there’s a lot of things to make, in the state the wood is in now.
whats a little amount of money on a new tool set up; to make something fresch!

View Tomj's profile

Tomj

204 posts in 986 days


#9 posted 709 days ago

You could also use glue, I have used cheap dollar store Elmers glue, it dried nice and clear so I could see the growth rings which was important for what I was using them for. I have also used spray can laguer, spray paint and shellac. The sooner you coat the ends after cutting/splitting the better. Good luck.

View dhazelton's profile

dhazelton

1157 posts in 901 days


#10 posted 709 days ago

Anchorseal as previously stated. Amazon has the best price.

View Tennessee's profile

Tennessee

1447 posts in 1119 days


#11 posted 709 days ago

I’ve used cheap blocks of parrifin wax, melted in a hot pot, put on with a cheap paint brush that I throw away after I’m finished. Seals fine, and as long as you keep the direct sun off the ends, log drys fine.

-- Paul, Tennessee, http://www.tsunamiguitars.com

View EPJartisan's profile

EPJartisan

1048 posts in 1730 days


#12 posted 709 days ago

I use sticky wax. But then I am a sculptor and I have that on hand.. I like it because it stays rather soft, while sealing off moisture… then as the log shrinks, it pushes out the wax and you can find fault lines and major cracks easier…also it doesn’t dull tools, nor stain the wood with chemicals. You can also use wax to seal parts of the bark and fill in holes with a chunk of wax sealed with some melted wax. If it is good for wine corks.. it is good for me. LOL.

I am unsure of the exact math, but in general I use this formula.. for every 1/16 a crack or check is wide = 1 inch in depth.. so if you have a 3/8 inch crack the fault line can be up to or beyond 6 inches deep.

-- " 'Truth' is like a beautiful flower, unique to each plant and to the season it blossoms ... 'Fact' is the root and leaf, allowing the plant grow and bloom again."

View Kookaburra's profile

Kookaburra

745 posts in 829 days


#13 posted 709 days ago

Remembering Emma Walker’s penchant for dangerous activity, I am a bit curious how you intend to mill these boards. Please make us all more comfortable by saying that you and your dad are going to haul them to a guy you know who runas a mill and has agreeed to cut them down for you.

please DO NOT say you intend to cut them down yourself with an old chainsaw you got for $5.00 at a local auction. :-)

-- Kay - Just a girl who loves wood.

View GMman's profile

GMman

3902 posts in 2302 days


#14 posted 709 days ago

It will only crack about 2” deep so you are not loosing that much wood.

View Doss's profile

Doss

779 posts in 869 days


#15 posted 709 days ago

Please make us all more comfortable by saying that you and your dad are going to haul them to a guy you know who runas a mill and has agreeed to cut them down for you.

please DO NOT say you intend to cut them down yourself with an old chainsaw you got for $5.00 at a local auction. :-)Kookaburra

While I will agree that you should only do this if you feel comfortable and know you have the skillset to tackle such a job, I don’t think this requires a mill. The “logs” don’t seem to be very big to me. Especially since the largest one is on top of the pile. That to me means someone could lift it to put it there which would also mean to me that if you hauled these to a mill, they’d laugh at you. The mills around me take logs that are a minimum of 12” at the small end and are no shorter than 12’. They do make exceptions, but that’s what they’re set up to handle. Other mills may accept smaller or significantly larger logs, but tree limbs aren’t something they’ll do. I don’t know of any saw mill that will take a tree limb (unless it’s the size of a tree). Also, there’s nothing wrong with a chainsaw mill. I have one and use it all the time.

Also, be prepared for this wood to be hard to keep flat/stable when drying if they are tree limbs.

It will only crack about 2” deep so you are not loosing that much wood.GMman

Maybe. They could also split as far down as a foot depending on the wood and size. The could also check all the way down the side on the outermost layers. When they dry as boards, they could do the same (and check badly) if cut certain ways (though I don’t know much about applewood).

If you split them, I’d suggest having a bandsaw that is large enough to handle this and a way to move the logs through the saw in a controlled fashion.

-- "Well, at least we can still use it as firewood... maybe." - Doss

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