Cutting down a Holly tree - worth saving?

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Forum topic by jmos posted 04-29-2014 12:04 PM 7327 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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827 posts in 2363 days

04-29-2014 12:04 PM

I live in a pretty high density area, and don’t have much property. My neighbor is going to be taking down a Holly tree on the common border of our properties, and I’m pretty sure he would let me have any part of it I wanted. My end use would likely be for stringing, inlay, and other detail work, not so much looking for lumber for boards. Holly seems to be fairly hard to find and expensive, so I’m thinking it might be worth while to try to dry it.

It’s 6” to 8” diameter, and the trunk from ground to the first branches is about 8’, and pretty straight. I’m wondering if it’s worth trying to save the 8’ segment of the trunk? I would likely have to store it in my basement, where my shop is.

I’ve never dried lumber before. What would be the best way to do it? Remove the bark first, or leave it on? Should I let it dry as a log (or pieces of logs), or bandsaw it into rough boards? For a tree that small, do you need to seal the ends? I know I would need to keep it off the floor and sticker to allow air circulation. Any other key points I’m missing?


-- John

9 replies so far

View mahdee's profile


3883 posts in 1761 days

#1 posted 04-29-2014 12:15 PM

At this time of the year the sap is running up the tree pretty aggressively which makes debarking fairly easy. At the same time the tree becomes very wet and the chance of it cracking while it drys increases. If you can talk your neighbor into cutting it in the fall, that would be a better option. Regardless, If you square the 8’ section and give it a few years to season and then cut it into boards, the chance of cracking and twisting will be reduced.


View WDHLT15's profile


1741 posts in 2470 days

#2 posted 04-29-2014 12:15 PM

Holly will gray stain on you very quickly if not sawn and dried promptly. If the wood is gray stained (a chemical oxidation reaction that occurs in some woods when exposed to warm humid conditions), it loses its value for stinging, inlays, etc. You will need to end seal it (get some paraffin wax from the home canning section of your supermarket, melt it, and apply. Cheap, easy to find, and very effective).

Saw it as soon as possible, sticker it with 1” stickers, and locate the stickered stack where it is protected from sun and rain. If it gets wet like with rain, you are sunk as it will gray stain. You also need good steady air flow for the first 4 weeks or so. You can use a cheap box fan blowing alongside the stack to keep the air moving through the layers. I would not have the fan blowing directly through the layers, but parallel to the stack.

Holly is one of the more difficult woods to dry and keep its nice bright color.

-- Danny Located in Perry, GA. Forester. Wood-Mizer LT40HD35 Sawmill. Nyle L53 Dehumidification Kiln.

View Thermaloy_Jnr's profile


23 posts in 1597 days

#3 posted 04-29-2014 12:56 PM

Holly is fantastic for turning.

If you have a lathe setup then I woul take what you can, put end seal on the exposed, or paint will do the same job. Leave it 12-18 months and you will have beautiful wood to turn.

-- Thermaloy_Jnr

View jmos's profile


827 posts in 2363 days

#4 posted 04-30-2014 06:44 PM

Thanks for the input guys! I appreciate it.

-- John

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 2952 days

#5 posted 05-01-2014 05:41 PM

If there is an option to, it is best to cut it down in the middle of winter when the sap is as minimal as possible; holly sap tends to streak ugly grey lines thru the wood if you cut it in the summer. Agreeing with what has been stated so far above.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View Underdog's profile


1095 posts in 2030 days

#6 posted 05-01-2014 05:49 PM

The key to drying lumber is drying it in a controlled manner. If uncontrolled, it will split and twist, and build up tension in the wood. There are many methods of doing drying, but applying wax emulsions to at least the end grain tend to help the most with air drying.

Also removing the center of the log from the equation will help- ie. split the log down the center and remove the center 2 inches. If you quarter saw it, it will also be more stable.

-- "woodworker with an asterisk"

View Redoak49's profile


3239 posts in 1983 days

#7 posted 05-01-2014 10:52 PM

In general, Holly is quite expensive and selling for up to $30 bf from some suppliers. I have been trying to get some pieces for Intarsia projects and it is just not each to find a good piece.

It needs to be cut and dried properly and kept out of the sun or it will discolor.

View Redoak49's profile


3239 posts in 1983 days

#8 posted 05-03-2014 11:03 PM

Just an addition to me previous post. I purchased a piece of 4/4 Holly that was 4” wide and 36” long for $20 a day ago. It had two small knots in it but other wise was good with no cracks.

I use the wood for Intarsia and it is quite valued because it is a very white colored wood.

If I had a couple of sections of that size round, I would cut them to about 3 ft long and use my bandsaw to cut into rough boards to sticker and dry for a year or so.

View jmos's profile


827 posts in 2363 days

#9 posted 05-04-2014 12:41 PM

Thank for all the advice. As I mentioned, I’ll be keeping this in my basement shop, so sun and rain aren’t issues.

I’ll give it a shot and see how it goes.

-- John

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