Finally, a gloat worthy wood score. Or now what am I going to do?

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Forum topic by Greg In Maryland posted 06-02-2014 11:23 PM 2117 views 1 time favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Greg In Maryland

550 posts in 2417 days

06-02-2014 11:23 PM

Topic tags/keywords: lumber milling drying stickering help white oak

So, I live in a heavily suburbanized area outside of Washington, DC. Rare are the opportunities for me to score some decent “free wood” of any substantial size. Lots of firewood, but nothing really beyond that.

Last Friday the homeowners association contractors cut down several large trees in the neighborhood and left numerous large logs. I certainly had my eye on them, but not much of an opportunity to get them myself. Fortunately the crew was out today with a bobcat getting ready to move the logs to the truck for transit to the dump. It took me about a nano second to make my move and convince them to put the logs in my driveway.

Here’s what I now have instead of a car in my driveway:

The log on the right is ~8 feet long, the diameter at the base is 31 inches tapering to ~24 inches in diameter at the top. (the base in the rear). The diameter of the log on the left is ~24 inches at the base tapering to ~15 inches in diameter at the top. (the base in the rear) and is ~9.5 feet long.

I am nearly certain that these are white oak. There is a closeup of the bark and what I think is a leaf from the felling.

Unfortunately, I coated the log ends with anchor seal before I took pictures, so no end grain pictures for your viewing pleasure. Any thoughts?

Using the woodweb calculator (doyle log scale), I come up with 352 board feet. Using retail prices and assuming that the logs do yield 352 board feet, I am calculating that the retail price is just a bit north of $2k. Ok, ok, I am not likely to get anywhere near this from the logs and it is going to cost me a few dollars to get the logs cut, but it is a fun exercise never the less.

Ok, so now what? What I am most interested in is getting a 4 1/2 inch slab for another work bench that I want to make, along with stretchers and legs, etc. I have my eye on the Moravian Workbench:

Here is a link for a better look: link I almost have a sawyer lined up (I know who I want to go with and he can retrieve the logs and cut to my specifications, I just have to connect with him) A few questions I have:

1) I plan stickering and elevating the lumber on concrete blocks outside. How may concrete blocks should I plan on under the stack for slabs 8.5 to 9.5 feet long? Does six sets of blocks sound like enough?

2) What type of wood should I use for stickering? Would home depot red oak work or pine? Keep in mind that the wood will need to be sitting outside for years. Does stickers that are 1 inch x 1 inch sound ok?

3) My thought is to get some quatersawn 5/4ths lumber as well as the slabs. I will put the 5/4ths lumber down first and then the slabs, then some cheap plywood and then top the entire stack with some stones/bags of gravel for weight. Does this sound like a reasonable approach?

4) Where I am going to store the wood is slightly slopped. My plan is to create a level concrete block arrangement. I suspect that if the concrete blocks are not level, the wood will dry warped. Is right?

5) Again, where I am going to store the wood is about 4 feet wide by ~20 feet long. I think that I can safely get a 3 to 3 1/2 foot wide stack, which will leave about a 6 to 12 inches clearance. The space is between two houses, has a flagstone base and is well sheltered from glaring sun. The area acts like a wind tunnel so there is plenty of air circulation. Does this sound like a reasonable spot?

6) I was thinking of keeping the stack exposed to the weather for the rest of spring, summer, and fall, and then cover it with a tarp for the winter. Should I be concerned about snow accumulation?

7) The trees were taken down because of their size and approximation to townhouses, so I do not think that they were diseased. I did not see any overt signs of bugs or other critters. Is there anything I can do to ensure that I don’t get any visitors?

Lastly, anyone have any advise on convincing the wife that this was a good idea and that two massive logs in her driveway isn’t a ludicrous idea? She comes home in 40 minutes, so I need to think quickly.



15 replies so far

View ColonelTravis's profile


1154 posts in 1313 days

#1 posted 06-02-2014 11:48 PM

Tell your wife she can have this $4,000 dresser for free. Might go over easier than saying it’s for your workbench, and by the time the wood’s ready you can sneak in your bench build and by that time she’ll have forgotten all about it, which will absolutely, positively, guaranteed never happen, but it’s nice to pretend.

Can’t answer any other questions, sorry, but big congrats on the logs. Good luck!

View Sandra's profile


6933 posts in 1494 days

#2 posted 06-02-2014 11:52 PM

No advice on the wood, but tell your wife that you’re sorry that you haven’t been a good listener and if she still wants you to, you’d love to take dancing lessons with her.

Okay, just dreaming. Good luck though.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View Tim's profile


3030 posts in 1381 days

#3 posted 06-02-2014 11:54 PM

There are several good USDA publications on air drying lumber. I have one saved called “Drying Hardwood Lumber”, but searching for it found a number of similar titles. Here’s a link to one that will be helpful since you seem to be a detail oriented person:

The only problem I can see with the spot you have picked out is zoning and/or HOA restrictions for what can be stored between the houses. I guess dampness could be a problem if it doesn’t get any sun.

And there’s several people here that have lots of experience and they can help better.

View changeoffocus's profile


457 posts in 1037 days

#4 posted 06-03-2014 12:09 AM

I recently toured an Amish lumber company in my area and was amazed by the level of technology at their site.
They use special stickers imported from Canada that are quite unique. The gentleman that provided the tour spent a good deal of time explaining their value.
Other than that I have nothing else to offer.
I do know there are a lot of sawyers on this site and it will interesting to see their replies.
Good luck on your bench project.
Bob Current

View chrisstef's profile (online now)


15459 posts in 2426 days

#5 posted 06-03-2014 12:43 AM

Far from expert here but id say use stickers from the same log. Tannins in oak mixing with other species kinda has my wheels turnin for some reason.

Killer score!

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

View summerfi's profile


3260 posts in 1107 days

#6 posted 06-03-2014 01:20 AM

Your approach sounds reasonable to me. I’ve never made a workbench top out of one large slab, but I wonder if splitting and warping might be a problem in a piece that big. Laminating the top similar to a butcher block or bowling alley would be an alternative. Others may have more experience with this.

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works

View WDHLT15's profile


1562 posts in 1895 days

#7 posted 06-03-2014 01:35 AM

To answer your questions:

Sicker the lumber at 16” intervals. I go with 7 base supports for 8’ lumber and 8 base supports for 9’ lumber whenever possible. The stickers have to line up with the base supports. 1” x 1” stickers are perfect. The stickers have to be dry. Green stickers, even cut from the same log, will lead to sticker stain on your lumber that will not plane out. Any dry wood ripped 1” x 1” will do. Get the cheapest lumber available to make stickers. Big Box Store red oak costs $8/BF. Way to expensive for stickers. Make a nice level foundation. Use a string to check that the base supports are all level with each other.

The stack MUST be covered. Do not let the stack get wet from rain and go through repeated wet/dry cycles. That will ruin your white oak (yes, what you have is white oak Quercus alba). Cover it with plywood if you do not have any old roofing tin or if the neighbors are persnickety. The stack needs at least 12 – 18” clearance on all sides. Between the houses is OK if there is clearance. Ideal stack width is 4’. 3’ or 3.5’ will be fine.

After your lumber is sawn, put the very best grade on the bottom of the stack and the very worst on the top. The weight of the lower grade will help to keep the best grade flat.

Oak is notorious for cracking at the pith. Do not cut your timbers from the center of the log with the pith in the timber. Your timber will crack and split. After the cant is squared on the sawmill, cut the thickest pieces first, then cut the thinner pieces toward the pith. On a thinner board, you can rip the pith cracks out. On a thick timber, you cannot.

Oak has to dry slow. It has to be dried slower than almost any domestic hardwood. Of the oaks, the white oaks have to be dried the slowest. A wind tunnel is not a good place. You need free air flow, but not a wind tunnel. You could put a baffle on the side of the prevailing wind a couple of feet from the stack to slow down the wind.

You need really big logs to efficiently quartersaw. Those are on the small side unless you want very narrow lumber. I would saw for the max width and best grade for logs that size. A fellow sawyer and I just quartersawed a white oak a few weeks ago. It was 30” on the small end and 19’ long. The bigger the log the better for quartersawing.

The bug risk is powderpost beetles. You can spray the boards on all sides with a disodium octaborate tetrahydrate solution. Mix 6 pounds of the powder to 5 gallons of water, let sit overnight, stir and dissolve thoroughly. Spray all sides of the boards to saturation/runoff. 5 gallons will spray about 250 board feet. Be sure and spray the edges too. You can order the chemical under the trade name Timbor. It is 98% disoduin octaborate tetrahydrate. You can also use Solubor or Beau-ron D. Both are also 98% disodium octaborate tetrahydrate. However, these last two are labeled as a boron micronutrient addition to liquid fertilizer. Exactly the same stuff as Timbor, but 1/3rd the cost. You can also get liquid boron solution is a 10% concentration from a AG or Fertilizer supply store. Mix 28 ounces of 10% boron solution to each gallon of water. It cost somewhere between the cost of Timbor and Solubor at about $2 per gallon of spray mix. Solubor will cost a little more than $1 per gallon of spray, Timbor will cost a bit more than $3/gallon of spray mix.

The picture is 730 BF of quartersawn sycamore cut last Saturday. This is 9’ lumber with 7 base supports. 8 would have been better, but 7 will work. The end base supports should be only a couple of inches at most from the ends of the boards. Make sure your stickers line up and are over the base supports, otherwise your lumber will dry wavy.

I look forward to seeing the end results of this adventure!

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

View AnonymousRequest's profile


861 posts in 968 days

#8 posted 06-03-2014 02:08 AM

Get down Greg! You have white oak for sure and it’s much prettier than a car setting in your driveway. Good luck with the Wife. Your homeowner’s association has probably scheduled a meeting regarding “the wood in Greg’s driveway.” LOL

View Greg In Maryland's profile

Greg In Maryland

550 posts in 2417 days

#9 posted 06-03-2014 10:32 PM

Hey everyone, thanks for the comments. Tim and Danny, your info has been particularly helpful.

I have the sawyer coming tomorrow to pick up the logs. We’ll both cut them in two weeks on his property and then I’ll transport them home. Hopefully I’ll get some pictures of the fun.

So, the biggest hurdles so far has been convincing SWMBO that this was a good idea. When I told her the ‘retail value’ of the logz—$2k, her response was to send me out for more logs. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that a) I plan on using most of the wood and b) there isn’t much of a chance that I could really get all that.

Based on some of the comments above, I am not going to attempt to store the stickered wood in the passage way between houses—not enough space for clearance, it is sloped, it is somewhat on the damp side and perhaps too windy. I am going to commandeer a bit of the patio in the backyard. The bonus is that it is competely level, so all I need is some 2by for the base. The downside is that it is quite exposed to the sun. I will have to do more covering up. That and convincing SWMBO that the stack is only temporary. As in only in our back yard for 4 1/2 years …. I wonder if I am going to be banished outside too? Perhaps I can spin the stack as a Nakashima-inspired garden furniture? I am not sure she knows who Nakashima is, so that may not work.

Thanks guys. I hope to have pictures and an update soon.


View Tim's profile


3030 posts in 1381 days

#10 posted 06-04-2014 12:05 AM

Wow, go Danny.

Greg, let us know if you get a covered place to sleep next to your lumber stack.

View Woodendeavor's profile


276 posts in 2026 days

#11 posted 06-04-2014 12:28 AM

Hey Greg who are you getting to mill the Lumber for you? I live in Washington county but I am alway keeping my eye open for another sawmill

View shampeon's profile


1705 posts in 1603 days

#12 posted 06-04-2014 12:36 AM

Ask your sawyer if he knows of a kiln you can use to dry it. It’ll mean cash upfront, but maybe cheaper than a divorce.

-- ian | "You can't stop what's coming. It ain't all waiting on you. That's vanity."

View sepeck's profile


314 posts in 1560 days

#13 posted 06-04-2014 12:48 AM

Fortunately my wife’s only question would be “You’re at least making me something with that log right?”

-- -Steven Peck,

View WDHLT15's profile


1562 posts in 1895 days

#14 posted 06-04-2014 01:49 AM

”Greg, let us know if you get a covered place to sleep next to your lumber stack.”

I don’t think that lumber will be a good mattress, and it could be drafty!!

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

View HerbC's profile


1567 posts in 2279 days

#15 posted 06-07-2014 07:59 AM

Danny (WDHLT15) has given you great advise. He is a true expert in this area…

One thing you mentioned was that you intended to cover the stack with a tarp this winter. DO NOT USE A TARP OR PLASTIC SHEETING TO COVER THE STACK. Both will trap moisture in the stack an lead to major problems with mold and mildew. You DO need to cover the top of the stack with something to keep the stack from getting wet if it rains. Old roofing tin works, just make sure you leave a gap between the top of the stack and the tin to allow air flow.

Good Luck!

Be Careful!


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

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