Question about seasoning wood to prevent checking and cracking

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Forum topic by Richard549 posted 07-30-2014 02:50 AM 1300 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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17 posts in 1426 days

07-30-2014 02:50 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Recently I had a large limb of a ornamental plumb tree break off so I hauled out the chain saw and set about cleaning up the mess. The wood had a nice red tint to it and it was hard, so I cut some of the 2” – 4” diameter limbs into 18” lengths to make some carving mallets. Well, even though I sealed the end grain after removing the bark every piece ended up checking and cracking.

My question is this; should I have left the bark on and sealed the end grain? Removing bark while the wood is still green is so much easier, but I am afraid that the price I pay for that convenience is checking and cracking. Any suggestions? How should I seal limb wood and for how long?


-- Richard in Oroville

7 replies so far

View bigblockyeti's profile


5140 posts in 1747 days

#1 posted 07-30-2014 02:56 AM

Leaving the bark on does help the wood dry slower and reduce (not eliminate) checking. With the 18” sections you’ve cut, you’d likely get a good larger or couple smaller mallet heads from what was left after cutting the checked sections off the ends.

I just leave the bark on, seal the ends and spray for bugs, then allow the sections to dry in my shop (dehumidified) where air can circulate around them. 4” hardwood limbs seem to take about a year to get below 10% MC.

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

20599 posts in 3132 days

#2 posted 07-30-2014 04:13 AM

Leaving the bark on and coating with Anchor Seal seems to work best for me. You need good dry wood for mallet heads so they don’t crack. ..............Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View SundnR's profile


26 posts in 1436 days

#3 posted 07-30-2014 04:27 AM

i know i can only cut my willows in late fall/winter when the sap is down. if i were to cut something green in summer, it would deep crack throughout no matter what.


View Woodknack's profile (online now)


11804 posts in 2407 days

#4 posted 07-30-2014 04:28 AM

It’s very difficult to dry wood without checking if you leave the pith, you’ll notice the cracks radiate from the center (pith). Best bet is saw the wood down the center, even better to remove the pith all together, then seal the ends. Leaving bark on does help but it’ll dry a lot slower.

-- Rick M,

View WDHLT15's profile


1748 posts in 2503 days

#5 posted 07-30-2014 11:50 AM

I agree with Rick. On pieces with that small of a diameter, most of the wood is associated with the pith and is called juvenile wood. Juvenile wood will shrink more than mature wood that is laid down at about year 8 or 10, and it also shrinks a little longitudinally, unlike mature wood.

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

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 2985 days

#6 posted 07-30-2014 09:54 PM

Woods like that tend to split no matter what you do, it’s likely it would have done the same any way you chose to treat it.

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View Wildwood's profile


2322 posts in 2161 days

#7 posted 07-31-2014 11:37 AM

Drying wood from fruit & ornamental trees little tricky. Sounds like you allowed wood to dry too quickly.

You need to end seal, leave the bark on, store off the ground out of the weather (rain, sun light, and wind), and need gentle air circulation. Not familiar with climate (relative humidity) where you live but think might have benefitted by wrapping your wood in newspaper or plastic bags or sheets for week or two.

Limbs of any tree often contain reaction wood which dries differently than hardwood from base of a tree. Trees with crooked or bent bases contain reaction wood too.

Without getting crazy with tech stuff, do not see much or any longitudinal shrinkage along a log cut from base of the tree. We can see & measure shrinkage across the grain (tangential & radial).

Cells in reaction wood differ from those at the base of a tree, so will see shrinkage across and along length of a log which can definitely measure.

I destroy a nice haul of Mulberry logs several years ago with improper storage. End seal, bark on, stored on ground under a tarp with direct sunlight beating down. Took about a week or two to find my mistake. Ended up with some nice pens, and small candy dishes, and lots of fire wood.

-- Bill

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