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Thread: Milling a tree that's been down for a Long Period of Time

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    Madison, WI
    Posts
    26

    Milling a tree that's been down for a Long Period of Time

    A co-worker of mine offered to let me have for free a downed black walnut tree on their property. According to her, the tree is about 20ft tall with an unknown diameter. Here is the catch. The tree has been down for at least 1.5 years. How long can a tree realistically be down and be milled? If it's still reasonable to do, how can I estimate the number of bd feet that the tree will yield?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Cumberland, Maryland
    Posts
    268
    I'd go have a look at it first. If it has been laying on the ground all this time it may be unusable due to rot and insects.
    You have to know the diameter of the log to estimate yield; another reason to visit.
    You only need 2 tools in life. If it's supposed to move and doesn't... use WD40. It it moves and shouldn't... use duct tape.

  3. #3
    Black walnut is very rot resistant, the heart wood will still be good (sapwood will likely be rotten). Even with knowing the diameter, estimating bd ft will be an educated guess since the sapwood is probably bad by now.
    _______________________________________
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    cleveland,tn.
    Posts
    262
    I see you are in WI. so your active insect time is less due to the cold . I would look at the walnut but diameter and length is everything, walnut can grow crooked easily also it has to be trimmed to grow straight. figuring bf and having it accurate a lot of things need to be taken into consideration, you can have bf and not good usable wood.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Location
    Madison, WI
    Posts
    26
    I appreciate everyone's feedback.

    My main motivation for looking at this option is I want to build two chairs in walnut that I want to be steam bend so moisture content above 14% is preferable. I'm having a hard time finding air dried wood in south-central WI. This is a potentially opportunity to source the wood myself.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    New Hill, NC
    Posts
    2,167
    BW, after 1.5 years down should still be good. The sapwood might even not be too bad. Go for it!

  7. #7
    The thing is - a 20' black walnut is pretty small.. Basically a pup... Most likely under 10" diameter. Mature size is typically 50-70 feet tall...

  8. #8
    I had a downed walnut milled last fall that had been on the ground for at least a year. It wasn't all laying flat in the mud -- the shattered crown basically kept the main trunk elevated off the ground by a few feet, but the tree had still been down/dead for at least a year. It milled into a couple hundred board feet of spectacular wood.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2015
    Location
    Milwaukie, OR
    Posts
    28
    I was gifted about 10-12 walnut logs that had been lying in a pile for over 5 years, like others have said the sapwood had rotted but the heartwood was intact and we've milled some beautiful boards and slabs from it. Go for it, if you haven't already. My milling partner thinks I'm crazy but a maximum 20" diameter trunk can yield some usable wood.

  10. #10
    I've cut Walnut that was on the ground over 15 years. It was almost black inside.
    Very nice wood...

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