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Thread: Advice needed wrt storing freshly downed wood

  1. #1
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    Advice needed wrt storing freshly downed wood

    Hey all, I will be getting started with turning in weeks/months but I bumped into an opportunity for free wood and couldn't pass it up. My neighbor took down a large river birch in his yard. I rescued 3 nice chunks from his firewood pile the next day, before they started to check. I coated the end grain with Rockler's version of Anchorseal and they are now sitting in my garage.
    2 pieces are crotches and the other should be nice straight grain. All 16-18" diameter. I'm hoping that the crotches will have some nice figure for platters and the straight piece will give me several nice pepper mill blanks.

    Having never started with freshly downed wood, I have a question about how promptly I need to cut the turning blanks from these pieces. Can I wait a few months or should I try to cut these up immediately? Would prefer to wait a bit if I can. Also, another question I have is whether, after cutting the blanks, should I coat the entire blank in "anchorseal", or just the end grain, so that the blank can dry a bit through face grain.

    Appreciate your advice on this.
    Thanks!
    Brian

    "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger or more complicated...it takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." - E.F. Schumacher

  2. #2
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    You need to cut the pith out yesterday. I recommend cutting at least a 15% of diameter (about 2-1/2 to 3" section) out to clear the pith which may not be in the center of your sections. The end grain needs to be sealed for sure and wood stacked off any slab. Enclosing with paper to minimize air movement also helps. Cutting out pith applies to straight and crotch sections. River Birch will definitely check and split fairly rapidly with the pith. Hopefully your sections are about 2x diameter in length to allow cutting back when you start to turn. For 16" D or so and larger, I often will cut pie sections (1/3 or even more) sections for natural edge platters that will be about 1.5x diameter in length and D or less in width. Good luck and remember, wood grows on trees and can be replaced.

  3. #3
    Peppermill blanks need to be dry. If you have a bandsaw, cut the blanks and coat them with green wood sealer. It might take a year before they are dry. The best way to judge that is to weigh them periodically with a scale that will weigh to a resolution of one gram.

    The best way to learn is to join a local club. There is a club in Columbus, Ohio (http://www.centralohiowoodturners.org/)

    For bowls and platters I wouldn't cut the wood into blanks until I'm ready to turn them. Most of the time I just chainsaw a section of log and put that between centers to rough turn the exterior then hold it in a chuck to rough out the interior.
    Bill

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Tymchak View Post
    Hey all, I will be getting started with turning in weeks/months but I bumped into an opportunity for free wood and couldn't pass it up. My neighbor took down a large river birch in his yard. I rescued 3 nice chunks from his firewood pile the next day, before they started to check. I coated the end grain with Rockler's version of Anchorseal and they are now sitting in my garage.
    2 pieces are crotches and the other should be nice straight grain. All 16-18" diameter. I'm hoping that the crotches will have some nice figure for platters and the straight piece will give me several nice pepper mill blanks.

    Having never started with freshly downed wood, I have a question about how promptly I need to cut the turning blanks from these pieces. Can I wait a few months or should I try to cut these up immediately? Would prefer to wait a bit if I can. Also, another question I have is whether, after cutting the blanks, should I coat the entire blank in "anchorseal", or just the end grain, so that the blank can dry a bit through face grain.

    Appreciate your advice on this.
    Thanks!
    Brian,E

    I process a LOT of green wood into turning blanks. I sometimes use a chain saw, sometimes my sawmill, but mostly the bandsaw (which will cut 12" high). How you process depends on what tools you have and what kind of blanks you want. If making bowl blanks I work differently than if I want spindle/box/vase, etc blanks (which I do mostly).

    Either way I start by cutting down the middle. I don't bother cutting a slab out that contains the pith since usually my next step cuts a block that has the pith close to one corner. I generally cut blanks as large as I can from the log half then cut smaller blanks until I run out of wood. I always coat the end grain. I sometimes coat the side grain if it is highly figured or in some special cases such as sides of dogwood that have both heartwood and sapwood, prone to split. You are safe coating the entire blank but I find this unnecessary for most blanks, especially smaller spindle squares.

    If I decided to leave any defects such as checks or minor cracks in the blank I mark them with a bright red sharpie so I won't be surprised later. Then I put the blanks on wire shelves to dry. If I have time I weigh representative blanks from that log and write the weight on a masking tape label on the wood. Periodic reweighing proves when the blank is as dry as it's going to get.

    After some months or years of drying, I often take blanks back to the bandsaw and skim off the sides and cut thin pieces from each end and check for drying defects, cutting away or marking them as I feel like it, then re-seal the end grain if not completely dry.

    Some pictures of the process on the shop bandsaw:

    processing_B01.jpg processing_B03.jpg processing_B06.jpg processing_B07.jpg

    processing_wood_.jpg processing_wood_2.jpg processing_wood_3.jpg

    drying_IMG_5757.jpg

    As I mentioned, if I'm cutting bowl blanks I work somewhat differently. Natural-edged bowls and vessels, burls, crotches, different still.

    Best to cut it all up as soon as you can which will greatly reduce loss from cracks and checks. If you do this often eventually you'll have an abundance of dry turning wood. I'm now using some wood I cut up over 10 years ago.

    JKJ

  5. #5
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    You are likely to get has many opinions as turners respond to your post. I do not have much experience with birch. With the oak, walnut, silver maple, and russain olive, which are plentiful inmy areea, I just leave it in log form and when I need a blank I cut 6 inches off the end, and then cut enough for the project. I don't think my method will work for you as it sounds like your wood is already cut to firewood length. Good luck.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Williams View Post
    You are likely to get has many opinions as turners respond to your post. I do not have much experience with birch. With the oak, walnut, silver maple, and russain olive, which are plentiful inmy areea, I just leave it in log form and when I need a blank I cut 6 inches off the end, and then cut enough for the project. I don't think my method will work for you as it sounds like your wood is already cut to firewood length. Good luck.
    Yes, one key question to answer here is will the wood be turned wet or dry. The platters and pepper mills Brian mentioned are typically (and arguably, best) turned dry.

    Some people turn bowls and hollow forms and such from wet wood. The log method you describe is fantastic for turning wet wood. The "cut up and air dry" method is good for turning dry wood.

    BTW, I've found birch fairly easy to dry successfully. I have river birch and paper birch, at least those are the names used by the donors.

    JKJ

  7. #7
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    Thank you all for your responses. I checked those pieces this morning and 2 of the 3 have started to check from the pith. So, it looks like your advice to cut those immediately is spot on. I wonder if the sealer helped at all.

    I do intend to let these blanks dry. Although I don't have any experience at this, I figured that platters and peppermills are better turned dry than wet. Appreciate the confirmation on that thinking.

    I'm totally unprepared at this point to handle green wood. I'll have to cut these down to manageable size with a chainsaw tomorrow (always fun to get a new toy!) to move them to my basement shop where I can bandsaw to final size. Not sure how often I will be doing this sort of thing. This is the first time I've had this kind of opportunity.

    Bill, you mention Central Ohio Woodturners. I will likely be joining them in the next few months. I talked to a couple of members recently and it seems like a good move for me.

    John, thanks for the details on your process. That is very helpful. BTW, that is a beautifully spalted wood.

    Again, thank you all. Looking forward to seeing how this comes out.
    Brian

    "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger or more complicated...it takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." - E.F. Schumacher

  8. #8
    Logs, I try to leave them whole and cut off chunks as needed. I do keep them covered and out of sun and wind. If they are cut into fire wood sized pieces, I do like to rip them down the pith, and end seal them. Most of the time there is already a crack off of the pith, and a lot of the time it matches on the other end of the piece, so I try to rip down that crack line. I don't always try to line up the grain as I would want for a bowl blank where you try to center the grain in the bottom of the bowl. Some times the existing crack matches that orientation, some times not. Generally, the sooner you can rough it out, the less cracking you will get.

    robo hippy

  9. #9
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    more about processing green wood into dry blanks

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Tymchak View Post
    Thank you all for your responses. I checked those pieces this morning and 2 of the 3 have started to check from the pith. So, it looks like your advice to cut those immediately is spot on. I wonder if the sealer helped at all.

    I do intend to let these blanks dry. Although I don't have any experience at this, I figured that platters and peppermills are better turned dry than wet. Appreciate the confirmation on that thinking.

    I'm totally unprepared at this point to handle green wood. I'll have to cut these down to manageable size with a chainsaw tomorrow (always fun to get a new toy!) to move them to my basement shop where I can bandsaw to final size. Not sure how often I will be doing this sort of thing. ...
    Brian,

    Some tree sections of some species will start to check within minutes of cutting. If you catch it early enough, the pith and end checks are not usually a problem. Early end checks usually don't go very deep. It's important to remove them, though, since the small cracks can propagate into large cracks and splits. When processing wood into blanks to dry I remove a very thin slice off both ends and flex them. If they break easily I slice a little more and test again. Then when I reach sound wood I seal immediately.

    On the practical side, I put an inch or so of sealer in a plastic coffee container. A cheap 2-3" disposable paint brush will fit nicely inside. No need to ever clean the brush - just put it inside and close the lid when done. If the sealer thickens a little as it dries in the can that's good - it just goes on thicker! I usually leave the lid off for a few days just so it will thicken. (They make it runny so it can be sprayed, for example at a sawmill operation.)

    If new to chainsaws, be VERY careful. When I got my first chainsaw (and my tractor, bobcat, etc.) I researched to find all the ways to be seriously maimed or killed. It is surprising how just doing one thing wrong can instantly ruin your life. If new to chainsaws, if at all possible find someone with experience that you trust to help get started. The little book "The Good Woodcutters Guide" is an excellent education. https://www.amazon.com/Good-Woodcutt.../dp/1890132152 The chainsaw manuals are worth reading front to back.

    Same thing with bandsaws. If not experienced with cutting green wood on a bandsaw be advised that although it is one of the safest saws things can go wrong in an instant if unaware of the dangers. For example, I often cut round log sections but never unsupported - cutting any piece without full support from where the blade enters the wood and to the bandsaw table can cause the blade to grab, slam the wood to the table, destroy the blade, and possibly damage the bandsaw. People have been injured and lost fingers. With the wood properly supported it is extremely safe. If not experienced with cutting round things perhaps a local turner could help get started. Or take a drive down the road to TN - I've had two classes so far on preparing turning blanks from green wood and some have asked for another one when I get time. (If you come, bring my brother - he's up the road in Marysville!)

    A great book to read is "Understanding Wood" by R. Bruce Hoadley. https://www.amazon.com/Understanding.../dp/1561583588 Hoadley is not only a wood expert but a craftsman. I think it is extremely important to understand just how wood behaves as it dries and as the humidity changes after it dries. Platters are usually turned from dry wood since a face turning (with the grain going across the face) can warp like crazy, depending on where in the log the blank comes from. In extreme cases a beautiful platter can look like a pringles potato chip in short order. Same thing for bowls, if the intent is to have a round bowl that stays round and sits flat on a table. Many people do like to turn bowls from green wood and just let it warp. Lots of people like that look. From what I've seen over the years in club show-and-tell sessions a lot of people have never bothered to learn how wood shrinks as it dries.

    Blanks that are used for peppermills, boxes, and other similar things are also typically turned from dry wood. If turned from wet wood they can shrink and warp while drying, depending again on where the blank is cut from the log. The book Understanding Wood will help a lot with understanding this! If the wood is not dry all the way through even an end grain turning like a pepper mill can go out of round enough to cause a functional problem. One way to solve this is to rough turn the mill or box blank then let it dry before final turning, perhaps drilling a hole down the center to allow it to dry quickly.

    Note that the species of wood can make a lot of difference in stability. For example, mesquite can be very stable. Oak can be horrible. I don't know about birch since I've never tried to turn it green.

    Don't hesitate to ask specific questions about processing, drying, and turning dry wood! I have turned a lot of wet green wood and it's a while lot of fun but I don't find it that interesting (for one thing, turning bowls from green wood is just too easy.) I find turning dry wood more challenging and rewarding, especially when turning harder and denser woods. I also prefer to turn smaller things which leaves me out of the bigger and bigger bowl club.

    BTW, I find processing green wood into dry turning blanks very addictive, almost as much as turning. As a result, I have WAY too much turning stock, probably 4 lifetimes worth at the moment!! (not even counting the exotics) Maybe I need to seek out some professional help...

    amabrosia_maple_IMG_20171202_175922_594.jpg Spalted_IMG_20170118_132621.jpg rack1_2_IMG_5762.jpg exotics_larger_IMG_5764.jpg
    dogwood_IMG_5759.jpg ambrosia_maple_IMG_20171229_171452_122.jpg burls.jpg bandsaw_blank_IMG_20180312_161447_777.jpg

    JKJ
    Last edited by John K Jordan; 09-15-2019 at 3:00 PM.

  10. #10
    John
    I am not a proffesional,but would gladly help you with your problem of too many blanks.lol

  11. #11
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    Well, I got 2 of the 3 pieces cut up today. Was a lot more work and mess than I figured it would be.

    Here's the yield so far. 2 platter blanks (bottom), 8 mill blanks yet to visit the bandsaw (top), and a miscellaneous cut that had some nice figure in it. Not sure what if anything I might do with that.

    b20190916_133053.jpg

    Both platter blanks have some crotch figure. Here's the best of the 2.

    20190916_132625.jpg

    I greatly appreciate all the advice you all provided. Hopefully in a year or so, I'll be able to turn these into some nice finished products.

    Thanks!
    Last edited by Brian Tymchak; 09-16-2019 at 4:08 PM.
    Brian

    "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger or more complicated...it takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." - E.F. Schumacher

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Tymchak View Post
    ... Hopefully in a year or so, I'll be able to turn these into some nice finished products.
    Excellent!

    If you record the weight of each piece now (or one of each size/thickness) and reweigh periodically you might be surprised at how fast some pieces reach EMC (equlibrium moisture content), especially the thinner blanks! I've had some quit changing weight in just a few months.

    I use inexpensive kitchen scales ordered from Amazon. I write the date and weight in grams on a piece of masking tape stuck to the wood.

    JKJ

  13. #13
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    You inspired me go go cut up some pieces of my own. I've had some cherry and maple logs wasting away here for months and last night cut a few chunks so I could take some to the woodturning club tonight for the wood raffle. It didn't take long now I have a good way to hold a log at working height! I cut half of one cherry round into turning squares on the bandsaw and I'll take those to show, maybe see who's interested in another little how-to workshop/class.

    The picture also shows my patented Anchorseal and brush-holding container.

    cherry_maple_excavator_hold.jpg

    JKJ

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