Bill's Wood Creations
  Mouse Bank

Another Way to Dry Wood

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to meet a man who said he was a logger in past years. From what I saw and heard, I felt he knew from experience what he was talking about. I thrive on practical experience and this man appeared to have had plenty. He was cutting a walnut stump into slabs with a parallel cutting chainsaw. The stump couldn't have been over two feet high x 18 inches diameter and when completely cut up, it was in two inch thick flatsawn slabs.

The Forest Service publication on wood drying says for best results in preventing splitting, cracking and warping, quartersaw for good lumber. Obviously this stump was not quartersawn.

At the time I talked to the logger I had about two cubic yards of walnut cut similar to this 24" high stump lumber that had been drying for over four years. It had been stacked to dry according to the Forest Service recommendations, stickered and in the shade in a dry area. I cried when I looked at this pile of firewood. Cracks, splits and warps appear to be my middle names. I was completely discouraged in my first efforts to dry hardwood.

Getting back to my logger friend and his practical experience, I asked him how soon he intended to use his freshly cut stump for firewood, referring to my own experience. He said, with calm control, that one thing the Forest Service doesn't tell you about drying wood is that vertical standing lumber will dry with a great deal less "cracking, splitting and warping." Needless to say, I had my doubts.

About a month later, a friend asked if I was interested in sawing a walnut stump for firewood. I said I would bring my saws and help out. Well, there are those of us that get very emotionally involved with a tree, especially a black walnut tree (cut down for roadwork) that was over 30 inches in diameter and about seven feet to the first branch. One of the three, 8' x 18" diameter straight limbs had already been cut up for firewood. Needless to say the rest was not going to be firewood. I felt like a diamond cutter making the first cut. My friend wanted only a two inch thick vertical section out of the middle of the trunk for a coffee table. The rest was mine, mine, mine!

Using a 36" chain saw and a parallel cutting attachment, I sawed the tree into "flatsawn lumber" like the loggers stump. I was prepared to have success with vertical standing drying or some very beautiful walnut junk.

Two years after cutting up that downed tree, not one "crack, split or warp" has shown up in the two inch thick vertically standing slab from the heart of the main stump. Stored only out of direct sunlight, it looks great. I am passing on this information to those who love wood and have a big chain saw. If it doesn't work for you, try quartersawing.

Since that time I quartersaw with an Alaskan Mini-Mill and stand the lumber for drying. I have found that painting the ends of the boards is not necessary. I get almost no end checks, certainly I do not have to cut off 4" common to horizontally dried lumber.