Harvesting Osage Orange

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dwight johnson
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Harvesting Osage Orange

Post by dwight johnson »

Hello, gang! I haven't been around for a while, it's time to get back into instrument building.

My tree service is going to cut down some trees for me and I got to chatting with the owner of the company. The short version is that next week he is going to cut down some Osage Orange trees nearby and is going to drop off “a few” of the trunks for me. I would like to cut them into wedges for archtop guitars.

My first inclination is to split it into wedges. The trees are still green and standing so I expect it to split reasonably well. I don't care about maximum yield or wasting wood. I'm sure it's more than I'll ever need. I've also heard about how hard the wood is on a chainsaw. I don't know what to expect. I've never seen an Osage Orange log before. Any experiences or advise to share?

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Bob Gramann
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Re: Harvesting Osage Orange

Post by Bob Gramann »

Seal the ends as quickly as you can so that it doesn't split as it dries. I've not worked with the wood green, but I wish I could. It's hard on blades when it's dry. Rumor is that it cuts a lot more easily green.

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G.S. Monroe
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Re: Harvesting Osage Orange

Post by G.S. Monroe »

Osage Orange is a beautiful wood, but like already said, it is hard on tools once it is dry.
Here is a tip from my brother-in-law, which is a wood turner.

Once you have the green wood cut into manageable shape, get yourself a washtub and full it with denatured alcohol. Fully immerse the wood in the alcohol for 2-3 days, then seal the end grain to keep it from splitting while it dries. The denatured alcohol will displace any water in the wood, and will evaporate much quicker. Stack the wood with a spacer under each end to allow air to circulate, and let it dry for 3-4 months.

He uses this method on the wood bowls he turns, and he says it cuts the drying time by about 30%

Osage Orange Data...
http://www.hobbithouseinc.com/personal/ ... orange.htm

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Bob Gramann
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Re: Harvesting Osage Orange

Post by Bob Gramann »

Watch out with that washtub of alcohol. Any ignition source and you have a real problem.

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Bryan Bear
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Re: Harvesting Osage Orange

Post by Bryan Bear »

I've never split Osage before but I know the grain can be knarly, it might be difficult splitting a large trunk.

I bought some Osage once that was big enough for back and sides but ruined it all trying to resaw. My saw is pretty wimpy and it just was not up to the task. I wonder if I would be better served buying rough sawn green boards and resawing then drying. I wonder if it would dry okay at say 1/4" or if it would go all wonky.
PMoMC

Take care of your feet and your feet will take care of you.

Michael Lewis
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Re: Harvesting Osage Orange

Post by Michael Lewis »

YES! Mill it while it is still wet. Don't split the 'logs', saw them. You will get a much easier to handle batch of wood when the pieces have reasonably flat sides.

The thing about milling wet wood is once you start you are there until everything is cut, sealed, and put away where it can dry. Needs to be out of the sun and where air can circulate freely. If you miss any of this process you are likely to lose much of the wood to checking.

If you are not ready to mill the wood when you get it seal the ends and make your arrangements for when you can do it.

Carving an archtop guitar out of osage orange will be a project you will remember for a long time and probably not repeat. You will find it rather difficult to carve by hand, but you can do it. Good luck.

Alan Carruth
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Re: Harvesting Osage Orange

Post by Alan Carruth »

All the Osage I've worked with has had interlocking grain. A cousin who got some for fire wood once told me it's almost impossible to split, and I believe it.

All I've ever gotten has been dried wood, and it shows a lot of honeycomb checking near the heart. This is another characteristic it shares with Brazilian rosewood. Make the wedges as small as possible along the bark side so that the included angle is not too great. I've had good luck on other woods painting the ends with a couple of coats of latex paint; all you need to do is even out the drying rate form all surfaces, rather than trying to actually seal the end grain. Good luck.

dwight johnson
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Re: Harvesting Osage Orange

Post by dwight johnson »

Thanks. It looks like I'll have to buy a new chain saw. I've only done this once with a maple tree. It split fairly well. There was a lot of waste, but there is so much wood it didn't mater. That was 7 years ago. I'm ready to use it now.

Bob Francis
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Re: Harvesting Osage Orange

Post by Bob Francis »

Look for a library book about bow making. . . as in hunting bows.
Long bow makers love it and recommend splitting it green close to size and then curing.

dwight johnson
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Re: Harvesting Osage Orange

Post by dwight johnson »

I have a couple of books on bow making. (violin) It's in the back of my mind to try it someday. Right now I'm thinking guitars.

Alan Carruth
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Re: Harvesting Osage Orange

Post by Alan Carruth »

There used to be a violin bow making summer course taught at the University of NH, and they used Osage to practice on. Apparently it makes a pretty good bow.

dwight johnson
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Re: Harvesting Osage Orange

Post by dwight johnson »

Found the course.

http://www.learn.unh.edu/violin/wkshops.html#b4

I doubt that I could get away for 2 weeks. I'll need something either shorter or near Chicago.

David King
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Re: Harvesting Osage Orange

Post by David King »

A violin bow is supposed to take 24H according to the French. I think I'd jump to pernambuco pretty quick if I had that much time into it. I do wonder how Osage looks to a Lucci meter?
The cheaper bows always seem to be "Brazilwood" which could be anything I'm betting.
Call around to the Chicago bow makers. I'll bet there's someone who would show you the ropes.

Steve Senseney
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Re: Harvesting Osage Orange

Post by Steve Senseney »

I don't mean to change the topic, but here is an Osage Bow reference--

http://www.mimf.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php ... 898#p17648

As far as harvesting osage, it is always a toss up going from wet wood to wedges. Is it best to cut to size and then dry or wait? It depends on your needs and patience and the grain pattern of your wood, and how dry your environment is.

David Boehnker
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Re: Harvesting Osage Orange

Post by David Boehnker »

I'm a little late to this, but I sawed up a green osage orange log (about 22 inches in diameter), then hunted down a local guy who had a trailer mounted bandsaw and paid him to resaw it into acoustic sets. The chain saw was okay for cutting up the green log. The thinnest setting for the bandsaw was 3/16", which is what i went for. One thing I noticed with my tree, and may be common, is that the center of the rings was nowhere near the center of the trunk, so we had to continuously manipluate the log around on the saw to get good quarter sawn sets. I stacked it green and painted the ends with latex, built with it 2 years later, no warping or degradation. The bandsaw blade did wander a little, leaving some thick areas but weirdly no thin areas, which means more work with drum sander later.

I did use one piece to make a neck, which I will never do again.

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