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Who cuts and cures their own wood?

Posted: Mon Apr 13, 2015 11:03 pm
by Edison Gebhard
I have some ideas for Russian Olive and I have access to tons of it, some nice specimens, real potential. Some questions on cutting and curing my own wood.

I noticed on many online retailers of tonewood the hard wood back and sides sets for guitars, etc. look like they were cut diagonal out of the crotch of a tree to get the beautiful figuring. Should I worry so much about quarter sawing back and sides?

Do I let it dry and cure like sound board woods? Or can I just start hacking it up right out of the wood pile?

Any tips and tricks would be greatly appreciated. Thank you all!

Re: Who cuts and cures their own wood?

Posted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 10:45 am
by Bryan Bear
I've only cut sets from dry stock so I wont' have many answers for you but I'll be watching with interest. Two of my oak trees have been marked by the county for removal and even though I personally don't thing red oak is very exciting I want to try to gut some sets if they will let me rescue a chunk. Really I am only interested because it will be neat to use the trees from my front yard. The trees are not massive so I will probably only be able to get uke sized quarter sawn sets but I'm hopping to squeeze out a parlor size.

My plan will be to split and quarter saw the log for a few reasons. This will be my first attempt at drying my own timber and quarter sawing will be less risky. I don't care at all for the look of red oak when it is flat sawn. quarter sawn wood is easier to bend without cupping and problems with my drying my be less obvious come build time. I think you definitely need to sticker your sets while drying you should seal the endgrain too. Hardwoods will air dry more slowly than top sets, at least that is what I have heard. I am not sure if it would be better to cut into thin boards for air drying or dry first then resaw. Hopefully people who know will weigh in.

My assumptions based on zero experience:

Pros of sawing into thins while green-
-green wood should be easier to cut
- thin boards will dry much faster
-problem boars will be a bit more obvious and I won't need to waste storage space on bad boards

Cons of sawing into thins while green-
- thin boards may move more while drying
- no extra wood to remove to flatten boards that have warped while drying
- resawing green wood sounds messy

Re: Who cuts and cures their own wood?

Posted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 11:52 am
by David King
I'd say the most important things are to cut 3-4" longer than final dimension and seal the ends. I've never seen a Russian olive that was more than an inch or two in diameter so I'd be very curious to check out the wood. Is it an actual olive?

Re: Who cuts and cures their own wood?

Posted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 1:55 pm
by Alan Carruth
It's fun working with wood you've cut from the tree, but it's also a lot of work. Risky, too; you never know just what you'll end up with until you've done most of the work. Summarizing with desperate brevity...

You'll have to work fast. If the logs are not bucked to length and reduced to wedges pretty quickly (as in days) they will dry out from the ends, and check. The local mills all have sprinklers on their log piles. There's some merit in working with long pieces: if the tree is big enough I'd try to get six foot lengths, which would make three backs or two sides. That way you can work around problems more productively. Realistically, don't cut the green wood too small: two pieces you can use beats three you can't.

You'll have fewer problems with drying degrade if you can dry the wood fast. One key is to reduce any tendency to check by cutting thin wedges and getting the moisture loss to be about equal on all faces. Checking and cupping are caused by the different rate of shrinkage of the wood in relation to the grain; little shrinkage along the grain, more across the grain radially (the quartered face), and much more tangentially (the flat cut face). A piece that shows curved annual ring lines on the end grain will tend to cup across the grain unless it's thick enough to make that impossible, in which case it checks. In some cases quartering the log is OK, but splitting into eight or more segments is much better. Straight grained wood can be split, otherwise you'll likely have to saw it. Always split in the middle: the split tends to run toward the thin side if you don't, regardless of runout.

Most wood loses moisture fastest through the end grain. Bark is pretty much waterproof: that's the point. Remove the bark to equalize moisture loss through all the side grain surfaces, and paint the end grain with something to slow it down. I find a couple of coats of cheap latex paint works fine: it sticks well to the fresh cut damp surface, and slows down moisture loss well enough. Don't bother to get exterior paint.

Square stack the billets, with each layer going across the one beneath. This minimizes contact between pieces of wood and allows for good air circulation. Stack the wood in a place that's in the open, but not in direct sun. Cover the top of the stack with a tarp or sheet metal, but leave the sides open. The idea is to keep rain off, but allow for free circulation of the air. The quicker you can get the wood dry the less mold and mildew you'll have. Turn the stack after a week or so, and take a good look at each piece. Anything that shows signs of checking needs to be trimmed back past the checks and re-painted. If there's mold spray it with a 10% bleach solution. Stacked this way the wood will get down to within 10% of 'dry' in about six weeks.

Now for the bad news: 'dry' is not the same as 'cured'. In a sense, wood never stops curing, as the older it gets the less capacity it has to absorb moisture from the air and the more stable it becomes. Usually hardwood is considered 'usable' if it's been dried for two years for every inch of thickness. There's another reason to make the wedges thin. Curing is best done in a drafty shed with a tight roof; it relies on changes in temperature and humidity. Moving the wood into a humidity controlled shop doesn't hasten it's cure; it may slow it down. Kiln drying can speed up the rate of cure, but it can also damage the wood if you don't know what you're doing. Proper kiln drying should not hurt the tone of the wood.

Re: Who cuts and cures their own wood?

Posted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 2:12 pm
by Daryl Kosinski
I have cut and cured lots of wood. Cutting thin when green results in potato chips. Seal the end grain as soon as the tree is cut, seal again after boards and splits are made. Cut or split no less than 1 inch thick. I allow at least 6 inches at each end for waste. I cut my boards 9 feet long if possible. I use cement blocks to get the wood pile at least a foot off the ground. 5 foot 4 X 4s spaced 2 foot, 1X1 sticker on top of the 4x4, start piling the first 2 layers with the lowest quality boards. Use 1x1 stickers between each layer 6 inches from the ends for the outermost sticker. I stack as high as I can reach, throw a tarp over the pile and wait 1 year for each 1 inch thickness of your boards. You can then move the boards inside and stack without stickers. The tree service should let you keep the whole tree if you ask. Ask them to leave you 9 foot lengths. You should be able to locate someone in your area with a portable saw mill to mill your logs. Red oak goes for stupid money in the big box lumber stores. The mill operator should be able to cut for max. quarter. If nothing else you can make some darn nice shelves for your shop.

Re: Who cuts and cures their own wood?

Posted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 7:19 pm
by Edison Gebhard
Wow! What a wealth of information! If I may distill this and ask a few questions...

Split ' lengths of trunk/tree into several wedges by halving a number of times.
Seal ends with paint.
Stack it up to dry where it is in the elements but sheltered from precipitation.
Cut boards and work with the wood two years later.

Now... more questions.

What kind of tools do you need from start to finish?
Obviously chainsaw for bringing down the tree and cutting the proper section of trunk and a draw knife for removing bark.
Am I wrong to assume that the VG pieces are most important for sides of acoustic instruments where as one has some liberty to use other more figured less stable pieces for the back?

Thank you knowledgeable folks! I will admit I am a little overwhelmed at the amount of information that got posted in such a short time!

Re: Who cuts and cures their own wood?

Posted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 8:34 pm
by Edison Gebhard
David, I almost forgot... no it is not an olive. It is one of the meanest scariest looking trees you ever saw, but the wood looks very similar to olive, quite pretty. I won't rewrite the whole article on Russian Olive, but I will tell you it is harder than maple. They are worthless for structural lumber because they generally do not grow straight up. However, there are many trees around with more than enough length/height to offer some nice pieces for guitar making. Where I live in Montana these trees are so prolific as to be considered a pest by some. I thought I might try to put them to a good use.

Re: Who cuts and cures their own wood?

Posted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 8:48 pm
by David King
How about a Russian olive back and sides and a juniper top. Oregon is trying to figure out what to do with it's juniper over-population. It's also beautiful wood and probably sounds terrific in the right dimensions.

Re: Who cuts and cures their own wood?

Posted: Tue Apr 14, 2015 9:21 pm
by Daryl Kosinski
I don't use paint. I use a product made just for that it dries to a waxy sort of finish.

Re: Who cuts and cures their own wood?

Posted: Tue May 19, 2015 9:08 pm
by Dan Smith
I cut and dry Mesquite.
I try to make my chainsaw cuts right down the end checks, parallel to the rays.
Cutting your own stuff gives you control of your finished stock.
I waste a lot of Mesquite, but I save it for the grill.
I made this one from a back yard Ash that had curly figure.

Re: Who cuts and cures their own wood?

Posted: Wed Jun 10, 2015 6:52 am
by Timothy Gregory
Hey good luck with your Red Oak.
I'd use a hatchet to bark them since it is an inch thick it needs more than a drawknife.
It seems rare that Oak gets much use in musical instruments although it often has a fine grain called a Wainscott figure.
Wainscotting usually means the wood has been split radially so as to show the figure.
Oak is almost a natural plywood with its broad rays at right angles to the wood grain.
In boats it swells more along the grain than across hence it has uneven rates of swelling and shrinking due to these perpendicular rays restraining it.
I saw some photos of Oak used in a good guitar made from recycled pallet wood.
Oak probably responds less to sound vibrations and maybe a dull sounding wood.
Due to the wood having a ply-style grain rather than a normal longitudinal grain.

Re: Who cuts and cures their own wood?

Posted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 12:28 am
by Mark Swanson
I own three or four old parlor guitars that are made of oak, two of them look great.

Re: Who cuts and cures their own wood?

Posted: Mon Jun 29, 2015 8:38 am
by Dale Penrose
I'm sawing up a holly log today. Hoping to get some nice purfling and binding strips out of the boards this winter. Will be cutting the log into 1/2 inch boards, sealing the ends in paraffin, and drying in the attic of my shop. Its a lot of work, but at the price of holly.....

Re: Who cuts and cures their own wood?

Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2015 1:15 pm
by Mike Conner
More tips on drying your own:
- Use dry stickers - cheap lath from a hardware store works great. Do not use green stickers cut from the same log as many sawyers might try - this greatly increases the risk of milidew or other staining.
- Definately remove the bark to discourage insects.
- While stacking, use a garden watering can to soak the wood with a wood boring pesticide mixed in water per directions.
- Cover the stickered pile with a very sturdy tarp. Use black landscaping cloth to wrap the perimeter of the pile - this cloth is lets some air and moisture move but keeps sunlight and birds out.
- 1 year per inch for red maple worked for me. (Cut green at 2.5" thick x 6 ft long. Dried to about 2.25)

Re: Who cuts and cures their own wood?

Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2015 4:01 pm
by Dan Smith
Sawed a Persimmon log recently.
It was filled with beetles in various stages of development.
I put it on the burn pile.
Always look for insects and search for nails.