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post #1 of 10 Old 02-10-2019, 12:04 PM Thread Starter
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Newbie wood storage and prep questions

Other than an intro, this is my first post. For years I've wanted to try turning and I'm finally making the time for it. Buying wood is expensive and I'd rather put the money into some of the tools I'll need than wood for learning, so I've been reaching out to see if anyone has trees they are cutting down.

One friend at work has rental property and is removing some trees so I offered to help. About a month ago, we cut down a small tree which we believe is sugarberry. He also gave me a ten foot cedar log that's 8-10 inches in diameter.The cedar has been out in the elements for about a year and has some cracks so I'm not sure what I'll be able to get out of it. I also took out one of many wax myrtles I have in my yard. I knew I needed to seal the ends, but wasn't sure of the best choice so I used some old varnish I had in the shop.

Yesterday I went to another of his lots and we cut down a wild cherry and a couple trunks from a tree he called a chinaberry. The chinaberry has a couple more trunks which are bigger than what I got yesterday, but both of our saws started misbehaving, and my truck was full enough, so we decided to call it a day and take the rest down in a month or two. I had done a bit more research and found people reporting decent results with latex paint to seal the ends, and I have several unused gallons from when we built our house, so I slathered some on the ends when I got home. I had read that it's best to seal the ends immediately after cutting, but I couldn't have my friend stand there while I painted each end so I had to wait until I got home and unloaded them. One of the pictures gives a good example of the cracks that develop in just a few hours.

I plan to use the thinner pieces to practice spindles and make handles for files and rasps, etc. I may also try making some small decorative pieces. I'm undecided on what to do with the medium pieces, but my wife has already put in an order for a rolling pin. I'd like to try making bowls with the larger pieces once I get some more experience. All the wood is currently sitting on the driveway and I need to decide where to store it. It's a cool, overcast day today, so I'm not worried about the sun beating down on it, but I need to move it today so I can get my car out of the garage.

With this background, I have a few questions.
1) For the small and medium pieces, would it be better to leave them uncut and turn when dry or rough turn them now and then let them dry? I have a band saw, so I could also rough cut them into square pieces to dry.
2) I don't feel I'm ready to rough turn bowls at this point, so I plan to store the larger pieces. Is it better to dry them intact or split them?
3) Some of the china berry have off center pith (see pics for an example). Do I need to be concerned about this?
4) I've read that it's better to dry the wood outside rather than in heated space. Is there a problem if I store it in an unheated garage, or does it need to be outside where there's more air movement?

The attached pictures show the cherry, sugarberry and wax myrtle, chinaberry, and the larger chinaberry pieces. The last two are the piece of chinaberry showing the split that developed in about 4 hours.

That's all I can think of for questions for now, any input would be appreciated.
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Last edited by piper_chuck; 02-10-2019 at 12:15 PM. Reason: edited pics
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post #2 of 10 Old 02-10-2019, 01:41 PM
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Coat the ends with anchor seal or latex paint and store in a covered area, off the ground. Not just under a plastic tarp, they collect condensation and can discolor the wood. Also when subjected to direct sun, it gets hot under there and causes checking.

Here are some places to check for low cost or free wood:

a. saw mills, especially that make skid & pallet wood. Oak is not great, but poplar and other woods do turn nicely, even the first leveling cuts when lumps and bumps are sawn off the logs. (sapwood, but often good for plates and shallow bowls etc.)
b. furniture factories. they use wood for all kinds of things and many process there own from planks. cut offs usually go in a bin for somebody to burn for heat.
c. As you are getting it, as folks cut down trees
d. municipal refuse lots where trees and branches are dumped
e. Tree surgeons and excavation companies when they remove trees and clear lots.
f. City and Park maintenance crews, often have to cut up dead and dying trees, storm damage etc.
g. Woodturners clubs often get calls about desirable wood and co-op to remove and saw up the trees.
h. old skids behind factories and elsewhere, often given away for the asking. You have to look carefully to avoid nails and staples.
g. crate making operations. There is a company a few miles away that makes packing crates for small instruments to be shipped in. They discard hundreds of 6in x14 in pieces of marine plywood every week. Not real good for turning, but handy for glue chucks, bird houses and some other items.

One of my favorite places years ago, was a casket company. They got rough sawn 12 inch planks from all over the world. They planed it and cut it to length. I got dozens of 5/4 12in x 18in pieces of cherry, walnut, mahoghany, etc out of their firewood pile. Picked up 30 years ago and, still have a few pieces that survived my shop burning down a few years ago.

Once you find a few sources and develop a network, you'll have more wood than you can use.

Most important, always ask politely, tell them your purpose, always say thank you or thanks anyway (if turned down) And if you can, have something to trade, such as your time, something else you may have scrounged up, etc. Perhaps on your second trip, offer a little something you made from the wood from the first visit as a thank you. Be prepared. Have a saw, boxes, tarp, trash bags, etc in your vehicle to cut things up and haul them away. Always leave things better than you found them. Even if you have to spend some time cleaning up saw dust, a few branches etc.
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post #3 of 10 Old 02-10-2019, 02:50 PM
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Chinaberry is an extremely fast growing tree (see how much distance there is between growth rings?) that will check/crack pretty quickly. Because of this, it's not one of my favorites for turning. I would personally recommend you use it for practice - even if it cracks, it's just a practice blank so no huge loss! I will say that chinaberry has some beautiful grain once finished, so if some of those practice pieces turn out nice and don't end up cracking, you will probably be very pleased with the results.

holtzdreher gives some excellent recommendations for wood sources and even better advice on keeping the wood coming; Always leave things better than you found them. You might also look and see if there is any plaque/trophy/award making businesses around you. I kept a perpetual craigslist ad up in my area asking for wood and one of these businesses asked me if I wanted their rejects. I left their shop with a literal TRUCKLOAD of 6"-24" walnut & hickory boards that I laminate to make blanks. The boards were rejected because of misplaced screw holes or other extremely slight errors. They're perfectly square, perfectly dried, and perfect for my use. I trim off the bevels with my miter saw and have beautiful walnut blanks to work with. The owner was THRILLED to get some space back in his shop and not have to haul it all to the dump.

The credit belongs to the man who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
-Theodore Roosevelt, 1910
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post #4 of 10 Old 02-10-2019, 06:52 PM
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Hello Chuck,

Looks like you got some good guidance for sources and end sealing already...

I will try to expand on a few things that you may find of value...

Quote:
Originally Posted by piper_chuck View Post
...1) For the small and medium pieces, would it be better to leave them uncut and turn when dry or rough turn them now and then let them dry? I have a band saw, so I could also rough cut them into square pieces to dry.
Turning wood is an eclectic art form withing woodworking just like the rest of woodworking in general...As such, it can be done both with dry or green wood...

I would offer that actually most (virtually all on the statistical average) of turning work done in history and today starts with only green wood...not dry at all...

Storing wood well protected from drying out to fast is the goal in this case and some of us will even store our wood under water to both relax it and keep it from drying out. I more than understand that probably beyond what you can do...

For those piece you "want dry" then roughing them out on a band-saw is an option...It all depends on what style of woodworking and/or turning you are getting into?

Quote:
Originally Posted by piper_chuck View Post
...2) I don't feel I'm ready to rough turn bowls at this point, so I plan to store the larger pieces. Is it better to dry them intact or split them?
If for bowls, do not let them dry out at all!!!

I think you would have fun trying your hand at turning bowls now. I (et al) have started students out on bowls as young as 12 some even younger...So you can try it if your interested...!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by piper_chuck View Post
...3) Some of the china berry have off center pith (see pics for an example). Do I need to be concerned about this?
They are "fire wood"...

Unless...???...you really want to go down the "green woodworking" and massively exciting "rabbit hole" with me...!!!...

Then they are the makings of great spoons and related kitchen implements, as that type of grain pattern is indicative of "reaction wood" from the tree leaning and/or begin pushed by something...

Quote:
Originally Posted by piper_chuck View Post
...4) I've read that it's better to dry the wood outside rather than in heated space. Is there a problem if I store it in an unheated garage, or does it need to be outside where there's more air movement?
Drying needs to be slow, it it is going to be good...

That is the simplest and shortest good answer I can offer most folks...

Quote:
Originally Posted by piper_chuck View Post
...The attached pictures show the cherry, sugarberry and wax myrtle, chinaberry, and the larger chinaberry pieces. The last two are the piece of chinaberry showing the split that developed in about 4 hours.
The Prunus ssp (Cherry) is a well known species to work with...green or dry...All manner of turning possiblilties there...

Celtis laevigata (Souther China Berry - aka: "Sugarberry") and Celtis occidentailis (Northern China Berry) Myrica cerifera (Bay Berry - aka "Wax Myrtle") for these species, use the latin names and you can get all kinds of good information of the internet about them...

Celtis species is an excellent lumber and cabinet wood for the most part with some stunning grain. Myrica has more uses as a living plant like making candles and seasoning, but the wood is also used for green woodworking of utensils and rustic furniture applications, among others...

I can expand on any of this if interested...Good luck!!!
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post #5 of 10 Old 02-11-2019, 07:10 AM Thread Starter
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holtzdreher and Draconei thanks for the info on sources. It gives me some additional places to check that I hadn't thought of. In addition to starting out on a turning adventure, I make other things from wood, so the more sources the better.
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post #6 of 10 Old 02-11-2019, 07:58 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay C. White Cloud View Post
Hello Chuck,

Looks like you got some good guidance for sources and end sealing already...

I will try to expand on a few things that you may find of value...



Turning wood is an eclectic art form withing woodworking just like the rest of woodworking in general...As such, it can be done both with dry or green wood...

I would offer that actually most (virtually all on the statistical average) of turning work done in history and today starts with only green wood...not dry at all...
Interesting, I hadn't found that in the reading I've done so far. It makes sense, green wood is softer and makes less dust.

Quote:
Storing wood well protected from drying out to fast is the goal in this case and some of us will even store our wood under water to both relax it and keep it from drying out. I more than understand that probably beyond what you can do...
I guess I could tie the wood in bundles and drop it in the lake, but the water down here has lots of sediment so I'd worry it might change the color of the wood. I'll consider this for sometime in the future. Meanwhile, I made space in the garage for the wood from Saturday. It will be cooler and more humid than inside so this should help slow down the drying.

Quote:

For those piece you "want dry" then roughing them out on a band-saw is an option...It all depends on what style of woodworking and/or turning you are getting into?
Still deciding what type of turning I want to try. I need to learn the basics and my limitations first and go from there. I do want to make some bowls, plates, and tool handles.

Quote:


If for bowls, do not let them dry out at all!!!
My research suggests this is usually rough turning to within ten percent of the final thickness and then drying before doing the final turning, unless one wants to experiment with unusual shapes from drying. Is this right?

I've read about boxing or paper bagging in the shavings, is that method acceptable or are there other ways that work more reliably?

Quote:


I think you would have fun trying your hand at turning bowls now. I (et al) have started students out on bowls as young as 12 some even younger...So you can try it if your interested...!!!
I currently have the spur, center, and 6" face plate which came with the lathe. If the youtube videos are to be believed, having a chuck makes turning much easier, and perhaps a bit safer, than gluing on a waste block. I've been researching four jaw chucks for holding the wood, a chuck to hold drill bits, and a smaller face plate. The Nova chucks seem to get good reviews and the local tool store stocks them, so that might be a good option. Any other suggestions?

Quote:


They are "fire wood"...

Unless...???...you really want to go down the "green woodworking" and massively exciting "rabbit hole" with me...!!!...

Then they are the makings of great spoons and related kitchen implements, as that type of grain pattern is indicative of "reaction wood" from the tree leaning and/or begin pushed by something...
Spoons are an interesting possibility, I'll keep that in mind and do some reading.

Quote:


Drying needs to be slow, it it is going to be good...

That is the simplest and shortest good answer I can offer most folks...



The Prunus ssp (Cherry) is a well known species to work with...green or dry...All manner of turning possiblilties there...

Celtis laevigata (Souther China Berry - aka: "Sugarberry") and Celtis occidentailis (Northern China Berry) Myrica cerifera (Bay Berry - aka "Wax Myrtle") for these species, use the latin names and you can get all kinds of good information of the internet about them...

Celtis species is an excellent lumber and cabinet wood for the most part with some stunning grain. Myrica has more uses as a living plant like making candles and seasoning, but the wood is also used for green woodworking of utensils and rustic furniture applications, among others...

I can expand on any of this if interested...Good luck!!!
Thanks for the info. I'll do some more reading and absorb the info you've given me. It sounds like I should get more of the Celtis, so I'm going to have to get to work turning what I already have into sawdust, shavings, firewood, and hopefully a few things I can keep. We only cut two of the four trunks from the tree. The remaining ones are longer and thicker so there should be some good pieces. The main trunk is 2.5 to 3 feet wide and looks like it might have some interesting grain patterns. I'm also going to help a different friend cut four clumps of birch from his yard as soon as he gets the OK from the HOA. There should be some good material from these.
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post #7 of 10 Old 02-11-2019, 08:27 AM
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I see you are in So Carolina. Been to Myrtle Beach a few times, I remember looking around for turning wood a couple months after the hurricane did so much damage there. Nothing but oak and pine. It was laying everywhere because they were still cleaning up, but I did not see much good along the coast. Maybe in land they have better selections.
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post #8 of 10 Old 02-11-2019, 09:21 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by holtzdreher View Post
I see you are in So Carolina. Been to Myrtle Beach a few times, I remember looking around for turning wood a couple months after the hurricane did so much damage there. Nothing but oak and pine. It was laying everywhere because they were still cleaning up, but I did not see much good along the coast. Maybe in land they have better selections.
Yes, I've been in the Columbia area since 2009 after 27 years in Raleigh. Oak and pine are definitely plentiful, but there is a good variety of other trees if one looks around.
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post #9 of 10 Old 02-11-2019, 08:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by piper_chuck View Post
...Interesting, I hadn't found that in the reading I've done so far. It makes sense, green wood is softer and makes less dust.
Hi Chuck,

The craft of turning has been making a huge resurgence that seems to be spanning several decades. With each year, there is more and more enthusiasm. However, I do note a certain loss of traditional understanding as well?

Green (aka wet wood) vs Dry...There is much info about it, and it can be confusing for sure!!!

Many "modern" turners will lament and warn others away from turning "green," while many traditional turners know the roots of the "Bodger" is in "green wood," not dry wood...

As such, I should be clear that I am a...Bodger...(for the most part) when it comes to turning. That is how I learned turning, and from that traditional perspective...The "modern stuff" came latter and I still have little use for most of it...

Quote:
Originally Posted by piper_chuck View Post
...I guess I could tie the wood in bundles and drop it in the lake, but the water down here has lots of sediment so I'd worry it might change the color of the wood. I'll consider this for sometime in the future. Meanwhile, I made space in the garage for the wood from Saturday. It will be cooler and more humid than inside so this should help slow down the drying.
If you have access to body of water and a means of getting the wood back out without much difficulty, you have little to worry about with the sediment changing the color...BUT...if it does, you may well "strike gold," as this rarely ever happens...If the staining happens it is often stunning in nature, but I have only seen one "alleged" example of it...but it usually take centuries or even millenia to happen...when it does happen...

"Deadhead"..."Sinkers"..."Driftwood" and related "Water Logged Lumber" is a not a common topic (or understanding) among most woodworkers...so don't feel out of the loop on this topic.

Whatever you choice...slow drying...is always best, and you will be rewarded for it...

Quote:
Originally Posted by piper_chuck View Post
...Still deciding what type of turning I want to try. I need to learn the basics and my limitations first and go from there. I do want to make some bowls, plates, and tool handles.
Best way to learn...is to start making mistakes...(safely of course)...but mistakes non the less. I know one teacher that would have folks in his class turn a green limb from a tree till it was as small as they could get it, just to practice the different tools and feel of each...

So, to learn, get to turn'n!!!

Quote:
Originally Posted by piper_chuck View Post
...My research suggests this is usually rough turning to within ten percent of the final thickness and then drying before doing the final turning, unless one wants to experiment with unusual shapes from drying. Is this right?
Yes...and no...It all depends on the method and goals...I personally would not say "one is right and the other is wrong," in the world of turning wood...

If you try something, and it works for you...then it was the correct way. Whatever you did may not work for someone else...and that's fine...

Like turned baluster for a fancy stair case...that is most likely going to be "dry wood" but for a traditional Windsor chair or related "folk style" it may well start green and dry as you work it down...It all depends on the style, the given method (and turner) but not so much "right or wrong" method.

I think this is why many take to turning is its kind of like the "wild west" in that you can be free to see what works for you...

Quote:
Originally Posted by piper_chuck View Post
...I've read about boxing or paper bagging in the shavings, is that method acceptable or are there other ways that work more reliably?
Like above...it's all good...!!!......If it works...

Some store underwater, some in barrel of alcohol (I know of two and it's their "secrete" LOL...) Some now have had great success with turning as green or "water logged" as they can get the wood, and then placing it in bags/bins of "desiccant" after all the rough in turning is done...

So again...see what works for you and what you like?

Quote:
Originally Posted by piper_chuck View Post
...Spoons are an interesting possibility, I'll keep that in mind and do some reading.
Be careful......this "little step" into green woodworking can really grab you, and the next thing you know you are down the "rabbit hole" never to be seen again among the "average woodworker,"...LOL...

Good luck, and keep us all up to speed on your progress and what you are learning!
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post #10 of 10 Old 02-13-2019, 11:10 AM Thread Starter
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Jay, thanks for the continued input and support. I'm posting from my phone so I dont have the posting features I use on my desktop.

I do have access to water, in my backyard. I live on a lake. I should be able to weigh some wood down and tie it to the dock for later retrival.

Last night I began working with my recently harvested wood. I pulled one of the small chinaberry branches out of the pile, cut it into shorter pieces on the bandsaw and mounted one on the lathe. I had no specific shape in mind for the first piece, I just wanted to start doing some of the basicscthat I've read about and watched on videos.

My first observation is I'm already sold on turning wet/green wood. It seems much easier and less dusty than dry wood. So far I like the chinaberry. As I cut through the layers, some interesting grain came out.

The two attached pictures show the four pieces I had to work with and the things I made with two of them. I don't know what to call the one on the left, I was just playing with a few shapes. For the one on the right, I decided to make domething that sort of resembled a vase. Since it was small, and the end grain was interesting, I decided to leave interior carving for another piece. When I finished each one I coated them with mineral oil to reduce poiential splitting, because I already had it, and because it's cheap, quick, and easy. I'm going to get some finishes when I figure out what I want.
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