Red oak frustration - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
 
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post #1 of 13 Old 07-14-2011, 09:34 AM Thread Starter
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Red oak frustration

About 6 weeks ago I cut a dozen or so limb sections from a large red oak about to be hauled off from a construction site. I've never seen wood check so fast! I put anchor seal on the ends but by the time I was able to turn some (2 weeks later) it was pretty much ruined. They were large limbs (12"-16") so I Just cut them 18"-20" long to keep the weight down.
I got a piece turned from the centers of each of the 2 longest sections I cut. The second one, a hollow vessel, started checking as I was making finish cuts on the outside and had lots of checks by the time I got it hollowed out. I haven't had any other wood act like that.
Is this normal for red oak in your experience or does it have more to do with reaction wood in the limbs vs. trunk sections I've been working with?
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post #2 of 13 Old 07-14-2011, 09:56 AM
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It's normal for most wood stored in log form in the outdoors where sun and wind can speed up the drying. Oak and Cherry are particularly bad. What I do in those cases is to put on end on the ground and cover the other end with a heavy duty plastic garbage bag. That will get me through a week or so until I have time to process the log. It will mold but usually it's just on the ends and I cut those off anyway.
the other alternative is to go ahead and cut the bowl or vessel blanks to size and coat the entire piece with parafin wax. I use an old electric skillet set on the temperature that just barely melts the wax. Then just dip the wood in there and roll it around.
I have gotten by with just sealing the ends with the wax but the blanks don't last as long. I've had bowl blanks last a year or more. Blanks covered on just the ends will sometimes start to check around then if not recoated.
These are stored inside on a concrete floor out of any air currents. I have removed the pith and sealed them before they started cracking. Leaving wood out in the sun and wind will make it check very quickly. somewoods overnight. Anything you can do to block the sun and wind will have huge benefits insaving wood.
I cut and sealed(with 2 coats of anchorseal) the endgrain portions of some Bradford pair but had to leave it outside. all of it went bad in less than a month. The pieces I cut into bowl blanks and sealed with wax and stored in the shop are still good after 2 months and probably will last a lot longer.
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post #3 of 13 Old 07-14-2011, 04:24 PM
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Limbs can contain reaction wood. Wood cells not as stable as wood cells in base/butt of tree. Not sure oak limbs reached EMC, therefore started check while turning. Also, do not see anchor seal on end of log photo.

I lost a bunch of sealed Mulberry harvested in summer due to improper storage. Ended up cutting up for pen blanks and other small projects.

Harvested some Bradford Pear last Jan, noticed wax seal cracking due to wood shrinking. Some logs started to end checking. Removed bark and checking on lathe, re-sealed in wax and storing in my shop now.

Finding six or seven months not enough time for Bradford pear to reach EMC. Had some checking on few small projects. Bradford pear on lathe end sealed to keep from checking there is a 3/8” hole drilled completely through center. Relative humidity here runs over 90% + in the morning and 50%+ in afternoon, evenings. Summer here not a good time for drying wood.

Dogwood and Crape Myrtle harvested and sealed in February no problem with wax cracking.
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post #4 of 13 Old 07-14-2011, 06:56 PM
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With red oak the growth rings are open and porous. Roy Underhill, on one of his shows, place one end of a three foot length in a bucket of water and blew through the other end; no problem making bubbles in the bucket. Your problem is probably combined factors. Cut only six weeks ago it probably held as much water as it could (compared to cutting in the winter) and the open pores allowed the water to just flow out.
Reaction wood is much more susceptible to cracking. Almost any limb wood is reaction (either tension or compression), that is why almost no lumber mill with touch it.

The picture I attached is pecan limb which my SIL sent up to me from south Georgia and it had been cut about two weeks prior. The pith is at the pin and I cut the log from about 1:00 to 7:00. It did not give equal size pieces by a long shot but it did make it much more stable. A lot of time I leave wood in long sections but the pecan I cut and removed the pith. If you cut the logs to the length you mentioned, which is fine, I would suggest you also go ahead and make a cut through the pith so the wood can shrink back on itself.

I agree with Wildwood that in your pictures I do not see any indication of sealer. Wildwood, do you use melted paraffin or something similar? I do have some cracks that sill appear with anchorseal but have never had the sealer peel away from the wood.
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post #5 of 13 Old 07-15-2011, 02:33 AM Thread Starter
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Y'all are right about the lack of anchorseal on the log, I cut the ends off to see how deep the checks went. It's firewood now. But the bowl blank next to it is totally covered with anchorseal and was stored in the shop floor. That's the one that surprised me the most.
I won't give up on oak then. I love the look of it. I'll just hope to get some trunk sections and take some more time to process them next time. And hope it won't be 100+ degrees!!
Thanks for the replies.
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post #6 of 13 Old 07-15-2011, 07:03 AM
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I think ripping through the heart which everyone, my self included, suggests will only extend the life of the log a little. It's not a magic cure. What happens is a log loses moisture from the outside in. When it loses water it shrinks. The outside shrinks and the inside doesn't. Something has to give. When you cut through the pith the same thing happens it's just the wood has a little more ability to move before it checks. Not much more, just a little.
In fact none of the methods by themselves will prevent checking. You have to add all of them up. The idea is to slow down the water release and allow the wood to move. Wood that is thick simply can't move much which is why wood cut through the pith will still check. Turning a bowl thin will allow the wood to warp and that green bowl won't check. Of course you can't leave a bowl blank thin. You can leave a platter blank thinner. It will warp of course and you have to allow for that in the thickness of the blank.
What I've found is you try to do any or all of things I've mentioned. It will all vary depending on where you live. Here in Tennessee the wind, sun, heat and bugs are the main problems. I cut out the pith, and seal the ends first, or as mentioned put a plastic bag over the end. Put the other end on the ground. This will keep it for a while. If I can I cover them to keep the sun and heat from speeding up the drying. Then when I can I try to get them off the ground to fight the bug problem.
As soon as possible I either rough turn them or cut them into bowl, hollow vessel, or spindle blanks and seal the ends with parafin or 2 coats of Anchorseal. These are stored in the shop on the concrete floor for the first few months and since I'm running out of space just about everywhere else as well.
I still get some losses but I keep my eye on them and if I see it's starting to check I'll either go ahead and turn it or I'll cut it down to smaller pieces.
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post #7 of 13 Old 07-15-2011, 10:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bonanza35 View Post
Y'all are right about the lack of anchorseal on the log, I cut the ends off to see how deep the checks went. It's firewood now. But the bowl blank next to it is totally covered with anchorseal and was stored in the shop floor. That's the one that surprised me the most.
I won't give up on oak then. I love the look of it. I'll just hope to get some trunk sections and take some more time to process them next time. And hope it won't be 100+ degrees!!
Thanks for the replies.
Do like the old timer's did. They hung the wood up like you would hang beef. I stand all my lunber up on ends. I get them as streight as i can i will bup stickers up at the top end to keep them apart a little. I never had a board that bowed. I put a board under the end so as to keep it off of the floor. I find that the wood dry's faster. Most wood is poor's and water will flo down faster than lay along the log or board's. Try it It will work
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post #8 of 13 Old 07-15-2011, 03:31 PM
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red oak checks within the first 8 hours or so depending on your climate. I never cut green wood down without having anchorseal handy. if you don't have anchorseal handy, latex paint will work too. when you say the wood was stored on the floor in your shop, was it on wood or on the concrete floor? if it is just laying on the concrete floor, that could be another on of your issues! concrete plays havoc on timber!
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post #9 of 13 Old 07-15-2011, 04:01 PM Thread Starter
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That one bowl blank was on the concrete floor, the logs were stacked outside in the shade but it's been around 100 every day since. I did wait a few hours before end sealing them. That was probably part of the problem.
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post #10 of 13 Old 07-15-2011, 04:23 PM
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Bonanza, I love turning all species of oak so get all you can. While 100-degree temperature may wear you out, was wondering if lack of relative humidity could cause your Oak to dry too fast. Do you live in an arid part of Texas?


NCPaldin, use Gulf Wax, paraffin canning wax available at many grocery stores as an end sealer. Also, use latex paint as an end sealer too. Do not use commercial wax emulsion end sealers do not want to pay shipping and sales tax.
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post #11 of 13 Old 07-16-2011, 12:35 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by wildwood
Bonanza, I love turning all species of oak so get all you can. While 100-degree temperature may wear you out, was wondering if lack of relative humidity could cause your Oak to dry too fast. Do you live in an arid part of Texas?
I'm in the Dallas area but it has been unusually dry. RH was in the low 30's today.
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post #12 of 13 Old 07-16-2011, 11:02 AM
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For others that collect links to almost never need data…. Finally found this in my favorites. Then I spent about two hours reorganizing them.
http://montgomerycountywoodturners.org/Documents/Tip29%20-%20Moisture%20Content%20and%20Wood%20Shrinkage.pdf
In this case you can see that oak has one of the highest possibilities of warping/cracking. This is not to say it should not be turned, it should…just a heads-up to potential problems. The first chart is a ranking and second chart at the end is alphabetical.

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post #13 of 13 Old 07-17-2011, 09:46 AM
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John pointed out drying wood more art than science for woodturners. We are having a dry year here too, but not really a problem so far. I try to apply a work smarter than harder approach to drying and storing wood.

For logs, over 8” in diameter will split in half and end seal. Logs less than 8” will simple end seal and store. I do deviate with some species hard to split like Gum, just leave log little longer and hope it works out for me. Larger diameter Gum will turn on side and split with chain saw.

Here is nice read.
Seasoned wood 4" thick or more is virtually unobtainable
http://www.peterchild.co.uk/info1/green.htm
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