Recently a neighbour was clearing some ancient honeysuckle and a flowering cherry tree. My packrat-edness got the better of me. I needed some of that mini-lumber goodness for making handles, file handles, screwdriver handles etc.
So get on your lumberjack shirt and sing the song as you gather your, umm logs.
Step 1: Shakes, Splits Cracks
Relative to its dimensions - although the cubic area isn't great, we still need to dry it out under controlled conditions. There's a shrinkage calculator here, and there's an fascinating equation used to ascertain equilibrium moisture content here.
Me? I just dip both ends in wax and leave it for a year or two..
Imagine a tree trunk or branch is like a bundle of very long, leaky microscopic drinking straws. The sap can evaporate out of the ends much faster than it can along its leaks. If we seal the ends with wax it will still leak but at a much slower rate. This gives us a stable drying-out, helping to prevent splitting - of course there are no guarantees :-)
The picture shows timber that has dried rapidly and with no control. We want to avoid the damage that causes to our exotic timber haul. Big thanks to Sean McClean for the image.
Step 2: Hot Wax.
Step 3: Dipped and Done.
Wood will breathe moisture in and out until it has reached equilibrium with the ambient moisture level of the area it's kept in, this can take years after the wood has become seasoned enough to work with. I plan to make tool handles with this stuff, so I'll season the wood at the draughty end of the room where I keep my tools.
Other cool timber to look out for includes...
" Sumac which glows green under a blacklight!
" Ivy, which if it's from an ancient specimen is extremely hard and turns like plastic - very smooth to
" Rose, a shame to see any ancient roses getting dug up, but if you can get hold of the bole and
base stem of an old rose bush, depending on the condition, you'll have some interesting grain.
Again with the grain, fruit trees are usually one variety grafted onto the rootstock of another, if you can get hold of the root ball of a mature tree you'll have some burrs and grain effects.
And of course by treating the choice bits as timber and not firewood you're taking a bit out of the carbon cycle.
Shameless plug - I'm entering this 'ibble for the Gardening contest, please give it your vote :)