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.