Where wood comes from…

Yes I know it grows on trees, but the transformation of trees into usable lumber has fascinated me for some time now.

One of my favorite garage sale finds is a Stihl 025 chainsaw, which has been an invaluable aid in harvesting timber and processing it in my backyard.  Admittedly, the wood I cut is not large enough for many projects, but it is an excellent source for woods that are just not available from a sawmill.  With careful cutting, the wood can be of the highest quality – precisely quartersawn to a degree that is just not feasible with large logs on a mill.

Stihl 025 chainsaw

One of my favorite tools – a Stihl 025 chainsaw.

The colors and vibrancy of freshly cut wood can be indescribable.  The water in the wood gives it life, moreso than any other finish I have ever seen.  Although the freshly cut colors will mellow and change, the fleeting glimpse is enough to keep me looking forward to working the wood when it is finally dried.

Most of the wood comes from trees that have fallen across or near a road or that have been removed from yards.  Recent finds have included enough beech for several sets of hollows and rounds, sycamore, apple, and most recently a wood that the homeowner called miniature pear.  This latter wood is destined mainly for saw handles, should it prove suitable for that use.

I don’t know whether or not this wood is actually a fruitwood, but it looks promising.  The freshly cut wood is a creamy white, with very little visible grain.  Some (but not all) of the exposed wood turns a yellowish-orange color, so I’m not sure what the dried wood will look like.  To say I am looking forward to seeing how it turns out is an understatement.  While I wait, I will send a sample of the wood to the USDA Forest Products Laboratory for identification, a free service for US citizens.

This log is typical of what I look for.  It’s small enough that I can lift it into my trunk, yet large enough to yield several saw handles.  With no visible knots or defects to work around, this log may give me a half dozen handle blanks, with the balance being used for handles on other tools.

When possible, I prefer to use quartersawn wood for my saw handles.  On logs this small, careful layout is needed to ensure the blanks are large enough.  The first cut follows the pith of the log, and is made perpendicular to the largest dimension of the log (the pith is not centered on this log).  The next cuts are perpendicular to the first, and give me three pieces that are large enough for handles.

Laying out the first cut on the miniature pear log

First cut is through the pith, but perpendicular to this scale.

Laying out the cuts for the saw handle blanks.

Laying out the next four cuts.  With any luck, these three boards will be used for saw handles.

Cutting out the middle three boards

Three boards, ready to break apart. Don’t cut all the way through, or the pieces become too small to cut safely.

Three boards, ready to dry

Three boards for saw handles, and the balance for other tool handles.

After sealing the ends with AnchorSeal and finding a suitable location for drying, the only thing left to do is wait.  Stop back in several months for an update…

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