Q&A Harvesting trees for free wood

Question:

Hi Paul,

I have a question about harvesting wood from a tree. I live in Wimberley Texas, and my neighbor and I were going to be cutting two cedar trees down soon due to pollen allergy reasons and they are right by our AC units. Anyways, I do own a new Bandsaw with a resaw blade. As far as cutting rough lumber, do you recommend waxing or painting the ends of the boards to control moisture release, or just leaving them as is after cutting them? I’ve never harvested wood from a tree before, so any info is appreciated.

Thanks.

Answer:

There are few experiences as rewarding as slabbing a tree for wood, even when it’s small scale on a small bandsaw. I have done this for two decades on and off. In Texas you have a couple of “cedar” trees that can be difficult to distinguish from one another but I think that you are talking about the Ashe Juniper, which is the one that gives the miserable allergies people get when they puff out their pollen in bursts and everyone walks around with their eyes watering, sneezing and much worse. Ashe Juniper is what the old ranchers used for “Cedar fence posts” and “blocking” for the underside of the old post and beam ranch houses throughout Texas. It’s not a true cedar but called cedar by everyone.

Ashe Juniper is very resistant to rot, extremely hard and brittle and quite difficult to work, especially with hand tools. It splits and checks readily and rarely yields much working material without sizeable cracks running along the grain.

No matter the wood, sealing the ends with paraffin wax or painting the first 6” will drastically reduce wastage cause by uneven release of moisture from the open ends of the newly cut wood. What happens with new boards is that the ends release moisture more quickly than lock moisture in the mid sections and it’s this inconsistent release that causes the problems. Slowing this release from the end areas is the best way to do this and so we apply paint or wax to even out the disparity and this is especially important when wind is present. Seal the ends as soon as possible after cutting and in any case within 24 hours when possible. I like the surface areas to dry before applying the paint or I use a latex paint of the wood is wet. I think it’s a matter of choice but oil-based paint seems to work better than latex and paraffin wax works best. I have bought wax at a good price from places like the Candle Factory. Warm it gently in a double burner or an old electric crock-pot from the flea market. Dip the ends or paint it on.

The other wood in the area is the very different species Eastern Red Cedar. This is an incredible wood in that it releases moisture from the main body of wood very rapidly and degrade is much less than with the Ashe Juniper. In fact, it’s so rapid you can use the wood within a month of cutting. This is the cedar they also call Aromatic Cedar. This wood has the solid purple heartwood or indeed purple streaks that run throughout the core wood. People use it for cedar chests and lining closets and chests to repel insects and moths. Cutting into Ashe Juniper or Eastern Red Cedar releases the strongest cedar aroma you’ve ever experienced. Both can cause highly allergic reactions in anyone so where a dust mask throughout milling and subsequent processes.

You are about to enter the very rewarding world or Real Woodworking so enjoy the challenges and experience life.

1 thought on “Q&A Harvesting trees for free wood”

  1. VALERIO D'ANGELO

    Hi Paul,
    there are some truth when people speak about arvesting in determined moon’s phases?
    I’ve heard that if you arvest the tree with a detrminated phase of the moon, the worm won’t ever attach the wood, but I think that worms like wood in any way.
    I like very much your approach to real work, WOODWORK!
    Thanks,
    Valerio.

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