Questions Answered – A Free Tree Source ?

Question:

Hi Paul,

About a year ago I came across your videos and was inspired to begin traditional woodworking including carving bowls and various other items. I’m still learning and probably will be for some time to come. Your blog entries have helped me considerably though.

All of the wood that I use is sourced locally. It is either given to me by a network of tree surgeons that support my work or members of the public that are removing trees from their gardens for some reason or other, mainly storm damage.

Anyway, the reason for my email is that I’m looking for some advice. Someone contacted me yesterday saying that they had to take down a large cherry tree in their front garden and would I be interested in the bottom part of the tree. They provided me with a couple of photos but unfortunately I’m not able to attach them.

What I would like to know is how would you go about cutting the stump into good blanks? The stump has four large limbs coming out on each side of the trunk close to the bottom and the trunk central. Would you cut the limb sections off as close to the trunk as possible leaving one large trunk section? I’m troubled by this as it’s a beautiful piece and I don’t want to mess it up.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to read my mail and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Regards,

Johnny
(Scotland UK)

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Answer:
I do have a couple of thoughts on this. Many tree surgeons and garden maintenance workers operate their business on a risk potential basis and price according to task and that includes an additional risk factor. A tree at the bottom of a garden with no risk to people and buildings, underground stuff can be dropped and removed for a reasonable price, but when it is near to a house or overhead lines, a neighbours property or whatever, the price can escalate rapidly.

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I’ve taken down hundreds of trees and I once took down a tree between two close houses because the wood I wanted was highly prized. The invitation needed no second thought but after I downed the tree and removed to trunk, branches and so on, the owner said he was so glad I had done the work and done it for free. I asked why and he told me he’d had an estimate for $2,000 because of the risk to his neighbours building and his own foundations to his house. No damage occurred and I got wood worth the effort.

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I say all of that because, depending on the size of the trunk, removing the stem can be a lot of work. On the other hand it can be generous of someone to give you the wood like this and you alone have to decide whether this is in fact a gift horse to you. Limbs can be useable wood for a wide range of projects ranging from turned work to spoons, spatulas and more. If it’s cherry you may want to decide on whether the wood has much sapwood or little. Heartwood is always a premium in wider sections and boards. It’s a fruitwood which means for the main part has or shows little if any visible difference between seasons of growth in the growth rings and so it has that evenness across the whole that’s so characteristic of fruitwoods. It turns beautifully whether green or dry and makes great kitchen utensils including cutting boards.

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It’s also good for cot spindles and children’s toys too and is perfectly safe for these sensitive items. Personally I would take the limbs off and slab the wood with a Woodmizer mobile dimensions mill if you have access to one and this of course depends on the tree’s size?
Few things in woodworking give greater reward than agonising over a tree to maximise yield and customise cuts to a project or series of projects. Wood turners are privileged in using the wood straight from the tree and of course beings able to use their material within a few weeks. Furniture makers must plan their strategy differently to keep the wood at its best and season it well. Patience pays in the process and n the delivery to the bench in a year or two down the road. It is surprising where the time goes in this and I am now using wood bought just a few years ago. I also have mesquite wood from 2007 which I used on making the Cabinet pieces for the White House in 2008/9 stowed safely in Texas storage. One day I will be working on that again for a special piece I am sure. I look forward to that.

1 Comment

  1. John Crosby on 29 October 2014 at 3:02 am

    There is a great feeling of satisfaction one can get when taking wood directly from the tree, air drying it and then using it in a project. I use my 20 inch chainsaw and an “Alaskan Mill” attachment for it and cut some beautiful boards myself, with no need in spending time and money taking it to a sawyer. I can look at things I have made and know where and when I cut the lumber for it, nothing like it, except for taking a deer for the beautiful red meat it provides, yum.