Woodworking on it's own is a joy, but when you can work with different kinds of woods, it makes the woodworking even more pleasurable. There are all sorts of different kinds of "figured woods" available like burl, tiger and curly woods, swirls from knots and branches, fiddle back and quilting, birds-eye and much more. Typically these woods are much more expensive than plain wood because they are much more rare so they are used on smaller pieces like special boxes for keepsakes and jewelry, musical instruments like guitars and banjos as well as for around picture frames and other smaller type wooden objects.

Another kind of ornamental wood is something called spalted wood which occurs when the wood is allowed to become wet for a somewhat long period of time and fungus invades the wood and begins a rotting process. In this rotting process the the wood and the fungus combine to often make different colorations inside the wood that is called spalting. In it's early stages the spalting can produce an amazing color with the wood, in it's later stages the fungus can affect the wood so much it that it can become too far rotted and unusable.

In this video we have left the logs to dry slowly for several months and now that they are down to 14% moisture content it's time to cut them into usable planks and let them finish their drying process ...

We know that we can get them down to 9% without kiln drying and that is a suitable moisture content for the region that this wood is going to be used in because that is a stable moisture content of wood in this region.

How to Prepare
Before cutting there are a few things we need will want to do and want to know. First and foremost we will want to work safely. This means the saw needs to be set up properly and the logs need to be a manageable size. You will also want to have a flat surface on the log so that the saw will not pull one side or the other down (which will happen if the log is a bit high in the middle for example).

Before you begin cutting the log you will want to mark one end in some fashion. The purpose of this is to be able line up the boards after they are cut in the event that you want to "bookmatch" the boards.

The next thing you will want to decide is ... what are you going to be doing with the lumber after it is cut and dried? For example, will it be used for some furniture parts?  for jewelry or other boxes? do you want it for veneers? or ... ???

All of these questions are important because they will help you determine how thick you want to cut the slices of log. If you are using it for furniture parts, you may want the slices at 3/4". If so, you will need to account for wood shrinkage as it dries more. In my case going from 14% to 9% there will be little shrinkage but it still needs to be part of the equation. The next thing you will need to consider is warpage. Some woods are quite susceptible to warping. This means that these woods need to be cut even thicker because in order to make them flat you will have to plane off areas of wood that will be waste.

Typically, spalted woods have little warpage, this is because of the rot factor that has created them. The "tensions" in the wood have often been relieved or at least partially relieved which means there should (but not always) be little warping.

One of the issues that can crop up in cutting your own lumber is wood cracking. Sometimes a crack can run right through a board from end to end. If the crack run diagonally, there may be little you can do except to use other pieces of the board. If the crack runs more or less in a parallel line through the board in many cases it is possible to either re-glue the wood, or to rip the wood on a table saw and rip the crack out or rip on either side of the crack and re-glue. I have seen many instances where it is impossible after a repair like this to even see where the joint was ... so don't throw out cracked boards without having a good look at them, you may be able to salvage them ... oh, and by the way, they will probably be stronger after you have glued them.

After Cutting The Boards
In most cases the log you will be cutting into boards will need further drying and in most cases air drying will be sufficient. The thickness of the boards, the species of wood and the moisture content of where the wood is stored, will all determine how long the drying time will take. In all cases, the boards will need to be "stickered" This means that they boards all need to spaced with some sort of spacer-board. The spacer boards help to allow air to circulate all surfaces of the board and speed up drying.

After the board are stickered in as dry an area as possible the hardest part of cutting lumber begins ... waiting for the wood to dry. Hard to say how long the drying will take as it depends on many factors but your best guide will be your moisture meter. When the readings stop dropping ... that is when the wood is as dry as it's going to get by just air drying. There are other process to drop the moisture content lower by use of some sort of kiln, (solar, evaporation or heated) but that is a topic for another day ... in the mean time, go on with other projects and wait patiently for your wood to dry ..

Copyright Colin Knecht


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