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  1. #1
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    Default first time drying timber, questions about stacking and stickering

    so i had a bunch of trees come down in the big storms back in june (vic). i've had a local miller come round for a look, who reckons three of the fallen trees are blackwood and worth milling

    it's not my property, but i've been talking with the owner and agent, and it looks like what's probably going to happen is that they will have their guy deal with all the cleanup, but he will leave the blackwood trunks behind as logs for me to have milled at my cost. this saves them some money on disposal and i get to keep the timber in exchange. cool

    the advice i've read says that, if possible, i should try to be ready to stack the timber into its long term home straight off the mill; that i should not have it milled first and only then think about stacking it. so it's homework time

    there's an old unused shed on the property with a dirt floor, which i think i would use. it will keep the rain, sun, and wind off, while still having air circulation to prevent mould. i'm thinking of getting a load of besser blocks to put down on the ground, then timber bearers on those, and then stacking the timber on top of the bearers. i'm thinking some kind of shed-roofing-panel on top of the stack for protection from any roof leaks, and then more besser blocks on top to keep weight on the upper part of the stack. this all feels reasonable to me?

    i'm prone to overthinking though, and i'm getting hung up on some details:

    the bearers: 90x90 looks about right from what i've seen from pictures of others' setups. should i be looking for treated or untreated timber for these? or does it not matter?

    the stickers: i'm fairly new to woodworking, mostly interested in hand tool stuff, and my only powered tool is a drill. it seems like it would be pretty easy and cheap to cut a load of stickers from pine 90x45s if i had a table saw; but i don't have a table saw, have never used a table saw, and suddenly getting one without any training or supervision feels like a trip to the hospital waiting to happen. i'm not really sure how many stickers i'm likely to need but "a lot" seems like a good guess, and i do not relish the idea of doing all that cutting by hand. i thought maybe i could just buy garden stakes, but it seems like garden stakes come in very small packs that get expensive fast...

    end sealing: i have a tin of cheap white latex/acrylic ceiling paint lying around that i use for workshop furniture. will a few coats of that be adequate for preventing the ends drying too fast and cracking, or should i look for something specific?

    i'm also not sure what my options are going to be with regard to the logs, after they're freed from the trees but prior to milling. i feel like it might be a good idea to get them up off the ground if i can? it's pretty soggy at the moment. but depending on what equipment the cleanup guys have, they might end up just being left where they landed. they're elevated at the moment by the root balls and branches, so i guess i could slip some timber bearers under them before they cut them free, if that's a good idea?

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
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    Near Bodgy, AlexS, Wongo & CraigB
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    Default

    1) get an old tin of paint and as soon as the ends of the logs have been cut straight paint the end grain. paint it a couple of times, this will stop water evaporating so quickly from the end grain and reduce spliiting. I recommend a water based plastic paint - any type is fine.

    2) I assume whoever mills it will be using a lucas mill or another type of mill on site - as they cut into the logs they will produce flitches which can be docked and used as stretchers. or go to bunnings and get tomato stakes; cheap! The important thing is they are the same thickness so the suppoert the timber equally. an inch thickness for the stretchers is good enough as it will allow air to circulate freely between the layers to assist drying.

    3) make sure your storage site is flat, or at least near as possible to flat. make sure the first slab is well supported and the rest in top of it in turn.

    4) if you get the miller to cut slabs then get him to cut the slabs 2 inches thick or so; then stretchers every metre will be fine. even if you get him to cut into pieces a metre between stretchers will be ok. I recommend 2 inches thick if slabbed as it means you can access the timber sooner in the drying process, you can cut lenghts with a circular saw and they are generally not too heavy to move alone.

    5) if you cut slabs - get a texta or other permanent marker and draw some markings so you know what order the slabs come of the bole. I'd use something like a 'V/' which will clearly show the order by the shape/slant of the V marking if you just cut lumber then it doesnt matter so much unless you want to book match it as well.

    6) Dust and stuff on the cut timber doesnt matter at all.

    7) blackwood burns when you use a machine to cut it - keep your blade moving and dont spin your circular saw in place.

    7) each inch of thickness takes a year plus one year to dry. thus a 1 inch slab will take 2 years to dry, a 3 inch thick slab will take 4 years and so on.

    8) the log wont care if it sits in mud but the miller will - keep the log clean or hose it off after you elevate it. if you debark it the miller will be happy as it will reduce friction and therefore wear on his blades.
    Zed

  4. #3
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    melbourne
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    Default

    thanks! if i'm reading you correctly, you seem to be differentiating between "slabs" and "lumber". and i could take a guess at what you mean by each, but maybe it's better to just ask for clarification. my assumption is that "slabs" are bark-to-bark, whereas "lumber" is rectangular cross sections?

    the miller i'm dealing with recommended against slabs because apparently they're more prone to cracking/twisting/etc, and that spending a bit more time on the cutting produces timber that's easier to dry evenly (but tbh i may have misunderstood or misremembered). i'm vaguely anticipating getting 2" thicknesses milled (and expecting 3-4y drying time) but in actuality i'll go with whatever the miller recommends once we start cutting, because i have nothing to base a preference of my own on

    do stickers need to be timber, or can they be e.g. plastic? my gut feel is that plastic might be a bad idea but maybe it doesn't matter

  5. #4
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    Plastic is good for stickers. Better than wood actually as it doesn't hold moisture where its in contact with your sawn timber.

    But the easiest way to get stickers is just cut them as you go. Get some 25 x 25 off the top of the log, then as you go down you'll pick up some more as 50 x 25. Easy as

    Treated would be good for the 100 x 100 bearers, but if you had untreated just paint them with some sump oil now and they'll not stain the timber much after a couple weeks of drip time. It's all about stopping termites from climbing up into your timber. They aren't real keen on the taste of the oil, so its all the same as treatment for what you want to do, give or take a little mess etc etc.

    Have fun with it
    John

  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by banana View Post
    my assumption is that "slabs" are bark-to-bark, whereas "lumber" is rectangular cross sections?

    yes

    the miller i'm dealing with recommended against slabs because apparently they're more prone to cracking/twisting/etc,

    true as far as I know.

    do stickers need to be timber, or can they be e.g. plastic? my gut feel is that plastic might be a bad idea but maybe it doesn't matter

    what John said.

    ...
    Zed

  7. #6
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    no progress yet, i guess the cleanup mob won't be round till after the current outbreak is under control and restrictions can ease again

    i spoke to the miller a couple of weeks ago, to find out what length or thickness of logs i should get the cleanup mob to leave behind. he said 8-10" is the smallest diameter he can put through the mill. so that's cool, i'll save everything i can 8" and up.

    question now is -- can i get anything useful out of the smaller stuff, below 8"? sure, it's too small to put through the mill at that size, but maybe i can pick up a froe or some wedges and have a go at riving some smaller bits -- i'm thinking for turning blanks, tool handles, dowels, that sorta thing. if i'm not bound by the constraints of a milling machine, what's the smallest diameter blackwood log i can plausibly get useful material out of?

    i vaguely understand that pith and sapwood aren't really useful, that the only useful timber is the heartwood, and i suppose that below some size it will be mostly just pith and sapwood. but i have no experience to judge where that threshold might be

  8. #7
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    Dec 2006
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    8 inches is fine for chair legs and spindles for chairs. Blackwood splits and carves very easy. I use it for chairs.
    I am learning, slowley.

  9. #8
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    i don't understand what you all "needs pictures" of?

    my current question is whether there's anything useful to be had from log sections below 8" diameter, and how much smaller is still useful. is 7" worth keeping? what about 6"? 5"? where should i stop?

  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by banana View Post
    i don't understand what you all "needs pictures" of?

    my current question is whether there's anything useful to be had from log sections below 8" diameter, and how much smaller is still useful. is 7" worth keeping? what about 6"? 5"? where should i stop?
    There are no hard and fast rules.

    The smaller the trunk/branch the greater the proportion of sapwood which has more water in it hence susceptible to greater shrinkage and cracking.
    The more horizontal the branch or leaning of the trunk the greater the tension in the timber leading to possible twisting and cracking.

    Ultimately you have to read each tree/branch and determined the point where to stop since this also depends on what you are going to do with it. At one end of the scale Pen blanks can be extracted from <100mm diameter branches, while it may well be a waste of time trying to extract any size boards from a large twisted/leaning trunk

    Ive extracted tool handles from 50mm diameter bottle brush shrub stalk but also left behind a 1.5 m diameter jarrah corkscrew.

    In economic terms small logs usually yield less timber so if you are paying someone to mill these it better be really nice and unusual timber otherwise it may not be worth doing.

  11. #10
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    The white wood is still used for spindles and spoons. I have a club that is about 4.5 inches diameter that I have used on a froe for years. It is getting a bit rough but still works ok.
    I am learning, slowley.

  12. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobL View Post
    There are no hard and fast rules.

    The smaller the trunk/branch the greater the proportion of sapwood which has more water in it hence susceptible to greater shrinkage and cracking.
    The more horizontal the branch or leaning of the trunk the greater the tension in the timber leading to possible twisting and cracking.

    Ultimately you have to read each tree/branch and determined the point where to stop since this also depends on what you are going to do with it. At one end of the scale Pen blanks can be extracted from <100mm diameter branches, while it may well be a waste of time trying to extract any size boards from a large twisted/leaning trunk

    Ive extracted tool handles from 50mm diameter bottle brush shrub stalk but also left behind a 1.5 m diameter jarrah corkscrew.

    In economic terms small logs usually yield less timber so if you are paying someone to mill these it better be really nice and unusual timber otherwise it may not be worth doing.
    thanks, this is really helpful context

    i guess i'm only considering vertical trunk sections (not branches), and only considering the straight sections between forks/bends/etc

    i'm paying someone to mill the thick and straight sections (and the miller has already seen and assessed them as worth milling), and the landlord is paying someone to take away anything i don't want to save. and so, where i'm coming from is wondering whether there's anything worth saving to rive myself, over and above what i'm already saving for the miller. it sounds like there is

    even so, realistically there's no point keeping more than i can manage, and i have three whole trees here -- i don't need to scavenge every last twig. it sounds like it is worth selectively saving a few smaller logs, and it sounds like i shouldn't sweat the specific diameter so much as the straightness and how vertical it was on the tree. cool, i think that's my questions answered for now!

  13. #12
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    Horizontal branches emanating from the butt log often have compressional grain
    Well worth milling
    Log Dog

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