When we’re out and about with our Woodland Soul boards, people often ask our advice when it comes to making the most of the wood from felling their own garden trees.
It’s always such a shame when a garden tree needs to come down but sometimes it’s necessary. It makes us really happy when we’re asked if it’s possible to save some of this beautiful wood – to make some memorable boards, instead of hauling it away or cutting it up for firewood. Seasoning your own timber to the point where it can be crafted takes time but it’s a great thing to do if you’re able to.
Wonderful Organic Material
At Woodland Soul we only use locally sourced, certified sustainable and kiln dried English timbers. All the timbers will have undergone meticulous drying to carefully reduce the moisture content. Wood is a wonderful organic material and almost half the weight of freshly sawn wood is water. The process of air drying the timber depends on its thickness. For each inch of thickness the timber is dried for one year, plus one additional year. It is then kiln dried to reduce the moisture content to at least 12% and cleanse the wood.
Turning Your Logs Into Lumber
When your tree is being felled you’ll need to cut your logs into planks at the same time. This can be done using a mobile sawmill. There are many different sawing methods and techniques to turn logs into lumber including plain sawing, live sawing, cant sawing, grade sawing, and quarter sawing. Today plain sawn is the most popular way of cutting logs as it is simple, fast, and can be used for most species of tree.
Plain sawn, also referred to as flat sawn or “through-and-through” yields the most useable wood with the least amount of waste. It gives waney-edges (with the bark left on) and distinctive patterns on the face of the board. The boards are cut in parallel, one after another, right through the pith of the log. The parallel cut through the log results in a face with ripples, large graphic ovals and U-shaped patterns, also referred to as “the cathedral effect.”
Seasoning Your Green Timber
Now it’s time to to season your timber. You’ll need to stack the green (unseasoned) timber and dry it over a period of at least two years depending on the girth of the original tree.
The traditional air drying method involves stacking the individual boards carefully, separated at precise intervals by softwood sticks; sealing the ends of the boards to slow down moisture loss; shading them from direct sun and rain; and leaving them otherwise exposed to the weather. You’ll then need to stack your timber somewhere that will offer further protection from extreme weather but still allow drying winds to flow between the boards. This could be in a professional storage facility or under cover in your garden.
At a professional timber yard, once the wood is stacked, they will periodically monitor the rate of drying – either with an electronic meter or by weighing a test board – until the wood reaches equilibrium moisture content (EMC). This is the point when the timber is as dry as it’s going to get out in the open air. It’s when the level of moisture in the wood goes up and down with the relative humidity of the air around it. You’ll need to air dry your timber to this point too.
To reach the lower moisture levels for cabinet and furniture makers the timber is then kiln dried. This will bring down the moisture level to ambient interior levels to prevent any further cracking and warping. It will also kill any bugs and insects. Both conditioning and kiln drying can take several weeks after the air drying is complete. If you can you should to do the same with your timber. Alternatively you can move the wood indoors to acclimatize gently, though it won’t be quite as effective as it isn’t such a controlled environment and won’t cleanse the wood.
A few years on from felling your tree and after all this loving care and attention, you will now have wood full of character and colour ready to be crafted into memorable boards and more!
If you’d like to commission a handmade board with your choice of edge, type of wood, selected dimensions and finish we’d love to hear from you. Contact Rachel directly via firstname.lastname@example.org