The emerald ash borer has invaded my neighborhood. I had a tree company come in and cut down four ash trees that are close to my house. These were 25- to 30 ft.-tall trees. I asked the guys to keep the 8- to 18 in.-dia. logs at 8-ft. lengths so I could cut them into planks. It was a bit more work than I had anticipated. My chainsaw attachment worked pretty well, but those logs are heavy! After yielding some planks, I decided to quarter-saw a few logs. That was a little easier but still a challenge. I ended up cutting most of the wood for the fireplace. But I’m wondering, is ash worth all this work? I am drying the wood in a crude kiln. I’ve already made a couple of spatulas out of the wet wood. I’m letting it dry and hopefully they will be ready for Christmas. But I read that ash is porous, so is it even suitable for kitchenware? Also, can I make bowls out of ash? If I do a French polish, will the rottenstone/pumice stay in the wood and not come out into the salad greens? Please let me know if I am wasting my time. I have lots of firewood now, but these planks could end up in the same pile. Plus I have six more ash trees that need to come down soon. – Barney Heller
Tim Inman: Ash has been used as a furniture wood for centuries. It is a white, open coarse-grained wood known for its grain patterns. It has also been the choice wood for baseball bats due to its toughness and flexibility. Treenware is often ash – which is what you’re wanting to use it for. Kitchen utensils and vessels are often ash wood. But, French polishing a salad bowl? No. Unless you’re just wanting to make an ornament, French polish would be a very poor choice. The trouble is, French polish is the most beautiful finish for both the eye and the hand, but it is possibly one of the least durable coatings. That said, however, ash can be French polished. The traditional method of filling the grain might be dispensed with in favor of better modern materials, but it can be polished. For my salad bowls, I prefer to just rub the inside with beeswax followed by a good rub with a fresh-cut clove of garlic. Wonderful!
Chris Marshall: Ash has excellent steam bending properties, cuts and routs cleanly and accepts glue and finishes nicely, too. In fact, Sandor Nagyszalanczy just demonstrated the versatility of ash in a beautiful steambent music stand that appears in our new December 2017 print issue (see below). You can watch of video of him steam bending the legs by clicking here.
Even if you can’t build big projects from your planks and quartered lumber, it might make wonderful keepsake items like picture frames, jewelry boxes, cutting boards and so forth, along with those bowls and spatulas. I’d definitely try to do that before sending it up in flames.