From Trees to Lumber to Projects — for Many, Many Readers

From Trees to Lumber to Projects — for Many, Many Readers

In his editorial last time out, after being queried by a friend about harvesting his own lumber for a butcher block table, Rob posed a simple question: how many eZine readers had chopped a tree down for lumber, and built something out of it? The answer: a whooooole lot of you. This is just a sampling of the many responses we received. (And check out the Reader’s Project Gallery for even more, complete with photos.) -Editor

“I do it all the time, on a small scale. I make kitchen utensils out of cherry, which I got into 10 years ago when I chainsawed a huge messy tree and only later discovered that it was cherry and how wonderful its properties are. I don’t need big modules of wood, but when I cut down a big old cherry two years ago, I found some local guys with a Wood-Mizer who sliced into 4 quarter and 6 quarter boards, which are now dry in my garage and waiting to become a dining table. One great advantage of backyard wood over commercial, besides cost, is that old wood, cherry at least, seems to have much richer figure in the form of small rays than younger wood. I recently made a pancake flipper from book-matched pieces: half light sapwood and darker red heartwood, both rich with flecks ,which gave a great impression of a fish’s scales; I called it the Flounder Flipper, and it was the first thing that sold at my first craft show a month ago!” – J. Clayton Fant

Yes, he informed us that he made a project called the “Flounder Flipper” and failed to send a photo. Feast your eyes on the chair above instead. – Editor

“I have been a woodworker for over forty years and have harvested most of the wood that I have used. I have a stash of several species of trees, including American chestnut, that my father planted in the early fifties. If there is a local band sawmill, it is easy to get lumber from sacrificed trees in the community. Included is a rocker made from maple wood that I harvested on the family farm.” – Dr. Bob Miller

Some readers didn’t exactly limit themselves to their own trees, or to doing the harvesting themselves. – Editor

“Several years ago, my father-in-law caught me pilfering pecan logs from his wood pile. In return, I made him a box for his dominoes out of a piece of it. I sawed a good log up into what my kids called ‘long Jenga blocks.’ Then glued them together, butcher-block style, with finger joints and a sliding top that sort of works like a Chinese puzzle box. I’d send a picture, but I can’t get it away from him. It’s amazing what you can pull out of a good pile of seasoned firewood!” – Rick Wetherill

“Whenever a neighbor has a limb 6 inches or larger trimmed from a tree in their yard, I try to get a section. I paint the ends and let it season for a few months, then use my band saw to cut it into 1 to 1-1/2 inch slabs. This is set up to finish drying. I use this wood to make pencil boxes of various sizes and designs that I give back to that neighbor. Most have forgotten that I took the wood and some never knew, but all have been delighted to see something grown in their yard take on the form for a beautiful box.” – James Tackett

“Even worse, I thought of buying a mobile sawmill (miller etc.) and start an urban sawyer business based on storm damaged trees. Fortunately, I talked myself out of the insanity. Not the milling, but the fells removal.” – William Koffke

Read on, Macduff … – Editor

“My woodworking business turns fallen urban trees into finished wood products. I do not cut down trees. Instead, I work with tree services and homeowners to make the best use of trees that have fallen victim to storms, development, and disease. Americans bury four billion board feet of good hardwood in city landfills every year. That’s about 25 percent of the virgin forests that we cut down, and it doesn’t even include the wood that we turn into mulch or firewood. In my experience, the most difficult part of using fallen urban wood is removing the water from the wood to get stable, bright lumber. This can be overcome by using knowledgeable local sawmillers and kiln operators to make the lumber. The cost is reasonable, and the results can be amazing! Some of my best projects have been made from ‘low value’ species like sweet gum, sycamore, and red maple. Their grain patterns, availability, and woodworking properties are truly amazing. I appreciate you bringing attention to the abundance in our own backyards. We have some of the most beautiful woods in the world,and we should be taking advantage of it!” – Ed Bath

Some readers had stories of trees that had special meaning to their families. – Editor

“Many years ago, a large cherry tree came down in my yard. A friend suggested I make lumber from it and loaned me his chainsaw mill. It worked so well that I bought one and a large chainsaw to go with it. I have been making my own lumber ever since and currently have a nice supply of cherry, red and white oak, red cedar and locust. After the initial investment in equipment, the lumber is inexpensive and can be ‘custom cut.’ The drawback is drying time. If you don’t have access to a kiln, minimum drying time is a year per inch of thickness.It is incredibly satisfying to rescue a tree destined for the fireplace and produce something useful from it. In the case of the locust lumber, I had planted that tree many years ago, and the cherry lumber was from a tree my children played in when they were young. Now, many years later, they have some useful items made from it. It really adds to the satisfaction of woodworking!” – Tom Fuhremann

“I had a 200-year-old white oak on our family farm uprooted by a gust of wind. It was cut up into 8′ logs. I transported it to a local sawmill and had it cut into 1″ boards. I have made two changing tables from it, one for my son’s first child and one for my daughter’s first child. I am ecstatic that there are two pieces of furniture that came from the farm where my two children grew up. They are ecstatic to have a piece of their home in the places where they now live, which are a long way from Ohio; one is in Texas and one is in California. It isn’t just wood, it is wood that means something to the carpenter and the person they are making it for.” – Rich Drushal

“Tree to furniture had always been an ambition for me. When the 2003 Canberra Bushfire came through my street, the old ribbon-gum tree in my front yard marked the turning point with a timely change of wind direction and our house was saved. The tree was badly scorched but otherwise still standing — and could no longer be trusted to be safe. So we called in the tree loppers. Being a keen woodworker, I thought to myself ‘why waste the wood?’ so I also called a guy my wife knew who had a small Lucas Mill. The tree loppers felled the main trunk exactly where I wanted it, and that afternoon it was on a truck and heading for the mill. A couple of days later, I helped the miller saw it into boards, and that afternoon I had a van-load of lumber. The miller showed me how to sticker it properly for drying, and I stacked it in my garage, where it sat for four years. I gave a lot of thought to what I might make from the lumber and settled on a dining table — it would have a great story for our dinner guests. I had never made anything so large, but I took my time and stumbled through the structural details. There was enough to make the table top and four good sized square pieces for the legs. The top was finished with about four coats of a two-part acryllic resin — this is a table for hard work, hot pans, wine and general punishment and I wanted an easy-clean wipe-down surface. The table seats 10-12 comfortably with enough width to accommodate a roast banquet, and we have had several memorable Christmas dinners with neighbors and friends. It’s big enough to sew a quilt on, too — as my wife found. And it’s fine with guitar cases and sound gear for when the band comes round to practice. That table will stand up to anything! So the dining table is the centerpiece of our dining room, and I love the patterns formed by the gum veins — the table gets comments from all who visit and it will, I’m sure, be a great heirloom in due course.” – Jerry Everard


“Years ago, a huge butternut tree came down on our property during a storm. After cutting the long trunk into 8 foot lengths, I decided to just store them outside. After a year or two, I decided to take them to a sawmill and later to a planing plant and store the boards for future use. Later, I decided to add an addition to our home which would include a fireplace. I used the butternut boards, which were 14 inches wide, to create the facing and mantel. In later years, there was still enough lumber to create turned plates, windowsills and trim, knickknacks carved by CNC carver, etc. I will not ever regret using the tree as above.” – Ben Little

And some were not quite so sentimental. – Editor

“I cut my own trees. Used the slabs for legs and the live edge slab for the top. Sold it for four hundred bucks. Got orders for more.” – Tony Payne

We also received many, many more responses to this topic … to be continued in next eZine’s Feedback section. – Editor

Oliver Machinery: Still Going Strong

Also in last issue’s eZine, the Industry Interview department focused on Oliver Machinery. This reader remembers that brand from way back when… – Editor

“Thanks for the article on Oliver Machinery. In the 1950s, I grew up in a shop full of Oliver large, heavy-duty woodworking machinery. They were old then, and they are still running strong today. I often wondered how one would ever repair one of those machines, should they ever need to be repaired. Now I know. Thanks again.” – Bob Korpi

Finishing Inside Dresser Drawers: Whether or Not?

In the Q&A section of our previous eZine, a reader wondered whether he should finish the insides of the drawers on the dresser he was building. Here’s some further feedback from another reader who also builds dressers. – Editor

“Feedback on eZine regarding finishing inside of drawers, etc. of bureau. This is a good question, especially when you go to furniture stores and see so many bureaus where the inside of drawers appear unfinished. I say appear because a thin clear coat could be used and you may not be able to see it at all. By all means finish the inside of the drawers. In previous times, the drawers were not finished. I have two teak bureaus, circa 1950, whose insides were not finished. They had to be lined with paper because the wood would stain the clothing. For the same reason, do not stain the inside of drawers. In the furniture I make, I finish the inside of drawers as follows: 1. Before cutting the drawer components, I apply sanding sealer inside portions of the drawer. If the customer wants poly on the exposed part of the furniture, I will also apply sealer to the outside portions of the drawer. 2. Before assembly I apply 3 coats of thinned (rub-on) poly to the inside portion of the drawer components. 3. After assembly, depending on customer desires, I may stain the outsides of the drawer and then apply a topcoat as appropriate. Important: I never use lacquer on the inside of the drawers. I also do not use only shellac on the insides either. Any shellac and sanding sealer will always receive a topcoat such as poly. One other aspect to remember. On all my furniture, I also finish the inside of the carcass. People looking for fine, quality furniture will pull out the drawers, etc. If the inside is also finished (selling point also), the buyers are more impressed and there is a greater chance of sale and satisfaction.” – Phil Rasmussen

Hearing Protection: It’s Important!

And this reader reminds us all that it is important to protect your hearing when you’re doing woodworking. – Editor

“Years ago, when I first started taking woodworking classes, tool safety was covered, but nothing was said about eye and hearing protection and dust masks. After a few years of hearing the ‘screaming planer’ that was in the school’s woodshop, I went home one day and noticed ringing in my ear (tinnitus). I’ve had it ever since and regret not using hearing protection early on in my woodworking career. Now, I ALWAYS use earmuffs on top of earplugs. (I’m trying to save the other ear). I also wear prescription safety glasses and a dust mask or respirator whenever I’m in my shop.” – Carol Johnston

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