Re: I want to read some old woodworking books -- Hackberry tree usage??? Attn: Mark Wells

Funny - in this part of Texas, hackberrys are considered weeds. It's the only tree I've seen that will draw swarms of flies while you're cutting it down.
I've taken out four of them in the last 15 years - 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 feet diameter, 60 feet+ tall. Wish I'd known some was worth saving; people here won't even put it in fireplaces or stoves.
There are still some huge pieces by the burn pile from the last one.
What did you use it for?
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wild snipped-for-privacy@swamprabbit.com.invalid wrote:

diameter, 60 feet+ tall. Wish I'd known some was worth saving; people here won't even put it in fireplaces or stoves.

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Mon, Oct 16, 2006, 6:44pm (EDT+4) wild snipped-for-privacy@swamprabbit.com.invalid
Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) Description The Lakota name for this species is Yamnmnugapi , meaning "crunching with teeth." Hackberry has an alternate, finely-toothed, ovate leaf that is lopsided at the base. The small round fruit becomes purple when ripe. The bark is grayish and covered with distinctive warty projections. Distribution Hackberry is found from North Dakota to Vermont and Oklahoma to North Carolina. It is found throughout most of South Dakota, except in the north-western quarter. Hackberry is a floodplain species. In the western extreme of its range, however, it is often found in ravines or low areas. The moisture conditions in these areas are more dependable than some rivers since the water drains in from the surrounding area. The depressions also shelter the trees from the harsh winds and summer heat. Along the lower Missouri River, hackberry is found on the upper slopes of the floodplain rather than in low areas. Size: Hackberry is a long-lived tree, often reaching the age of 150 years. It can reach heights of 80 to 100 feet (24 to 30 m). Our state champion is 65 feet (20 m) tall and is in Brandon. Significance Hackberry wood is fairly soft and coarse grained. It is only occasionally used for lumber. The primary use for hackberry is as a shade and windbreak tree. The Dakotas used the hackberry berries as a flavoring for meat. The fruit is eaten by pheasants, wild turkeys, robins and other birds.
JOAT It's not hard, if you get your mind right. - Granny Weatherwax
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And the "processed" (by birds) fruit will take the paint off a car. Got the primer, too. I was NOT happy. It was a recently painted Pantera. Darn birds!!!>>>... Respectfully, Ron Moore

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You've got a Pantera? Way cool--always lusted after one of those or a Mangusta when I was a kid.
If it's a regular driver and not a show car I'd bite the bullet and put Imron on it. Doesn't give the same kind of finish as hand-rubbed lacquer but it's nearly indestructible.
<snip>
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Unfortunately, a long time gone. The Mangusta had better lines but had even more overheating problems. I don't know if it had the same bad design or just airflow through the radiator. It was a LOT of fun to drive. Interesting to think that the harmonic balancer was less than six inches from the drivers right elbow. Thanks for the comments. Respectfully, Ron Moore

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Hackberry is indeed a "trash wood" if you try to use it for lumber or firewood. However, it is a favorite of woodturners for bowls and hollow forms, especially after spalting. (If you ever have to take out a mature hackberry, let your local woodturning club or a professional woodturner know before you do so . . . you may find that they are more than willing to "dispose" of large parts of it for you.)
When freshly cut, the wood is a rather boring whitish color with little discernable grain. However, after 6 months of spalting, the wood typically takes on a tan or grey cast, with striking, highly contrasting black, dark brown, and/or dark green grain. It works and finishes well, and when finished it often reminds many people of marble.
Typically, the logs are sawn into 2-3' lengths, with the ends and any cuts painted with greenwood sealer and then set aside (ideally, outside in a shaded place) for 6-12 months to spalt, and then cut in half lengthwise and bandsawed into turning blanks.
LKB in Houston
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wild snipped-for-privacy@swamprabbit.com.invalid wrote:

Hackberry is indeed a weed. This tree was so close to the front of our house that we couldn't even fit a gutter between the trunk and the eave. Clearly no one planted it there. The worst part is that the trees tend to fail catastrophically. I don't know if that is a feature of hackberry's everywhere, or just because they are a non-native species in Texas.
This was an experiment in turning trees into lumber. I have gotten a variety of opinions on hackberry from "it's a great furniture wood" to "it's total trash that doesn't even make good firewood." I finally decided to quit asking people and searching the web and just get it milled and see how it turns out.
I haven't used it yet. There's 250 board feet drying in my backyard. I might take a few boards to a kiln near Bastrop if I get too impatient. My upcoming list of projects include a dining room table, chest of drawers, beds, and more, so it will probably be used in some of those projects.
In general, I am trying to use more local woods in my projects. I'm still too cheap to buy mesquite, but I built a chest of drawers for my shop and a set of shelves for my son's room out of cypress. Both turned out well. Yes, it is a little soft and smells like the swamp when you cut it, but it is actually pretty nice to work and looks good finished.
I started trying to use local woods more after these 3 experiences. 1. I learned that the Shakers used local woods in the furniture, maybe because it was easier to get it, but I like to think it was also part of striving for simplicity. 2. I visited a Colonial Williamsburg-like place near Salt Lake City where they had re-enactments of period jobs. The settlers to SLC were used to using hardwoods, but they only had softwoods available, so they painted the grain on pine to make it look like mahogany, quartersawn white oak, and others. That seemed kind of silly to me. 3. We visited a friend in Seattle, where they serve fish that have been cooked on an "alder plank." I commented that alder is considered a fine furniture wood in Austin and has actually become almost as popular, or maybe even more popular, than cherry in kitchen cabinets. He laughed and said that alder grows like a weed there.
After those three experiences, I decided that I need to just start working with what I'm given. I had a hackberry to use right here. I'll let you know how it turns out.
Mark
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