I am writing with some questions on salvaging some wood from a portion of an
old box elder in my parents backyard. This tree was one that I used to
climb all the time. It also held the family tire swing. It is now slowly
dying and today it dropped a rather large limb on the neighbors fence. I'll
have to get the limb off the fence and clean up the mess this weekend. If
possible I would like to salvage as much as I can to use in some small
projects. The limb is not very large, the diameter in the largest areas is
probably 9 or 10 inches, and it is rather gnarly lacking long sections of
I realize a lot of the answers to the following questions could be best
answered if I mentioned some specific intent regarding the use of this wood.
Some possibilities I am contemplating include turned bowls, and small
(unturned) boxes with hinged lids. However, at this time I am not sure what
I would like to make from it, and would like to keep as many options
available as possible.
That said, please answer the following questions as best you can. I will be
very grateful to anyone willing to spare some time to help me successfully
use this wood.
1. What diameter limb would be reasonable to expect to use, and what
diameter limb should I simply discard?
2. What size lengths do you think I should cut?
3. What would be the proper way to cure and store this wood? Indoors?
Outdoors? In a shed? I am in the NE US.
Any other information you think might be useful to me will be seriously
Thanks in advance,
There is good news and bad news. The bad news is that limbs grow
a kind of wood called reaction wood that tends to warp badly when
and remains be unstable with changes in humidity afterwards.
The good news is that boxelder is an excellent turning wood. You
can turn bowls from it. The bowls may distort, but with a little
luck they won't split and you can claim the asymetry of the
finished bowl to be a feature. If they do split, you can clean up
the splits and glue in wedges of contrasting wood or fill them
with pigmented epoxy and then again, call it a feature.
Cut it into lengths that are conveneinet for handling. Seal the
endgrain, melted parraffin is good for that, so is shellac or a
thick layer of yeloow glue. Latex paint is no good for that.
Strip off the bark.
The first priiority for seasoning the wood is that it be kept dry.
After that, kept warm will cure it faster. Air drying a log ten
inches in diameter should take 4 years or so at the most.
Bowl turners like to turn green wood, and then cure the
finished bowl so you don't need to wait.
If you prefer to make it into flat stock, keep the pieces short,
that will mimize warpage. E.g. a 4' board with 1/4" of warpage
looks a lot worse than a 6" board with 1/32" of warpage.
Cut into 5/4" thickness, the wood should be dry in about a year.
For turning info you could probably do better posting to
Box elder is pretty to turn but the nice pink fades pretty quickly --
r.c.ww folks may have some recipes to reduce the fade.
For most projects the pith will be hard to use -- so at best you'll
get a halves; more likely you'll get stable chunks of wood by
quartering the wood. That said, bowls are often done on halves. If I am
making spindles etc, I always quarter things green rather than letting
nature decide where to split. Paint the ends or take other steps to
slow the drying process. Indoors (e.g. garage w/ no climate control)
vs outdoors in shade off the ground probably doesn't matter all that
Longer lengths are probably better unless it becomes hard to quarter --
depends on what you want to do.
Do at least halve the pieces or you will likely end up with firewood.
Joseph Handy wrote:
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