Saturday, April 11, 2009

Free Wood, part 3, WOOD is made of wood

Ok, this last one is only a free / cheap source of wood if you have the time / tools and resources to gather. Depending on the value you place on your time, this could be a more expensive method of gathering wood than paying retail. Wood turners are well familiar with finding a beautiful bowl hidden in a piece of firewood - but that same piece of wood can also yield some nice short boards! You don't have to have a sawmill to take advantage of firewood. Any process that gives you a piece of wood that is small enough to work with the tools you have is fine.
For non-woodturning woodworking you'll need (at a minimum) a thickness planer (and sled) and a shingle froe. Dang, too bad that Lee Valley no longer sells the one pictured. It is the one I have. Well, a right or left handed hatchet (one side of head is completely in one plane, and the helve is offset accordingly) will do the job as well or better for small pieces of straight grained wood. I think a bandsaw (and sled) set up for resawing is really the way to go - will maximize the amount of nice boards you'll get from each piece of wood anyway.
My point is that there are plenty of ways to get to a workable piece of wood from a piece of firewood. A lot is going to depend on how green / wet the wood is. If the wood has been stored inside for years, you may be able to use it immediately, but any cutting releases tension, so even with dry wood it might be better to wait until you see what the wood is going to do / how it is going to move before you use it.
When I cut the tops off of a couple of holly trees (Ilex aquifolium) I saved the trunks, even though they were fairly small. I used a sled and my thickness planer to get flat sides, my jointer to get a good 90 degree angle and my table saw to start the cuts for quartering it. Lots of wet dust and shavings! Many people wouldn't want wood that wet anywhere near their fine woodworking tools. After I got the wood quartered, I squared it up some and used latex paint to seal the end grain and a couple of inches of each end and stickered it to allow good airflow. In a year or two I'll have some nice white wood. I've done the same with other wood, generally only when I can see that it will have good figure that I don't want to go to waste.

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