The Forestry Forum

General Forestry => Timber Framing/Log construction => Topic started by: jemmy on January 02, 2018, 02:09:14 AM

Title: Ash Logs For Posts and overall construction
Post by: jemmy on January 02, 2018, 02:09:14 AM
I have close to 100 ash trees that are standing dead in my woods. Though this is a very unfortunate circumstance, I would like to make the most of them by using them for post and other dimensional lumber for a building. My father and I would like to build a shop with at least a  16ft entrance, and span 60ftx40ft. Now I know 100 ash trees wont get the whole job done, that is due to the fact that most are younger trees. However, my primary question is, what are the problems, concerns, and considerations I should have when using ash for posts, beams, and other standard dimensional lumber? Can it or should it even be used for such things? I've heard and seen the tendency that ash has to check and that is my primary concern, also that it is susceptible to rot and insects. I intend on placing any posts onto concrete pylons with the proper buffer between the post and concrete to avoid rot. I have a circle mill that I will be getting up and running soon, so we are starting to plan projects! I am torn in 3 directions with this ash: 1) Cut it into 1" stock and sell 2) Use it in buildings 3) Use/sell it as firewood. Any advice or wisdom is welcomed! Thanks!
Title: Re: Ash Logs For Posts and overall construction
Post by: Brad_bb on January 02, 2018, 05:43:10 PM

I assume you're building a pole barn, so yes use it for the posts and girts.  You're plan to put the posts on concrete pilings is good.  I've used plexiglass as a separator.  You make a 1/4 thick plexi plate a little smaller than the post and screw it to the bottom of the post.   Use timberlinx for post anchors.  you drill and epoxy them in the pilings after they are cured.  You snap chalk lines to assure accuracy in setting the anchors.

I'm all for the Ash getting used rather than being turned into firewood.  You'll need to treat the wood with something to keep power post beetles away.  Powder post beetles are really the only thing that will go after dry wood, but they aren't necessarily devastating depending on the circumstances.  For example, using barnwood for trim in my new workshop, I saw a few piles, but once we put a finish on the wood it stops the life cycle.  A beetle will lay eggs on the wood and the larvae will bore and eat until they are ready to turn into an adult beetle (they are pretty tiny).  Once a finish is on the wood, the typically won't lay the eggs on it or the larvae can't go through.  On that trim I used a water based urethane(general finishes High performance flat).  On our timberframes we use Heritage natural finishes oil.  Will that stop them?  I'm not sure because all of my stuff has been in enclosed, heated buildings, which is another barrier to power post beetles.  I am looking into whether any testing has been done with the Heritage oil and PPB.  A borate treatment would be good for a few years at least (like Timbor or Solubor).  I just sent a message off to Heritage about PPB.  I'll let you know what I find out.  Heritage oil is good because it also lets the wood breathe. 

As far as checking with the Ash, I'm using a lot of standing dead ash and am not seeing much checking.  Ash is just about the least moisture content hardwood to start with, then standing dead it is drying slowly and typically has a lower moisture content by the time you cut and use it.

Title: Re: Ash Logs For Posts and overall construction
Post by: jemmy on January 02, 2018, 10:45:26 PM

Thank you for the wise words and knowledge. Theres a lot to chew here, but I will say those timberlinx joiners are pretty nifty! Powder post beatles scare the living hell out me! Before I cut into any ash I'm going to be thinking 10 steps ahead of how to prevent these posts' demise. This will be an enclosed and heated building, we don't fancy working in negative temps with metal tools. So I'm glad to hear that's another layer of protection. I think I'm going to devote a couple of nights looking through YT and the interwebs for powder post beetle solutions and preventative measures. I am looking forward to hearing what heritage has to say! Thanks again for your time and wisdom!
Title: Re: Ash Logs For Posts and overall construction
Post by: Don P on January 02, 2018, 11:18:00 PM
I made a dip tray that I fill with a borate solution to soak the timbers in after quickly cutting and rough notching, mainly I'm wanting to give deep mortises a bath. At my pace if I work through a group of timbers those are dry and I fit and finish. In a dry environment borate is permanent and doesn't go anywhere. The only time it migrates is above fiber saturation point, rot levels of moisture. It also disrupts decay fungi which is part of why I like to get it into those pockets of end grain. It is well worth the time it takes in my mind. The surface finishes can keep her from using her lower jaw to uncap cells and taste for starch if the film is thick enough or nasty enough tasting. If she likes what she is tasting she'll turn around, drop her ovipositor in a vessel or old gallery and lay her clutch of eggs.

Now, I like a breathable finish on large timber. A film finish will still allow moisture into some inevitable check or gap and then that moisture is trapped behind the film, raising the moisture content into the rot zone. A water repellant breathable finish sheds the bulk moisture and allows the timber to dry. She's probably going to breach that line of defense, although I know for a fact they don't mess with motor oil, its a water repellant, breathable finish but that's back to nasty. I'd not count on anything but paint or poison at the finish level to stop her. With borate saturated wood behind the finish the borate will not kill outright on contact but when those larvae hatch, their first meal will be their last, they won't be able to digest the food. For me, that has worked.
Title: Re: Ash Logs For Posts and overall construction
Post by: kantuckid on January 03, 2018, 09:10:51 AM
jemmy, you don't say generally how large the trees are?
 Young but what sizes?
Is this a "pole building" or a "joined timberframe"?

If you consider what was used for older buildings, it was this or that but always based on what was at hand, often enough, no matter the species. I've torn down many old barn a house buildings here in KY and I've seen these species- KY coffee tree, ash, all the oaks here red,white, chestnut oak and wormy and non wormy chestnut (my fetish is for wormy chestnut!) , etc., walnut, maple, beech, poplar, hemlock, various pine and maybe I've left out a few?
As for bugs, there are enough critters that eat wood now days to scare you off from building anything not made of metal... Wood bees have become a real pest recently. I have wood bee traps hanging all over my log cabin and they were never (usually) seen until last few years. Another very common wood borer these days is the tiny wasps that bore in to lay their larvae. I looked them up a few years back-seems like they were Asiatic critters? They and the wood bees care not what finish you use, PT or not matters little, and the insecticide spray I use on my house (Suspend the last few years) for the bad lady bugs doesn't make either of those go away completely. Powder post beetles has been covered above.
Wood critter story:
We meet some of our kids in the fall to camp in the Big South Fork, Bandy Creek CG each year. Given that I have sawmill slabs and firewood galore, just from falls alone, I would like to bring my own along but as is well known that's illegal now. Your dead trees might be closely related to my free T-short that has the little green bugs on it from U of KY forestry folks?
So I got interested enough to look at the TN list of wood "stuff/critters" that makes firewood transport a no-no. I was expecting to see a couple of them, not like 15 or 20 of them! Most this wood/tree freak has never heard of! I've taught a tree ID course but never heard of all these pests, most attack living trees of course as that where the gourmet meal is found.
Keep us posted on what you plan for?

Title: Re: Ash Logs For Posts and overall construction
Post by: Brad_bb on January 03, 2018, 02:40:42 PM
Don't be too scared of PPB.  Unless you have a massive infestation, they act pretty slowly.  Being inside is another level of protection.  I emailed Heritage Natural finishes, which is the finish most timberframers use on timberframes because it lets the green wood breathe, and here is the response:
"Hi Brad,
I am very familiar with the lovely critters and our finish itself isn't a deterrent though fresh oil will kill them if they are already in there, as the orange oil is an excellent insecticide. I would recommend a pre-treatment of the wood with a borate solution. Products like TimBor or Boracare are good ones or simply a warm water mix with Borax from the grocery store. Apply that, let it dry and then you can oil over the top. As far as I know the borates are the best option. After about 5 years, you could re-apply the borates as some of the oils would have broken down a bit by then in exterior settings and then re-oil with Exterior Finish. You can also do a proactive preventative oiling with a fresh coat every year which will actively kill any larvae or bugs that have infested during that year and keep the wood well preserved. I would avoid any urethane based products in the long run as they don't allow the wood to breathe and re-finishing requires sanding and re-applying with is not only quite toxic but very time consuming. The urethanes may be fine for interior surfaces like furniture and counters but definitely not on larger beams, logs or any timbers. I'm happy to chat more at any point if you want.

So if this were a pole barn application, I'd do a borate solution and then oil the timbers.  Being that it's an inside heated environment, you can probably skip the borate and just oil.  Or do it if it makes you feel better.  My timberframes just get the oil.  If you see signs of PPB later(little saw dust piles and pin holes), it's not the end of the world, you can always apply a borate solution, which will last a long time in an interior application.  It will keep adults from laying new eggs/larvae.  Most borate solutions are not toxic to humans from what I've heard/read, especially once dry.
Title: Re: Ash Logs For Posts and overall construction
Post by: Don P on January 03, 2018, 05:16:29 PM
You do need to apply the borate solution prior to finishing, it cannot get through the water repellant finish unless, as the response from landark/heritage said, it has really broken down. Where I am ppb's are a given. Look around at older buildings framed with hardwoods. If the wood is peppered with holes you are in the zone. Borate itself has very low mammalian toxicity, timbor, solubor. The glycol in boracare is ethylene glycol, antifreeze, and is toxic until it dries. Shellgard I believe is the blend that uses polyethylene glycol, PEG, which is non toxic. The glycol blends work better on dry wood because borates diffuse into the wood on the moisture and those alcohols dry very slowly allowing deeper penetration. When applied to green wood a straight borate solution is fine, the borate will naturally diffuse from the solution at high concentration into the low concentration moisture within the wood, this all happens above fiber saturation point.
Title: Re: Ash Logs For Posts and overall construction
Post by: MbfVA on January 03, 2018, 10:16:53 PM
 Love me, love my bugs: