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Author Topic: Red elm timber frame..other species  (Read 6053 times)

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Offline Buzz-sawyer

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Red elm timber frame..other species
« on: May 02, 2005, 12:48:45 PM »
I have cut many red elm timbers for my own use, and cant say I have seen a stronger more attractive piece of wood.........ANy one ever built a frame with them???
How about other less popular species....SO many other species posses the load bearing strength and are as workable as oak. :) :)
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Kirk_Allen

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Re: Red elm timber frame..other species
« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2005, 01:42:23 PM »
I havent built any structures with it but I have used it in kitchen cabinetry work.  IT IS BEUTIFUL WOOD!  I have only used American Elm but if the others are even close I am sure it great looking stuff. 

Offline TN_man

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Re: Red elm timber frame..other species
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2005, 03:22:22 AM »
Buzz,
R. Elm is not abundent in this area. I don't know if I have seen it. Can you show some pics of what you have cut?
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Offline Thehardway

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Re: Red elm timber frame..other species
« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2005, 08:32:29 AM »
I have never seen red Elm.  I am however planning to use Yellow Poplar (Tulip Poplar) in my home.  It is supposed to be very similar in strength/weight/workability  to white pine but gets much harder when dry.  It also has very few knots and tends to be clear and straight grained.  There are very few timber framing websites which mention Poplar although it was used extensively in old barns and buildings of the Eastern Appalachian region.  I'm not sure why it has dissappeared from timberframing.

 I would like info on cutting and drying it in boxed heartwood form.  Does anyone have any experience with sawn poplar beams/rafters. My understanding is that it drys very quickly but has a tendency to bow/warp.  I have found very little on sawing it into boxed heartwood as most people saw it into boards or siding.  Also wondering when is the best time of year to cut poplars.  I have a book that gives the stats on many different woods & I can get you the specs on Red Elm if you don't already have them.

 I agree that other woods should be utilized more.  Not everyone likes the appearance of the pines and oaks. I think Beech is beautiful too. Good post.
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Offline Doc

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Re: Red elm timber frame..other species
« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2005, 11:05:25 AM »
I have been curious about using something other than pine or oak as well. This thread will be great to see evolve. I have considered the use of tulip poplar too, as it is abudant around here, and strong as iron so it seems....but it checks and twists like mad!

Doc

Offline TN_man

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Re: Red elm timber frame..other species
« Reply #5 on: May 03, 2005, 11:47:28 AM »
I have talked to an Amish barn builder here in Tn. that said that the Amish have used Poplar in their barns for years. I wish I could have spent more time talking to him but was not able to.
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Offline southview

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Re: Red elm timber frame..other species
« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2005, 08:46:51 AM »
I have seen red elm a few times before and it was beautiful I wish I had some for some wood working projects I want to do. 

I was told by and older gentleman that elm, any elm, is always good for timber framing.  Actually he said it was excellent for this purpose.

Offline logman

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Re: Red elm timber frame..other species
« Reply #7 on: May 05, 2005, 04:14:44 PM »
I've been working on my spiral staircase and loft railings for my timber
frame the last couple of weeks.  I'm using sassafras.  It works easily and
smells good to boot.  I have noticed that most logs have rotten places
which is strange since it is supposed to be rot resistant.  It really looks
nice when its sanded.   I've sawn up a few 24"+ logs also.  I didn't
realize sassafras got that big.
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Offline Doc

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Re: Red elm timber frame..other species
« Reply #8 on: May 05, 2005, 04:46:13 PM »
PICS LOGMAN PICS!!!!!
 
We wanna see some pics!

Doc

Offline submarinesailor

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Re: Red elm timber frame..other species
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2005, 09:22:21 AM »
Logman,

All of the larger red sassafras we have cut on my place has had heart rot in the  butt sections.

subsailor

Offline logman

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Re: Red elm timber frame..other species
« Reply #10 on: May 06, 2005, 09:44:17 AM »
I plan to take lots of pictures and will post them if I can figure out how.
This has been a 3 year project and is finally coming to an end.  It will
be nice to be able to relax if I want to. 
Only a couple of the big sassafras logs I cut up had heart rot and it only
extended a little ways in the butts.  Some of the small stuff I've cut has
it also. 
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Offline Don P

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Re: Red elm timber frame..other species
« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2005, 10:51:43 PM »
Tulip poplar is about 10% stronger than white pine and equally stiffer. It is also easier to get higher grade from the logs usually...but you better like checks if its a boxed heart timber. It often opens up one massive check. The old log cabins here were often white oak with poplar at the floor and top plate levels to aid in cutting and fastening. The difference in checking is immediately obvious. I use it as boards and dimensional lumber mostly, although I did 2 porches last year using poplar 6x8's for carry beams on locust posts.
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Offline Thehardway

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Re: Red elm timber frame..other species
« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2005, 08:29:53 AM »
Don,

With tulip poplar is there any predictability in the face that checks?  For instance, if one side of the boxed heart is thinner or thicker is that the side that is prone to checking. If so would a kerf cut help.  Have you had problems with bowing, warping, or twistingafter the frame is assembled or is checking the sole problem.   Does it make a notable difference as to the season when the trees are cut, sawn into lumber or put into service?   I would think that if the trees were felled when dormant in late fall/early winter the initial MC% would be much lower.  Sawing them into desired dimension in early spring with high outside humidity and then slowing down the drying process by using a moisture barrier until initial moisture loss is over seems would helpful too.   I am trying to get any info I can from those who have experience with it.  A friend of mine who does a lot of bowl turning places his blanks in a trash bag until turning.  He says this slows down and evens out the drying process to prevent splits/checks and has been very successful.  I am curious to know what would happen if the same principle was applied to beams.  Maybe using large silage bags or shrinkwrap. 

I sawed some poplar Sat. that was so wet the water squeezed out when I dogged it down.   I was amazed at how fast it is drying. I flipped all of the beams over yesterday as the bottoms were still wet to the touch but the tops and sides were drying rapidly.  Perhaps the one sided checking is a result of the top drying much faster then the bottom and a regular turnng schedule would be beneficial?  Thanks for the info!
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Offline beenthere

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Re: Red elm timber frame..other species
« Reply #13 on: May 10, 2005, 09:11:50 AM »
Thehardway
A kerf down one face of a beam would help 'control' the check.

Time of year of cutting the tree won't make a difference in the moisture content in the tree. It stays about the same, I believe.

The bowls remain more check-free when the moisture content is kept high (above where no surface drying can take place, thus no drying stresses, thus no surface checking and warping) until the final turning. After the bowls are turned, then a lot of the wood that was there to cause stress is 'turned off' and only the wood remaining can dry, stress, and hopefully not be sufficient to cause checking.
Contrast that with beams, the surfaces dry first, cause drying stresses and wood shrinkage and the bowing and twisting that follows, and as well, the drying check. As you suggested, a kerf to relieve the wood on one face should give some control as to where the check will occur. If the grain is straight along the kerf, then it will be more controlled than if there is spiral grain.
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Offline Don P

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Re: Red elm timber frame..other species
« Reply #14 on: May 10, 2005, 10:41:41 PM »
Beenthere's got it  ;)

 I'm not a timber framer, just a regular carpenter. Dad worked for Deck House in the early '60's before Carolina called him back home. He continued in that hybrid post and beam style switching to glulam timbers and roof decking in the early '70's. In the '80's I worked in cabinets, millwork and furniture. I've been mostly building milled log homes for the past 15 years. My first timberframe experience starts soon, we're doing the carpentry work on a mixed oak frame being produced by a timberframe company in Christiansburg (I'll have the camera ready!)

 I've spent 3 hours today bouncing over to the job and back in the lumber company truck...its a narrow rough road to heaven  :D.
Excitement of the afternoon came as the driver was loading the lift back on the tail of the delivery truck. As soon as it cleared the ground the truck took off sliding down the gravel road. Luckily he left the door open and the keys in it.  We had a good ride...at least I think he was whooping it up back there.
(Note to self...CHOCK THE WHEELS!)

I've spotted 5 old iron furnaces as I come out of the cove and drive along the valley, following Cripple Creek to the New River. As that valley widens along the confluence with the New you pass through Austinville, boyhood home of Stephen Austin. On the edge of Austinville is the Lead Mines. Lead from there went to the Shot Tower, I-77 crosses the river there,  there is a 75 foot tall limestone tower built on a bluff 75 feet above the river. there is a vertical shaft beneath the tower and a horizontal shaft connecting to the river. Lead is melted in a cauldron in the top of the tower and poured through screens falling 150 feet into water at the bottom.  The shot was graded and sold downstream in pioneer times. Leadmines changed hands a few times during the Civil War.  Just below there is Foster Falls, and the Foster Falls Furnace, the largest and most complete of the old furnaces. Around the turn of the 20'th century the depletion of timber and improved technology shut the open top cold blast iron industry down along the Iron Ridge.

My experience with boxed heart timbers is that they choose the weakest path to check along. If the heart is off center it is USUALLY the face closest to the heart that checks. Your kerf can certainly help that along. Look at the ends of the log for a heart check, this is showing you a plane of weakness the check might be encouraged to follow.

Tulip poplar does have a pretty fair amount of growth stress. Next time you have a couple to play with, saw one up through and through into wide 4/4 or 8/4. Put the heart in the center of a board and watch it. Most trees will check there if they don't have one already in the log. Poplar does it worse than most. Often a sharp drop to the stack will cause it to pop apart. Don't get me wrong poplar is one of my favorite woods.

I've noticed that if we stain logs or log siding that is green it seems to reduce checking. These are not film forming finishes, they are vapor permeable and simply slow surface drying.
 Shellguard, a borate/PEG solution has been reported to have the same effect. If you can keep the outer shell of the timber bulked or if you can lower the moisture gradient within the timber through the initial drying phase it should help reduce checking. It sounds like you had some solar drying going on...keep those timbers in the shade.

Sap doesn't really go down in winter. Actually the moisture content of some trees is higher in winter, no leaves transpiring.  The next part of that I'm not sure about...sugar content should be lower in winter, the tree has stored it as starch though. I suspect the sugar level argument might boil down to trading one pest for another, if anyone knows more please pipe in.

A couple of things I do think might help with winter cutting are that bluestain isn't a problem and the wood dries slower, lower gradient early in drying.

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Offline Thehardway

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Re: Red elm timber frame..other species
« Reply #15 on: May 11, 2005, 10:52:29 AM »
Thanks Beenthere!

Also thanks to Don P.

I enjoyed your narrative of the countryside.  Virginia has a lot of history visible to the attentive eye.  The info on sawing poplar is great.  I am new to sawing and timberframing.  I eager to learn though.   I have read a lot of books and done a lot online but there is never a substitute for firsthand recommendations and knowledge.

It sounds like I am headed in the right direction.  Poplar is very plentiful around here (Bedford Co. VA) and it is easy find trees that are straight, clear and suitable for timbers.  It saws easy and cuts easy.  I have noticed that it is a little stringy when cuting it wet though.

Enjoy the timberframe job and please do post pics!

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Offline Ron Wenrich

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Re: Red elm timber frame..other species
« Reply #16 on: May 11, 2005, 05:34:33 PM »
Tulip poplar does have a tendency to have spiral grain.  Take a look at the bark.  If the bark has a twist in it, your beams are going to twist.  Don't matter how well you saw it.

We do have a pattern shop that buys clear tulip poplar.  They use 6/4. 9/4 and 10/4.  All is cut heavy.  They don't seem to have much problem with checking.  And there is a market for 10" and wider poplar.  A lot of that goes into crown molding and other long moldings.  It lays flat and doesn't check.

A lot of that may be due to where it comes from the log.  The clears are usually more sapwood than heartwood.  But, your boxed heart beams are more heartwood.   I think that drying too fast would give you a lot of deep checks. 

I saw for one post and beamer.  He only uses pine.  He has the skill level to use any type of wood that he wants.  But, he lets his stuff air dry for a year before he uses it.  The old post and beam barns and houses were built dead green.  They probably help control some of the twist and bowing.  They also used a slower growing wood.  Poplar tends to have some very wide growth rings. 

As for the red elm, I knew a guy who had a house that was framed with it.  But, he had the frame built with green wood, then let it dry before finishing it.  My uncle also talked of doing a house in the same way.  Frame it and put a roof on it.  Then let it dry.
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Offline Buzz-sawyer

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Re: Red elm timber frame..other species
« Reply #17 on: May 11, 2005, 09:23:56 PM »
 he had the frame built with green wood, then let it dry before finishing it.  My uncle also talked of doing a house in the same way.  Frame it and put a roof on it.  Then let it dry.


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Offline Don P

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Re: Red elm timber frame..other species
« Reply #18 on: May 13, 2005, 08:05:18 AM »
We were cleaning up the other day at the old cabin. This was a cutoff of one of the porch carry beams. This chunk was as mistreated as a timber could be, floating around as chock, tongue block, scaffold support, paint can holder... The carry beam was stained with one coat shortly after installing and has checks a quarter that size after about a year. Just wanted you to see what I've seen a fair amount of.

We did saw poplar 2x  framing and board and batten siding for a neighbors barn last year. Many 10-12" boards, they have done fine also.
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Offline Peter A Smith II

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Re: Red elm timber frame..other species
« Reply #19 on: June 10, 2005, 03:01:14 PM »
A timber framer friend of mine says he works mostly in green wood. With woods like pine, oak or hemlock that contain a lot of water when green, they are anxious to raise the frame as soon as possible after it is cut. The green joinery goes together well, and twisting of the timbers is minimized by the type of joinery they use (mostly housed joints). If the newly cut timbers start to dry before the frame is cut, the joinery can twist along with the rest of the beam to make assembly difficult. With woods like Douglas fir that have lower water content and are more stable to twists and checking it apparently doesn't matter as much. I don't know how these woods compare to red elm, since we don't have much of that here. I found a timberframe website that does have a section that describes some general wood characteristics: www.nwjoinery.com is the home page. The wood descriptions are at: http://www.nwjoinery.com/timberchar.htm They don't say how sassafras and tulip polpar compare to these species, but I'd be interestd to hear if anybody knows!


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