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Author Topic: Calling all quaking aspen experts!  (Read 839 times)

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Offline LakeSuperior

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Calling all quaking aspen experts!
« on: September 18, 2017, 10:41:07 AM »
Hi, I'm Lisa, from northern Minnesota. My husband and I will be building a cordwood home next summer, and we have around 70 quaking aspen to take down on our property, which we'll be utilizing for the cordwood infill. This aspen is the end of it's lifespan, so a lot of it is rotted. We're familiar with the conks, and what the rot looks like. But, some of it is lovely, creamy white, and perfectly usable. And then, there are the in-betweens. That's where you come in!

Now my question to all you ASPEN EXPERTS is this: when you see these aspen logs, do you see any reason to think they're unusable for cordwood due to their integrity? They are all solid, don't feel rotted, or look rotted. There's just the variation in color, which often "develops" during the several minutes following the cut. Is this an oxidation?

We're just needing to be sure this wood will have the integrity to be used as cordwood, and if we have to buy wood to supplement, that we have time to set that up.

Thanks so much!

Offline barbender

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Re: Calling all quaking aspen experts!
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2017, 07:09:39 PM »
Hello Lisa, welcome to the forum! I think you would get more responses if this was posted in the Timberframing/Log building sub-forum. As for the Aspen, I really think you'd be better off with cedar for cordwood construction. It handles being in contact with mortar much better (wetting and drying) it also expands and contracts less with seasonal humidity changes. You'll have to figure out how to post your pictures on the forum for us to get a better idea of what condition your aspen is in. But aspen basically has two states, soubd and rotten. If the wood is solid, it should be good. If it's soft and punky, no. Aspen can develop some pretty pink, yellow and brown colors in the wood. I don't know if it's oxidation or fungal stains, but if the wood is solid it doesn't hurt anything. BTW, I haven't built any cordwood structures, I'm just sharing what I know about the properties of these woods from sawing and working with them elsewhere.
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Offline Gary_C

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Re: Calling all quaking aspen experts!
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2017, 08:13:00 PM »
There is an old saying about aspen here in the north. When you cut aspen, most call it popple, it starts to rot before it hits the ground.

Having said that, I have sawed and used aspen boards but never in places where it will be in the sunlight (it will turn an ugly black). It has been used in exterior places but best results are when you can keep it dry. If you are planning to use it for exterior logs, you need to build with big roof overhangs and never in contact with the ground or where water or snow sits.

The other bad trait for both aspen and cottonwood is the wood is prone to what's called collapse. That means the nail holding ability is poor when the wood shrinks away from nails.

Yes, aspen has been used to build many old structures but be aware of it's limitations and limited life. Bottom line is "keep it dry."
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Offline Corley5

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Re: Calling all quaking aspen experts!
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2017, 08:38:44 PM »
I wouldn't use aspen for the cordwood in cordwood home.
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Re: Calling all quaking aspen experts!
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2017, 09:18:29 PM »
I would say there would be few poorer choices for cordwood species.
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Offline Blue Noser

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Re: Calling all quaking aspen experts!
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2017, 05:24:11 AM »
I will second what the posters above me have said. The aspen species are not well known for their long term longevity and often rot/mold rapidly. That being said, I have seen patio furniture made of aspen (cheap and light), which has lasted a number of years if properly cared for.

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