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Author Topic: Sycamore  (Read 1622 times)

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Offline Ludo

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Sycamore
« on: March 30, 2013, 09:57:57 AM »
Hello All-

    Last fall I quarter sawed a 8' trunk of a Sycamore.  I had let it age a bit so there was some spaulting in it.  When I was finished I ended up with 40+ boards of nice 8" wide clean edged boards.  I stickered them well and covered with sheet metal roofing outside to dry.  I also put the slabs of waste on top to weight them down. Well yesterday I dug out the boards and every single one cracked straight through.  I stickers them at 18" and waxed the fresh cut ends when I milled them.  These were not end checks. The boards almost fell part. I was told that if you saw them a bit aged it takes the stress out of them and reduces loss.   Does anyone have good experience with Sycamore that can offer me some advice?  I have two tri-axel logging trucks of Sycamore waiting to be delivered that was cut last fall.  I though I was going to hit the jackpot with it but now I am thinking I might end up a crack-pot!  :'(

Offline qbilder

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Re: Sycamore
« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2013, 10:14:17 AM »
I was always told that sycamore is a testy wood for milling because it moves & cracks a lot. That said, I have read several times where folks liked it & had no problem. In my experience, wood with stress will always have stress, regardless of how you work them. Whether it comes out early or late, the stress will be relieved at some point. That's not specific to sycamore. Any stressed wood will do that. 
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Offline mesquite buckeye

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Re: Sycamore
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2013, 12:16:46 PM »
Sounds like log drying cracks that opened up when the boards dried.
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Re: Sycamore
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2013, 12:58:00 PM »
Sounds like your logs had shake.  With a light case of shake it is hard to see unless you know what to look for in the log.  The boards will mostly hold up while sawing but as soon as they dry they will fall apart.

Pin oak does this a lot, but sycamore is not near as bad.
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Offline Jay C. White Cloud

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Re: Sycamore
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2013, 01:03:18 PM »
For what it is worth, here are some methods I was taught, and have used for years with "naughty" wood species, (Sycamore definitely being one of them.)  If you let them age, well it should be in a cool dark place, especially if you are growing splat, or under water, otherwise mill them as soon as possible. Seeing the tree standing is very important, if at all possible, you can't mill it correctly if you don't know the forest it came from and how it grew, (we are speaking of naughty wood now not the normal log on the landing, though seeing the trees growing you mill is a big asset in quality of what you mill.) End seal the log, and then the bolts as soon as possible.  As has been pointed out here by folks like Gene, within two hours is best.  Oiling the boards/fletchs as they come off the log is also necessary for this kind of wood, as the drying process needs to be slowed way, way down.  Forget kiln drying them, they will go crazy on you!  Sticker in a cool dry place, 300 mm (12") apart, 200 mm (8") is better, and weight the stack.  I know this is a lot of work, but worth it.  You can also save you big slabs that are splitting in half on you now by clamping, and "toggling" or "butter flying" together, back into one solid slab.  The last trick, if you are a consumer of the wood, is working into you furniture design green, but that is a much longer story... ;)
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Offline Ludo

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Re: Sycamore
« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2013, 02:09:59 PM »
Thanks Guys, I was afraid it was shake as they are long flowing cracks.  I guess I'll corner the market on pen planks!  Jay, you mentioned "oiling" the boards, can you describe how that is done and what materials/ type of oil is used? Are there  any clues or tell tale signs (except circular ring cracks) that might tip one off to shake being present in a log?  I am buying my logs off a truck, there really is no way of me seeing the standing timber. 

Offline Dave Shepard

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Re: Sycamore
« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2013, 02:31:05 PM »
Did all of the boards crack, of just certain ones? Did the sawdust or boards that cracked turn red? I have sawn two different batches of sycamore at two different mills. Any boards that turned red basically crumbled, while the ones that stayed brown held up well. I've decided I won't cut a sycamore on the off chance it might yield a few nice boards. The trees are more valuable as specimens, at least around here. Now if it blows over... ;D
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Offline Jay C. White Cloud

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Re: Sycamore
« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2013, 03:09:49 PM »
Hi Ludo,

Oil, well, back in the day, anything including used motor oil, which did a good job believe it or not, but I didn't like it when Floyd used the stuff.  So I use flax oil or tug oil diluted with citrus oil. You can also use pure "Land Ark" from "Heritage Oil," they sell all this stuff.  You can forgo the oil in you end seal well and dry in  cool place with weights, but there is still a chance.  The oiling really does help.  You can also way your options and just "fix" the boards that become naughty on you. 

Not seeing the tree grow, just means, I hate to say it, you have some experiences to build up.  I can look at most logs, bolts, cants or boards and tell a lot about the tree.  Top from root, bark from pith, etc.  Start with taking only straight logs/bolts as you can with pith dead center, no shakes.  Start keeping a sawyer's journal, and/or making very clear notes of what you find.  The wood will teach you as much or more than someone like me.

Again, when the fletch comes of the mill, especially if you are going to try and sell them as slabs for table tops or something similar, cleat where there are cracks or potential cracks, so the board cant split itself apart.  This can be as simple as screwing/nailing, (which is probably better) the stickers on the board in certain spots.  If I have a real nice bolt, I very well may, especially on the boards/fletchs from the center of the tree (the pith) cleat both ends, and attach half the stickers, plus the end seal, etc. etc..

Regards,

jay
"To posses an open mind, is to hold a key to many doors, and the ability to created doors where there were none before."

"When it is all said and done, they will have said they did it themselves."-teams response under a good leader.

Offline beenthere

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Re: Sycamore
« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2013, 03:31:13 PM »
Ludo
Can you post some pics of the boards with cracks (almost falling apart) ?
And some showing the endgrain.

The shake, if ring shake, should show up in the log ends or right soon after sawing.
It's a bit of a stretch to follow advice that letting the logs set around awhile before sawing helps alleviate internal stress. But different experiences for various reasons will get people to thinking and spreading that information. ;)
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Offline WDH

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Re: Sycamore
« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2013, 09:55:34 PM »
The more that logs sit around and age, the more issues that you have with the lumber.  They dry and split on the ends, there is variable moisture content in the wood, etc.  In some ways, it creates more stress than relieving stress, especially sawyer stress.

There was definitely some internal shake or other damage in this tree before it was sawn that was over and above the other issues with letting the logs sit and age. 
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Offline Old Wood Whacker

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Re: Sycamore
« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2013, 10:25:15 AM »
We cut a stand of big sycamore once, in the late Spring, and the moisture content was through the roof. If I remember correctly, we figured the logs weighed about 7 ton to the 1000, yet, in the winter, they come in at about 4 tons. I didn't saw any of it, but it would make sense that any log with that big of a moisture variation from winter to spring would be a challenge. We sold it all to Howland Bros, which if they are still there, are somewhere around Waverly, NY. They make furniture legs out of it and I'm sure someone there would give you some tips if they're still around, as they took them through the entire process.

I know a guy who will pay crazy money for curly sycamore if any of you ever come across any.


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