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Author Topic: Red Alder  (Read 511 times)

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Offline Hrossbjorn

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Red Alder
« on: November 09, 2019, 09:54:49 AM »
My wife and I recently acquired 10 acres in the PNW. Mostly Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar, some Bigleaf Maple and Red Alder. There is enough Alder I'll have to deal with that I wanted to start this dedicated thread.

Ecology & Properties
Initially, I was told that Alder is a "weed tree" and that the old timers hated it. Sure enough, this tree can grow 3' in its first year. They're important to forest ecology as they readily populate disturbed sites, fix nitrogen into the soil, provide natural fire-breaks, and provide needed shade for conifers. They also don't last very long, 60 - 80 years. When I worked in a cabinet shop, we enjoyed using Alder as it was easy on the machines, and took a stain very well.

Barberchair
I hold a healthy respect for the tree, and a little fear, after one barberchaired the first time I watched it being cut. The straight, even grain that makes it good for cabinet-making also makes it prone to barberchairing. 

Falling Alder
It seems the falling advice I've seen here and elsewhere can be lumped into two categories: make your back-cut fast and pray, or do a plunge cut. But I've also read about side-notching.

Red Alder - It's Management and Utilization (1961) is a document from the Forest Service that says "many [Alder] lean heavily necessitating side notching to prevent splitting of the butt log."

I assume this just means making your face cut 45 - 90 degrees from the direction of the lean. Can anyone elaborate on this?

Binding
I've also seen a few posts about binding, that is, wrapping a chain above the cut so that if the tree barberchairs it limits the butt from kicking up. 

I'd doubt the pros would waste their time doing this, but it seems like a common sense thing for folks like me. Does anyone bind their Alder? Are you just using some chain and a hook, or is there something else you use?

I look forward to people's responses and experiences.

Offline Hrossbjorn

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Re: Red Alder
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2019, 10:17:43 AM »
Drying
My father-in-law has a Woodmizer LT15. We milled some Alder, stacked it up and air dried it. But we never turned it and it stained where the stickers sat. After planing it down, those stains were still present. It went pretty deep.

For those who mill alder - how often do you turn it?

Smoking
The last little tidbit I'll add about Alder is that apparently the PNW Natives used alder to smoke their salmon. Something I'd like to try one of these days.

Online btulloh

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Re: Red Alder
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2019, 12:43:04 PM »
I have no experience with alder, but welcome to the Forestry Forum.  

No doubt there'll be some good answers and advice coming along soon.

HM126

Offline Southside

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Re: Red Alder
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2019, 01:31:22 PM »
Sticker stain is not uniquie to alder.  If your stickers are too dry it can stain the lumber, or if they are too wet it will stain the lumber.  Light stripes and dark stripes.  That is part of the attraction of fluted stickers - much less contact and more air flow for stain prone species. 

I have never felled your alder, but plenty of ash, and plenty of leaning ash - basically guaranteed to chair.  I have never, and would never, chain a tree as a way to prevent it from chairing.  In my opinion you are creating a potential bomb.  That energy is going to go some where, if it exceeds the weakest link in your chain then you now have shrapnel, or even worse a bolo round.  The other possibility is that the chain holds but the tree blows apart above the chain - now where are things going to go?  Flying 3' long splinters?  Stump jumps right back at you? Who knows but it won't be good.

Internet advice on how to safely fell a tree is not really good advice.  Yes, I like bore cuts - most of the time, but the best thing you can do is to get some in the woods training on dealing with felling timber.  At the very least enough so you know your safe limit and when to call someone else.  In a nutshell, if you are not 100% sure on how to safely get timber onto the ground then you should not be trying it.  You can't outrun a tree when things go wrong, fast does not describe how things happen.

Welcome to the Forum and good luck with your new land.     
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Offline DMcCoy

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Re: Red Alder
« Reply #4 on: November 22, 2020, 07:56:46 AM »
Your questions are mostly concentrated around falling.
Years ago I took a blind dive off a bank when one chaired on me, after throwing my saw.  Landed on my gravel driveway with a 1/4" stick impaled in my right forearm.  Lucky, it landed exactly where I was standing...

There is a post on here by John Vader and I highly recommend you study it.  My felling has improved to the point where I have taken some crazy trees down safely, all thanks to his diagrams.

Alders are very chair prone, even the little 10-12" ones, they can be very nasty.  I disagree with not chaining, but it all depends, if in doubt I chain, especially if I cannot plunge the back cut.  I've never had a tree explode but I have had them try to chair with a chain, even then, I think it was my lack of skill at the time.

What I do. I always have a fresh sharp saw chain for falling alder. I use full chisel skip chain and a big saw for the speed. I open a clean, wide angle face cut with no pinch point.  If allowed I always plunge behind and above the hinge and cut back to the holding strap.  I cut the strap from the outside.  I want a clear exit with no tripping stuff like branches, stubs of salmon berries and those *DanG trailing blackberries(!)

You only mentioned Alder but our big leaf maples have issues too.  Generally full of weak crotches and are imho brittle.  I watched plenty of big (lethal) branches fall minutes after falling another tree through a maple crown.

Be safe, call someone with logging experience if it's outside your skill set, I do.  Read John Vaders post,  It should be on here somewhere.

Offline Iwawoodwork

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Re: Red Alder
« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2020, 10:19:34 AM »
I also disagree with not chaining/strapping. the safety of chaining/strapping above your cut far out ways any possible issues of chain/ strap breaking, that said I also don't use a light cheap chain or  little HF ratchet straps. 3/8 chain or larger and a couple wraps. also a good clear work area around the tree and a clear getaway path, along with a saw bar that is long enough to cut from the sides and not be behind the tree. personally i would never fiddle around with any plunge cutting if it put me behind the tree, seems like a good way to get hurt.

Offline Andries

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Re: Red Alder
« Reply #6 on: November 22, 2020, 12:10:49 PM »
Your questions are mostly concentrated around falling. . . .
There is a post on here by John Vader and I highly recommend you study it.  My felling has improved to the point where I have taken some crazy trees down safely, all thanks to his diagrams . . . . Read John Vaders post,  It should be on here somewhere.
Some trees just wanna mess with your day.


 



As DMcCoy has said, Vander is the 'real McCoy', and here's the link to John Vander's (note the spelling of his last name) post: 
https://forestryforum.com/board/index.php?topic=69508.0 
Here's another link to discussions around felling trees safely . . .
https://forestryforum.com/board/index.php?topic=95234.msg1468567#msg1468567 
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Offline Andries

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Re: Red Alder
« Reply #7 on: November 22, 2020, 12:33:49 PM »


 
Hrossbjorn; you asked specifically about red alder and the possibility of barber chairing. 
Frozen trees, straight grained trees, leaning ones . . . they all have a sense of humour and will want to make a "surprise" for you. 
Treat them as equals, they all have gravity on their side.
.
Binding, or strapping a tree is a good way to go. Use a beefy, 2" or more, high load capacity cargo strap to hold the tree together, about 16 to 24" above your cut. 
Chains are heavy, and awkward to handle, and don't have a  way to tighten the snot out of the tree. Straps do. In doubt of the straps power? then put on another one. ...or two. 
.
Study Vanders pictures and then, try them out on 'easy' trees. 
Get the hang of it, then start to go after the trees in the deeper end of the pool. 
.
by the way, using a crane really makes for a game changer. The tree doesn't drop, it just floats.  8) :D 8)





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Offline DMcCoy

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Re: Red Alder
« Reply #8 on: November 23, 2020, 07:52:47 AM »
Thanks for catching the spelling of Vander.  His post changed the way I fall.
I didn't mention it but I use 3/8" chain and yeah it is a pain, never the right length, can't tighten, loose tail hanging around.  If it does split then the chain might have to cut out...

Question- What the heck happened with the second picture?  Looks like the 'explosion' often sited.


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